Judges 16:26-28 “Samson said to the servant who held his hand, ‘Put me where I can feel the pillars that support the temple, so that I may lean against them.’ Now the temple was crowded with men and women; all the rulers of the Philistines were there, and on the roof were about three thousand men and women watching Samson perform. Then Samson prayed to the Lord, ‘O Sovereign Lord, remember me. O God, please strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.’”
On whom is Samson depending now? If you follow his life until his capture, we see an impetuous man who simply does what he is inclined to do. He acts like a spoiled child without much concern for God or others. Now we see something different.
Commentators disagree on whether his request for revenge for his eyes is legitimate and godly in light of the fact that the Philistines were the idolatrous enemies of God’s people, or whether it is more of Samson’s selfishness and pride looking out for himself. It’s not a question we need to settle. It’s hard to play psychologist 3000 years after the fact. No one is suggesting Samson became sinless in the end. But he is changed. For the first time recorded, he is seeking God’s will before he acts. He is acknowledging the Lord as his strength. Here at the end, the Lord has renewed Samson’s faith.
How was God working here? How come Samson didn’t just become a bitter and defeated prisoner? From his new perspective of humility, Samson not only saw himself more clearly. He could see the Lord more clearly. He saw more than a mighty Spirit who gave him superhuman strength. He saw a gracious and forgiving God who had patiently dealt with Samson’s headstrong and self-motivated ways. He saw a God who had not abandoned him after so many sinful choices and the reckless disregard of God’s commands. He saw a God who even now had spared his life.
What we need in our weakness is not an infusion of otherworldly power. Like Samson, we need a clearer vision of God’s forgiving grace. We need him to answer the prayer of the old hymn Abide with Me, “Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes. Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.”
And he does. In the cross, in the preaching of Jesus Christ and him crucified, our Lord continues to smile on us with his forgiveness and grace. There we see our whole lifetime of sins, no matter how often repeated, no matter how selfish or hurtful, paid for and disposed of by Jesus’ sacrificial death. There we see why he has been so patient with us, why he doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve, why he even seems to treat us as though he sees no sin in us at all.
For Jesus’ sake, God doesn’t see our past anymore. He points us to the skies, where our vision isn’t blurred by or pride, or darkened by misery and sin. Our sight is focused by his love, brightened by his grace, and heartened by his promise of unending life to come. That’s how the Lord renews our faith, a faith has stopped depending on ourselves to depend on him.