Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Apr 12 2019 - Judges 16 – Delilah, defeat and death

Samson is a comic book hero. When trapped in gated Gaza where he has been visiting a prostitute he pulled gates and gateposts out of the city wall, heaved them onto his shoulders, and walked with them them 30 miles to Hebron where he left them perched upon the top of a hill facing the city as a trophy for all to see – to the delight, no doubt, of the Israelites and the fury of the Philistines.

But Samson was also a tragic figure whose weakness for women got him into continual trouble. He never seems to learn from the situations he gets himself into. He fell in love with a woman called Delilah and her duplicity led to his downfall. Delilah had been persuaded by the Philistines to discover the secret of Samson's strength. In what could have been the script for a pantomime, three times Samson spins her a yarn about his strength and three times it is proved false. Finally, faced with Delilah's whining, Samson was persuaded to reveal that his strength lay in his hair, the symbol of his devotion to the Lord as a Nazirite. When his hair was shaved off, the Lord left him and so did his strength; he became like any other man and was able to be taken captive by the Philistines. His eyes were gouged out and he was sentenced to hard labour in a Philistine prison.

There, as Samson is bound in bronze shackles and forced to grind corn for the Philistines, his hair began to grow back again. The Philistines may have had some awareness that his strength is returning for, when they were celebrating a festival to their god Dagon in his temple, they called for Samson to be brought in that he might "perform" for the crowds. And perform he does; crying upon the Lord for strength, he pushed apart the main pillars of the temple and brought down the roof upon himself and thousands of celebrating Philistines. He had fought the Philistines for much of his life, nevertheless it is recorded of him, "Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived."

Samson was a man of his time; he reflected the compromised obedience of Israel. It's easy for us to find fault with his "devotion" to the Lord. But are our lives really so very different? Our sins may not be as obvious as those of larger-than-life Samson but are they any the less real? Is our devotion to the Lord free of all compromise? Samson's life challenges us to consider what it would mean for us to be truly and single-mindedly devoted to the Lord – and in so doing it points us to Jesus.

Jesus alone was without sin. He alone was continually determined to do the will of his heavenly Father – to complete the work the Father had given him to do. That obedience not only brought him into this world but took him to the cross. Of him also, and in a far more significant sense, it can be said that he achieved the greatest victory of his life through his death. But unlike Samson, he rose victorious from the grave. His victory was over sin and death itself – he destroyed the reign of death over his people through his own death and resurrection. Now he shares that triumph with us – we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. In view of God's mercy towards us in Christ and by the power of his Spirit who fills us with Christ's risen power, we are called to offer ourselves to God in undivided worship and in joyful service.

Holy God, I find it easy to identify the faults in others and to point out the inconsistencies in their profession of devotion to you. Help me to deal with the plank in my own eye. You have said, "The people that know their God shall be strong, and do exploits" (Daniel 11:32). Increase my knowledge of you and of your saving goodness. May my life be marked by single-minded devotion to you.

Peter Misselbrook