If there was ever a man who failed to live up to his potential, Samson was the man. He was chosen by God before he was born to be a leader of his people. He was given a special blessing of great strength to accomplish the task. But Samson squandered his opportunities, put his own desires ahead of the good of his people, showed a real lack of self control and eventually lost his blessing and strength, and even his life..
It was during the time when ancient Israel was led by various individuals known as “judges” around 1400 to 1100 BC. An angel of God came to a couple who had been unable to have children and announced that they would have a son. He was not going to be an ordinary child, but he was to be a special child who would grow into a man who would deliver his people from their oppressors, the Philistines. The words of the angel came true. A son was born and as the boy grew God began to work in his life. This young man had the potential for greatness.
However, it wasn’t long before things started to go awry. When Samson became old enough to marry, he chose a woman from among the Philistines. God had commanded the Israelites not to intermarry with the pagan peoples such as the Philistines, and now the man who was to be their leader was disobeying. However, God knew Samson would do this and God was working through the circumstances to accomplish his plan anyway. At the wedding, Samson made a wager with 30 Philistine companions that they could not explain a riddle he gave them. The Philistines threatened Samson’s wife to get her to cajole him into explaining the riddle to her so that she could explain it to them. When the Philistines answered the riddle, Samson knew they had cheated. He said, “If you had not plowed with my heifer, you would not have solved my riddle.”
It was probably not a compliment to refer to his new Philistine bride as a cow, but that is only the beginning of Samson’s fit of rage. He went to a nearby town and killed 30 Philistine men to pay his wager. The situation further escalated when Samson’s new father-in-law gave his wife to another man. Samson’s anger reached the boiling point.
Samson used 30 foxes with firebrands attached to their tails to burn the Philistines grain fields, vineyards and olive groves. Then the Philistines burned Samson’s ex-wife and her father to death for causing this trouble. This further escalated Samson’s anger and he began to slaughter the Philistines. The Philistine forces came against Judah and demanded Samson. The men of Judah bound Samson with ropes and turned him over to the Philistines. Samson’s special blessing of strength from God allowed him to break the ropes easily and to kill a thousand Philistines using a donkey’s jawbone as a weapon.
Whew! ... and to think it all started with a riddle!
Samson survived and led Israel for 20 years, but his temper and lack of self control, especially in regard to women, continued to get him in trouble. At one point he went to a Philistine city to visit a prostitute. When the Philistines discovered that he was in their city they tried to trap him by closing the city gate. Samson used his great strength to pull down the doors of the city gate and carry them to the top of a hill where he stuck out his tongue and made faces at the Philistines down below. Actually the Bible doesn’t say anything about him sticking out his tongue and making faces, but I think he probably did. It fits with his other immature actions.
Samson’s weakness for the wrong kind of women got him in trouble again when he fell in love with a woman named Delilah. The Philistines bribed Delilah into attempting to discover the source of Samson’s great strength and revealing it to them. They were determined to get rid of this man who was the leader of Israel. Samson’s own moral weakness and lack of judgment led to his final downfall.
Delilah made several attempts to get the secret from Samson by pleading, nagging, shedding crocodile tears and even using the ploy, “How can you say you love me if you won’t confide in me?” Samson kept telling her lies and she kept believing and trying each thing he said. He kept showing his lack of good decision making skills by staying with this treacherous lady instead of heading for home while he was still able.
You would think that Samson might be smart enough to realize that Delilah was really trying to turn him over to the Philistines. But he was not…and she did. He revealed to her that the true source of his strength was his vow to God symbolized by his never allowing his hair to be cut. She waited until he was asleep and she cut his hair. Then she called in the Philistines who caught him, gouged out his eyes and kept him as their trophy prisoner and slave. Now, that is pain and suffering!
Samson, the man who had a great blessing from God and was chosen to lead God’s people, was now a blind slave working like a donkey turning a mill wheel to grind grain for the Philistines. He was suffering in many ways, but why? He really had no-one to blame but himself. His pain and suffering were not caused by God or even really by the Philistines. They were the result of his own bad choices.
The final sad chapter of Samson’s life came when the Philistines were having a sacrificial celebration in the temple of their god Dagon. They brought the humbled Samson to their party in order to mock and laugh at him. They did not realize that his hair had grown back and he was praying to God for strength. He did more than give them something to laugh at, he brought the house down, literally. With his strength renewed he shoved down two pillars that supported the pagan temple and killed more Philistines while ending his own life.
Can you relate to Samson? Have your own bad choices brought you pain and suffering? Perhaps you need to humble yourself and pray to God instead of blaming Him for your troubles. God hears even the prayer of a person who has squandered the blessings God has given.
David was king of Israel almost a thousand years BC. David was a man who also suffered pain and loss because of his own actions. However, there are many contrasts between Samson and David.
Samson’s birth was announced to his parents by an angel of God who also said that he would be a deliverer of his people. David's birth was nothing special. He was the son of Jesse, a man who raised sheep near the small town of Bethlehem. David was the youngest and smallest of Jesse’s sons and apparently he was not a very impressive young man. God told the prophet Samuel to go to Jesse’s home and anoint the next king of Israel. God didn't tell Samuel which son of Jesse to anoint. Jesse brought out his seven other sons, but he did not consider David to be a worthy candidate for the job. However, God had a different view of David and told Samuel to anoint Jesse’s youngest.
David showed his worthiness by bravely slaying the Philistine giant Goliath when the army of Israel was afraid to confront him. David had confidence he could defeat Goliath because the Philistine had “defied the armies of the living God” and David knew “the battle is the Lord’s.” David had a deep faith in God that allowed him to fearlessly face a giant in his shepherd’s clothing armed with a slingshot, when the soldiers were quaking in their armor.
Before David could actually take the throne he had to spend years fleeing for his life from his predecessor, King Saul. Saul was insanely jealous of David and attempted many times to kill him. At times David showed faith in God’s protection, but at other times his faith faltered and he sought protection among his enemies, the Philistines. At one time he fled to the Philistines to escape Saul and then had to pretend to be insane to escape from the Philistines.
In his years of fleeing he wrote some terrific songs of praise to God for His protection and care. (You will find those in the book of Psalms. e.g. Psalm 63) And, most remarkably, David had an opportunity to kill Saul at least two times, but refused to do so. David would not kill the man who was trying to kill him, because David would never harm the Lord’s anointed even though David was anointed by God to take Saul’s place.
David’s life and his rule as king had many ups and downs, but for the most part David was faithful to God in his life and actions. The most famous exception to that was his tryst with Bathsheba.
Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah a Hittite who was fighting in David’s army. Instead of being out with his army, David was at home, and watching the neighbor lady. While Uriah and the rest of David’s men were in battle, David saw and lusted after Uriah’s wife Bathsheba. The result of David’s actions was that Bathsheba became pregnant. He brought Uriah back from battle hoping to make it look as if he fathered the child. When that didn’t work David gave instructions to place Uriah on the front lines and then have the army pull back and cause him to be killed. Then David could take Bathsheba as his wife to make the baby legit.
Not only was David guilty of adultery, he was also guilty of murder. He had violated two of the ten commandments written by the hand of God on tablets of stone and which he should have be honoring as leader of the people of God. However, David was not even repentant until the prophet Nathan trapped him with a parable of a rich man with many sheep who took the only sheep from a poor man. When David pronounced death for the man who would do such a thing, Nathan looked him straight in the eye and said, “You are the man!” The impact of this word picture brought home to David the great evil he had done and he repented with bitter tears. (You can read his song of repentance in Psalm 51.)
David repented of his sin, and God forgave him. But still David suffered the consequences for the rest of his life. First the child of David and Bathsheba’s wrongful union died, bringing great anguish to David. But that was only the beginning. Amnon, one of David’s sons lusted after and raped his half-sister Tamar. This made David furious, but apparently he did nothing about it, perhaps because of own guilt over sexual sin. This infuriated another of David’s sons Absalom who was a full brother of Tamar, and he killed Amnon. This led to Absalom’s rebellion against David, causing David to flee for his life. The outcome of that rebellion was Absalom’s death over which David mourned bitterly -- probably feeling guilt because he had helped to cause this tragedy. His mourning for the death of Absalom almost caused his faithful soldiers to turn against him. They believed that he cared more for his rebellious son than for those who risked their lives to defend David. As in Samson’s life, one thing leads to another while the pain and suffering only get worse.
As we pointed out, David is described as “a man after God’s own heart.” He was a man who did most things right, but he made some bad choices. He repented of his sins and God forgave him, but that did not take away the consequences. David experienced pain and suffering in his family and in his kingdom because of his own actions. Actions have consequences and sometimes those consequences are seriously painful.
THE BOTTOM LINE
In Samson we see a man who seemed to do most things wrong and in David we see a man who did most things right. However, they both suffered the consequences of their bad decisions and actions. We can expect the same thing when we make bad choices, and we should not blame God for the pain that results. But don’t forget, God still loves you anyway and he is always willing to forgive. (John 3:16) - Roland Earnst
You can read all about these two men in the following passages from the Old Testament of the Bible:
Samson – Judges 13:1-16:31
David – I Samuel 16:1- II Samuel 24:25