“And she (Delilah) began to afflict him (Sampson), and his strength went from him. And she said, ‘The Philistines be upon you, Samson!’ And he awoke from his sleep and said, ‘I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.’ And HE WIST NOT that the Lord was departed from him” (Judges 16:19-20).
The definition of “wist” (now archaic), is, “someone has knowledge of something.” Thus in the phrase “he wist not,” that concept of someone having knowledge of something, is rather, someone NOT having knowledge of something. In other words—in today’s vernacular—Samson was clueless! He lived loose with a woman that was not his wife, after which, having learned the secret of his strength, she afflicted him until his strength was gone. Then, while he was weak, she swung the door wide open to the enemy. Meanwhile, “HE WIST NOT that the Lord was departed from him!” Okay, something is not right here. We know that the harlot seeks the precious life; in Sampson, regrettably, she found it. In that holy place inside Sampson a harlot now sat enthroned. And now his “deeds will not allow [him] to return to [his] God. For a spirit of harlotry is within [him], and [he does] not know the Lord. Moreover, the pride of [Sampson] testifies against him” (Hosea 5:4-5).
Sampson’s unique gift was great physical strength (an occasion for that pride that testified against him)—and perhaps because of this particular kind of gift—being so central to his core person and having had it since birth—he was more apt than most to forget the source of it. Regardless of the reason, Sampson took his strength for granted, relying on past experience with it—“I will go out as at other times” was his self-reliant thought—rather than depending on God for future supplies of it. But, but, but!!!—HE WIST NOT!—he could not see or perceive that God (and consequently that gift of strength with Him) had already departed. How could he—or anyone for that matter—not realize a break in their vital connection to God? Answer: the spirit of harlotry!
It is no coincidence that immediately following his realization that God was no longer with him—and as if to accentuate his spiritual blindness—his enemies gouged out his natural eyes. John Milton spoke of Samson’s blindness in his classic poem, “Samson Agonistes” (“agonistes” is a Greek word that means “someone engaged in a struggle”); this is an excerpt:
“O loss of sight, of thee I most complain! Blind among enemies! O worse than chains, Dungeon, or beggary, or decrepit age! Light, the prime work of God, to me is extinct”
Moses made it clear that he would go nowhere without God’s presence, and Paul also made it clear that we are to emit an aroma of Christ everywhere we go; in both cases, God is present, tangible, and powerful. To outstrip the presence of God is one thing, but to be oblivious to the fact that God is no longer present, that is another thing altogether; it presupposes either (1) an initial shallow relationship (Seed on stony ground) or (2) a compromised relationship (Seed chocked by foreign weeds). In Sampson’s case, a shallow and compromised relationship happened simultaneously. We must prepare our hearts to seek God in the days of our youth, and once matured and established in His presence, we must diligently maintain that relationship. Also, we must never forget that the adulteress (the world and the devil) hunts for the precious life (Christ in the human heart). We cannot afford to have our eyes gouged out by the enemy.
Though Sampson eventually and ultimately killed more of the enemy in his death than life, the cost he paid was too high. It is altogether possible, and I think probable, that if Sampson had followed a course of obedience, his victories in a long life of service to God would have eclipsed the magnitude of that one last ditch victory he secured by his death. Either way, God uses man for His purposes as He chooses, and therefore, no human deflection is enough of a deflection to remove him away from the purposes of His hand. Sampson’s life was never out of the reach of God no matter the extent of his deviance; this served God’s purpose, but what about Sampson’s?
And therein is the rub! Every man is a tool in God’s hand; even the wicked cannot escape His touch and grasp. “The Lord has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil” (Proverbs 16:4). Of all things though, let it not be said of His child, that “HE WIST NOT that the Lord was departed from him”; because even if that is not evil per se, it is pathetic, and its obtuseness acute. One of the primary reasons the Lord came to earth was to open the eyes of the blind; He opened many natural eyes, but always, His greater purpose is to open spiritual eyes. Sampson’s blindness is profound, and alas, too common. I wist not that His people be effective in ministry without definite knowledge; rather, O Lord, open our eyes and allow us to see how effective we are in your hand, that hand of yours that reaches outward to a dying world from an outstretched arm.
I therefore pray “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe” (Ephesians 1:17-19).