Only God knows the end from the beginning. He is, after all, the Alpha and Omega.
We only see what happens in between. Because what we see is not always what it seems, the Bible counsels believers to walk by faith and not by sight.
Imagine Samson’s family traveling to Gaza to retrieve his broken body from the rubble where he’d brought down the house on the Philistine lords. If his mother made the journey, she probably passed the time rehearsing Samson’s life (Judges, chapters 13-16).
No doubt her mind went back to the day she’d learned she’d be a mother.
She and husband Manoah had been childless. She was barren, unable to bear children. Then an angel appeared and announced she’d have a son, a Nazarite: one consecrated or dedicated to, separated for God’s service. He would begin to deliver Israel out of the clutches of the Philistines.
I know the excitement of a moment like that. After six years of marriage, that included fertility treatment, doctors offered little hope that I’d have children. A group of Christian women began to pray for me.
One day, I got the news I’d be having a baby!
In my first trimester, I visited the remaining Western Wall of the Temple in Jerusalem with my husband. I wrote my hopes, dreams and prayers for that child on a piece of paper, folded it tightly and stuffed it into a small crevice between ancient stones.
In time, I’d have not only a daughter but two sons as well.
Manoah and wife had a son they named Samson. He was blessed by the Lord. The Spirit of God moved him.
When Samson came of age and began to desire a wife, his parents hoped he’d choose a God-fearing Hebrew girl who would help him fulfill God’s purpose for his life. Doesn’t every believing parent want: a helper suitable for their son; a husband who will love their daughter as Christ loves the church?
Samson, however, demanded a “daughter of the Philistines.” His parents protested, but he was adamant. “Get her for me for she pleases me,” he said.
The marriage ended before it really began. Loyal to her unbelieving kinsmen, the woman betrayed Samson by revealing the answer to a riddle he’d proposed (with a wager). Samson had his revenge, but the woman was given to his best man.
Samson didn’t pursue another marriage. He visited a Philistine prostitute and came to “love” a Philistine woman named Delilah. His association with Delilah is what brought his family to Gaza to claim his body.
Delilah was paid to entice Samson and to learn the source of his strength so that he might be captured. She finally wore down Samson’s resolve with her persistent questioning. When he had told her “all his heart,” the Philistine’s fell on him. He didn’t know that the Spirit of God had left him, that he had no supernatural strength to prevail.
The Philistines put out Samson’s eyes and set him to grinding grain in the prison, like an animal. He was brought out to entertain a Philistine “Who’s Who” gathered to praise their god for bringing Samson into their hands.
By this time, Samson’s hair – a symbol of his Nazarite vow – had grown and with it his faith. He prayed, the first prayer Scripture recorded from his lips. God answered that prayer as Samson grabbed the building’s supporting pillars and brought the house down, literally.
The writer of Proverbs asked, “Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned. Can one walk on hot coals, and his feet not be burned.” Proverbs 6:28-29.
Samson was burned. It may have looked to his family like his whole life had been reduced to ashes. He’d died in the enemy’s camp, blind and broken after judging Israel 20 years.
That, however, is not the end of the story.
God is merciful and forgiving… else we’d all be lost.
We are reintroduced to Samson in Hebrews 11:32, where Samson is expressly named as a person of faith. God never changed his mind about Samson. He was indeed “a Nazarite to God from the womb to the day of his death.”
And somewhere between Delilah’s bed and that last appearance before his enemies, Samson got it together with God. His last act demonstrated what the psalmist wrote, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.”
As Samson’s family came to Gaza to claim his body and plan a burial, things didn’t look good. All his mother would have had was God’s promise at the beginning of Samson’s life and the knowledge that God is faithful.
If you find yourself somewhere between the promise and its fulfillment — and things just don’t look good — keep the faith. Remember, Jesus is both the author and the finisher of our faith.