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Samson in the Prison House

T Baird

The Bible abounds in biography, and such biography as only God would dare to write. Biographical sketches of human life written and edited by men are often one-sided, and consequently most misleading. The virtuous side of the life under review is revealed and revered, whilst the other side is either concealed or condoned.

Not so when God is the writer. When He presents the history of any life in biographic array He tells the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Nowhere is this faithful portrayal of human character and action more conspicuous than in God’s biography of Samson.

Miraculous manifestations of power seem to have overshadowed Samson from the cradle to the tomb. Born under very extraordinary circumstances, and early in life caused to experience marvellous exhibitions of the influence of the Holy Spirit, no other man of his time possessed such prospects and possibilities for godliness and usefulness, and yet few men have ever fallen as heavily as Samson fell, or sounded such depth of disaster and disgrace. He stands before us as a conspicuous example of abnormal physical strength, mingled together with the most amazing moral weakness. As we follow him along his ever changing pathway - heavily overcast at times with dark shadows of spiritual decline and defeat, whilst at other times lit up most luminously with great acts of supernatural might and triumph, who can refrain from feelings of almost unutterable sorrow? Or who can see him finally incarcerated in a Philistine prison, without a pang of inexpressible regret? "And he did grind in the prison house" (Judg 16.21). A saint in his wrong place, surely; he who was once the terror of the Philistines is now shorn of his strength, bereft of his sight, and deprived of his liberty.

But, has he not yet reached the deepest dip of his appalling degradation? There is more abject humiliation to come. The Philistines convened a great religious convocation to celebrate Samson’s downfall, and to offer a special sacrifice to their idol god, Dagon. Now comes the most solemn sight of this entire sad scene: "Call for Samson, that he may make us sport" (Judg 16.25).

What a humiliating spectacle we have here! This mighty man who once had smitten these Philistines hip and thigh in thousands, is now being led in blind helplessness by a puny lad to furnish amusement for a gaping heathen rabble. Oh, the shame of it! Oh, the pain of it! We rub our eyes and ask: "Is it the same man? Is this the very same man? Is this the man who rent the lion as if it were a kid? Is this the very man?" Can this be the man who slaughtered one thousand Philistines with the jaw bone of an ass? Can this be the man who carried away the gates of Gaza upon his back? No other man!

How then this change and whence the cause? He began in the Spirit, but gave way to the flesh and succumbed to the lust thereof. How tragic it is that Samson is not alone in such failure. There have been others who, in an evil hour, when not walking in the Spirit, fulfilled the lust of the flesh and fell where they had been respected. The lesson of Lot living in Sodom is to beware of the love of the world. The lesson of Samson in the prison house is to beware of the love of the flesh. One final victory lay ahead of him, but that also was tinged with sorrow.



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