Judges 16:30 - More Victorious in Death than in Life
Let me die with the Philistines.Judges 16:30
Any person’s last words are noteworthy, but these are particular striking in light of Samson’s past. Twenty years ago, he demanded that his parents go and get him a Philistine girl as his wife. Imagine their shock!
Samson has been their hope for many years, the one who will save them from the Philistines. But the very first thing he does is take one as his wife! Samson dismisses God’s distinction between his people and the world. “Must you go to the uncircumcised Philistines to get a wife?” his parents ask (Judges 14:3, bold added). It is only by the grace of God that any good comes of this.
But in Judges 15 we see a different Samson. In the end he recognizes that his own personal struggles with the Philistines are much more than that. He is fighting God’s battles as God’s servant (vs. 18). He is part of that great antithesis between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. “Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?” (15:19, bold added). After Samson recognizes this distinction, God does open up a hollow place and refresh his servant.
But Samson falters. In Judges 16 we read that well-know story of Delilah. Samson confesses to her that he has been a Nazarite since birth, set apart by God. But he doesn’t believe that this is the source of his strength. After his head was shaved and he awoke, he thought he would “go out as before …. But he did not know the LORD had left him” (16:20). It is only when one is set apart in God’s service that there is any strength and victory.
Samson is captured and imprisoned. But his hair begins to grow – what a wonderful sign of grace! God had promised Samson’s mother he would be a Nazarite from his birth to the day of his death! (Judges 13:7). When the Philistines have a party to celebrate the power of their god (what a misguided delusion!), Samson prays to God with one last, and bold request. And just as he pushes on the pillars of the temple, he cries out “Let me die with the Philistines.”
It is not an appeal to God. Samson has already prayed for God’s help. This is a confession of a man whose eyes have been opened by the Spirit. The Philistines are not simply the enemies of Israel; they are the uncircumcised, the unclean, some of the seed of the serpent. Samson now recognizes that he is no different. He sees how greatly he has sinned against his God by forsaking his calling.
He sees that he deserves to die as a rebel. But does he? There are two kinds of death: the death that is “capital punishment” and the death of a soldier, a martyr. Samson dies the death of a soldier, although he deserves the death of a sinner. In fact, he is more victorious in his death than in his life, we read.
Truly this could only happen through the death of One who was greater Samson!
Our Lord Jesus Christ also made the confession, “Let me die with the Philistines.” He was crucified with two thieves, or better, two rebels on either side of him. These were the people that he identified with. He took our place – we who are rebels before God, by nature unclean, some of the seed of the serpent.
Through this death, Christ extends a great gift to us. We may be distinguished from the world, made holy to God, although we do not deserve it.
Christ creates antithesis, struggle and victory, which are beyond us as sinners. He makes us soldiers and victors with him. Our suffering, even our death, is no longer punishment, but can be used in the service of God. We do not die the death of the Philistines, but may die the death of martyrs! Look at what happens to Samson in the end. His family finds his body and buries him in the tomb of his father Manoah. Samson receives a place in the holy land of Israel.
We, too, confess before God that we deserve to die with the Philistines – and we do die in the midst of an unclean world. But there is more! Christ has taken our place! He separates and sanctifies, He takes up the struggle, He conquers for us and gives us a place in the great holy land!
Through him we can sing,
I love Thy saints, with them I am united. And in their midst my soul will be delighted.Psalm 16:1, Book of Praise