Then the Philistines seized [Samson], gouged out his eyes and took him down to Gaza. Binding him with bronze shackles, they set him to grinding grain in the prison. But the hair on his head began to grow again after it had been shaved.
Judges 16:21-22 (NIV)
There is an incredibly powerful scene in The Godfather Part III that seems largely forgotten among the many memorable moments in the epic trilogy. Michael Corleone visits a Cardinal in the Vatican, seeking assistance with a business deal he’s trying to make with the Vatican bank. Michael’s health isn’t good. Between stress and Diabetes, he’s suffering. The Cardinal, however, sees that what is really torturing Michael is the spiritual consequences of a life of violence, crime, deceit, and vanity. He urges Michael to confess.
Over the past couple of weeks, our local gathering of Jesus’ followers has been focused on James 5:16: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” In my experience, confession is rarely discussed, and I find this tragic. Anyone who has made the spiritual journey of The Twelve Steps knows that it begins with admitting we are powerless over our addictions. That’s why every person in a Twelve Step meeting introduces themselves by confessing that they are an addict.
Today’s chapter is the climactic finale of Samson’s story. Samson’s tragic flaw, his perpetual lust for Philistine women, finally catches up with him in his love for Delilah. His blind devotion to her, despite the fact that she seems bent on learning the source of his strength for nefarious reasons, results in his tragic fall and the physical blindness that came with his capture and captivity.
In yesterday’s post/podcast, I unpacked the fact that Samson’s story is the story of the Hebrews. The parallels continue to the very end, and the events of today’s chapter prophetically foreshadow the future history of Israel. They will continue to chase after foreign gods, which will lead to their captivity and exile in Assyria and Babylon. The fact that God redeems Samson’s fall and uses it for His purposes foreshadows the redemption and return of the Israelites. Samson’s blindness foreshadows Israel’s own spiritual blindness to the Messiah who will be sent for their ultimate redemption.
In the quiet this morning, this leads me back to my own life, and my own story. I, like every other human being who has ever lived, have my own sins, flaws, and weaknesses. Left unchecked, my story would be far more tragic than it’s already been. Samson’s story is a reminder to me of two very important truths:
First, the path of Jesus, like The Twelve Steps, is one that begins with a choice to own my flaws, confess, repent, and follow in Jesus’ footsteps…every day. Without that, my own tragic shortcomings will eventually lead me to very unpleasant places, just like Samson.
Second, God is not about condemnation. God is about redemption. He ultimately redeemed Samson’s flaws. He ultimately brought His exiled people home. He ultimately, through Jesus, graciously provided a Way of forgiveness and redemption for any and all who will follow.
I have been a follower, a disciple, of Jesus for over 40 years. I confess to you that I’m not perfect, and admit to you that I’m still working on my own tragic flaws. Despite this fact, I’ve found God to be gracious, merciful, and faithful; God is about redemption. And so, I’m stepping out and pressing on today, one more day in the journey.
If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.