view as web pdf Judging by Appearances?

Samson: Like Isaac, Samuel and John the Baptist, Samson was born to a woman who was previously barren. An angel promised Manoah and his wife that they would have a son who would begin to deliver Israel (Judges 13:5). Judges 14 records Samson's meeting with a Philistine woman at Timnath and a wedding was arranged against his parents' wishes. The chapter also tells us about the killing of a lion, the nesting of a swarm of bees in the carcass and the way that Samson used this as the basis of a riddle. Thirty Philistines were killed to provide the changes of clothing that were needed because the riddle was solved.

Judges 15 tells of the refusal of the woman's father to allow Samson to visit her and how he burnt the Philistines' standing corn, vineyards and olive trees as a result. After they had tried to capture Samson, he slew 1000 with the jawbone of an ass.

Delilah: Judges 16 describes Samson visiting a prostitute and destroying and carrying away the gates of the city of Gaza. Then we come to the account of Samson and Delilah and we read how eventually he was tantalised into telling the secret of his great strength, the Nazirite vow of not cutting his hair. Blinded and put to humiliating labour at the mill with slaves, Samson was at last led out of prison to the forecourt of the temple of Dagon to clown before a festive crowd. Meanwhile, Samson's hair had regrown. This, combined with his repentance, meant that his strength had returned as his hair grew. "And Samson called unto the Lord and said, `O Lord, remember me I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes'. And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up; the one with his right hand, and the other with his left.

"And Samson said, `Let me die with the Philistines'. And he bowed himself with all his might, and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life" (Judges 16:28-30).

How would we sum up Samson's life?

We might say he was sensual in the extreme. He was a man who succumbed to the lusts of the flesh and disobeyed the plain commandments of God. Yet Hebrews 11:32-40 makes it quite clear that Samson, with Gideon, Barak, Samuel and others listed there, will be in the kingdom of God.

How can we reconcile these things? There is one verse in the account in Judges that is easy to overlook: "And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years" (Judges 15:20). Here is a man who will be in the kingdom of God in spite of his failings and who, we are told in Hebrews, died in faith. Yet almost the only things recorded about him are those which do not show him up in a creditable light. If we had not been able to read the passage in Hebrews we would assume that the twenty years of his judging Israel were all of the same pattern as the few incidents we do know about. How deceptive are appearances and how dangerous it is to judge by appearances.

Do we still make the mistake of judging by appearances? Many of us enjoy a very close relationship with our brethren and sisters. We know as real friends a very large number of people ­ not only those at our own meetings but we also know many all over the world. Because we know so much about them, we sometimes forget that there is a lot we do not know. If we have problems and difficulties we tend to look at them from a self-centred point of view. Our own problems loom very large. We may complain of others that they don't understand. "Some people have everything easy". "They ought to have my problems". "What do they know about the burdens I have to carry?" We forget the questions about the converse situation that we ought to ask:

"What do I know of the burdens others have to carry?" We ought to be asking ourselves what efforts we have made to understand the problems of someone else. Do we know about a brother's problem with relatives 100 miles away? Do we know of the nights a sister spends sleepless with worry etc?

Samson judged Israel for 20 years and we do not know anything about most of that time. If we know someone is in difficulty, we may do all our best to help, but it is all too easy to ignore things we don't know about. How thankful we should be that God does not see as we see. Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart. The Almighty knows our circumstances. His judgement is, and will be, merciful.

These all died in faith

We know that Samson, with others of faith, will be rewarded in the day for which we long. This means that God was willing to forgive Samson's sins that we read about in Judges. In spite of these incidents, Samson died in faith. Few of the details of Samson's prayers are recorded. We can imagine what he prayed when in captivity and they were prayers of faith which God heard.

We fail in our walk to the kingdom of God ­ and our heavenly Father knows. We daily ask to be forgiven ­ as we forgive others when they sin against us ­ and our heavenly Father hears our prayers. The Almighty also knows the efforts we make as we try to serve Him. Jesus wrote to the ecclesias in the first century: "I know your patience. I know your works. I know your love. I know your faith" ­ just as God knew Samson's.

Let us then never be discouraged when we realise we have fallen down. Let us pick ourselves up and with courage and trust, approach God in prayer ­ as we can be sure that Samson did. We have a very special blessing of which the apostle also wrote: "We do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and grace to help in time of need" (Heb 4:15-16).

Bro Mumbelunga Green (Ndola, Zambia)

previous chapter previous page table of contents next page