As she opened the door and looked on their faces, she knew it was not good news. She did not hear much after the words, “Your son, Samson, is dead.”
Their words from that point were merely noise. She retreated into her mind reflecting on the life her son should have had. She and her husband had done their best when he was child. However, from his youth, he lived a life of rebellion.
Samson was special, not in the sense that all mothers believe that their child is special, he really was special. Samson was a promised child. She was not capable of having children, but God’s messenger promised that she would have a son. She was told by this messenger that he was destined to be a deliverer of his people. She remembered the special instructions she was given– never cut his hair, and he was not to drink wine, or eat anything unclean. She conscientiously followed them.
“How did he die?” she asked. While she feared the answer, she needed closure. Maybe something held promise that would give her hope that Samson died in the faith, she thought.
Her guests explained that Samson had been betrayed by his wife. His eyes were put out, then he was forced to grind meal in prison. His enemies made sport of him. During a special feast when he was placed on display he pulled the columns down collapsing the building. He along with three thousand people died in the destruction.
Not finding the comfort she was looking for, Samson’s mother pressed, “Does anyone know what his last words were?” Desperately looking for something to anchor her hope that in the last moment he returned to God.
“Rumors were,” they explained, “he was heard praying, ‘Lord give me enough strength one more time so I can bring the building down to get revenge on my enemies for making me blind.’”
Her heart sank and her grief was amplified. She broke and sobbed inconsolably. Hope of ever seeing her son again died within her. His last words were for revenge, not forgiveness. She found nothing that gave her hope that he turned to God even in the closing moments of his life.
Samson’s mother must have suffered, knowing the circumstances surrounding his death.
Hope In The Rubble
Samson’s story, as recorded in Judges 11-16 has been replayed millions of times throughout history. Recognizing that they have squandered previous opportunities to become more like Christ, many people sense their unworthiness to ask for mercy or forgiveness. Families and loved ones are left to search in hope to anchor their belief that the person died in Christ.
However, the story of Samson does not end in chapter 16 of the book of Judges; it ends in Hebrews 11. The three words, “. . . and of Samson . . .” in verse 32 provides a plot twist that transforms the Samson story in the ultimate case study in grace and salvation.
The writer of Hebrews places Samson in the company of Abraham, Moses, Joseph, and David. He, along with them, was eulogized with “And these all, having obtained a good report through faith . . .” (verse 39). His name appeared and was counted among those who were looking for city whose builder was God. Samson is not mentioned anywhere in scripture after Judges until Hebrews 11.
Even then, he received only a passing reference. He does not get an extended commentary like others. It appears the Holy Spirit wanted to squeeze his name in the hallmark of faith to give people hope of salvation even when there is no reason to hope. Samson’s presence in Hebrews 11 is God’s way of keeping hope alive for those who have lost hope for loved ones or themselves.
Even though no explanation is given as to why Samson was included in Hebrews’ Hall of Faith, based on the reading of Judges 16, it is the mystery of God’s grace. We are reminded that our salvation is not grounded in our actions but in God’s grace. As with His love, His grace cannot be comprehended by human reason or deduction. Our faith rests in the fact that God is ultimately Judge. Abraham’s rhetorical question, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25 KJV), is at the center of our faith in God.
What God Knows, And We Don’t
God alone can adequately discern the deep issues of the human heart. Only God can understand the pain, hurt and insecurities that lies beneath our behavior. In Samson’s case, his mother and others may have seen him as special and unique, but he felt different, misunderstood and alone. When his community came to deliver him over to their enemies, can you detect the profound pain in his words, “Swear to me that you won’t kill me yourselves” (Judges 15:12, NIV emphasis added)? God alone understands the pretext, context, and subtexts of our actions. The Psalmist says that God will consider the place and circumstances of our birth in the judgment. (See Psalm 87.)
Samson reminds us we are saved by grace through faith. Faith is what grabs hold of God’s grace and refuses to let it go. (See Ephesians 2:8,9; Matthew 24:13). Human reason says, “I believe what I see, feel, taste, touch, and hear.” Faith says, “I see what I believe.” Reason asks, “Does is makes sense?” Faith asks, “What has God said?” It does not make sense that God would die for sinners, but scriptures asserts, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 KJV).
God’s Last Whisper
It is widely believed that the last sense to go when a person is dying is the sense of hearing. If this is true, could it be that God arranged it so that even in the closing moments of a person’s life, God could still plead with them to accept His offer of grace? In those last moments where God’s Spirit is speaking to our spirit, no one but God is privileged to the conversation or the response.
It appears the Holy Spirit wanted to squeeze his name in the hallmark of faith to give people hope of salvation even when there is no reason to hope.
Salvation occurs at the moment faith clutches the offer of grace. Justification takes only a moment to complete. It’s hard to imagine that even with a lifetime of rebellion, it only takes a millisecond to be justified by faith. To die justified is to die saved. (John 3:16, 5:24, Romans 5:1). We should never underestimate the power and persistence of God’s love to pursue His children with His offer of grace.
Can you imagine you being a part of God’s family in eternity? God can! So keep hope alive!
G. RUSSELL SEAY JR., Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Religion at Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama.