Samson

Alan H. Linton, Bristol, England

Part 6 of 6 of the series Theophanies of the Old Testament

All quotations are from the New King James Version.

INTRODUCTION
Israel was, yet again, in spiritual decline; Eli was High Priest, his sons were corrupt and the 'lamp of God had almost gone out', 1 Sam. 3. 3. God's response was to allow the Philistines to invade the territory of Dan and this oppression continued for forty years up to the times of kings Saul and David. During this period Samson judged Israel for twenty years.

The time of Samson was both the end of one era and the beginning of another (the monarchy). It is not surprising, therefore, that this occasion was marked by another theophany, the last of the seven recorded. Most theophanies were granted to the person God raised up to lead His people but, in this final instance, it was given to the parents. Samson's life was marked by a strange mixture of success and failure, yet his name ranks among the worthies of faith in Hebrews 11. 33, who 'through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained the promises'. In view of his abysmal failure we may wonder at his inclusion in the 'Gallery of Faith' but it was the Holy Spirit who inspired this Scripture and, without doubt, his inclusion referred to those times in his life when he was under the influence of the Holy Spirit, and not to all the unworthy activities of his life.

THEOPHEOPHANY
Despite the general apostasy of the nation, it is heart warming to find that humble, earnest and pious individuals still lived in Israel. They included Hannah and Elkanah, Boaz and Naomi, and Manoah and his wife, the future parents of Samson. Like Sarah, Hannah, and later Elizabeth, Manoah's wife was barren; Sampson's birth was therefore a divinely-granted miracle. The Angel of the Lord first appeared to the woman who, although not immediately appreciating His true nature, described Him as 'A man of God . . . his countenance . . . like the countenance of the Angel of God, very awesome', Judg. 13. 6. He told her that she was to bear a son and must refrain eating any product of the vine or anything unclean because the child to be born was to be Nazirite to God from birth. Manoah prayed that the Man would come again in order that they might be instructed regarding the bringing up of the child it is commendable that they were not prepared to accept God's gift apart from the responsibilities it entailed. The prayer was granted and the instructions given to the Woman confirmed, but nothing further was added to what already had been given to the woman.

The 'Man' refused an invitation to eat with them but informed them that if they wished to offer a burnt offering it must be to the Lord. This they did and, to their amazement and consternation, the Angel of the Lord ascended in the flame which leapt up from the altar. Like Gideon before them, Manoah and his wife immediately recognized the divine nature of their visitor and fell on their faces, a response which invariably characterised all who were given a glimpse of the Angel of the Lord.

In due time Samson was born and the Lord blessed him. His divine calling was soon apparent; the Spirit of the Lord began to impel him - and the promise made before he was born was about to be fulfilled. 'He shall begin to deliver Israel', Judg. 13. 5.

SAMSON UNDER THE CONTROL OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD, Judg. 14, 15.
Samson's strength did not lie in gigantic stature or bulging muscles - else Delilah had no occasion to ask its source - nor in his locks of hair (these were only a sign of his Nazirite vow), nor his weapons, but in the Spirit of God coming upon him. Four times it is recorded that the Spirit came upon Samson, Judg. 13. 25; 1 4. 6, 19; 15. 14. So long as he was a Spirit-directed and Spirit-empowered man God gave him victory. Samson was truly 'anointed to serve', Zech. 4. 14 - NIV. He was living in the power of a Nazirite vow and his confession was, 'You have given this great deliverance Judg. 1 5. 18, thus ascribing the glory to the Lord alone. So it can be with us. 'Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit', saith the Lord, Zech. 4. 6, and Paul could testify, 'I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me', Phil. 4. 13.

SAMSON UNDER THE CONTROL OF HIS PASSION, Judg. 16.
Sadly, the babe of his parent's dream was to became the man of their despair. It is a fact that not all godly parents are spared from sorrow in the lives of their children. As long as Samson lived under his Nazirite vow the Lord blessed him, but when he began to use for self-indulgence the gifts God had entrusted to him, he failed. Sampson's experience is a classic warning against playing with sin. He persisted in ignoring the 'red lights'. 'Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall', 1 Cor. 10. 12.

No longer was Samson impelled by the Spirit of God but by his own craving, and in self-confidence and boastful of his strength, he went down to a prostitute at Gaza. He had ceased to be a Nazirite at heart before his hair was cut, but God in His mercy did not take away his strength until he broke his Nazirite vow. Later, he went to Sorek and four times Delilah sought to learn the secret of his strength. Three times he replied that if certain things were done to him then 'he would become like any other man', Judg. 16. 7, 11, 17. But it was never God's intention that Samson should be like any other man - he was to be a life-long Nazirite to God. Ultimately the truth was drawn from him, 'If I am shaven then my . . . (not God's) strength will leave me and I shall become weak', v. 17. As he slept, his hair was shaven from his head and this was followed by his loss of strength and some of the saddest words in Scripture, 'He did not know that the Lord had departed from him', v. 20. Every indignity was heaped upon him by the Philistines; his eyes were put out, he was bound with fetters and enslaved.

'BLINDED, EYELESS, IN GAZA', (MILTON)
However, we read, 'the hair of his head began to grow as soon as it was shorn', v. 22. God's grace in restoration is indeed sweet to see. Godly sorrow worketh repentance and, with faith rekindled, Samson standing between the supporting pillars of the temple of Dagon uttered one last great prayer, 'O Lord God, remember me I pray. Strengthen me I pray, just this once', v. 28. Blind Samson was groping for divine restoration, a new morning of hope. God heard and answered his prayer, for we read, 'the dead which he killed at his death were more than he killed in his life'. But what a tragedy! So ends the period of the Judges. And Paul exhorts us, 'Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfil the lusts of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh; these are contrary the one to the other. If we Jive by the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit', Gal. 5. 16-18.

Reference

Appearance

Recipient

Emphasis

Location

Situation

Gen 18

Man

Abraham:

Communing

Mamie, Near Hebron

Tent

Gen 32

Man

Jacob

Wrestling

River Jabbok (ford)

River-bank

Exod 3

Flame of Fire

Moses

Calling

Horeb

Mountain

Josh 5

Warrior

Joshua

Wielding (sword)

Jericho

City

Judg 6

Angel of the LORD

Gideon

Encouraging

Ophrah in Manasseh

Winepress

Judg 1 3

Angel of the LORD

Samson's parents

Warning ('beware')

Zorah in Dan

Field