In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Samson the strong man. An odd and strange story. A story of a fool in love? Yes. A story of an oaf who followed the desires of his flesh which led to his downfall? Yes. The story of Christ saving His Church? Yes. All these contradictions exist in one man’s story for Our Lord promises to work good out of everything, even our own sin. (Rom. 8:28) For by His cross He has taken death itself and bent it to His will, by His death defeating death, by His death atoning for your sin, and by His death opening the way to life eternal in your death.
And his mother suspects it is the Angel of the Lord. (Jdg. 13:6) Just as a Mary Magdalene saw our Lord first on the day of His resurrection (Mark 16:9-11; John 20:14-16) and went and told the Twelve Disciples. (John 20:18; Mark 16:10-11) So she tells her husband. They run to see. (Jdg. 13:10-11) But just as on the day of the resurrection when Jesus finally does appear to some men on the road to Emmaus they don’t recognize Him till they set in front of Him. He consecrates the Lord’s Supper and as soon as their eyes of faith are opened to the fact that He is alive as the women said He disappears. (Luke 24:13-31) So the Lord before taking on flesh in front of Manoah and his wife shoots up off to heaven in the smoke as the sacrifice is consumed in the fire. (Jdg. 13:19-20) Just as Jesus Himself would be roasted alive in the fire of His Father’s wrath against sin—the final atoning sacrifice so that your sins no longer keep you from your Father. In that sacrifice the identity of the Angel of the Lord was made known to Manoah, Samson’s soon to be father. (Jdg. 13:21-23) And in his birth was Manoah and all Israel’s salvation.
Yet when we look at the life of Samson we are told the Spirit of the Lord was on him. (Jdg. 13:25) But you and I can’t detect it by his works. Even his ill-favoured marriage to a Philistine woman before his dalliance with Delilah seems off. Sordid. (Jdg. 14:1-3; Deut. 7:1-4) Yet, this was the Lord’s work. For the Lord was raising Samson up to deliver Israel. (Jdg. 14:4)
You’d think that after the first time he wakes up having told her his supposed secret of supernatural strength and she’s done to him exactly what he said, he’d have clued in. He’d have hightailed it out of there. But he’s a fool for love. Or lust. It’s not really clear. Yet, one thing is certain. Our Lord is a fool for His Bride, the Church. She is not anymore faithful than Delilah. She can be a murdering, backstabbing, unbelieving Philistine. Yet, He dies for Her to clothe Her in a dress of surpassing beauty. (Eph. 5:25-27) A raiment whiter than snow. Washed clean in His blood shed to cover over Her sin. (Eph. 5:26; Rev. 7:14; Isa. 1:18) She is radiant. Clothed in Him. (Eph. 5:27; Gal. 3:27)
We have no indication that Delilah ever loved Samson. That she ever believed in His God. Yet after Samson is undone by her, after all seems lost, there is still hope. For his hair begins to grow. (Jdg. 16:22) His strength will return, just as the dead Son of God, stricken, smitten, and afflicted on account of His beloved, returns to life, having conquered Her enemies and won Her freedom.
For Samson’s repentance is Israel’s freedom. His death on behalf of the Lord’s beloved sets her free. It clothes her in garments of salvation. (Isa. 61:10) It fills her mouth with songs of joy. (Ps. 118:15) And just as with our Lord’s death the faithful of the Lord, His family (Luke 8:21), come to collect the body (Jdg. 16:31; John 19:38-42) so that Samson rested with his father, just as the Lord rested in paradise with His Father (Luke 23:43), in the eternal Sabbath rest of God (Heb. 4:1), on that Holy Saturday. For His death destroyed the enemies of His people, the Church, just as Samson’s death destroyed the enemies of Israel, declaring the Lord’s victory over Satan and his demons in the very house of the demons. (Jdg. 16:23a, 27, 30; 1 Pet. 3:18-19; Eph. 4:9; Col. 2:15; 1 Pet. 4:6)
No, Samson was not righteous by His own reason, strength, or outward actions. Looking at him you couldn’t tell the Holy Spirit was at work in him. Just as looking at you, try though you might your sin mars everything you do, making your best efforts like filthy rags. (Isa. 64:6; Phil. 3:8) Your life does not look, from outward appearances, better than many in our world. In fact, it might even look worse. Thanks be to God that our salvation is not based on our righteousness, but on Jesus' righteousness.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON