“As Samson and his parents were going down to Timnah, a young lion suddenly attacked Samson near the vineyards of Timnah. At that moment the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him, and he ripped the lion’s jaws apart with his bare hands. He did it as easily as if it were a young goat” (Judges 14:6, NLT).
Samson was an enigmatic leader who was an inspirational but flawed hero.
Samson was dedicated to God as a Nazirite from birth and was destined by God to rescue Israel from the Philistines (vs. 13:5).
Nazirites were men or women that were set apart to God in a special way. The Nazirite vow included special dietary regulations and never cutting one’s hair (see Numbers 6:1-21).
While we are most familiar with the Samson and Delilah story, Samson had several misadventures that were recorded in the book of Judges prior to his tragic ending.
Samson was traveling to the Philistine town of Timnah with his parents to make the arrangements for his wedding for the first of three occurrences recorded in the book of Judges when “the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him” (vs. 6, 19; 15:14). A Philistine woman had “caught his eye” (vs. 1) and Samson insisted on marrying her over the objections of his parents (vs. 3). Although the marriage was doomed before it was ever consummated, it was God’s means to confront the Philistine rule over Israel (vs. 4).
During the seven day wedding celebration, the Philistine men selected to be his wedding companions prevailed on Samson’s bride to persuade him to reveal the answer to a riddle he had bet the young men could not solve. Samson was furious with the Philistines when the young men won the bet due to his bride’s duplicity. So Samson went to another Philistine town and by the power of the Spirit of the Lord killed thirty men and gave their clothing to his wedding companions to pay the bet (vs. 19).
Samson went back home to live with his parents and unbeknownst to him, his bride was given in marriage to the man who had been the best man at his wedding. Later, when Samson went to see his bride, he found out she was married to another, which set off a chain of revenge and retaliation in which Samson became a one-man insurgency against the Philistines.
First, Samson took revenge on the community of Philistines by setting fire to their crops, vineyards, and orchards (vs. 15:3-5). Next, the Philistines accepted that Samson was a victim of injustice and took revenge on Samson’s former bride and her parents by burning them to death (vs. 15:6). This action caused Samson to avenge his would-be bride and in-laws by attacking and killing many Philistines (vs. 15:7-8), which triggered a potential war with Israel (vs. 15:9) that culminated in Samson killing a thousand more Philistines by the power of God’s Spirit (vs. 15:14-15).
God was beginning to rescue Israel from the Philistines through this dysfunctional hero.
If you ever thought you have to be perfect or sinless before God can use you, the story of Samson demonstrates that God can especially use imperfect people in powerful ways.
You don’t have to be without defect to be used mightily by God.
God still needs heroes, even flawed ones, who are empowered by His Holy Spirit to rescue a lost and dying world.
“It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” (Zechariah 4:6, NLT).