Acknowledging dependence on God
Although we do not hear of Samson building altars or even memorials to mark any of his martial victories, at this point he acknowledged Gods direct intervention. "He called the name thereof, Enhakkore" (15.19) meaning "the callers spring". He could easily have put down his defeats of his enemies as being just a factor of his great strength, although to be fair to him we not read of him doing that (see 16.28), but his natural prowess could never have produced water in that way. The Lord Jesus said, and says, to his disciples, "Without me ye can do nothing" (Jn 15.5), and that "nothing" is absolute. When Jude wanted to commend his readers to the care of "the only wise God our Saviour", he was not thinking of all the great things that they might be enabled to do, but it was "unto him that is able to keep you from falling" (see Jude vv.24-25). That is the greatest blessing of all; it is what the Lord Jesus spoke of to his Father - "Those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition" (Jn 17.12). We may, by our willingness, or unwillingness, to be cooperative, have an effect on the measure of spiritual activities in which we engage, but when it comes to being sustained in our Christian experience we are totally dependent on the Lord Jesus. Paul, having declared his assurance that " the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom", gives his response to such preservation with the words, "to whom be glory for ever and ever", and if we feel as he did we will want now to join in his "Amen" (2 Tim 4.18).
We might wish that Samsons life could have continued longer on the victorious level that appeared to have been reached at Enhakkore. However, his time seems to be drawing to a close as is seen by the comment in 15.20: "And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years". Although we cannot be sure, because no other timescales are given, it appears that the incidents recorded in ch.16 occurred over a fairly short period because it ends with almost a repetition, "And he judged Israel twenty years" (16.31). Prolonging of life, though, even if some might welcome it, does not necessarily mean a happier ending. Hezekiah was a good king for most of his reign, but the extra fifteen years promised him by God (2 Kings 20.1-6) did not appear to have consolidated that standard. Whether the result of his foolishness or just pride we do not know, but Isaiah viewed the tour of his treasures by Berodach-baladans ambassadors as a retrograde action. What seems worse was Hezekiahs apparent happiness in contemplating the return of foreign domination in the future as long as he was spared it in his own lifetime (2 Kings 20.12-19). A much better way of looking for a good ending to life in this world is to remember what was said of David, who, "after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep" (Acts 13.36). If that can be said eventually of us, we will have done well.
Submitting to the promptings of the flesh
What then did happen to Samson in the time that remained to him? Had his aspirations, his aims, improved? Apparently they had not. "Then went Samson to Gaza, and saw there a harlot and went in to her" (16.1). We should learn lessons from past failures, and we all fail sometimes. Even correction from God because of our failures, is meant to teach us and move us forward and upward. Such lessons can be painful, "no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous", but then comes the "nevertheless", i.e. in spite of its grievousness, "afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness". Always and to everyone? No, only "unto them which are exercised thereby" (Heb 12.11).
Samson was yet again able to escape from the dangerous position into which he had put himself. There was, though, a difference now. On previous occasions we read that "The Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him" (14.6; 15.14), but not this time. He seemed now to be relying on his own natural strength (16.3) instead of divine power. It could be argued that such strength was given to him by God anyway. Yes, so it was, and some of us may be more fortunately endowed with physical and mental powers than others, but if we use them only for our own benefit, they are being misused. Paul puts the matter in the right perspective when saying, "We then that are strong ought to bear (or bear with) the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves" (Rom 15.1).
But still Samson persists in his seemingly insatiable desires. "And it came to pass afterward, that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah" (16.4). This time, though, he had, in human terms, met his match and, concurrently, Gods intervening help was withheld. But does God in fact ever withhold His help? Have we not got promises like, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Heb 13.5), and, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world" (Mt 28.20)? Yes we have, and such promises will never, indeed can never, be broken, "For all the promises of God in him (the Son of God, Jesus Christ) are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God" (2 Cor 1.20). God did not forsake Samson any more than He did Job (Job 1.12; 2.6), but He did allow him to go his own way and to suffer as a result. Sometimes such a way of suffering may be terminal (1 Cor 11.28-30), but its real purpose is "for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (1 Cor 5.5). If the contemplation of such a scenario causes heart-searching we should listen to the apostles advice: "If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged" (1 Cor 11.31), i.e. if we put our own house in order God would not have to step in and do it for us, and this applies just as much corporately as it does individually.
Samsons professed love, however feeble it really may have been, was certainly not reciprocated by Delilah. The money offered her was amply sufficient to buy her help in his entrapment, and in spite of his typical machinations he eventually succumbed to her pleading (16.4-17). We do not read that he actually married Delilah as he did the woman at Timnath, but he had obviously made some commitment to her without apparently being aware of just how fickle her attachment to him was. We ought to be very careful about any arrangements that are made with either individuals or groups about which we do not know too much. Even someone as normally reliable as Joshua was tricked into making a treaty with the Gibeonites, and having made the treaty he was obliged to stand by it (Josh 9). If we make promises or commitments, we too are morally bound to stand by them, even if it costs us to do so. The fact that we may have entered into such arrangements with insufficient forethought or, like the Israelites with the Gibeonites, have "asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord (Josh 9.14) is not grounds for reneging. The psalmist, in listing some characteristics of a righteous individual, includes "He that sweareth to his own hurt and changeth not" (Ps 15.4), which makes it all the more important for us to be very sure, just to what, or to whom, it is that we are committing ourselves or others.
Samson, though, showed no sign of breaking off relations with Delilah. It seemed incredible that after three occasions when he was very nearly taken by the Philistines he did not realise what was happening. But once more we are reminded that "a prudent man forseeth the evil but the simple pass on" (Prov 27.12). The term "simple" is, incidentally, used in at least two ways in Scripture. First, it can mean something akin to foolish, perhaps naive, or gullible, as in the above quotation (see also Prov 7.6-23). Second, it can describe a person who is uncomplicated, unsophisticated, and ready to listen and learn, (see Ps 19.7; 116.6). It is better for us to be simple, in the second of those senses, than to be wise in our own conceits (Rom 12.16).
To be continued.