The story of Samson has always puzzled me. The story itself is plain enough; a man set apart for God from birth, who led Israel in spite of his obvious shortcomings. His downfall was his stubborn headstrong insistence on getting his own way and his unwillingness to reign in his unbridled lust and passion. It is a tragic story of a great man brought low, a story that has been repeated countless times through the ages as men of talent and promise have squandered it all for a brief moment of pleasure.
It is a common enough tale; what is uncommon is how the writer to the Hebrews spins it, numbering Samson among the heroes of faith alongside Abraham, Moses, and Joshua. How is it possible for this man of unrestrained passion and lust to be thus numbered among the greatest of Israel's pantheon of heroes? Therein lies the mystery that has troubled me for years.
Today Linda and I had the privilege of taking the entire family to the Sight and Sound Theater in Lancaster, PA, where the story of Samson was played out before our eyes on the big stage. They do it right at Sight and Sound, the acting being superb and the singing and dancing glorious. As with any theatrical production, they took some liberties with the story, but remained true to the biblical message as they wove imagination into the tale. And it was the message that grabbed my heart and moved me to tears, for it was not only the story of a strong man with a great weakness, but also of a divine grace that lifted a sordid life, transforming it into a story of redemption. It was made abundantly clear that any opening we give to sin becomes a highway leading to destruction, a reality most of us have experienced more often than we care to admit. But God isn't cowed by our sin, isn't deterred by our rebellion, and isn't ashamed to claim us as his own. When I recall how often I myself have wandered from God, how many times I've been headstrong just like Samson, this story of redemption played out before us today accosted me where I sat and broke over me like a fountain with streams of grace and mercy, washing me in ways I didn't even realize I needed. I am a grateful man tonight.