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.
How do we know that Samson did indeed turn back to God? After he had been imprisoned for a time, the Philistines threw a huge party to celebrate Samson’s capture. This wasn’t a backyard BBQ; it was a religious festival held at the temple of Dagon. You see in Philistine minds, Dagon had triumphed over Samson and therefore was clearly superior to the God of the Israelites and worthy of praise.
What conclusions do your acquaintances draw about the God you worship? Do your actions, your words lead them to praise the God of the Bible and make them want to find out more about him? Or does your life-style lead them to mock God as did the Philistines? The only Bible translation that many will ever read is you. Dear Christian, live as the salt and light Jesus has made you to be.
Once the Philistine victory party got going, the crowds, 3,000 of them on the roof of the temple alone, demanded that Samson serve as the marquee entertainment. And so the blind Samson was led into the temple like a circus bear. That pathetic sight was enough to cause bursts of laughter to dance through the crowd. But it wasn’t enough to see Samson; the frenzied mob wanted him to perform. And perform Samson did but I can’t tell you what his act was like. The Bible doesn’t describe it. Perhaps several men carried in a heavy table and told Samson to lift it above his head. When he couldn’t, they must have jeered. Some champ he was now! Or maybe they thrust the jawbone of a donkey into his hand and told Samson to defend himself while they took turns poking him with their staffs. Since he couldn’t see, Samson would have looked more like a jester than a jouster much to the delight of the crowds.