About 1100 B.C. the Philistines were enemies and subjugators of God’s people, and Israel had sadly grown accustomed to the sorry status quo (Judg. 15:11). His chosen people having charted a path to self-destruction by plunging headlong into Canaanite paganism, God had to take action to preserve Israel — in spite of themselves — and the bloodline through which would come the Messiah. So the Lord in his providence sought an opportunity for Israel to begin throwing off the yoke of Philistine oppression (Judg. 14:4). Deliverance came in the form of Samson, a colorful paradox of a judge: a Nazirite who routinely violated the vow; a man motivated by what pleased his eyes who had his eyes gouged out; a man of divinely given superhuman strength who melted like butter in the hands of scheming women; a man who prayed to God and then consorted with a prostitute; a man whose greatest victories over the enemy were private acts of murder and revenge; a national deliverer who was no national leader; a fighter fit to slaughter a thousand, but unable to resist a solitary Delilah.
Samson’s final blow to the Philistines came at the cost of his own life when, as a blind, humiliated prisoner he broke the two pillars of Dagon’s temple, bringing 3,000 pagans to a crashing, crushing death. God did, indeed, find a way to strike at his people’s enemy. How it transpired is a fascinating study of divine providence, as events are traced backwards in Judges chapters 14-16.
- Samson demolished the Philistines’ temple because they brought him there as a prisoner (16:25).
- Samson was taken prisoner because Delilah had his head shaved (16:19).
- Delilah coaxed Samson into telling his secret because the Philistine leaders bribed her (16:5).
- The Philistine leaders bribed Delilah because they hated Samson.
- The Philistines hated Samson because he slaughtered 1,000 of them with the jawbone of a donkey (15:15).
- Samson killed the 1,000 when the Philistines were coming to take him prisoner (15:14).
- The Philistines were going to arrest Samson because he attacked them (15:8).
- Samson attacked them because they burned his wife to death (15:6).
- They burned his wife because Samson had burned their crops (15:5).
- Samson burned the crops because his wife had been given to a Philistine (15:2).
- Samson’s wife had been given away because Samson had left her at the wedding feast (14:20).
- Samson left the wedding feast to slay 30 Philistines and take their garments (14:19).
- Samson needed their garments because his 30 companions had solved his riddle (14:18).
- The companions solved the riddle because Samson’s wife told them the answer (14:17).
- Samson’s wife knew the riddle’s answer because she pressed him continually after she had been threatened with death by the companions (14:15).
- The death threat came after Samson gave the companions an impossible riddle (14:14).
- The riddle was impossible because it seems to have involved the supernatural: bees and honey found in a semi-fresh animal carcass that no one knew about but Samson (14:8).
- The honey was in the lion’s carcass because Samson had recently killed it with his bare hands (14:6).
- How did this chain of violent events begin? The Lord sent a lion (14:5).
True, scripture does not explicitly say that God caused the lion to attack Samson. But, in light of the facts, can there be any doubt that the unseen hand of Providence was pulling strings, bringing to pass events that, when coupled with the freely made choices of men, would culminate in the will of “the Lord, for he was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines” (14:4)? God had to get the ball rolling, because Israel was not going to do it on her own.
Even today the Lord needs to spur his children on from time to time, perhaps in a direction they otherwise would never have taken. As we age, we may be able to look in retrospect at our lives and see watershed events which we afforded no special significance at the time. What things is God placing in our lives so that we can help bring about his will? Over that answer is drawn a veil which will remain until we get to heaven. In Samson’s case, the Lord sent a lion.