An Unwanted Saviour (Judges 13:1–16:31)

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Stuart Chase - 1 Mar 2020

An Unwanted Saviour (Judges 13:1–16:31)

Samson was a judge that nobody asked for and nobody really appreciated. By the time Samson came onto the scene, Israel appeared to be comfortable in its misery and content in its bondage. Rather than supporting God’s saviour, the people turned him over to the enemy.

Scripture References: Judges 13:1-25, Judges 16:1-31, Judges 15:1-20, Judges 14:1-20

From Series: "Judges Exposition"

An exposition of the book of Judges by Stuart Chase.

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If you own a smart phone, you are no doubt familiar with the concept of autocorrect. While the system is meant to be a positive feature, which (in theory) saves you the embarrassment of misspelled words, its reputation betrays a somewhat different reality. Most people seem to have a very love-hate relationship with autocorrect—perhaps more hate than love.

We can all testify, no doubt, to times when autocorrect has spectacularly failed to do its job, either by helpfully correcting what we actually intended to say to great hilarity, or by failing to step in and do its job where it really ought to have. A member of our church once sent a group text asking if anyone in the group had a spare mattress. Autocorrect helpfully corrected “mattress” to “mistress.” I once sent an email to a foreign exchange consultant at our bank. Her name is Zenda. Autocorrect felt that her name was more likely to be Zebra.

Then there are times that autocorrect gets it completely wrong. Some years ago, I texted a certain staff member at the church office to ask about a number for a particular service provider. This is the response I received: “Yes, <insert number here> ask dens collections. Sometimes Moda is too busy video they lever in week but looks like they slipped us. Just arrivins as chropt c t to elz home.”

If we were to perform a broad survey, I suspect we would find that autocorrect is, for the most part, a saviour that nobody asked for and that comparatively few really appreciate. While I personally think that it does a pretty good job most of the time (at least on Apple devices!), its reputation is quite the opposite. There are entire websites devoted to autocorrect fails. Every smart phone comes with autocorrect, but relatively few seem to appreciate it.

As we open our Bible to Judges 13, we are introduced to Samson, Israel’s final judge. (Technically, Samuel might be considered Israel’s final judge, but since his story is found in another book, we will give that honour functionally to Samson.) But Samson was a judge that nobody asked for and nobody really appreciated. By the time Samson came onto the scene, Israel appeared to be comfortable in its misery and content in its bondage. Rather than supporting God’s saviour, the people turned him over to the enemy.

Samson’s story spans four chapters, and while each chapter—indeed, each pericope—could be considered on its own, the story is intended to be looked at as a unit. We will therefore assume the monumental task of considering the entire narrative in a single sitting. We will do so under three broad headings.

Unwanted Salvation Assured by God

First of all, in chapter 13, we see unwanted salvation assured by God.

Under the judgeships of Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon, things had gone pretty well in Israel. As we saw previously, those 25 years were a time of relative prosperity and ease. They were years of rebuilding. There is no note of idolatry and evil during those years.

But 25 years had passed. Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon had died. Once again, the Israelites fell into their old ways. “And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD.” Yahweh responded to their idolatry in the same way: “So the LORD gave them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years” (13:1). It’s all very predictable and very humdrum.

But what happened next is startling and highlights the fact that the salvation God promised was not a salvation that the people asked for.

The pattern we have seen in Judges is one of sin, subjection, sorrow, and salvation. In each instance before this, the people sinned, the Lord subjected them to punishment, and the people cried in sorrow. The Lord then responded with a promise of salvation—or in the case of Jephthah, by refusing salvation.

But here is a glaring omission: There is no note of sorrow on Israel’s part. There is no cry of misery or plea for deliverance. No one asked for a saviour. And yet the Lord graciously appeared with a promise of salvation:

There was a certain man of Zorah, of the tribe of the Danites, whose name was Manoah. And his wife was barren and had no children. And the angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold, you are barren and have not borne children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. Therefore be careful and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb, and he shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.”

(Judges 13:2–5)

The story of Samson really is the story of an unwanted saviour. We see this in both microcosm in Samson’s own family and in the broader scene in the nation.

Our introduction to Samson’s family includes the note that his mother “was barren and had no children” (13:2). The angel pressed this home: “You are barren and have not borne children” (13:3).

Barrenness in ancient Israelite culture was a source of great distress and even shame. Children were necessary for a woman’s security in her old age should she be widowed. Children were necessary in order to guarantee the ongoing family name and the retention of family inheritance. More importantly, Israelite women always lived in hope that they might be the one to birth Messiah, the offspring of the woman sent by God to crush the head of the serpent. In fact, there is no tragedy in Scripture that elicits a personal visit from the angel of Yahweh as frequently as barrenness.

The barrenness of Samson’s mother is surely intended to stand over against another judge, who lived at the same time, in another part of the country. If you reconcile the timelines, you will discover that, though their stories are told in different books, Samson and Samuel were contemporaries. The similarities in their birth stories are too obvious to be coincidental.

Both lived during the time of Philistine oppression. Hannah, Samuel’s mother, was barren as was Samson’s (unnamed) mother. Both women conceived after divine intervention, both boys were Nazirites from the womb, and both boys served as judges to Israel.

There is one stark contrast, however. Hannah took the burden of her barrenness to the Lord in fervent prayer, pleading with him to give her a son. Samson’s parents, on the other hand, seem to have resigned themselves to the reality of infertility. There is no indication that they prayed, no indication that they visited the tabernacle, no indication that they made faith-filled vows to the Lord. As Bruce Waltke notes, “Monoah’s wife stoically resigns herself to barrenness and despairs of prayer.”

The author highlights this stoic resignation from the outset, and it becomes the hallmark of Samson’s judgeship. The Israelites in Samson’s time had resigned themselves to Philistine oppression and were not looking for a way out. Nowhere is this more clearly seen than in 15:9–13:

Then the Philistines came up and encamped in Judah and made a raid on Lehi. And the men of Judah said, “Why have you come up against us?” They said, “We have come up to bind Samson, to do to him as he did to us.” Then 3,000 men of Judah went down to the cleft of the rock of Etam, and said to Samson, “Do you not know that the Philistines are rulers over us? What then is this that you have done to us?” And he said to them, “As they did to me, so have I done to them.” And they said to him, “We have come down to bind you, that we may give you into the hands of the Philistines.” And Samson said to them, “Swear to me that you will not attack me yourselves.” They said to him, “No; we will only bind you and give you into their hands. We will surely not kill you.” So they bound him with two new ropes and brought him up from the rock.

(Judges 15:9–13)

Notice the response of the people of Judah to Samson: “Do you not know that the Philistines are rulers over us?” Did the people of Judah not know that God had appointed Samson to save them from the Philistines? It seems that they had resigned themselves to Philistine oppression. There was no use in fighting the Philistines. It would only cause more trouble. No wonder Samson never amassed an Israelite army around him to fight against the Philistines. Nobody was willing to stand with him and fight.

A word must also be said at this point about Samson’s appointment as a “Nazirite.” A Nazarite is not the same as a Nazarene. Jesus was a Nazarene, which means simply that he grew up in the town of Nazareth. A Nazarite was someone who took upon him- or herself a particular vow of separation. The stipulations for that vow can be read in Numbers 6:1–21.

Briefly, a Nazarite vow was (ordinarily) a voluntary vow to God, by which a person would set him- or herself apart to special service for a stipulated time. During that time, the Nazirite had to keep three stipulations. First, the Nazirite could not eat or drink any fruit of the vine and needed to abstain completely from any form of alcohol. Second, the Nazirite could not cut his or her hair for the duration of the vow. Third, the Nazirite could not touch any dead body, human or animal, for the duration of the vow.

When the period of the vow was over, the Nazirite must shave his or her head and offer the hair with prescribed sacrifices as a token of release from the vow. If, at any point, the Nazirite broke his or her vow, he or she was to shave the head, offer sacrifices, and begin the vow all over again. The uncut hair was an outward, visible sign that the Nazirite vow was still in place.

Samson and Samuel were unusual—as, apparently, was John the Baptist centuries later (Luke 1:14)—in being set apart by God as Nazirites from conception.

Much more could be said about this particular chapter—about the encounter with the angel, about Manoah’s interaction with his wife, about Manoah and his wife’s submission to the angelic instruction, etc.—but the point to be emphasised for our purposes is God’s initiative in this last salvation story. Israel was not looking for a saviour but God saw Israel’s need and stepped in regardless to promise a saviour.

We must be encouraged that we serve a God of initiative. The Bible teaches that we are naturally complacent in our sin. “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10–11). Like Israel, we were not seeking salvation. Thankfully, God does not give only what we ask for. Dale Ralph Davis is correct: “If Yahweh’s help were given only when we prayed for it, only when we asked for it, only when we had the sense enough to seek it, what paupers and orphans we would be.” Happily, as Laura Smit observes, God’s “grace is operative even (perhaps especially) when we do not seek it.”

As Israel rested seemingly content in its sin, Yahweh spoke to an infertile couple to promise a son who would “begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines” (13:5). The rest of the story shows how Samson tried and failed to secure Israel’s salvation and then how God stepped in to provide salvation despite Samson’s failure.

Unwanted Salvation Attempted by Strength

Chapters 14–16 tell the story of Samson the saviour from two different perspectives. There is an intentional stylistic parallel in these chapters. Chapters 14–15 highlight one aspect of the story while chapter 16 highlights the other.

Chapter 14 begins with the note that Samson saw a Philistine woman whom he strongly desired. Chapter 16 begins the same way. The story in chapter 14 then recounts a feat of great strength as Samson kills an angry lion with his bare hands. Chapter 16 parallels this with the record of Samson escaping a Philistine trap by another show of strength, in which he tore gates of Gaza from their foundations and carried them to Hebron. In both chapters, a woman learned and betrayed Samson’s secret (14:5–18; 16:4–20) and in both Samson found himself bound (15:9–13; 16:21). Both record a great slaughter of Philistines (15:14–17; 16:25–30), a prayer of Samson (15:18–19; 16:28), and end with a note about the period for which he judged Israel (15:29; 16:31).

These parallels are unmistakably intentional, but what is more significant is the different directions in which the two sections take us. The first shows Samson growing in raw strength and displaying increasing acts of violence as he sought to deliver Israel from Philistine oppression. The second shows him brought low and actually achieving Israelite salvation in weakness.

Consider some of the incredible displays of strength in chapters 14–15.

First, in 14:5–7, Samson was confronted by an angry lion. The note about it being a “young” lion does not mean that it was a cub but that it was a lion in its prime, as opposed to an older animal with failing strength. A lion’s forelegs are made of the strongest bone, with muscles and tendons strong as the strongest wire. It is said that the three strongest forces in the animal kingdom are a blow from the tail of a whale, the kick of a giraffe, and a swat from a lion’s paw. A lion’s claws can tear flesh off an animal as we would peel an orange and with its tongue it can tear meat from a bone as if it were using a metal file. An agitated lion is a fearsome sight, but Samson “tore the lion in pieces as one tears a young goat” (14:6).

The second display of strength comes at the end of chapter 14, at the conclusion of Samson’s wedding feast. During the feast (14:10–18), Samson had challenged some of the Philistine guests with a riddle. If they could solve the riddle, he would give them thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothes. When they could not solve the riddle, they threatened his wife, who managed to wheedle the answer out of him. Samson responded by singlehandedly killing thirty Philistine men and giving the spoil to the men who had solved the riddle (14:19–20).

The third display of strength is found in 15:1–8. When Samson went to visit his wife “after some days” and discovered that she had been given in marriage to his best man, he caught three hundred foxes, tied them in pairs to burning torches, and released them in the standing grain fields of the Philistines. In revenge, the Philistines murdered his wife and her family. In response, Samson singlehandedly “struck them hip and thigh with a great blow.”

The fourth, and final, display of strength in this particular text is found in 15:9–17. There, the Philistines raided Lehi in Judah, justifying their raid as an act of vengeance against Samson. Rather than standing with the judge, the people of Judah sent three thousand men to confront him and hand him over to the Philistines. After securing their word that they would not attack him themselves, he agreed to be bound and handed over to the Philistines. He easily broke the ropes that tied him, picked up the fresh jawbone of a donkey, and singlehandedly killed a thousand Philistines.

The section then closes with Samson’s prayer for water and a note about his twenty-year judgeship.

At this point, we might expect the story to draw to a close. The stories of the judges typically follow a particular pattern. First, the judge is introduced. Second, commentary is given on how he or she judged Israel. Third, a note is given either about how long the land had rest or how long the judge judged Israel.

For example, Othniel’s record ends with a note of forty-year rest (3:11). Ehud’s record concludes with a note about eighty years of rest (3:30).  Deborah and Barak’s story ends with reference to forty years of rest (5:31), as does Gideon’s story (8:28).

After Gideon, the land is not again said to have rest, but a similar pattern is followed. Tola’s record ends with a note about a 23-year judgeship (10:2) and Jair’s with a similar note of a 22-year judgeship (10:3). Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon’s records all end similarly with reference to the time frames that they judged: seven years (12:9), ten years (12:11), and eight years (12:14) respectively.

When chapter 15 therefore concludes with reference to Samson’s twenty-year service (15:20), we might expect that to be the end of the story. If the pattern is followed, chapter 16 will open with a new story. But that pattern is not followed this time. Instead, chapter 16 continues the story of Samson.

The stylistic change, however, is deliberate. The author’s intent is to show that, despite Samson’s great strength, which he thought would secure salvation, salvation was not achieved. The stories in chapters 14–15 are exciting. Sunday school children marvel at this man’s superhuman strength. But, for all his strength, he could not deliver God’s people.

Samson seems to have believed that he was achieving the salvation he was called to achieve. “You have granted this great salvation by the hand of your servant” (14:18). But he was actually far less effective than he thought he was when he operated in his strength.

The author’s theological design is to remind us that God’s work is achieved not by might, nor by power, but by his Spirit (Zechariah 4:6). Hannah seemed to grasp the truth that Samson could not:

[The LORD] will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness, for not by might shall a man prevail. The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; against them he will thunder in heaven. The LORD will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.

(1 Samuel 2:9–11)

To be sure, Samson’s strength was the result of God’s Spirit (14:6, 19; 15: 14), but it seems clear that Samson was relying on his strength and not on the Lord who gave him the strength. The contrast in chapters 14–15 and chapter 16 is salvation attempted by strength and, as we will see, salvation achieved in weakness.

In an age in which we are encouraged to be self-made people who need nobody and nothing, but to find everything we need within ourselves, it is necessary to be reminded that salvation does not come by our strength.

If we think that salvation comes by our own strength, we will have no need of the Saviour whom God sent to save sinners. We will be like the Laodiceans, who boasted, “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing” when in fact we are “wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17). There are few things that cause people to reject God’s salvation than the lie that they are fine on their own. We need to be delivered from the mindset that we can achieve salvation in our own strength and instead look to Christ alone. If we deceive ourselves into thinking that salvation comes by our strength, we will find ourselves near the kingdom but not in it (Mark 12:28–34).

Let’s also realise that it’s not only unbelievers who are tempted in this regard. Even if it’s not earningsalvation, we can be guilty of thinking that we somehow keep our salvation by our own strength. We find security in the regularity of our Bible reading, prayers, or church attendance. We look to our works of mercy and our biblical ethics for comfort. We fail to recognise that these efforts are stirred in us by the Spirit and look to the works themselves for our hope. We are more like Samson than we like to admit.

Unwanted Salvation Achieved in Weakness

Samson believed that he had achieved “this great salvation” by his remarkable strength. He needed to learn that God’s salvation is magnified in human weakness.

Chapter 16 resets the story. Once again, Samson came to Philistia and “saw” a particular woman, in this case “a prostitute” (16:1). Act 3 will highlight God’s salvation in Samson’s weakness, but the author wants to draw a stark contrast between the salvation Samson failed to achieve by his strength and the salvation he secured in his weakness. He does so by drawing attention in 16:1–3 to Samson’s most impressive feat of strength yet.

Samson went to Gaza, and there he saw a prostitute, and he went in to her. The Gazites were told, “Samson has come here.” And they surrounded the place and set an ambush for him all night at the gate of the city. They kept quiet all night, saying, “Let us wait till the light of the morning; then we will kill him.” But Samson lay till midnight, and at midnight he arose and took hold of the doors of the gate of the city and the two posts, and pulled them up, bar and all, and put them on his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that is in front of Hebron.

(Judges 16:1–3)

City gates, like those in Gaza, with their posts and bar, weighed in the region of four tons. Samson uprooted these gates from the ground and carried them on his shoulders “to the top of the hill that is in front of Hebron,” some sixty kilometres away. This display of strength makes the lion and the foxes and the thousand-strong army seem like child’s play. The kind of strength described here is what we read of in comic books. But this is a historical account of the man God called to save Israel. There could be no better candidate—could there? But that, of course, is not how the story ends. Before we see how Samson truly saved Israel, we must encounter Delilah (16:4–22).

The Valley of Sorek (16:4) was the border between Israel and Philistia. Delilah is the third woman with whom Samson was involved. The Philistines by now realised that he had at least one weakness they could exploit: women. Recognising his infatuation with Delilah, they approached her with the offer of great reward if she could but discover the source of his strength and reveal it to them.

After this he loved a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. And the lords of the Philistines came up to her and said to her, “Seduce him, and see where his great strength lies, and by what means we may overpower him, that we may bind him to humble him. And we will each give you 1,100 pieces of silver.” So Delilah said to Samson, “Please tell me where your great strength lies, and how you might be bound, that one could subdue you.”

(Judges 16:4–6)

The interaction that followed between Samson and Delilah is fascinating. Samson seems to have considered this a great game to play. He told her a series of three lies about the source of his strength. She tried the new bowstrings (16:7–9), the fresh ropes (16:10–12), and weaving the locks of his hair (16:13–14). Each time she called the Philistine tyrants to arrest him, and each time he fought them off as if they were children.

Delilah would not be deterred—and Samson would not be warned. Her eyes were on the money and so, as his wife had previously “pressed him hard” to reveal the answer to his riddle (14:17), so Delilah “pressed him hard” to reveal the source of his secret (16:16). When he could take her “pressing” no more, he gave in and revealed his secret (16:15–20).

A word must be said about Samson’s answer at this point: “A razor has never come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If my head is shaved, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak and be like any other man” (16:17).

The story so far doesn’t quite line up with Samson’s answer. Nowhere in the inspired narrative is his strength actually ascribed to his long hair. How do we then understand his answer here? There are two possibilities.

First, it is possible that God had actually told him that he would enjoy supernatural strength as long as he did not cut his hair but that that is not recorded until now. In other words, we might conclude that, since Samson thought that his strength lay in his hair, God must have told him so. It’s possible, but unlikely, I think.

The second, and I think more likely, explanation, is that Samson was giving an answer that he thought was true, and was sort of true, but not quite. Let me explain.

It is evident that the Spirit of God was the true source of Samson’s strength (14:6, 19; 15:14; cf. 16:21). But there was something significant about his hair, because he did actually lose his strength when his hair was shaven and there is the cryptic note in 16:22, before his final display of strength, that his hair had started to grow back after it had been shaven. We must not imagine that his hair was a magical talisman that provided him with supernatural strength, but we also cannot deny that there was something significant about his hair. The fact is, his long hair was symbolic of something far more significant.

Remember that Samson was a Nazirite. As a Nazirite, he had to observe a threefold separation. First, he must separate himself from any fruit of the vine or alcoholic beverage. Second, he must separate himself from any dead body. Third, he must separate himself from a razor. A Nazirite’s hair was only to be cut in one of two cases: when he had completed his vow or when he had broken his vow. And since Samson’s vow was lifelong, the only time his hair should be cut was if he had broken his vow. His long hair, in other words, was an external sign that he was right with God. As long as people saw that he had long hair, they could assume that he was still being faithful to his Nazirite vow.

But how faithful was he to his vow? Let’s consider that question together.

As a Nazirite, Samson was, first, to separate himself from fruit of the vine and alcoholic beverages, but the writer employs language in a couple of places in the narrative to suggest that he was less than faithful in this regard. The word translated “feast” in 14:10 means “a drinking feast,” and alcohol abounded at drinking feasts. The Valley of Sorek, where he met and fell in love with Delilah (16:4), literally means the Valley of Vines. The writer appears to be deliberately drawing attention to drinking and vines to suggest that Samson was not entirely honest about his faithfulness in this regard.

But if there is but a hint of faithlessness in the first regard, it becomes more explicit in the second. The second element of the Nazirite vow was separation from carcasses. We can hardly imagine that a solo warrior like Samson avoided touching the thousands of dead bodies he left in his wake. Furthermore, we are specifically told that he stuck his hand inside the carcass of the lion to extract honey (and that he hid this information from his parents) (14:8–9) and that the jawbone of the donkey with which he killed a thousand Philistines was a “fresh” jawbone (15:15). That’s strike two.

Since Samson violated the first two Nazirite vows, the third becomes the key. As a Nazirite, Samson was to separate himself from a razor, a stipulation which he violated in chapter 16. When his hair was cut, it was a visible display to anyone who saw him that he had violated his Nazirite vows. He might have been able to hide the fact that he had touched a lion carcass. He might, in theory, have been able to hide consumption of alcohol. (After all, his drinking seemed to have happened in Philistia rather than Israel.) But once his hair was cut, there was no hiding the fact that he had violated his vow. And now that his violation was both complete (since he had violated all three vows) and in the open (since anyone could see his shaved head), the Spirit of the Lord no longer empowered him and he was easily overcome. The Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes, and dragged him off to prison, overjoyed that they had finally conquered their enemy (16:21). Ominously, however, “the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaved” (16:22).

If it is correct that Samson’s strength was not tied biologically and proportionally to the length of his hair, what is the significance of the statement that his hair began to grow again? It will help us to remember what the long hair symbolised for a Nazirite: faithfulness to God. Stated another way, the Nazirite’s growing hair was a visible symbol that the Nazirite was right with God. The author, I think, is suggesting that, as he ground at the mill in the prison, Samson had opportunity to do real business with the Lord and to make things right. His growing hair was symbolic of his right standing with the Lord. Samson was now in a good place spiritually so that the Lord was ready to empower him once again to carry out his work.

Unaware of what was happening between Samson and the Lord, the overjoyed Philistines threw a tremendous party—at which Samson was going to bring the house down (16:23–31).

During the celebrations, which were attended by some three thousand Philistines, they called for Samson to be brought out so that he could entertain them. Placed in the centre of the room, Samson asked a servant to allow him to feel the pillars on which the house rested. In one final act of faith (Hebrews 11:32), Samson prayed to God for his strength. With all his might, he pushed against the pillars. Confident that the Lord had answered his prayer for strength, he asked to die with the Philistines. The house collapsed, killing all three thousand partygoers—more in his death than in his life.

The theological significance of chapter 16, when it is compared to the rest of the narrative, is that Samson had to be brought low before he really accomplished salvation for God’s people. He could not achieve the salvation he wanted in his own strength. When he was made weak, God’s strength was on display.

If we want to accomplish great things from God, it starts by dismissing our own strength, embracing our weakness, and praying for God’s strength to be manifest in us (2 Corinthians 12:1–10).

Sometimes we imagine that God can only work through is when we look good. When things are going well, and our faith is strong, and circumstances are favourable, we believe God’s strength can shine. But on our bad days, in unfavourable circumstances, with flailing faith, God must rather work through someone else. But consider what Paul wrote:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

(2 Corinthians 12:9–10)

When do you feel most confident in your service for the Lord? Is it when you face “insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities”? Probably not, but it should be—“for when I am weak, then I am strong.” Samson needed to learn that lesson. So do we.

Unwanted Salvation Secured by Christ

In the end, Samson achieved a significant victory. To be sure, he only began to save Israel from the Philistines, but it was a significant start nonetheless. But let’s remember: Nobody asked for this significant saviour. The people of Israel were not looking for deliverance. Salvation came, in this story, by God’s initiative. And God’s initiative produced a special deliverer.

Everything about Samson’s story highlights that he was a special deliverer. Separated from the womb, he was declared by the angel of the Lord to be God’s saviour. We know virtually nothing of his childhood, except that he grew in the Lord and that the Lord began to move in his life The Spirit rushed upon him in his ministry so that he was able to accomplish amazing deeds. But his own, to whom he was sent, did not receive him. Indeed, they openly rejected him. He was arrested and handed over to his enemies. He was tortured and made a public spectacle until, in his death, he achieved his greatest victory.

Does that sound familiar? Samson was far from perfect but, as God’s appointed saviour, he foreshadowed Jesus Christ.

God did not send Jesus because sinful human beings were looking for a Saviour. Jesus came by divine initiative. While we were still sinners—and thereby enemies of God—Christ died for us (Romans 5:6–11). Far from looking for a Saviour, we were dead in trespasses and sins and walked in disobedience (Ephesians 2:1–3). But God—at his own initiative—sent a Saviour to those who were comfortable in their sins (Ephesians 2:4–10). Thank God for his initiative in unwanted salvation!

The truth is, the only reason we ever want Christ is because God has begun a work in us. If God has begun that work in you, and you find a yearning for a Saviour, look to Jesus Christ, the only Saviour God has given for sinful human beings. He died and rose again for the salvation of those he came to save. And he is willing to save all who call upon his name.

If this talk of salvation in Christ is meaningless to you, let me urge you to cry out to God and give you a yearning for salvation. That is your only hope of escape from eternal destruction. And when God answers your prayer, and you feel the longing for salvation from sin, cry out to Jesus for salvation and receive the gift of eternal life.

If you are one who has received life in Christ, realise that God does not need your strengths to accomplish his purposes. Instead, embrace your weakness and allow his strength to shine in your life.

AMEN