God wanted a man, and, by that unvarying law of supply and demand, a man must be forthcoming.

A man was needed, once upon a time, to contribute toward the solution for the problem of human rights; Stephen Langton appeared with the Magna Carta in hand. A man was needed again to vindicate the freedom of individual conscience; out of the monastery of Wittenberg came Martin Luther, unbinding his rosary and preparing to nail the thunderbolts of the Reformation to the chapel door. A man was needed to break the chains of Jewish isolationism and bring the gospel to the Gentile world; out of a lightning encounter on the Damascus Road emerged Paul, a persecutor who became a proclaimer of the “good news” available to all people of all nations. So, times and men come together by divine ordinance. The clock strikes, and someone answers, “Here am I!”

The children of Israel had taken possession of the Land of Promise. Sadly, the settling was quickly followed by apostasy. So now the glory had departed from Israel. On every hand were altar fires in honor of Baal. Up from the southern plains came the Philistines in their war chariots, devastating the fields and plundering the villages. The banners of God’s people were trailed in the dust. The Ark of the Covenant had been carried away into exile. Was there no man to save? If man’s extremity is God’s opportunity, surely the hour had come. Where was the man?

In the house of Manoah at Zorah, just then, a child was born of whom it was said, “He shall begin to deliver Israel of the hand of the Philistines” (Judg. 13:7). He was the child of prophecy. His name, Samson, meant “sunshine” and intimated a joyous parental welcome, a divine benediction, and a glorious outlook. If we follow Samson through the years, we shall learn the lessons of power: its secret, its loss, and its recovery.


(JUDG. 14; 15)

Samson’s mission had been set forth in the annunciation of his birth; to wit, he should “begin to deliver Israel out of the hands of the Philistines.” This was “the reason of his life.” There is no life without a reason, though many, failing to discover this, live and die unreasonably. Our power is measured by our loyalty to the divine purpose concerning us.

This lad was set apart from his birth as a Nazarite. The word means “separated.” The Nazarites were persons who regarded themselves as divinely called to special tasks and who shaped their lives accordingly. They were pledged to put down every personal feeling and ambition in the interest of their vow. The badge of this austere brotherhood was their unshorn hair, which hung over their shoulders in seven braided locks.

Samson’s physical strength was a supernatural gift for a definite end. His sturdy limbs, broad shoulders, and muscles like twisted cords were the special equipment for his appointed work. In his youth, he encountered a lion and tore its jaws asunder as if it had been a baby goat. And this was just a preview of larger deeds of prowess later on, as when he lifted the gates of Gaza from their hinges and carried them away in grim derision to a neighboring hilltop, laughing back, “See how your bolts and bars restrain me!” Later, when he met the enemy at Lehi, he singlehandedly smote them hip and thigh, rejoicing over the slaughter.

But his endowment was more than physical, as it is written that “the Spirit of the Lord strove with him” (Judg. 15:14). What does that mean? Why does God strive with any of us except to persuade us to address Him to our allotted task? Samson’s physical equipment was practically useless save as it should be used in fulfillment of his vow. His unshorn locks were a visible reminder of his remembered duty. Let him forget, and he would be as weak as other men.

Why are we living? Is it merely to eat and drink? Or is our life related in some way to God’s great plan? If we ignore the constraints of the Holy Spirit and lose sight of God’s plan for our lives, we will drift away from God and lose our power, just as Samson did.


(JUDG. 16:1-20)

The fall of a soul into moral debility is usually a process of gradual decline. How does it happen? Ellen G. White portrays the process graphically: “A long preparatory process, unknown to the world, goes on in the heart before the Christian commits open sin. The mind does not come down at once from purity and holiness to depravity, corruption, and crime.”1

In Samson’s case, it began with a certain journey down to Timnath. He had seen there a woman of the daughters of the Philistines and was captivated by her fair face. His temptations came in at eye-gate. In vain did his parents remonstrate, “Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren?” It was enough for Samson that he desired her. “Get her for me,” he cried. “She pleaseth me!”

Note the steps Samson took which led to his spiritual decline:

A. The beginning of the descent from strength to weakness is in self-will. The road to Timnath leads away from consecration, away from power, away from God. Once and again the strong man made that journey, always a little further from the serious business of his life. We have been warned that “there is no promise to those who are bent on selfpleasing.”2

B. The snare of distractions from our mission. The end of self-will is surrender. Our safety is in hewing the line. And yet, here we are, absorbed in the latest fashions and celebrity sightings, charmed by the music on iTunes, engrossed in our favorite TV shows, or maybe mingling with the self-seeking crowd and losing ourselves in sordid worldly cares. Meanwhile, what of the purpose of life and what of our message? The world is waiting in darkness, waiting for a message of hope. Ellen White asks, “Why are we so indifferent, so selfish, so engrossed to temporal interests. . . . Men and women are ready to do anything to indulge self, and how little are they willing to do for Jesus, and for their fellow men who are perishing for the want of the truth.”3

The story of Samson’s fall is full of warning. He laid his head in the lap of the temptress and rose up shorn of his manly strength. Not all at once, however. Read about his loss of power in verses 6-20. Observe how he played with the mystic symbol of his calling.

There is the sorrow of it: The most insidious diseases are those that give no pain. Their victims, in the midst of business or pleasure, swoon and are gone. This brings us to the last step that brought Samson down.

C. The snare of a stifled conscience. A sin indulged creeps like an ambushing assassin, nearer and nearer to the center of life. Ellen White observes that, like Samson, “many have excellent gifts, good ability, splendid qualifications; but one defect, one secret sin indulged, will prove to the character what the worm-eaten plank does to a ship—utter disaster and ruin.”4 Would to God that some of us would look backward and see how one small thing led to a loss of influence and prevented God’s purpose for our lives from being realized!

In Moscow, inside the Kremlin, is the world’s largest bell. It is 18 feet high and weighs more than 200 tons. But its toll has never been heard. The czar who had it built never heard it ring. During its casting, as the hot metal was pouring into its mold, a fire broke out in the factory. In the process of extinguishing the fire, a small amount of water entered the mold. When the mold was removed, the metal was cracked, and the bell was ruined forever. One trickle of water was all it took to silence the bell’s powerful voice that was meant to sing. I ask you, Has the fine edge of our moral sense worn off? Is our conscience, once as sensitive as the palm of a child’s hand, now seared as with a hot iron? These are ominous signs of spiritual declension. We started out at the beginning of our Christian life with a determination to be strong, but when we play with sin, we become weak like other men.


(JUDG. 16:21-31)

Blest be the name of God, all is not lost! The man who has forgotten his vow, ignored his duty, and denied his Lord shall yet have an opportunity of grace. “Return unto me, saith the Lord, and I will have mercy upon thee” (Mal. 3:7).

In the prison house of Gaza sits the champion of Israel, a captive, grinding like a woman at the mill. His eyes are gone. He sits in open view so that people may make sport of him. The fair women of Philistia pass by and deride him, but he cannot see them. Temptation enters no more at eye-gate. In his enforced solitude, he remembers.

But this is not the end of the story. There is still hope for this man who so carelessly abused his gifts and compromised his calling. Note three steps in Samson’s recovery of power:

A. Remembrance and repentance. He recalls the prophecy of his birth. “He shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.” He bemoans his wasted strength, his squandered privilege. He is alone in the surging crowd, alone with God. He repents, bitterly repents. His consecration vow is before his blind eyes in letters of fire. O, that he might prove himself a Nazarite again before he dies! But there is more to repentance than sorrow for sin. It is always accompanied by:

B. A renewal of loyalty. His enemies have not perceived that his locks are growing. They have grown with the renewal of his vow. His affliction is not in vain; he remembers the riddle he once gave to his enemies: “Out of the eater has come forth meat, and out of the strong is come forth sweetness.” Thus, in the secret place of penitent sorrow, he renews his fealty to God. But more than loyalty, there is:

C. A revival of consecration. The closing scene is pathetic beyond words. The festival of Dagon is at hand. The Philistines are gathering to offer a great sacrifice to their god. The blind giant of Israel is brought into the temple so that the assembling multitude may behold him. He bears their mockery in silence; the Spirit of God is again striving with him. His heart is no longer with the past; in this fierce hour, he renews his consecration. He will yet, with God’s help, “begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.” He hears the footfall and murmur of thousands gathering in the temple. The galleries are full; his hour of triumph has come. He stretches forth his hands, feeling for the great pillars. The muscles of his iron frame are tense and swollen. He lifts his scarred face with its sightless sockets toward heaven. His lips move; he makes his last prayer, “O God, avenge me!” There is a trembling of the pillars, a momentary hush, then cries of the fear-stricken and the dying as with an explosive crash, the temple falls, burying in its ruins the blind captive and his persecutors. And in the silence of that ruin forevermore may be heard a voice, saying, “Return from thy backslidings, O Israel, and I will restore thee! Return and I will return unto thee” (Hos. 14:4).


In closing, turn to Hebrews 11 and see the name of Samson recorded in the inspired roll-call of those heroes who “by faith were made strong out of weakness.” By this, we are given to understand that faith is the measure of power. And what is faith but the vital touch of a soul with God?

It is faith that holds us fast to duty, brings us back from wandering, and makes all things possible for us. We are strong only when we are weak, because then the power of God rests upon us.

The beginning of power is when we find our mission, when, like Saul of Tarsus, we look into the face of Jesus and ask, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” The loss of power occurs when we turn aside from the path of duty to go down to Timnath. He who walks by faith will shun that road. There is a world of wisdom in the poet’s words:

"An’ O be sure to fear the Lord always, / An’ mind your duty duly morn an’ night! / Lest in temptation’s path ye gang astray, / Implore His counsel an’ assisting might. / They never seek in vain who seek the Lord aright.”

Remember, no life is futile whose strength is spent in pursuance of a divine call.


“God’s providential care had been over Samson, that he might be prepared to accomplish the work which he was called to do. At the very outset of life he was surrounded with favorable conditions for physical strength, intellectual vigor, and moral purity. But under the influence of wicked associates he let go that hold upon God which is man’s only safeguard, and he was swept away by the tide of evil. Those who in the way of duty are brought into trial may be sure that God will preserve them; but if men willfully place themselves under the power of temptation, they will fall sooner or later.” (The Adventist Home, 460)

1 Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, 459.

2 ———, Prophets and Kings, 363.

3 ———, Christian Service, 51.

4 ———, Testimonies to the Church, 4:90.

Rex D. Edwards is a former vice president for religious studies, Griggs University