Sometimes statements of fact can read sloppily. But for sake of simplicity or brevity, they get repeated in that sloppy manner. And they get repeated so frequently that the sloppy version is repeated more than the correct version. And then some nitwit comes along and forces you to rethink everything.
We all know the cycle of the book of Judges: 1) Israel disobeys God. 2) God sends a foreign enemy. 3) Israel cries out for help. 4) God sends a Judge to straighten things out. 5) The land has peace under the rule of a Judge. 6) Repeat 1 through 6.
That cycle fairly accurately reflects the cycles of Othniel and Ehud. And then it breaks down totally after that. Deborah was already Judge when Canaan attacked. The three Judges that succeeded her ruled in succession. It is possible that there was at least one sitting Judge all the way from Deborah until the day Samuel resigned. Jephthah wasn’t sent by God to be Judge; he bargained it as part of a deal with Israel’s elders as a consequence of his success.
And while nobody was looking, Samson was the one Judge who didn’t defeat the enemy until the final day he was Judge. He never judged over a land at rest.
When I think of Samson, I also think of…. No, just Samson. He was a boy who never grew up, yet he was a head of State for twenty years. He was the first Nazirite, and I’m not positive there was a second. I seriously think the second Nazirite we read about appears in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. (It is possible that Samuel was a Nazirite – 1 Samuel 1:11. But all that Hannah promised was that no razor will touch his head.)
To picture the Samson of Judges 14, you must read Judges 14. A teenaged Clark Kent with no manners. Samson saw a woman in a crowd, and he told his father “Get her for me.” Samson dismembered a lion with his bare hands, and didn’t bother telling anyone. The account of Samson is a moment of comic relief in the midst of a book so gory. Samson just seemed to live according to a different set of rules.
That all ended at Judges 16:20. It’s bad enough when you tempt the Lord, and you lack the Spiritual strength you have grown accustomed to. He was Superman, exposed to Kryptonite, bare-naked to the power of the world. And he had no perception whatsoever that the Lord had left him. He had suffered the same fate every Christian today suffers when he takes the power of the Spirit for granted. And at first, he has no perception of his decline. From now on, the laws of Physics applied to Samson as well.
But God is a God who responds to a repentant soul. Blinded, bound and powerless, Samson was chained to two pillars of a prison, as thousands of Philistines watched mocking. Samson repented, and God returned Samson to strength. Samson dislodged both pillars he was chained to, and the structure of the prison fell down on top of the thousands of mockers, and on top of Samson as well.
During his moment of death, Samson killed more Philistines than he had during his years of life. During his moment of death, Samson displayed more faith in the living God than he had during his years of life. His life as a man of faith might have been as brief as the repentant thief’s. But Samson is a proud addition to Hebrews 11:32.
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