It is a fascinating theological conundrum. The bible teaches both God’s overarching sovereignty and the free will and responsibility of persons. Both are revealed, yet they appear contradictory. How is a person other than a puppet if God’s sovereignty overrules our choices? How can a person be held responsible if there is no choice to make? Is God diminished by man's free choices?
Recently in teaching Judges 14-16 covering the life of Samson, I discovered for the first time how his story illustrates this theological mystery. Both the God’s sovereign purposes as well as Samson’s free choice are revealed in the narrative.
The writer clearly states that though Samson was attracted to and desired to marry a Philistine women, of his own “free will,” (not within God’s instructions to Israel) God had another purpose for this marriage, to accomplish Israel’s deliverance through Samson. (Judges 14:4) Samson chose, God purposed. How do we understand this? It is a mystery.
If you follow the Samson’s tragic you observe a dedicated, yet willful and powerful man, decidedly weak with regard to women. Both his first wife and Delilah manipulate him into revealing his secrets. They persist and wear him down and he capitulates. (This story also highlights the reality of a woman’s influence on the men in her life, for good or ill.) Samson makes poor choices and bears the consequence of those choices, finally losing not only his great strength but his eyesight as well. In the darkness it seems his heart returned to the true source of his strength, Yahweh, and “from weakness comes strength” (Hebrews 11:34) In his last act he sacrifices his life and destroys the gathered aristocracy of the Philistines, thus accomplishing God’s sovereign purpose.
Samson’s faith is honored in Hebrews but his story stands as a warning that although God’s purposes will be accomplished, our choices bear consequences in our earthly life. The bible reveals the unvarnished truth about God’s people and their stories stand as examples to warn us of the dangers of temptation that we face in daily living. (I Cor. 10:6-13)
Was Samson aware of his prevailing weakness with women? Did he take his God-given gifts for granted? Have I identified my prevailing weakness? Am I in danger of taking the Holy Spirit in me for granted today? How does Samson’s life warn me about my choices today, this week, this year? How about you?