I love Judges 16:22. I cannot make my own hair grow, only God can. It’s not about the hair. Samson’s hair is a personal symbol for him, like the cross is a symbol, a symbol represents a deeper reality. There is always a glimmer of hope. Along the way mistakes will be made, sinful decisions, self decisions, but you can end well. Samson hair kept growing. A glimmer of hope. Samson paid a price for his own arrogance. Last week’s message, he suffered mutilation, deportation, imprisonment, and humiliation of being worked like and animal, but his hair began to grow. I read once that you are never more than three feet away from a spider. When you read the Bible, there are some intense verses, stories of sin and failure, but I would bet you are never more than a dozen verses away from a glimmer of hope, a reason to be optimistic. Make that a lifestyle, no matter how discouraged, uncertain, bad decisions, keep your eyes peeled, look for God, signs of God’s grace is never far away. Samson’s hair began to grow (Amen!) God will always give you one more chance, the God of grace, look for the signs, they are all around you. Samson has made mistake after mistake after mistake, going down to Philistia, falling in love with Philistine women without even knowing a thing about them. Yet he is listed in Heb 11…
But he never appreciated what he had. Woe is me when I take God for granted, when I take the people in my life that love me and bless me for granted. Samson took God for granted and thought all his personal advantages in life were innate, of his own doing, and for himself. Samson never appreciated all that God had given him; he messed around with lesser things and basically frittered his life away. It can happen to any of us, to drift away, to take for granted, to quit paddling, to take credit for your own gifts and abilities and neglect the God who created you. In some ways, the more “stable” you are, the more resources, the fewer problems, the more likely you are to do the same thing Samson did.
I met Samson last Sunday afternoon. I went to visit a friend in jail. I don’t recall seeing him since we were together in grade school. It was amazing. I was buzzed to go into the room, and there were four cubicles, I was with his mother. His faithful mother that goes every Sunday – would everyone have such a mother… and for a moment we could not find him, looking in each of the four cublicles with a glass partition. I spotted him – his back was turned as he seemed to be getting prepared to meet his mother, he had long beautiful hair. And he slowly turned around, a handsome man with a dark full beard, a very gentle looking man. I’ve now heard from several people, including his sister, since I saw him, that at times through the years he was out of control, His mother went in first and greeted him, then she wanted me to talk. And my friend looked at me and said, I found God in here….(tell a few more details). And he told me that while at first he was humiliated and disappointed and confused, after a few weeks he began to accept, and he found God, and the chaplain helped him so much….the phone was a bit crackly, but I think he told me he had read through the Bible twice. He had always “believed in God, but not like this”…being in jail was one of the best things that ever happened to him because he found God, or probably more accurately, God found him. In jail he was a man of peace.
When Jesus first burst onto the public scene in the N.T. gospels, he stood up in a public gathering and quoted a scripture from the ancient prophet Isaiah, applying the words to himself: A caption of his purpose… Luke 4:18-19: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
When Jesus says, “he has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners” he is not saying freedom depends on the bars being removed. When he says recovery of sight to the blind, he is not saying physical vision will be restored. He never again had earthly sight, but he saw God! Samson never found earthly freedom again, but he did end well because he found God. When I look at Samson, when I saw my friend in jail, what I see is a man that has found freedom while in jail. We tend to think that in order for me to find peace I have to be completely relieved from the mess I am in, give me that job and all will be well, give me back my health, superglue my life back together. The Lord has the power to give you freedom even while stuck in the quicksand. The freedom of Christ is greater than the locked door. The greatest miracle of all is that the Lord Jesus Christ can give you complete freedom without ever removing the bars.
Through-out his life, Samson was sucked down in the quicksand, one bad decision after another because he never appreciated his spiritual heritage, taking God for granted, and the 2nd major problem: Samson could not control his emotions.
Read through the full story, Judges 13-16, and Samson is filled with lust and then he is filled with anger. Then he’s full of lust again, then anger again, and then lust and then anger again. an emotional roller-coaster. In and out of trouble.
He never learned to control his emotions. I love the words of Corrie Ten Boom? People would ask her, “Corrie, how could you survive as a Christian in the prison camps? How could you survive in such a place? How could you live?” This was her answer: “There is no pit so deep that the love of God is not deeper still.” God found Samson, at the bottom of the deepest pit.
Today’s scripture: The End of The Story. Samson ends well.
The Philistines trot Samson out in the public stadium to mock him, the ultimate humiliation. Revenge. Samson makes a simple request, to touch the pillars…Samson is no longer an imposing man, a threat... He is broken// God uses the broken, those who hit the bottom. Samson is broken, weak, he knows his strength can only come from God. When I am weak, that is when God can do amazing things through us…
Samson’s final prayer is fascinating in Judges 16:19 (read). Not the noblest prayer of the Bible, yet God honors the prayer because at this point in time, at this time of history, God wanted the Israelites liberated from foreign oppressors…the Lord filled Samson with a supernatural power to bring down the house. The columns bulge and break, then crumble. Samson lies at the bottom of the pile of rubble, his body crushed.// Samson ended well: he found freedom, because he found God. Knowing and trusting God is everything. God promises peace, but he does not promise a long and healthy life. He promises hope, but he does not promise to take away difficult situations. He promises to be with you, he promises that as you depend on him for his strength. The Lord promises to set the prisoner free even while he remains in jail. Freedom is found in your spirit, when you know and accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.
The hero of the Samson story isn’t Samson. The hero is God. This passage is a lesson in the grace of God. How a man beaten and blinded, humiliated by his own repeated stupidity, reached the bottom, turned around and discovered God waiting for him. Samson found freedom in jail. God is the hero. He was there all along. a story of the grace of God!
Some of us need this story. Thank God that Samson is imperfect, even his final prayer had a tinge of the old Samson, yet God heard his prayer, God responded to the heart cry of Samson. Some of us have gone pretty far down the road. Some of us labor under incredible load of guilt. Maybe you’ve come here today feeling dirty and unclean. In your heart you have a hard time praying because you’re afraid to pray with all that stuff in your background.
Let me tell you the most important thing I know based on this passage. A relationship with God does not depend upon your performance. Samson did not perform anything. He came back to God before he pushed those pillars down. He came back to God while he was still shackled. He came back to God while he was blind. His hair began to grow, a sign that God did not abandon him. It was all God. In life Samson took God for granted, thinking the gifts he was given were for his own gain, and he never did seem to get his emotions under control, yet God gave him one more chance…and Samson came back to God.
So many of us think we’ve got to clean up our act before God will take us back. God says, “you don’t understand. This is grace. Just look up from the bottom of your pit and I’m waiting for you.”
This story gives hope for people like you and me who have blown it. Have you got skeletons in your closet? If you’re waiting to get better, you’re going to wait forever. If you’re waiting to get out of jail before you turn back to God, you’re going to wait forever. If you’re waiting until you can do some good things, you’ll wait forever. The moment you dare to turn your life back to God, in that moment, you will find he’s been there waiting for you all the time. “There is no pit so deep that the love of God is deeper still.” (v. 4): “Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind; sight, riches, healing of the mind; Yea, all I need in thee to find, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.”
Most of you are more like Samson than you’d like to admit. You’ve been wondering, “Can I come back? Will God take me?” God says, “Come back.” Samson found God while in prison. My friend found God in prison. Samson ended well. His name is etched in the word of God in the great roll call of faith, Hebrews chapter 11, Samson, commended for his faith. Samson found God in his weakest moment. And whatever you are and whatever you’ve been doing, God says it doesn’t matter. God will take you back. God will take me back, when I am broken, when I am weak. Amen.
Heavenly father, help those who are broken this morning who need to make a definite turning in their life to do it right now. Thank you for never giving up on us. Help us to see that you were there all along. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
(Note: This message is a longer version than the one actually preached, because the time was getting short in the service, so many paragraphs were shortened or eliminated.)