Judges 16: 23 - 31
As the morning light broke, men began to stir all over the prison. In a corner cell, heavily guarded behind an enormous iron door, another man heard the noises and woke. He had been dreaming of better days. Dreams of sunshine and blue sky, bright flowers and green trees, dreams of a life long gone. He dreamt of childhood days, of strong young men and beautiful young women. Dreaming of what had been and of what might have been.
He heard the sound of tired feet shuffling, rusty iron gates opening and closing. He groped in the darkness, reaching for his sandals. Feeling carefully for the wall, he stood up. He looked awful. He was thin, prison food being what it was. His face was covered with a stubbly growth of beard. His hair, what there was of it, was matted and dirty. He felt along the wall, found the corner, then followed the wall until he came to the door. He waited at the door for someone to come. When he felt the sun on his face, he reached up to rub the sleep out of his eyes. Then he remembered -he didn’t have any eyes. For Samson, another day in prison had begun.
He never dreamed it would come to this. Not in his wildest dreams or his worst nightmares. Samson -mighty man of Israel - hero of his people - deliverer of the nation - God’s man! He was meant by God to deliver his people. What a waste his life had been! “Come on Samson. Here, boy. Sit up, Samson. Do some tricks for us, Samson.” They took him out and hooked him up to the grinder - tied his arms to that long wooden pole - “Push, Samson. Push harder, donkey.” Hour after hour, day after day, Samson pushed and listened to the taunts of the Philistines.
When the day was done, the guards untied his hands - took him back to his cell and pushed him in, slamming the door. “See you tomorrow, donkey. Sweet dreams, Samson.” He stumbled and fell, groping in the darkness for his mat, listening to the laughter and the receding noise of the guards walking toward freedom.
Kiss Of Death
How did a man who started so well end like that? How did a man empowered by the Spirit end up enslaved by the Philistines? What was that girl’s name? The one in Timnah - 20 years ago. What was that prostitute’s name? Who knows? Who was that other girl? Samson couldn’t forget her. Delilah. She was nice, cute, good-looking, a smile that could light up a dark alley at midnight. Soft and cuddly - smooth to the touch, playful and feminine, seductive and … sexy. Even in prison, Samson could appreciate Delilah.
Samson never meant to end up in prison. Delilah - the latest in a string of Philistine girl friends - the last and the best. He had defeated the Philistines - over and over again. For 20 years the mighty Samson had kept the Philistines at bay, kept them in their own country, kept them away from Israel. He alone had done it.
He fell in love with Delilah. Then she began to play that dumb little game with him: “Tell me the secret of your power.” Samson thought it was just a lover’s game, a little bedroom entertainment, a silly diversion to help pass the time. Sure, he would humour her. Why not? It was all in fun. Nothing serious.
Finally, he blurts out the secret. Then she’s rubbing his cheeks, caressing his head, rubbing his eyelids, telling little sweet nothings, silly promises made with a giggle. Samson smiles and drifts off to sleep. When he woke up, his hair was gone - room was full of Philistine soldiers. He took a mighty swing - in the old days would have killed 10 men. This swing kills no one. He picks up a spear - feels strangely heavy in his hands. In one blinding moment of truth - his power was gone. He reached for his hair - it wasn’t there. Then he remembered that silly game.
16: 21 - Philistines weren’t nice people - took a red hot poker and shoved it into his right eye -then his left eye - leaving him with hollow sockets. Whenever anyone saw Samson, they would see in his hollow sockets the marks of his unfaithfulness to God.
Samson’s 2 Spiritual Flaws
A. He never appreciated his spiritual heritage.
He had godly parents, a godly family and a godly calling. He knew the will of God and he knew the Word of God. He knew what God wanted him to do. Plus he had good looks, a winning personality and enormous leadership ability. Samson inspired people. He was born for greatness. Samson had it all!!! But he never appreciated what he had - all that God had given him - he went this way and that way; he messed around with lesser things and in the process he basically wasted his life away.
Can happen to any of us - doesn’t matter whether you attended this church all your life - doesn’t matter what’s on your spiritual CV, if you don’t appreciate what God has given you, you are doomed to repeat Samson’s fatal mistake. The “better” your background - more likely do what Samson did. The more you’ve been given, the greater the punishment for neglecting it.
B. He couldn’t control his emotions.
We think that his problem was all in the sexual area. Actually, his most basic problem was that he never learned how to control his emotions. First he is filled with lust and then anger -then lust again - then anger - then lust and then anger again. He’s riding an emotional roller-coaster, from the peak to the valley and around a sharp corner, and then he does it all over again. He’s over here, then over there, then over here again. That’s why he continually got out of trouble, then got right back into trouble again.
He never learned to control his emotions and so they controlled him completely. Proverbs 16: 32 “Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city.” He never learned to control his temper. He never learned how to rule his spirit. He never knew the first thing about self-control. In the end his runaway emotions ran away with him.
The Circus Comes To Town
Today was going to be a different kind of day. The footsteps stopped at the door of his cell. The door swung open and Samson felt the sunlight in his eye sockets. “What is it? Who is it? What do you want?” A voice barked back, “Samson. Get out of here. You’re coming with me.” “Where are you taking me?” There is anger and fear in his voice. This time they are taking him outside the prison walls. Suddenly they stop, Samson hears the jangling of keys, a door opens, and the crowd noise deafens him. A push from behind, sand under his feet, more noise, cheering, shouting. “Samson, Samson, Samson.” – v. 23. Our god! Dagon had defeated Samson, the representative of Yahweh, the God of Israel.
“Roll Over, Samson!”
They had taken Samson to the Temple of Dagon - the temple was built on 2 levels. The bottom level was an open arena with seats around it. The upper level was built over the lower section with a hole in the middle to let the people above watch the action in the arena. Columns supported the upper level which sloped toward the center so that the bulk of the weight rested on 2 mighty columns near the centre of the arena.
On this day the building was jammed. There were hundreds down below and 3,000 Philistines on the roof. Men, women, children, they had come to see their latest catch – Samson – v. 25a.
Samson is unshackled and led out into the middle of the arena. He looks like a wild man -emaciated, dirty, matted beard, dressed in prison rags, long fingernails, dark sockets where his eyes should have been. And hair! Yes! His hair was growing back. Not much yet. But some, a cm or 2. Samson gropes in the darkness and a wave of laughter swept through the crowd. “Jump, Samson!” He jumped. “Run, Samson!” He ran. “Bark, Samson!” He barked. “Roll over, Samson!” Like a dog, the mighty Samson rolls over. Revenge!
In his mind, something strange begins to happen. In the middle of that vast arena, performing for the Philistines, words long forgotten come back to him. “You will begin to deliver your people from the Philistines.” While he is jumping, barking and rolling on the ground, in his utter humiliation the words come back to him. “You Samson will begin to deliver your people.”
It is almost like a dream. But God is speaking to him again. Eventually the crowd wearies of its cruel game. Another act comes out. Samson picks himself off the sand and makes his way to the side. So little did they fear Samson that they let a little old boy lead him to the side. In that moment an idea, a wild thought floats through his mind. Slowly, carefully, he reaches to feel his hair. Yes! His hair is growing back. Is it possible? Could it be?
Samson asks the boy to lean him up against those 2 great columns that support the upper deck. They are vast, so large no human could put his arms fully around them. No one knows what is about to happen. Even Samson doesn’t know for sure. Will his strength come back one last time? There is only one way to find out.
This is his prayer: v. 28 - isn’t the noblest prayer in the Bible. To the very end, Samson is thinking only of himself, not of his people. He is motivated primarily by revenge. Yet there is something about his prayer that gets God’s attention. It is totally sincere and if God answers it, it will cost Samson his life. Give him that much. He prayed and then he paid the price.
The End of the Story v. 29, 30
Samson lies at the bottom of the pile of rubble. There is dirt and blood and jagged stones, his body crushed by the force of the column falling in upon him. Samson is dead, his eyes frozen open; upon his lips blood and the trace of a smile. Samson had made his bed with the Philistine women, he now chooses to die with them. In life and in death, he cannot be separated from them. They thought by capturing him to put an end to him. They did, but in his death he killed more than he did while he was alive.
Did Samson Commit Suicide? No - Samson at this point is coming back to God. He’s like the general who knows the only way to win the victory is to lead his troops into battle, even though for him it means certain death. His prayer was simple: “O God, remember me.” Do you understand what that prayer means? “Lord, I belonged to you at the beginning. Lord, I wandered away. I made some stupid mistakes. I blew it, Lord. O God, I deserve everything that has happened to me. Lord, will you just this one time remember me?” The final detail of Samson’s story - he killed more in his death than he did in his life.
I want to ask you a question, “How far can a person go before God will not deal with him any more?” How far can you go? What if you get drunk? Is that too far? What if you start sleeping around? Is that too far? What if you steal money? Is that too far? What if you kill somebody? Is that too far? What if you cheat? What if you commit adultery? Is that too far? What if you have an abortion? Is that too far? How far can you go before God will say “I won’t deal with you anymore? You’re my child and I won’t deal with you anymore.”
Nobody knows the answer - nobody has ever gone far enough to find out. Did you hear that? Nobody knows the answer to that question because nobody’s ever gone far enough to find out. How far can you go before God finally washes his hands and says, “Get away, you’ve gone too far for me”? I don’t know the answer because nobody’s ever gone far enough. No matter how far you run from God, you can never go so far that God can’t find you.
The Hero of the Story
The hero of this story isn’t Samson. The hero is God. This is a lesson in the grace of God. How a man beaten and blinded, humiliated by his own repeated stupidity, reached the bottom, turned around and discovered God was right there waiting for him. Samson’s not the hero. All he did was turn around and find God. That’s all. God is the hero. He was there all along. What a story of the grace of God!
Some of us really need this – we’ve gone pretty far down the road. Some of us live under an incredible load of guilt. I’m talking to Christians now; not just to unbelievers. I’m talking to Christians who have things in your past that you feel awful about. Maybe you’ve come to church feeling dirty and unclean. In your heart you have a hard time praying because you’re really afraid to pray with all that stuff in the background.
Let me tell you the most important thing I know based on this passage. Restoration of fellowship with God does not depend upon your performance. How do I know that? Because Samson didn’t perform anything. He came back to God before he pushed those pillars down. He came back to God while he was still blind and dirty. He came back to God and God took him. There was no performance involved at all.
So many of us think we’ve got to clean up our act before God will take us back. We think we have to have our act together before we turn back to God. God says, “You don’t understand what this is all about. This is about grace. You’re the one who messed things up in the first place. If you’ll just turn around, you’ll find I’m right there waiting for you.”
Unfortunately, it took Samson a long time to realise that. It takes most of us a long time. Sometimes we’re stupid like Samson. We just make mistake after mistake after mistake until we finally hit rock bottom and we look up and God says, “My child, are you ready to come back? Because if you are, I’m ready.” And he takes us back. Samson came back to God before he died and in the end he killed more in his death than he did in his life.
What About You?
So where are you today? Where are you with the Lord? Maybe you need to do what Samson did and say, “Lord, remember me.” Maybe you need to give your life to Jesus Christ. Maybe you need to keep alive the seeds of Christ which were sown in your life years ago. Some of you need to say yes to Jesus Christ for the very first time. You’ve heard it and heard it and heard it. Now will you come to Jesus Christ?
Most of us are more like Samson than we’d like to admit. “Can I come back? Will God take me?” God says, “Come back.” He told me to tell you just come back. Whoever you are and whatever you’ve been doing and wherever you’ve been living and hiding and sleeping, God says it doesn’t matter. He’ll take you back. God has already made the first move. The next move is up to you.
“Heavenly Father, help those who need to make a definite turn in their life to do it right now. Thank you for never giving up on us. Help us to see that you were there all along. In Jesus’ name, Amen.