The Samson stories, Samson is likely the best known of the judges along with Gideon. What a mixed bag was he! The stories begin with: “And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord” (13:1). Already been here and done this. Israel, delivered from her enemies, time and time again, when things get better, she turns right back to her sinful and idolatrous ways. Samson was a Nazirite, specially separated and committed to the Lord for service to him (see Numbers 6). Of all people who should stay on the “straight and narrow path,” Samson should have been counted among them.
How quickly, though, did Samson fall to the world’s temptations. He fell to the wiles of a pagan Philistine woman and married her. He was a heavy drinker and womanizer, getting hooked up with Delilah, a prostitute. Bound by Delilah, Samson’s strength enabled him to break his bonds until his hair was cut (in violation of the Nazirite vow) by Delilah. Well, you know the story. Its ending is both sad and good. His eyes were gouged out by the Philistines, and he was bound with bronze shackles. Among the pillars of the house of the pagan god, Dagon, Samson was mocked, and his God was mocked. At the end, though, “he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life” (16:30).
The rest of the book of Judges is quite a sordid mess: Micah and the Levite, the migration of the tribe of Dan, the really nasty episode of the Levite and his concubine, and the almost complete destruction of the tribe of Benjamin. One almost feels like needing a shower after reading the stories in Judges of such unfaithfulness and sin. Rightly does the book end: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (21:25).
But, you know, the little book of Ruth is right there on the horizon with its story of redemption and its pointing us to the Messiah! It seems, doesn’t it, so often, that when the days are darkest, God shines into our lives the greatest light. Oh, the hope that is ours: “In [the Word] was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4,5).