Most Christians are aware of the great spiritual cycle of the book of Judges: prosperity, apostasy, punishment, repentance, deliverance, and prosperity. However, fewer recognize that this cycle is also a downward spiral. Even as the Israelites repeat these steps, their overall spiritual state declines.
This decline is revealed in the character of the judges. The first judge, Othniel, has nothing negative said about him in the text. However, the last judge in the book is Samson, who is perhaps the least spiritually attractive hero in the entire Bible.
Samson has a woman problem. From beginning to end of his story, he gets in trouble with and over women. He has terrible taste in women, preferring to consort with Philistines and prostitutes. What’s more, they constantly put him in embarrassing situations. His wife reveals the answer to his riddle to the Philistines so that he loses his wager with them. The prostitute in Gaza so entrances him that he remains with her even after the city gates have been closed, which makes him vulnerable to his enemies.
Because of Samson’s great strength, he extricates himself from these predicaments. He slaughters some Philistines to pay the wager; he rips the gates out of the ground so he can leave the city.
However, Samson never learns. He never says, “Boy! If I keep fooling around with these wicked women, I’m going to get in serious trouble.” Instead, he takes up with Delilah, and he continues visiting her even after her conduct gives him clear evidence that she means to betray him.
Eventually, she betrays him to the Philistines, who blind and enslave him. He takes his final vengeance, but only at the cost of his own life. Hebrews 11 lists Samson among the heroes of faith, but how much greater would he have been if only he had learned to control his lust? His flaw makes him much less useful to God than he should have been.
Today, we need to be watchful for fatal flaws inside ourselves. The devil certainly sees the seeds of spiritual disaster within each one of us, and he will do whatever he is allowed to do to make those seeds sprout, flourish, and bear fruit. He wants to catch us unaware like he caught Samson, but there will be warnings that we must not ignore.
For instance, if the devil lures us into sin, but we are able to avoid the consequences of that sin, do we draw the correct conclusion? Do we say to ourselves, “I’d better never do that again?”? Or, instead, do we say, “Ha! I can dance between the raindrops! I can sin all I want and not get in trouble! I’m invincible!”? Samson chose Door Number 2, and if we imitate him, we will find out, like he did, how wrong we are.
Samson is known for his strength, not his wisdom. Whatever our gifts from God may be, if we don’t unite them with discernment, they won’t protect us from spiritual failure. However, with humility and good judgment, we can become the workers and examples that God wants us to be.