Surprised? You wonder, "How could God ever forgive Samson after the wretched mess he made of his life?" The life of Samson has always made good Hollywood copy. Some see a shaggy Samson chasing after bad women. They see him slaying a thousand men with the jawbone of an ass in hand. They see a blinded, bitter Samson ending his life in a last fit of vengeance. But Hollywood has told us only part of the story — and that not very accurately. Let's look into his life and find the answer. You will learn a vital lesson from the life of this man of God!
WHAT WE were never told on the screen or in our Sunday school flannel board lessons, is that SAMSON IS GOING TO BE IN THE FIRST RESURRECTION WITH ABRAHAM AND DAVID! He is going to RULE with Christ and all the saints on this earth! While listing the faithful righteous, the Apostle Paul includes Samson with men like Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Samuel and the prophets (Heb. 11:32). Paul says these righteous men endured many trials through faith, "that they might obtain a BETTER RESURRECTION"! (Verse 35.) Let's now examine his life and receive a powerful lesson of hope from our Maker. The accurate historical account of Samson is found in the book of Judges, chapters 13-16. The setting is the land of Israel, in the 12th century B.C.
Samson's Miraculous Birth
Samson's birth was a miracle. His mother wasn't able to have children, but that was no problem for God. Since Samson's parents were still loyal to God at a time of spiritual decadence in Israel, they were chosen to have a son. A messenger (13:6) was sent by God to give them the news concerning Samson. They were told their son was to deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines who were occupying the land and oppressing Israel. They were given instructions on how to care for and rear the child.
Since Samson's parents were of the tribe of Dan and not Lev;, their son could not enter the full-time service of God as a priest. But Samson was being called by God to judge Israel and break the yoke of the Philistines. For this reason God put Samson under a special service called the Nazarite vow. This was a unique vow of subjection whereby a non-Levite could dedicate his life to the full-time service of God. This vow required that the hair not be cut — a sign of subjection — nor could any alcoholic beverages be consumed. (The Nazarite vow was rendered unnecessary in New Testament times when Christ replaced the physical priesthood with His spiritual priesthood — His ministers.) God had planned to give Samson unbelievable SUPERHUMAN STRENGTH to be used against the Philistines, providing the vow was kept. As a boy Samson was obedient to his vow and loyal to God. His friends came to have a healthy respect for his brute power and quick mind. Not too many fellows had the courage to pick a fight with him. But, once he was grown, he didn't seem to have much feeling against the Philistines. He wasn't revolted at the sight of the foul pagan practices of these evil Gentile overlords. HE DIDN'T SHARE GOD'S HATRED OF EVIL, and he lacked a compelling zeal to see Israel freed from the Philistines. Samson didn't think the Philistines were all that bad. He even made an attempt to blend into their lustful and perverted society. In fact, his first girlfriend was a Philistine from Timnath. He became so infatuated with her he began putting pressure on his parents to approve his marriage. On one of Samson's trips to Timnath to date his girl he was attacked by an Asian lion. Bare-handed he grabbed the poor lion and tore him in two, like you'd rip the plastic off your clothes from the cleaners! He threw the backbone and rib cage along the road and went his way! Samson finally prevailed against his parents' will and the marriage was arranged. Using his strength to fulfill God's plan for the Philistines was far from his mind at this point. Since he was more interested in serving himself than serving God, he would have to learn the hard way. The only way Samson would fight against the Philistines was if he personally were hurt or wronged. THIS IS JUST WHAT GOD ALLOWED TO HAPPEN. How much easier it would have been for Samson bud he shared God's hatred of sin and willingly allowed himself to be used by God. What misery and heartache he would have avoided.
The marriage didn't last a week! The Philistines didn't trust Samson and they surrounded him with thirty bodyguards during the week-long wedding festival. To get rid of them, Samson composed a clever riddle and promised them each a complete wardrobe if they could come up with the answer. They got busy on it, but weren't smart enough. So they put pressure on Samson's wife with violent threats to burn her and her family if she didn't find out the answer. Unsavory "friends" to do business with! She then started a "crying jag'' to get the answer out of Samson — and succeeded. Samson did have his weaknesses! He gave in to her, again looking for the easy way out rather than the right way. Of course, there was no right way out of this situation which was wrong from its beginning — except to pick himself up and return to Israel!
Samson's Anger Kindled
Samson immediately knew that they had gotten the answer from his wife. HE WAS MAD! He left his wife and went to Ashkelon and slew thirty men and took all their apparel and gave it to the thirty who had answered the riddle. He then went back to live with his parents. He had been betrayed! He was angry and discouraged! But would he learn his lesson? Samson got lonely and went back to the Philistines to get his wife only to find she had been given to another man. He was beginning to personally hate the Philistines! He was now going to pay them back for their evil toward him. He caught three hundred foxes and tied their tails together! He must have been a good trapper, or faster than any track star we have today. It was harvest time for the Philistines and Samson set fire to material tied between the tails of the foxes and turned them loose on the crop lands of the Philistines — wreaking great destruction. The Philistines then went and burned Samson's wife and her family — she received just what she tried to avoid by betraying her husband. Now the girl he had loved was murdered and Samson's miseries increased. Overflowing with anger, he slaughtered many more Philistines. Later, he arranged to be caught by an army of a thousand Philistines and while they surrounded him, he broke loose and grabbed a fresh jawbone of an ass and killed a thousand men in hand-to-hand combat! After all he had suffered, he still thought SIN looked good. He frequented harlots and seemed bent on following the destructive pulls of his flesh. It wasn't that he couldn't have had a fine wife and a wonderful marriage. Like his parents told him: "Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that you go to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines?" (14:3.) Had Samson followed the advice of his parents and of God he could have had a BEAUTIFULLY HAPPY life full of satisfaction. One mistake after another — one loose woman to the next — that was the path of Samson during the twenty years of his judgeship in Israel. He had been faithful to his Nazarite vow and at times made an effort to serve God, but his desire for Philistine women was his undoing.
His selfish lust finally brought him to his last harlot — Delilah. And here is where Hollywood comes on strong. It was a craving, wanton, treacherous affair. Samson wanted love and happiness — but they can't be found outside the Law of God. Delilah loved herself and money, not Samson. The rulers and generals of the Philistines offered her a large sum of cash to find out the secret of Samson's strength. After being almost "nagged to death" by this wicked, unprincipled woman, he finally told her the key to his strength. If his hair were CUT, the vow would be broken and he would lose his strength and be as any other man. Samson's hair wasn't hanging down to the ground hippie-fashion looking like a male lion's mane after a rain! It was neatly arranged in seven locks or braids and probably formed an impressive looking crown to his formidable physical body (16:13). Delilah now had what she wanted, and after deceitfully causing Samson to fall asleep tenderly upon her knees, she called for an aide to come and shave off the seven locks of his head. She then began to hit, punch, and scratch him as she called for the Philistines who were waiting outside her chamber. The Philistines overpowered him and his SPECIAL STRENGTH from God WAS GONE! The vengeful Philistines then gouged out his eyes and bound him with brass chains and bands and fastened him to a grinding wheel in a dank prison and made him grind grain like an OX! What a PITIFUL sight! Blind, bald, a dejected hulk of a man grinding like an animal, stepping in his own manure! Day in and day out he walked the same circle amid the continual abuses of his captors! But, Samson had time to think. Time to think about what a fool he had been. Time to think of the lusting eyes that had led him FROM ONE SIN TO ANOTHER and all the bowel-twisting anguish those sins brought. Now there were empty sockets where eyes had been! Now he suffered in abject slavery where before no one dared question his freedom. He now had time to meditate on God's purpose for his life and what a shattered mess he had made of it. He had time to REPENT before his Creator for all his filth and self-seeking vanity. But was it TOO LATE?
Too Late to Repent?
After burning out his life and so utterly spoiling the high calling he had, wasn't God through with Samson? Wasn't God's back turned on Samson? Hadn't God given Samson enough time — enough mercy? Was this the end of the road for Samson? HOW ABOUT You? Many of you feel like you are right there with Samson in the prison grinding like a dumb ox. You may also feel you have made a total mess of your life! You TOO MAY HAVE BROKEN GOD'S HOLY LAWS with little regard and lived only for the pleasures of the moment. You too may feel it is impossible for you to be forgiven. Maybe you feel that God's Book of your sins is full-up! Some of you have waited so long and still haven't acted upon God's Truth. Do you feel it is TOO LATE for you? The God of Samson has no such Book! Instead, He has open arms and a loving, tender heart full of mercy waiting for you to make the TOTAL COMMITMENT — to REPENT and OBEY HIM! This is the decision Samson finally made. He couldn't see the light of day without his eyes, but he came to see the truth that the way of this world and sin does not pay. He came to see that yielding to his Maker would have spared him a life of suffering. He was still alive and while he yet lived he had the opportunity to SERVE his God.
Samson's Last Stand
The Philistines had all gathered in a large viewing stand suspended over an arena for special holiday activities. They were there to honor and sacrifice to Dagon, their god. Dagon had the head of a man and the lower body of a fish! In attendance were the royal family of the Philistines, the Philistine General Staff, and the whole administration of that powerful nation. They were especially rejoicing and making merry, thinking that their god — old fish-foot — had delivered Samson into their hand. So they called for Samson to be brought out so they could make fun and torment him. It had been some time since Samson's head had been shaven and by now his hair had grown out and was long again. After abusing Samson and having their perverted sport, he was allowed to stand by the two main supporting pillars for the arena. He asked the young boy who was leading him to guide his hands to touch the two pillars. He then prayed. He knew he had been called to deliver Israel from the oppressors, but instead he had mainly served himself. Samson was NOW totally committed to God and doing His work. EVEN IF IT MEANT HIS OWN LIFE! He now saw the sorry mess he had made of himself and was willing to let God work through him. He fervently prayed and asked God to hear him. God did! Samson said: "Let me die with the Philistines." He then bowed himself with all his might against the two pillars. His muscles bulged and quivered and his God gave him STRENGTH — the pillars and the whole viewing stand collapsed killing about three thousand! This disaster so disrupted the Philistine nation that Israel was able to throw off its oppression! And in this one act after totally YIELDING HIMSELF to God, Samson accomplished more than in his entire life following the way that seemed right to him!
Learn From Samson's Example
God was not only still willing to HEAR and FORGIVE Samson, but God was still willing to USE him in doing His work for that day. It doesn't matter what kind of mistakes you have made! No matter how bad your past is, if you are willing to totally submit your life to your God in Heaven there is hope for you! But time is running out. Learn from the mistakes of Samson. Don't repeat them. Be encouraged by how he turned out. It isn't how you start the race that counts — though it is important — it is how you finish. If you have life — you can CHANGE and BECOME A PART of God's ever expanding Government. If you are sincerely worried that ,you may have committed the "unpardonable sin" — don't be - because you haven't. Read Mr. Armstrong's "Personal from the Editor" explaining the Unpardonable Sin, beginning on page 1 of this issue. Samson became a righteous man and will be raised from the dead in a few years at the return of Christ to this earth. YOU too can be there! Sure you have problems. If you want help in solving them, go to God in BELIEVING AND TRUSTING prayer. If you would like spiritual counseling from one of God's chosen ministers in your area, please write us. These dedicated, fully instructed and trained, ordained ministers are in many parts of the world. Since they know only God can open your mind to true conversion, they will only call on you IF you request it. They will never attempt to "pressure" you or "cram" any of God's truth down your throat. If our merciful and patient God forgave Samson and used him to fulfill His will — He will do the same for you!