As a young boy, I found great joy listening to the story of Samson and Delilah at my grandmother's side. She would read me tales of kings, and large fish, and a perfect garden, but none intrigued me like the story of Samson. In my memory, Samson was the strongest of the strong, informed partly from the Bible story, but also, I assume from the caricatures presented through Hanna-Barbera renditions of Samson & Delilah or their short-lived series, Young Samson and Goliath. Samson was a long-haired, ultra-masculine body builder type who never backed down from a challenge. He was, in my understanding, without weakness.
As an adult, I have developed a richer appreciation of the story of Samson. His physical strength was indeed without equal. He tore apart a lion with his bare hands (Judges 14:6). He killed 30 men and took their garments (Judges 14:19). He even killed 1000 men with the jawbone of a donkey (Judges 15:15).
Story after story in Judges 14-16 testify to Samson's physical prowess. Intermixed, however, we also read of Samson's prominent weaknesses, which I missed as a child. As I have pondered these two stories, Samson was beset by two significant sins that face many men today--lust and pride.
When Samson first to be married, he saw a Philistine woman and requested her for his wife. His parents asked that he consider someone from his own tribe. Samson is unrelenting, saying "Get her for me, for she is right in my eyes." He appeared to lust for her, which affected his ability to accept wise counsel. Although this experience allowed opportunity for Samson to exercise God's judgment against the Philistines, in the meantime, he was taken advantage of and his wife was given to another man. Later, Samson goes in to a prostitute in Gaza and is nearly ambushed by the Gazites.
"After this he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah" (Judges 16:4), again a woman not of his tribe. This woman, Delilah, was to be his downfall--first because of lust and later because of pride. Delilah continually pesters Samson about the source of his strength and he continually lies to her. When he finally does reveal to her the source, she cuts his hair and calls in the Philistines. He attempts to rise against them, not knowing that God had left him. They gouge out his eyes and set him as a slave.
His prayer in 16:28 finally reveals a sense of humility, "O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes" and God once again strengthens him because he acknowledged that his strength was from God and from no other source.
I pray that men today would learn lessons from Samson. Not that Samson was an Ultimate Fighting Champion, but that lust and pride led to his blindness and enslavement, and ultimately to his death. Samson's strength, and ours, comes through our weakness and the Lord's strength and good favor.