If we were given the task of composing the honour role of the faithful as recorded in Hebrews 11, it is unlikely that we would have included Samson. But there he is in verses 32–34 amongst the illustrious names of David, Samuel and others: “And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.”

The selection of Samson to be included in this great chapter on faith helps us to appreciate a little better that Yahweh’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts (Isa 55:9). So the reference to Samson in Hebrews 11 and the greater record of his life in the book of Judges is there for a reason – all Scripture is profitable for our instruction in the way of life to the Kingdom.

What reasons could there be for having the record of Samson? There are no doubt a number of reasons, but here are three:

1) Historical – It was important that the remarkable victory of Samson over the Philistines be recorded in Scripture for future Generations

2) To show God’s great mercy – Despite the failures of Samson he nevertheless will be in the Kingdom as Hebrews 11 testifies

3) For our admonition and learning – In our lives we should aspire to emulate his good traits – his highs; but forsake his bad traits – his lows.

In this regard it is very important to appreciate that the weaknesses of Samson were made bare for all to see for a good reason.

Similar things could be happening in our life but the difference is that most (if any) of our brothers and sisters don’t know – only God knows. And of course, we really know.

Samson was a man just like us – one who was committed to the things of God and yet was easily led astray – just like us. Here was a man who could easily fall from grace – just like us – if we allow wrong influences in our life get the upper hand.

Samson in a number of respects is so much like ourselves, brothers and sisters.

No doubt all of us have a desire to be involved, to be committed, to be dedicated in the things of the Truth. Yet to our sorrow we fail and fall and sometimes we fall very heavily.

As the saying goes – we could kick ourselves when we succumb to the temptations that come our way.

But the lesson of Samson’s life is that, if we are sincere in our desire, we can through God’s grace pick ourselves up out of the dust and renew the journey to the Kingdom.

That’s the value of the life of Samson.

Samson was hand-picked by Yahweh from conception to be a Nazarite – a life of total dedication in Yahweh’s service. The reason is given in Judges 13:5, “… and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.”

When Samson grew up he must have been aware of his special calling but unfortunately along the way he made some terrible mistakes. He certainly had the correct understanding of the world, that is, the Philistines in opposition to God but nevertheless fell due to his weakness. With that I am sure we can all readily identify.

Let us consider some aspects of Samson’s life, his highs and his lows, as a learning experience.

The first recorded incident in his life is the occasion when he went down to Timnath (Judg 14:1). Timnath was about 7kms from Zorah, his birthplace. Timnath in Hebrew means “assigned portion” and it was, in fact, assigned to the tribe of Dan as recorded in Joshua 19:40, 43.

Perhaps in going down to Timnath Samson had a desire to begin his commission from Yahweh by taking this area back from the Philistines. But as soon as he arrived he was distracted, for he “saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines.” Samson would have known that his desires were wrong but alas the lust of the eyes overcame him.

I think we can identify with Samson here. We all have our weaknesses and unless we are very careful such weaknesses can destroy all the good intentions we may have.

Remember the words of our Master: “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell” (Matt 5:29). It would take a lot of courage to literally pluck out one’s own eye and not only that but to throw it away. The Lord, of course, was not speaking literally but he was making a very strong point.

Drastic and decisive action is needed on our part if we are to rid ourselves of those temptations and issues in life that may cause us to stumble and, if left unchecked, ultimately cost us the Kingdom. Generally, only we, apart from our heavenly Father and His Son, really know what those issues may be; so it is up to us to confront them and take the decisive action necessary.

It really is a matter of life and death.

Jesus went on to say: “And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off and cast it from thee…” (verse 30).

Recently there was a report in the newspapers of an incident where a hiker did such a thing! In an unfortunate accident his arm became trapped under a boulder. Unable to raise help he took drastic action by actually cutting off the trapped arm with his knife!! It was an act of desperation but it saved his life and he walked away free to seek help. Sometimes we may need to take drastic spiritual action in our lives to save our life eternally.

When Samson came back from Timnath with the news that he wanted the local Philistine woman as his wife, the response from his father and mother was quite predictable: “Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines?” (Judg 14:3).

Samson should certainly have known better.

To our dear young people who may be reading this article, can it be said that we should be very thankful that we have caring parents like Samson’s in the Truth, who are concerned not only about our physical well-being but also our spiritual well-being. Sometimes we may take such care for granted, and in some cases may event resent it!

Samson’s response to his parents’ pleas is unfortunately a trait which many of us may have shown when young, and perhaps we still have, even when older – he knew better than his parents! In fact his response was quite atrocious: “Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well” (v3). The av margin puts it, “she is right in my eyes”, whilst the New American Standard Bible has, “she looks good to me”.

This is always a danger, particularly for younger people who are stepping out into the wide world: what looks good may not in fact be good for us and can cloud what otherwise may be a clear vision. In such circumstances the present looks better than “the unknown hazy future”.

It is interesting to note that the strong “lion killer” in Judges 14:5 and 6 became like ‘putty’ in the hands of the Philistine woman (Judg 14:5,6,16,17). This shows how quickly our resolve in life can be de-railed and we should take this as a grave warning.

Samson’s involvement with this woman was the exact opposite of strength being made perfect in weakness: it was a situation where in his strength he became like a weakling – he couldn’t resist her fervent pleas associated with much weeping!

There were some awful ramifications that arose out of Samson’s involvement with the Philistine girl. She said to him, “Thou dost but hate me, and lovest me not: thou hast put forth a riddle unto the children of my people, and hast not told it me”(v16).

Why was Samson, a Nazarite, getting involved with her people, the Philistines, the very people he had been raised up to deliver Israel from? The lesson for us is that one bad move can often lead to another.

Despite this lapse, Yahweh in His mercy was still with Samson. The Spirit of Yahweh “came upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon, and slew thirty men of them, and took their spoil” (v19).

A certain mischievous act of bravado is seen in the next recorded incident in Samson’s life against the Philistines (15:3–5): “Now shall I be more blameless than the Philistines, though I do them a displeasure” (v3).

If Gideon, who is also named amongst the faithful in Hebrews 11, with 300 men could defeat the Midianites, well, Samson would go one better, – he would inflict terror on the Philistines with 300 foxes! Gideon’s men had their blazing torches – Samson sent 300 blazing foxes’ tails amongst their fields.

The Philistines were furious upon finding out that Samson had caused the loss of their standing corn, vineyards and oliveyards, and in a cruel retribution burnt Samson’s Philistine wife and her father with fire. This brought great anger from Samson and he was determined to bring retribution on the Philistines: “Though ye have done this, yet will I be avenged of you, and after that I will cease”(15:7).

If there was a high point in Samson’s life then surely we have it in Judges 15. Here we see his faith and courage in action. He showed the way against Israel’s enemy in contrast to the attitude of the spineless men of Judah. “He smote them hip and thigh with a great slaughter: and he went down and dwelt in the top of the rock Etam” (v8). But what did the men of Judah do? Instead of following Samson’s courageous example, they adopted a defeatist attitude and were even prepared to deliver Samson to the Philistines to save their own skins.

When the Philistines came up against Judah and demanded that Samson be handed over, 3000 faithless men of Judah went to the top of the rock Etam with an astonishing tale to tell. They said to Samson, “Knowest thou not that the Philistines are rulers over us? What is this that thou hast done unto us?” (v11).

In effect they were saying to Samson, “We have a cosy relationship with the world, Samson, and we don’t want you coming along upsetting the status quo.”

Never mind that with 3000 men they could have wrought a great victory against the Philistines. No, they were more interested in not having their ‘applecart’ overturned!

Brothers and sisters, we should be very thankful for beloved brothers and sisters in our midst who give the lead in showing the way to keep the influences of the world at bay. We need more of such stamp today and pray God that we will never be guilty like the 3000 of Judah, who were more interested in getting on with the world than resisting its power like Samson.

Samson would no doubt have been astonished at the attitude of his “friends”. But he was not deterred. Asking only that they would do him no harm when they delivered him to the Philistines, Samson was dutifully handed over, bound with two new cords.

But when the Philistines shouted against him in a note of triumph, the Spirit of Yahweh came mightily upon him. Throwing off the cords as if they were mere burnt flax and finding a new jaw‑bone of an ass he smote the Philistines with great fury. “And Samson said, With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps, with the jaw of an ass have I slain a thousand men”(v16).

How did he know there were exactly 1000 of the enemy slain? You would hardly imagine that Samson walked amongst the carnage counting all the bodies! Was it not rather that Samson was rejoicing in the fulfilment of Yahweh’s great promise, “One man of you shall chase a thousand: for the Lord your God, he it is that fighteth for you, as he hath promised you” (Josh 23:10).

Joshua’s great words of encouragement are echoed by the apostle Paul: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil 4:13).

This was certainly a high point in the life of Samson. His great courage and faith against the enemy of Israel was matched by wonderful blessings of strength from Yahweh in heaven. And the same is true for us, brothers and sisters. Whilst we do not have Spirit power today, yet we have the promise of Scripture that if we commit our cause to God, then He will bless and direct our lives: “… work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil 2:12,13).

But if Judges 15 was the high point in Samson’s life then, sadly, Judges 16 was surely the low point: it ends with Samson’s death, although thankfully a death in triumph over the Philistines.

Samson was able through the Spirit of Yahweh to easily break the cords binding his arms but tragically he couldn’t break the habits which led tohis ruin. “Then went Samson to Gaza, and saw there an harlot, and went in unto her” (16:1).

Once again his eyes were his downfall.

There is a great lesson for us here. None of us can afford to relax in our service to our God at any time. We may through God’s grace rise to ‘spiritual highs’ but that doesn’t mean that the temptation to sin has gone – it is always just around the corner. We need to remain focused on our goal at all times – if we don’t, we can ever so easily fall.

And that’s exactly what happened to Samson – he fell for a woman once again (16:4).

This was to be his last fatal mistake.

We also have to be very careful that we don’t go ‘a bridge too far’. We need to be so careful in our walk because sin comes at times in very attractive packages. Obviously Delilah was very attractive!!

In this whole tragic episode Samson just treats Delilah and the Philistines as a joke – mere playthings. “Don’t worry about me – I’ll be OK”, he could say to anyone who may be concerned that he was getting too deep into the water. “I’ll know when it is time to withdraw.”

But did he, brothers and sisters, and do we at times? The trouble is that if we play with fire we are going to get burnt: “Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?” (Prov 6:27,28).

It was a simple law of cause and effect and Samson got badly ‘burnt’.

He should have listened to the wise counsel of his parents and never got involved with strange women. That is also the counsel of Proverbs 6: “My son, keep thy father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother… To keep thee from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman” (v20,24).

Note the sad progression downwards in Samson’s tragic fall. He kept playing around with Delilah, teasing her and going back for more (v7,11,13). On the last occasion things were getting very ‘close to home’. For the first time with Delilah he mentions his hair, the symbol of his Nazarite vow: “If thou weavest the seven locks of my head with the web… .”

Samson had great strength because he was a Nazarite with uncut hair. Was it not a very dangerous thing to be talking to Delilah about his hair?

As he got more and more deeply involved, so he got enmeshed by the relentless pressure of sin coming from the ‘sweet talk’ of Delilah (v15,16). The apostle Paul tells us that sin does so easily beset us (rsv “clings so closely”, Heb 12:1).

Brothers and sisters, if sin does so easily beset us, why do we at times, like Samson, put ourselves in situations where it besets us too?

So we come to Samson’s great fall: “… he told her all his heart, and said unto her, There hath not come a razor upon mine head; for I have been a Nazarite unto God from my mother’s womb: if I be shaven, then my strength will go from me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man” (v17).

What a fool Samson was to tell Delilah all his heart. Proverbs tells us to “keep thy heart will all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Prov 4:23). Samson found out the absolute truth of this statement. It certainly was an issue of life and he ended up losing his!!

Samson told Delilah that if his hair was shaven then he would “become weak, and be like any other man”.

Whilst this was true, that by allowing the symbol of his vow to be broken he would lose his great strength, yet in another broader spiritual sense Samson could never ever be really just like any other man. He was an Israelite, a child of the covenant people, a man chosen by God from birth – could he just walk away from all this and become like anyone else in the world?

And is it true for us, brothers and sisters?

When we forsake our vow, our commitment made to God at baptism, when perhaps sadly we even leave the Truth, can we ever really be like any other person in the world?

We can’t really, can we?

We may forsake the meetings, but deep down we know the Truth and know that one day our Master will return. Can we ever forget the Truth? I wonder what those who have left the brotherhood really feel deep down inside?

So in that sense, once we know the Truth as Samson did, and once we have made a vow, we can never really be like a man in the world who knows not God, even if we say we want nothing more of the Truth. Besides, brothers and sisters, we may theoretically think that if we were to leavethe Truth, life will go on fairly much as normal. But will it?

Samson had no idea of the suffering, degradation and ultimate death that would come upon him because he allowed his head to be shaven! Did he ever dream that the Philistines would take him, put out his eyes, and bind him with fetters of brass; and that he would grind in the prison house? Just because he broke his vow. Was this to be “just like any other man”? Yes, his strength became like any other man’s, but his lot was far worse.

Here we see the deceitfulness of sin. It can deceive us into thinking that all will be OK. Sadly we don’t see in advance the terrible effects that may come into play.

The final scene in Samson’s life is thankfully one of great triumph as Samson in his weakness throws himself upon his God. And “out of weakness [Samson] was made strong” again, just one last time to bring about the purpose of God (Heb 11:34).

Leaning upon the pillars supporting the great temple, upon the roof of which were 3000 Philistines, Samson in faith “called unto the Lord, and said, O Lord God remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.”

We know the rest of the story very well. “So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life” (v30). This is the man found in the honour roll of the faithful in Hebrews 11.

So in this brief overview of this remarkable man’s life, what can we take to the memorial table? What take-home lessons are there for us?

Perhaps we could summarise as follows:

Always remember our vows to God and endeavour not to live a double life – partly for God and partly for the world.
Don’t let our weaknesses distract us – take decisive action now whilst we are able and before it is too late.
Sin has consequences.
We may think we understand what life will be like if we forsake our vow or God, but we really don’t know what tragedies may come our way.
The world is not all that it is ‘cracked up to be’ – it is actually an environment where we can be severely burnt, if not consumed.
In times of desperation (and in fact at all times) despite our waywardness, let us throw ourselves upon our God. He is merciful and if with all our heart we truly seek Him, we will find Him.
Despite what we may think of the life of Samson, he will be in the Kingdom, and that gives great encouragement and hope to us.
Samson’s life is not an excuse for licence but it does show us the great mercy of the loving God Whom we worship and Whose mercy is seen in the provision of His Son.

Samson lost his sight and life, but he will be in the Kingdom. Thankfully most of us still have our sight. May we then use our eyes both literally and spiritually to focus our gaze not only on the S}]on of God but on the glories of the future age, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2).