Question: "What should we learn from the life of Samson?"
Answer: Samson’s life is one of contradiction. First, he was to be “a Nazirite, set apart to God from birth” (Judges 13:5), yet he continually broke his vow. The Spirit of God came upon him many times, giving him great strength to fight the Philistines, the oppressors of the Israelites. At the same time, however, Samson was a womanizer and a vengeful man, full of sin. Samson’s life illustrates that giving in to temptation leads to sin, that God will use even a sinful man to enact His will, and that God will not let us escape the consequences of our sin.
The life of Samson - giving in to temptation leads to sin
Samson’s story begins with a violation of God’s law. He wants to marry a Philistine woman despite his parents’ protests and in violation of God’s law about intermarriage with pagans. His mother and father accompany him past the vineyards of Timnah (Judges 14:5) to obtain his new bride when a lion attacks and is killed by Samson. As a Nazirite, Samson had to follow the laws written in Numbers 6:1-21. First, he was to “abstain from wine and other fermented drink and…not drink vinegar made from wine or from other fermented drink. He must not drink grape juice or eat grapes or raisins.” By passing by the vineyards of Timnah, he invited temptation to violate this portion of his vow. Had he not walked so openly into temptation, he would not have encountered the lion, another source of later sin. When Samson came back by the carcass of the lion, it was filled with a honeycomb, which he ate. This was a clear violation of the second part of the Nazirite’s law: “Throughout the period of his separation to the Lord he must not go near a dead body” (Numbers 6:6). Samson seemed to know what he was doing was wrong because when he gave the honey to his parents, “he did not tell them that he had taken the honey from the lion's carcass” (Judges 14:9).
The customary feast described in Judges 14:10 was, literally, a “drinking party.” Although Scripture does not indicate whether Samson drank wine or fermented drink, it was yet another source of temptation that ultimately led to sin. In this case, Samson offers a wager on a riddle, and his wife betrays him and gives the answer to his riddle to her countrymen, the Philistines. In response, Samson murders thirty men.
The life of Samson - God will use even a sinful man to enact His will
Samson willingly went into situations that led to sin, but each time, God used him for His glory. God created Samson to “begin the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Philistines” (Judges 13:5). Even sinful men cannot prevent God’s will. When Samson killed the lion, it was his first recorded test of strength. It gave him confidence to face the Philistines. He murdered 30 Philistines out of vengeance in order to pay a debt. Later, Samson swears to “get even with the Philistines” (Judges 15:3) and to “get [his] revenge on [the Philistines]” (Judges 15:7). Both occasions were for personal reasons and were not godly, but God used them as a springboard to launch Israel out of their oppression. Despite Samson’s sin, God’s will would not be thwarted.
The life of Samson - God will not let us escape the consequences of our sin.
Even though God’s will is unstoppable, Samson still experienced the consequences for his sin. When he met Delilah and she begged to know the secret of his strength, he broke the final part of the Nazirite law: “During the entire period of his vow of separation no razor may be used on his head. He must be holy until the period of his separation to the Lord is over; he must let the hair of his head grow long” (Numbers 6:5). After Delilah’s countrymen cut his hair, Samson still expected God to be with him. “He awoke from his sleep and thought, ‘I'll go out as before and shake myself free.’ But he did not know that the LORD had left him” (Judges 16:20). He had gained confidence from previous violations which appeared to have gone unpunished, but his continual willful disobedience had reached an end. When Samson had finally broken all of the Nazirite laws, he had to face the consequences of his actions.
The lessons we can learn from Samson’s life are that if we willingly and repeatedly walk into temptations which lead to sin, we will suffer the consequences of our disobedience even though God still uses us to accomplish His will. In the end, Samson understood the true source of his strength, but he never understood his true purpose. “Then Samson prayed to the LORD, ‘O Sovereign LORD, remember me. O God, please strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes’" (Judges 16:28). We see from this verse that Samson was more concerned about revenge than about doing God’s will, and it cost him his life. “Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived” (Judges 16:30). God’s will was done, but the many blessings Samson might have seen were never realized.