This past Sunday morning at Oak Grove Baptist I began a sermon series on the life of Samson. That life starts with his conception in the womb of his previously barren mother. But why did God choose to open her womb at that time? It was because Israel needed a leader (a Judge) to deal with the Philistines. As is the frequent pattern in the book of Judges, Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, the Lord delivered them into the hands of an enemy race (in this case the Philistines), and then God raised up a Judge (in this case Samson) to deliver them from that enemy race.
But here’s the thing: Samson’s conception in his mother’s womb only came after the Philistines had oppressed Israel for 40 years. For that matter, even after Samson was born it would be several more years before he reached an age where he could fight the Philistines. The Bible doesn’t tell us precisely what that age was, but it records his first dealings with them as part of the circumstances surrounding his intended wedding to a Philistine girl (Judges 14:1-20). The death toll from that story is thirty Philistines. Most likely, Samson was twenty or so at the time of the story, give or take a few years either way. So, by doing the math, we come up with a period of approximately sixty years in which the people of Israel were delivered into the hands of the Philistines.
Now, I used to read such stories in the Bible and jump right over the sixty years to get to the part about Samson slaying all those Philistines. However, some of my experiences over the past ten or fifteen years have radically changed my perspective. Now my mind thinks different thoughts when I read this story. A couple of those thoughts are:
- How many Israelites died during the 40-60 years of Philistine oppression, never having seen God’s deliverance through Samson?
- Did the Israelites who were alive when the Philistine oppression began, and who soon afterward prayed prayers asking God to deliver them, have enough spiritual discernment to see the adult Samson as the answer to those longstanding requests? Or had they, years earlier, given up on God granting those requests?
Tell me, how would you feel if you were one of those Israelites who asked God to deliver your nation from the Philistines, but you died before Samson came along? On your death bed, what would your level of faith be? Believe me, there are people out there right now who have lost faith in God simply because years have now passed, even decades, and they haven’t seen Him move concerning their specific prayer requests.
So, Christian, the next time you talk with someone who is honest enough to admit that they no longer have faith in God, take the time to ask about their reason. What you’ll find is that many of these people have stories of disappointment to tell. They didn’t become faithless overnight. It only happened after years of what they felt were unanswered requests.
We should all be glad that God sends Samsons every now and then. However, we should also be spiritually mature enough to acknowledge that sometimes the deliverance never comes, at least either not in this life or in our lifetime. Such times call for the highest level of faith and trust in God. Job said, “Thou He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15), and I think he meant that. Likewise, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego said, “If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up” (Daniel 3:17-18).
Why does God sometimes not send the deliverance? I don’t know. Why does He sometimes send it so late that its impact seems to get lost in all the years? I don’t know. Doesn’t He love us? Yes, He does. Will He bring good out of allowing us to remain in our state of oppression? Yes, He will. Will the Christian receive more eternal rewards for having to endure the oppression? Yes, he will. Will God’s purposes triumph over Satan’s purposes in the end? Yes, they will.
And so what is the hard truth that we need to learn? It’s this: Sometimes God either doesn’t send the Calvary at all or it rides in too late to do you any earthly good. This is something you’ll never hear from the “health-and-wealth” “prosperity” preachers of our day because they only talk about faith for deliverance, never faith for disappointment or faith for death. The reality is, though, that such faith is called for in the blank spaces that we find hidden between all the instances of deliverance in the Bible. We just have to retrain our brains to start noticing those spaces.