After Joshua died, a “generation rose up who did not know the Lord or the works he had done for Israel. The Israelites did what was evil in the Lord’s sight. They worshiped the Baals and abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed other gods from the surrounding peoples and bowed down to them” (Judges 2:10–12). How quickly we forget God’s goodness and grace.
For the following three-and-a-half centuries, the Israelites were led by Judges, leaders ordained by God for that tumultuous period.
“The Israelites did what was evil in the Lord’s sight… they forgot the Lord their God and worshiped the Baals and the Asherahs” (Judges 3:7). When the Almighty withdrew His hand of protection and provision, “the Israelites cried out to the Lord…” Mercifully, “the Lord raised up Othniel” (Judges 3:9), Israel’s first Judge, who led the Nation for forty years.
After Othniel died, “the Israelites again did what was evil in the Lord’s sight. He gave King Eglon of Moab power over Israel, because they had done what was evil in the Lord’s sight” (Judges 3:12). When “the Israelites cried out to the Lord … he raised up Ehud… as a deliverer for them” (Judges 3:15).
Years later, “the Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord” (Judges 4:1). When the people repented and returned to the Lord, He answered their appeal by sending Deborah as Judge for forty years (Judges 5:31).
Gideon was the next Judge. “The Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. So the Lord handed them over to Midian seven years, and they oppressed Israel” (Judges 6:1–2). With the nation defeated and powerless, they cried out to God, and He called Gideon.
The yo-yo existence of obedience and disobedience, of prosperity and destruction, of repentance and deliverance, up and down, up and down, continued and other Judges followed until the days of Samson, who was Judge for twenty years (Judges 15:20).
Samson is an interesting figure, remembered primarily for his supernatural strength and for his weakness for wanton women. As a young man, Samson fell for a Philistine woman. Though his dad strongly encouraged him to find a nice Israelite bride, he couldn’t be dissuaded. Samson spoke to his dad somewhat belligerently, saying, “Get her for me. She’s the right one for me” (Judges 14:3). Unbeknownst to Samson or his folks, the Sovereign Lord was planning a confrontation with Philistines.
Years later, Samson had a dalliance with a prostitute in Gaza (Judges 16:1) and then, “later, he fell in love with a woman named Delilah” (Judges 16:4). You know the rest of the story. If you don’t, you can read it in the sixteenth chapter of Judges.
Here’s the punch line, the lesson from his life. Sin blinds! Sin binds! And sin destroys!
When Samson is last seen, he has his eyes mercilessly gouged out, he’s shackled and chained (Judges 16:21), and humiliated, he’s paraded before Philistine crowds who cheer the defeat of their enemy (Judges 16:25). Finally, with supernatural strength, he pushed down the supporting pillars on the pagan temple, killing himself and three thousand Philistines (Judges 16:28-30).
Far from perfect, with a glaring weakness for sexual sin, Samson was used by God to lead His people against their oppressors. Interestingly, he’s memorialized for being a man of great faith, listed in the Hall of the Faith (Hebrews 11:32). That’s grace!