There was once a man named Manoah, who was a leader of the nation of Israel. He was a person of great stature, respect, and authority. He was the judge of a country which was very wicked, for in that time there was no king, and "every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (Judges 17:6, 21:25). During this chaotic period, Manoah was to be the judge of disputes amidst such immoral people.
Manoah's wife was very beautiful, but she had no children. The two of them greatly desired to have children, and prayed much for a son. Finally, when the wife of Manoah was alone, Someone, resembling a very tall and handsome young man, appeared before her. He told her that she would bear a son, and this son would be a judge of Israel that would "begin" to avenge the 40 years of oppression from the Philistines who had been savagely, brutally, and viciously tyrannizing Israel. This child, He told her, was to be a Nazarite, and not ever cut his hair, nor eat anything unclean, and never drink any fruit of the vine.
When she told her husband of the Messenger and His message, her husband became very jealous and upset. Who was this young, handsome Man? The wife prayed, and asked for another visit from this Messenger, and asked that this time her husband might see Him, so that Manoah might know that He was sent from God, and there was no reason for Manoah to be jealous.
The young, handsome Messenger again appeared, and told her husband the same message He had given the wife. Manoah was struck with wonder, and asked the Messenger His name. The Messenger told Manoah. "It is Secret...", (KJV), but the word for "Secret" is the same Hebrew word translated "Wonderful" in Isaiah 9:6:
"His name shall be called 'Wonderful'!"
So this Messenger was a pre-incarnate visitation of Jesus Christ.
Manoah wished to offer the Messenger a sacrifice, and finally the Lord agreed, and told him to have his wife prepare a kid. She boiled the kid, and then they placed it upon a great rock. The Lord took a rod, and touched the kid, which burst into flames. Then the Lord, ascended up to heaven in the smoke of the sacrificial kid, as Manoah and his wife watched.
Soon thereafter, a son was born to Manaoh and his wife, which they named Samson. 'Samson' comes from the Greek form of the name, 'Sampson'. But in Hebrew, the original name is 'Shimshon' which literally meant "sunny" or "little sun".
Samson was the last of the judges before Samuel, and the time of the judges was one of the most sinful in the history of Israel, for "every man did that which was right in his own eye" much as people try to do today. We live in a time, when there is law, and commandments, but many try to give their own definitions to sins, and many try to purge their guilt with cliches as "its the nineties." Some try to preach that every one should decide for themselves what is moral and right, and no one has the right to say that certain things are immoral for another person.
Samson grew up in such an environment. Although he was chosen of the Lord to be a judge to avenge the mistreatment of the Philistines upon God's people, Samson became tainted with the doctrine of the times. Finally, Samson took over as the recognized head of the country, and began his work to avenge Israel of the Philistines, as he had been taught by his parents.
The Spirit of the Lord came upon Samson and gave him a great strength, unlike any other person's (Judges 13:25). With this great, exceptional strength, Samson went down to a Philistine town to do his work.
MISTAKE #1 RIGHT GOAL, WRONG METHOD
As he looked around the town of Timnah, he decided to outwit the Philistines, and to use his intellect to show them his superiority, instead of his physical strength, as God had meant him to use. He "sought an occasion against the Philistines" (Judges 14:3). He sought out a beautiful young woman to marry, thinking this would enamor him to the Philistines. They allowed him to do so, but assigned 30 men to serve him, when in actuality, they were to keep him from doing them harm.
Samson then tried to outwit the 30 by giving them a riddle. He had killed a lion in the wilderness, and in the area where he had torn the chest of the lion open, bees had made honeycombs, and Samson had taken honey from the honeycomb. (This was a first breach of his covenant with God, for he was to eat nothing unclean, and the contact of the honeycomb with the dead lion made this food unclean) He asked the 30 men "what was once strong and fierce, and yet from its breast came sweet food for the hungry?' Them men were to be given a fresh change of clothes if they could guess. They could not, but finally on the last day of the contest, they threatened Samson's wife, and she told them the answer.
Samson became angry at their method of getting the answer, and at his own stupidity for having trusted his Philistine bride with the answer. He went to a neighboring city, and killed 30 Philistines, took their garments, and paid the 30 in Timnah.
Discouraged at his failure, he went home without his bride. While he was gone, the Philistines gave his bride to Samson's "best man" to wed. When Samson later went to make up with his bride, taking her a "kid" as an apology gift, he learned that she was now married to another. Again he grew angry, and caught 300 jackals, tied their tails together with fabric and set the fabric on fire. They ran through the gardens and vineyards setting the crops ablaze. In retaliation, the Philistines killed Samson's wife and her father.
MISTAKE #2 WITHDRAWAL, DISCOURAGEMENT, AND ANGER
Samson, had failed in his attempt to enamor, outwit, and make the Philistines nice by his "brilliance" and intellect. He withdrew to a mountain safe place in fear of their vengeance and to consider in his anger how next to proceed... God wanted to use Samson to physically avenge such evil acts of the Philistines, but Samson wanted to use his wits to outsmart them, and his time in the hideout was to try to "think" how to defeat the evil Philistines.
While he pondered, the Philistines attacked the cities in Judah, and to save themselves, the people of Judah finally consented to turn over their leader Samson to them if they would cease the attack. Israel sent 3000 of their own men to Samson's hideout to bring him to the Philistines.
Samson consented to the 3000 men of Israel, and was bound in two strong ropes, and taken to the Philistine camp. When he had arrived there, he broke loose, picked up a jawbone of a donkey, and killed 1000 Philistines. The rest fled in fear. Samson praised God for the victory, and realized that it was though physical strength that he was to bring victory to his people.
God miraculously had a rock to give forth water to a tired Samson, and Samson drank of the water, and started on a trip to the capital city of the Philistines to attack them there.
MISTAKE #3 SIDETRACKED BY LUST
Upon his arrival at Gaza, before he could begin his attack, he noticed a harlot, and went into her. As he slept in her home, the Philistines locked up the city to trap Samson within where they could defeat him the next day.
During the night Samson awoke, and ashamed of his misdeed (sin), he walked to the gates of the city, found them locked, and picked them up, broke them loose from the walls, and carried them up a hill near the city.
Samson had shamed his God, his people, and himself with his lustful sin. He, like the people, had done what was right in his own eyes, and had sinned greatly.
MISTAKE #4 POOR FRIENDSHIPS AND RELATIONSHIPS
Samson decided to avoid such sin again, he needed a wife. So he went to the valley of Sorek, and there fell in love with a woman named Delilah. The Philistines offered Delilah great sums of money to betray the secret of Samson's great strength. She tried, but Samson lied and told her other stories three times, but she grew angry at his lies, and he finally told her a part truth, that his long hair was partly the secret to his strength.
Josephus tells us that Samson drank heavily one night, (another breaking of his vow to God), and Delilah cut Samson's long hair. The Philistines captured the weakened Samson, bound him, put out his eyes, and made him grind grain in their prison.
Samson had trusted a deceitful, greedy, and impure woman, and had been tricked by those he thought himself mentally superior. He had failed over and over in God's plan for his life.
Later, after his hair had again grown long, and Samson had repented of his sins and stupidity... the Philistines brought Samson to a feast to their god, Dagon. (Dagon is a name that comes from 'Dagh' meaning 'fish'. The idol of Dagon looked like a half man, and half fish being. The leaping over the threshold ritual of the land was one which was to honor this evil god of the Philistines.)
While in the huge temple of Dagon, Samson prayed again for strength, and another chance to do what God wanted and that was physically to defeat the Philistines. Blind now, Samson had a servant to take him to the great pillars that held up the roof of the building. He slid the pillars aside from the foundation, and the collapse of the roof killed 3000 celebrating Philistines. It also took the life of Samson.
"So the dead that he slew at death were more than they that he slew in his life."
Samson did not complete his task given him by God, and the rest of his life had been one failure after another. He only had "begun" to do as God had wanted.
Yet, in Hebrews 11:32-39:
"And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and OF SAMSON, and of Jepthah, of David, and also of Samuel, and of the prophets... and THESE ALL, having obtained a good report through faith..."
Samson is in heaven, forgiven of God, and a hero of faith... Most often a failure, mistaken in his methods, weak in his lustful sins, sidetracked by women, shameful before those he was sent to avenge God's people... and yet, God forgave him, and now honors him as one who finally won the battle of faith.
We too can find mercy from God, amidst our shameful failures and sins:
"For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life."
We need to cease to "do what is right in our own eyes," and to find what God wants us to do. God's rules and ways are to be our rules and ways. God is merciful for our past mistakes, but they do carry a punishment, and shame. We can still find God's mercy, and end up on God's list of "heroes of faith."