Summary: A story of redemption - God's redpemption of Samson.
“Eyeless, in Gaza, at the mill, with slaves…” (John Milton, Samson Agonistes, Line 41). Each phrase from this poem about Samson drops heavily onto our hearts like the burning tears that must have fallen from Samson’s mother when she found out what had befallen her son – that once-mighty servant of God (adapted from A. Macleran). “Eyeless, in Gaza, at the mill, with slaves…” How had it come to this? He who once seemed most likely to succeed - his birth announced by God himself, his feats of strength unparalleled - that champ was now just another chump in the Philistine prison.
Was Delilah to blame? She had traded Samson’s secret for silver. But as they say, “Fool me once; shame on you. Fool me twice; shame on me.” Samson had been fooled four times! It wasn’t so much that he was a he-man with she-problems but because he was a he-man with me-problems. Samson had begun to believe that his great strength was not a privileged gift from God but his by right and could never be taken from him. That’s why Samson had been careless – using his strength to gratify his desires instead of to serve like the time he bulldozed his way out of Gaza after a night with a prostitute. God had waited patiently for Samson to repent but finally left him to his own devices. That’s how he had ended up “Eyeless, in Gaza, at the mill, with slaves…” But the last chapter of Samson’s life has yet to be told. The Philistines themselves gave Samson a curtain call and he brought down the house. Is this a story of redemption? Yes, God’s redemption of Samson.
The picture of Samson grinding grain in the Philistine prison is not pretty. But look again. Doesn’t the scene remind you of a parable Jesus once told? The parable I’m thinking of is the one about the prodigal son – the boy who squandered his father’s inheritance and ended up sharing a pen with pigs. That boy, like Samson, seemed beyond hope. But his father had never stopped loving his son and neither had the heavenly Father given up on Samson. As Samson’s stubbled hair grew again so did divinely-worked repentance in his heart. I imagine that Samson had at first been angry with God. How could God let his servant be so humiliated? But with nothing more to do than turn a millstone all day long, and with no eyes with which to check out the girls who may have come to watch him, Samson had plenty of time free from distraction to think about his situation. How could he not come to the conclusion that he was to blame for it all?
Friends, God still lets us suffer the consequences of our sins. His purpose is not to humiliate but to humble and make us realize that we’re not hot stuff – not spiritually speaking anyway. What a blessing that time in prison was for Samson. Likewise the time you’ve spent at rock bottom is a blessing from your heavenly Father. When he dims the prospects in our lives it’s so that we would see better the brightness of his love.