The purpose of the maze-like picture game “Where’s Wally” is to find a skinny, tall guy, with striped (red and white) shirt, striped hat, blue pants and glasses – in a labyrinth of people, in a
setting where a crowded mass of people (some wearing striped pieces of clothing), shapes and colors, hide Wally like a perfect camouflage. The same is happening with Israel in the book of Judges, in the canaanization of their hearts, where, reaching the end of the book, you find yourself asking: “Where’s Israel?”
Chapter 13 begins with the people sinning – “Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord” – and as in all cases throughout the book, as a consequence of their sinning, God gives them in the hands of the Philistines. For 40 years.
But there is something missing as the history develops and we reach, after 40 years, the announcement of Samson’s birth. Israel is not crying out to the Lord. Before, in similar settings, they cried out after 8 years of suffering. In this case, it was 40 years. But was it suffering? The fact that the crying out to God is absent leads us to believe that what they experienced in the hand of the Philistines was not suffering. If we go deeper into the problem we might say that if God did not intervene by raising a judge, namely Samson, the 40 years would have become 50, 60, ….
God manifests His grace again by raising a deliverer that the people didn’t ask for, and didn’t think they need. Grace saved Israel from itself. Again. Samson’s birth is a sign of God’s commitment to Israel. A sign of love and faithfulness
for His chosen people, an unloving and unfaithful nation.
The context of Samson’s birth is one which reminds of a few other, almost identical, contexts. Isaac, Samuel, John the Baptist, and ultimately Jesus. The impossibility of these births (barrenness and virginity – in the case of Mary) and the purpose of those born point us to a God who is sovereign, and graceful in accomplishing His will and plan for His people. It shows us that salvation is a miracle and that the only source of if is God.
Chapter 13, in the book of Judges, and the announcement of Samson’s birth are a sketch of the Gospel – a nation sinning, without desire for salvation due to hardness of heart, and a servant born, miraculously, to deliver them from God’s wrath. Will Samson live up to this picture?
We don’t know if, in the game, Wally wants to be found, but what we do know is that, in the book of Judges, Israel has no clue that they need finding. “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25)
Through Samson, an imperfect deliverer, and later, through His Son, the perfect deliverer, God sets out to find us, and bring us back.