Two incredible births, two incredible judges.
These were two men borne out of barrenness, both dedicated to God at birth and instructed never to have a razor touch their head in an act of Nazirite consecration to Him.
As the leaders of Israel before the time of kings, both were blessed by God with gifts that other men could only dream of. Yet their life journeys and the legacy they each left behind could not be more dramatically different.
This is the tale of two “Sams”: Samson and Samuel.
SAMSON THE STRONGMAN JUDGE
Samson the Nazirite’s birth was prophesied together with a set of carefully worded instructions. An angel had appeared to his father Manoah’s wife, saying, “Behold, you are barren. But you shall conceive and give birth to a son”.
“His parents did not know that this was from the Lord, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines; for at that time they were ruling over Israel.” (Judges 14:4)
Samson was born in a time where Israel was under enemy rule because they had done evil in the eyes of God – and he would be the one who would be used for God’s work regarding this. He grew up to be a mighty judge in Israel whose gifts were well endowed by God – most notably, his unparalleled strength.
“The Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him so that he tore the lion apart with his bare hands as he might have torn a young goat.” (Judges 14:6)
“Then Samson said, with the jawbone of a donkey, Heaps upon heaps, With the jawbone of a donkey, I have killed a thousand men.” (Judges 16:3)
Yet Samson was proud, self-absorbed and entitled. He gambled with others, killing and plundering them as he deemed fit. He was also a bit of a philanderer and had relations with several women throughout his life.
To cut a long story short (Judges 13-16), Samson falls prey to his greatest weakness, a woman from the enemy’s camp named Delilah, and after telling her the secret to his strength – his uncut hair, which symbolises God’s special anointing on him – she betrays him and he is finally overpowered. The Philistines gouge out his eyes and put him in prison.
On a special occasion one day, his captors take him out to entertain at a temple celebration, and while he is chained between the two large columns of the house, he prays for his strength to return one last time. God answers him and he pushes the two pillars down, causing the whole place to collapse and killing over 3000 men and women.
SAMUEL THE PROPHET JUDGE
Samuel’s mother, Hannah, was a woman bullied by another due to her barrenness. Out of her grief, she vowed that if God gave her a son, she would dedicate his life to God. Out of Hannah’s desperate cries, God blessed her and she conceived Samuel.
“And she made a vow, saying, ‘Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.’” (1 Samuel 1:11)
In the offer of Samuel’s life, a judge and prophet who would forever change Israel’s destiny was born.
In those days, any word from the Lord was rare. But Samuel had a unique gift – he could hear from God and communicate with Him. Serving the Lord from a young age also allowed Samuel to grow in stature, with favour from both men and God.
“The Lord called Samuel; and he said, ‘Here I am.’” (1 Samuel 3:4)
Because he listened when God called, God’s spoken word could be revealed through him (1 Samuel 3:21).
“The Lord said to Samuel, ‘Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which both ears of everyone who hears it will tingle.’” (1 Samuel 3:11)
At the end of his long life, Samuel led his nation with wisdom, raised and counselled Israel’s first two kings and saw the return of the Ark of the Covenant from enemy possession. And when he died, all Israel gathered to mourn for him.
2 LESSONS FROM 2 MEN
1. Regardless of choices and circumstances, God’s plan prevails
It would probably be fair to say that Samson’s life was illustrious but also filled with illicit behaviour – how could anything have been accomplished for God? Why was he even made a judge of Israel?
But as much as we rightfully strive to live like Samuel, serving in humility and reverence for God, we can observe that God’s ways are always higher than ours.
Both men were birthed from the barren – wombs ripe for promise to take hold and grow for such a time and political climate as their country was in.
God brought forth the leaders he needed, and although Samson made questionable decisions for his life – decisions that ultimately brought his own downfall and death – we see that His purpose of confronting the Philistines still prevailed.
2. Without the right foundation, gifts from God will be squandered
Samson was self absorbed, entitled, and proud. For all the superhuman strength that he had, there was no one to hold him accountable and he was constantly surrounded by the corrupt, all which led to his demise.
You’d observe in the earlier part of Samson’s life that he largely spent it doing whatever he wanted and getting himself into certain trouble. He finally lost the anointing of God on him – and his super strength – when Delilah deceived him and had his hair cut off.
“The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground.” (1 Samuel 3:19)
On the other hand, Samuel dedicated his entire life to God, serving in the temple and revering his mentor Eli although he eventually exceeded him in ministry. And as he grew in the Lord’s stature and favour, God used him over his many years of ministry as an instrument to lead Israel into her spiritual destiny.
This is the tale of two significant judges in the history of Israel. Their stories show us that while each of us has been given special gifts to fulfil God’s calling for such a time as this, we have a choice of how we use these gifts.
Do we steward them with obedience and reverence, from a heart of surrender to God’s will over ours? Or are we squandering them on our own desires and fancies? Our character is the cradle of our gifts – but pride makes a fine coffin.
Samuel or Samson – which will you be?
This was originally written as a note on Facebook.