Judges 16:20 “He Did Not Know the LORD had Left Him”
Tuesday, August 14, 2012 Bryan E. Walker
The story of Samson is one of the most memorable yet most tragic stories in the Bible. Born to a couple who had experienced the pain and shame of being barren, Samson was the result of a direct intervention by the Angel of the LORD during a time of national disgrace, rebellion against the LORD, and oppression by the wicked Philistines. Complete with the strange command that the child was to be a Nazirite from the womb (13:4-7) this baby would grow to be a judge who would deliver Israel from their oppressors. Tragically however, Samson is a lesson in squandering one’s spiritual heritage and gifts. After Samson lives a self-centered life of lust and the worship of power and pleasure, the LORD leaves Samson and he doesn’t even know it. Stripped of his power, freedom, dignity and sight, Samson is a source of entertainment and jokes for the pagan Philistines. But God wasn’t quite finished with Samson.
In 16:20 we find “But he did not know that the LORD had left him.” We look at Samson’s profligate life and wonder how it was that the Lord was ever able to use him and bless him (13:24-25). But when we look at Samson in that manner we forget that God is sovereign and his grace is poured out to the undeserving all the time. Did Samson deserve all the power, strength and victories? No; and we do not deserve any of the blessings which God routinely gives to us either.
The story of Samson goes from the blessings of God upon the young man in 13:24f to 14:1 and the very first story of Samson where we see him pursuing a Philistine woman for a wife. Both his parents seek to correct him but he dishonors them, breaking the 5th Commandment. But 14:4 gives us a behind the scenes look at what God was doing: God was using Samson’s rebellion and lust to bring judgment upon the Philistines. Get this: God uses sinful, rebellious people for his purposes too.
We certainly do not take this as a license to sin, trusting that God will use us like he did Samson while we do what we want, but this should help us to understand that God’s grace and sovereignty are so powerful that His will is going to be accomplished one way or the other.
Samson’s violent and often sinful exploits bring him to the point of trusting in the un-trustworthy Delilah. Time and again we see her betray Samson’s confidence, yet he does not stop giving her his affection; eventually, he tells her the secret of his hair and he is caught. We must mention that his power did not lie in his hair; this was not magic. The hair was the symbol of his Nazirite vow and a symbol of his trusting in God, the source of his supernatural strength. Samson had lived his life under a vow that either he did not understand or that he grew so accustomed to that he took it all for granted. He let sin take over his life so that he became powerless, blind and a slave.
The question for Christians today as we seek to apply this passage to our lives is this: have we gradually become so ensnared by the world that we don’t even know the Lord has left us? We understand and believe in the doctrine of assurance which is matched by the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, but we all know of times in our lives when our hearts have grown cold, we have lost our first love for Christ, and we begin toying with the Delilahs of our age. Samson kept the sign of his vow, long hair, but lost the relationship with God and ultimately the power which God had given him. Perhaps we sometimes trust more in a symbol of our religion than in the Saviour himself and consequently lose the power of the Spirit. We can get so used to our slow backsliding that we do not even notice that the Spirit of God has departed and we are simply following our own path. Suddenly, we realize we are trapped, enslaved, blinded, and we wonder what happened.
The Lord did not ultimately abandon Samson. Samson remembered the LORD and the LORD remembered him one last time. With his last breath Samson trusted in God to do a mighty work, and God did, so that “the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life.” There is hope, then, in this tragic story. Hope for those who seem like they have long since turned away from the Lord. This is the hope of the Gospel: Jesus delivers.
This lesson from Samson’s life, this gospel point, is for you, me, and all to whom we meet and carry the gospel of our crucified, risen Savior. But this message can also be helpful for our nation. We live in darkening days. Evil abounds and it seems like our country has reached the point of not even realizing that the hedge of protection the Lord planted around us is gone. It seems to me that America is now bound, blind, enslaved, mocked by the world and abandoned by God. And we don’t even know it.
Let me close with the words to an almost forgotten song: “America! America! God shed His grace on thee…God mend thine every flaw…may God thy gold refine.” May the Lord do a work of revival in our hearts, in or homes and churches, and in America.