Samson was the last judge of ancient Israel noted in the book of Judges. Known for his superhuman strength, he was a man whose birth had been foretold by an angel and who was bound from the womb to the Nazirite vow of piety and separation. Samson was loved and favored by the Lord. Scripture tells us, “And the woman bore a son and called his name Samson. And the young man grew, and the Lord blessed him” (Judges 13:24, ESV). His birth came at a time when Israel, having backslidden and been subjugated by the Philistines, needed a new deliverer. In his mercy, God gave them Samson.
For twenty years, Samson delivered the goods for Israel as their judge and warrior, but he suffered an inner captivity to his appetites that would be his ultimate undoing. His life was marked by violence, and each stage of its unraveling became more shocking than the last. Here was an iconic figure, terrifying and godlike to his enemies yet a passionate leader of his people. He was pressed by his destiny; he felt its weight. Samson’s ego and chaotic personal life began to overshadow his mission, and he repeatedly ignored the warning signs of downfall. He was high on the risk of it all, propelled by a need to see how close to the line he could go. Finally, his luck ran out.
Samson’s life – the blessing, the ruin and his ultimate repentance - presents us today with an opportunity to examine ourselves. Most of us don’t live on his level of intensity, but we can certainly relate to his humanity. Anger, check. Lust, check. Grudge-bearing, revenge, arrogance — check. It’s the sins of the flesh, and they’re wily; they don’t always show up in dramatic fashion. In fact, evil usually does its damage in the most mundane, ordinary circumstances. Notice that Samson’s final, fatal capture happened while he was asleep.
God enjoins us, then, to be vigilant; to pay attention when our egos want to take charge. It’s often easiest to default to our own strength and unreliable feelings, but to succeed we must step back and let the Holy Spirit lead.
Your appetites will weigh you down, the apostle Paul noted; don’t give them reign: “Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).