I’ve been reading and reflecting on the Biblical book of Judges recently, especially the standout character of Samson. So much strength and potential, at times realised magnificently in feats of rebellion against the Philistine overlords; but also a wild temperament, failing to recognise – let alone resist – the dangers of temptations and merely doing what “seemed right in his own eyes” (14:3).
This is crucial. Samson’s sinful attitude is exactly the same as his contemporaries (21:25) – failing to acknowledge God’s moral law, revealed in creation, as well as the covenant and commandments from Moses. A delusional fixation on chasing what would cause Samson so much hurt and anguish.
Yet, miraculously, the LORD uses this fundamental flaw for His glory. The inspired Scriptures declare in the very next verse His shocking sovereignty over sin: “it was from the LORD, for he was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines” (14:4). Samson’s first dalliance with a Philistine woman leads to repeated military setbacks for the oppressors of Israel, who come to realise the superhuman strength of the One they are fighting against.
Such providence never excuses sin, but should give us great hope when all seems lost and fallen – God “gives us more grace” (James 4:6). Moreover, Samson is emblematic of Israel, a prime example or parable of their dysfunctional relationship with God. Wandering away, indulging the flesh, but after being chastised by the LORD (and the natural consequences of their behaviour), displaying humility and contrition that leads to new acts of almighty deliverance from the Saviour. Why are the “judges” or deliverers of Israel such unsavoury characters? Because – just as we elect the politicians we deserve – so these descendants of Jacob are only fit for seeing “heroes” like scaredy-cat Gideon or daughter-devouring Jephthah. Marvellously, God does not despair, but through successive generations of apostasy clings on His precious, wayward children.
And, of course, this pattern of rebellion leading to judgement, eliciting repentance that is met by outrageous mercy culminates – and is finally superseded – by the cross of Christ. Whereas Samson sacrificed himself to be avenged on thousands of pagan Philistines and bought Israel temporary relief, King Jesus submitted to crucifixion, so that the all those who believe in Him might enjoy life to the full forever. Hallelujah – what a Savour!
“O how deep are God’s riches, and wisdom, and knowledge! How unfathomable are his decisions and unexplainable are his ways!” (Romans 11:33)