Samson and Delilah, by Rembrandt

Samson.

His very name is synonymous with strength, yet the Book of Judges makes it clear that Samson was beset by many serious weaknesses: lust, anger, and revenge, to name a few. His weakness for women shaped his life so dramatically that the narrative about him in Judges revolves around two women: his marriage to a Philistine woman from Timnah (Judges 14-15), and his dalliance with the Philistine temptress Delilah (Judges 16).

In the larger context of the book of Judges, Samson is the very personification of the nation of Israel as a whole. Judges 17:6 says that, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” This is Samson’s story in a nutshell. Judges 14:3 says that Samson wanted to marry the Philistine girl because “she is right in my eyes.” This is repeated just a few verses later – “and she was right in Samson’s eyes” (14:7). What mattered to Samson was not God’s will – all that mattered was what looked good to him.

Ironically, by pursuing a lifestyle based on what looked good in his eyes, Samson eventually lost his eyes when he was captured by the Philistines (16:21). And just as God allowed Israel to be sold into bondage for becoming indistinguishable from their pagan neighbors, God allowed Samson to be pressed into slavery after a lifetime of reckless relationships with the Philistines. Once mighty, Samson was now blind, enslaved, and humiliated.

But it was in that very hour of weakness that Samson finally saw that God was the true source of his strength. He prayed to God for help, and God enabled him to bring down the house of Dagon, killing more of the enemy in his death than he had in all his other exploits combined (16:30).

In the context of his own weakness, the apostle Paul said, “when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). It is only when we are vulnerable and helpless that we are driven to rely on God’s strength rather than our own. But since God’s strength is so much more potent than our own, this is a good thing!

Of course very few of us suffer from the physical blindness that Samson suffered from. Ours is more like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, who walked for a while with Jesus but did not initially recognize who He was. The great news is that Jesus opened their eyes, and He can open ours – to see who He is, to see how weak we really are, and to see what He can do through us.