Ever since Adam, humanity has craved a good king to set the world to rights. Adam was set over creation to rule but dragged it down to death and curse. Yet from the beginning the Messiah was promised – in Greek it’s the word “Christ.” It just means Spirit-filled King. He would raise this world up to life and blessing.
In Genesis a line of kings are promised to come from the tribe of Judah. Each of these human rulers would be a throne-warmer for the Messiah:
The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. (Genesis 49:10)
The sceptre would be passed from king to king to king, until the Messiah came. Which meant every earthly king was a foretaste of the Messiah. Either his goodness would inspire their hope, or his badness would make them desperate for the Righteous Ruler.
Samson is a brilliant mixture of the good and the bad. You can read his story in Judges chapter 13-16.
On the bad side, Samson is a firebrand who wants what he wants when he wants it. He quickly flies off into rages with foreign men. At the same time he’s brought low by more than one foreign woman (the most famous being Delilah). No man could mess with Samson. But he was easily undone by his libido. Though the LORD uses his life for good, his choices appear impetuous in the extreme.
From the earliest time, Samson is filled with the Spirit (Judges 13:25). And Messiah means “Spirit-filled King.”
Samson is famous for his strength but of course that strength is not a natural endowment. It is power from on high. And those around Samson are constantly puzzled by it. They repeatedly urge Delilah:
Entice him, and see wherein his great strength lieth (Judges 16:5)
Such puzzlement would never arise if he were a barrel-chested gym-junkie. No, the pictures of Samson which depict muscles on his muscles don’t get at the Scriptural truth. Samson’s power is Spirit-dependent, God-ordained power. Just as Jesus claimed to do nothing by Himself, so Samson gives us a picture of the true strength that comes not from the flesh, but from the Father and by the Spirit.
Samson has a kind of wisdom too. He is a teller of riddles which no-one can explain but he alone (Judges 14:12-20). In this way he’s a forerunner to wise king Solomon, whose unanswerable wisdom was itself a picture of Christ’s.
Samson’s determination to win a bride at all costs – though pursued foolishly – is also a picture of Christ, who goes to every length to win His bride, the church.
And Samson was a ruler who saved his people and defeated God’s enemies. Ultimately he brought victory through his own death.
Samson’s demise was a kind of tragic victory (Judges 16). His beloved, Delilah, turns traitor. His wisdom is defeated. His strength is turned to weakness. The lights go out for this man called “Sunshine” as his eyes are put out by the enemy (Judges 16:21). And he is bound and taken away to the pit. There he becomes an object of scorn – as they mock him and “make sport” of this once mighty man (Judges 16:25).
Yet in this tragedy comes the victory. One day Samson is brought out from his prison cell to be humiliated before his banqueting captors. But Samson has one last request of the LORD:
And Samson called unto the LORD, and said, O Lord God, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes. And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left. And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life. (Judges 16:28-30)
We may choose to read Samson’s story as a whirlwind of passion and pride. Perhaps we read it as an historical text, informing us of an ancient barbarism. We might see it as a morality tale, perhaps cautioning against shady ladies… or haircuts. But we won’t understand this story, and we won’t understand the Bible, unless we see it as a testimony to Jesus.
Christ is our Spirit-filled Ruler, Sunshine in our darkness, Strength in dependence, Wisdom beyond compare and Lover of His bride. Yet, just as with Samson, the greatest accomplishment of this King of Kings was His death. It was as He was mocked, despised and cast into darkness that He defeated His enemies. He bowed Himself on that cross and submitted to an unimaginable crushing. And He did it for us.
May every king – good or bad, or good and bad – lead you to Jesus.