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As the evening wore on and the casks of wine were tried often, the crowd at The Tipsy Tavern became louder and more boisterous. Only Samson himself refrained from drinking wine, for he had never tasted it and had no desire to begin.
“Hey, Samson!” Baasha shouted above the din. “Where is my new garment? I want a garment! Surely the best man deserves a gift for your wedding!”
“Yes!” another shouted. “Have you no respect for tradition?”
“Here’s to tradition!” still another shouted, holding up his mug of wine, to which they all toasted merrily.
Samson, being sober, looked somewhat embarrassed, but the others by now had lost most of their emotional restraints. When drunk, men lose perspective, and even trivial things suddenly take on much greater importance. Samson could see a crisis building and decided to preempt it before it got fully out of hand.
He jumped to his feet and shouted: “Alright! Alright! Let us make a wager!” His half-drunk friends stopped and quieted down to hear him speak. The prospect of a wager always interested them. “Incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter a dark saying. 36 If you can answer my riddle before the end of this feast on the seventh day, I will give each of you a new garment. But if you cannot solve the riddle, then each of you must give me a new garment! 37 What do you say to this?”
The men looked at each other momentarily and then raised their mugs, shouting, “Here, here! It’s a wager! Tell us the riddle! We want to hear the riddle!”
“My riddle is this,” Samson said with a loud voice. 38
Out of the eater came something to eat;
And out of the strong came something sweet.
The room became silent, as Samson’s Philistine friends looked at one another with puzzled looks.
“It is an animal that can be eaten,” one said.
“All animals are eaters,” said another. “Which one provides food for us as well?
“It is a strong animal,” another observed, “which provides sweet food for us.”
“Cows, sheep, and goats provide sweet milk for us,” said Baasha. “Is it one of these?”
“No, it is none of them,” Samson answered.
“Bees provide honey that is sweet,” came another voice, “but bees are not particularly strong.” The tavern by this time was far too quiet.
“This party is being ruined by too much thinking,” Baasha said at last. “Let us think about it tomorrow! I propose a toast to the riddle!”
A great cheer went up once again, as the men returned to their festive mood, confident that between thirty of them, at least one would figure out the riddle. As for Samson, he had ingeniously relieved himself of the pressure to provide thirty changes of garment for his friends—an expense that he could ill afford.
Having seen the dead lion, and having talked to the bee scout, Sipporah and I both knew the answer to Samson’s riddle. But there was something deeper afoot here. For all of Samson’s weaknesses, he still carried an anointing and was often moved by the Spirit of God. Thus, he often brushed upon higher truths with only dim awareness. In the loud setting of a party with drunken Philistines, he lacked the time or focus to search for the meaning of the lion that had lodged somewhere in the labyrinth of his complex heart. Yet it was there, somewhere, hidden under a basket in his carnal mind.
I thought back to our lion friends that we had met on our first trip to Timnah. I recalled the prophecy which Sipporah had spoken to the great lioness, saying,
“You too will bear a son who, in his death, will prophesy of the great Lion who will take away the sin of the world and who will be the Door of Life for all men. The prophesied son of Manoah and Naamah will be the judge who kills your son.” 39
The lion and lioness had accepted their destiny, seeing beyond death and pain to the far shore where life and happiness dwelt. We too had felt their pain, for when one weeps, we all weep. 40 Having wept with them, we also rejoiced with them, seeing how it was not worthy to be compared to the joy that must yet come. Such is the shared experience of those in unity.
Samson’s riddle had opened up the door to a new dimension, where men walk blindly, not realizing that they had stepped off the earth onto a heavenly stage to begin playing their roles as unwitting actors. In the tavern, however, their eyes deceived them, for all things seemed to continue as normal life in Philistine territory.
Through such unseen doors, we all enter this panoramic stage from time to time, but only those with eyes to see might glimpse their new audience of weathered saints and angelic witnesses.
Samson’s proposal, unknowingly and stealthily, had opened up an unseen door. The young men, senses dulled by years of dependence upon their natural abilities, did not understand what had just happened. To them, it was just another riddle, another challenge for their drunken, over-confident minds to overcome. But the spirit of stupor made it impossible for them to solve the riddle, because carnal minds cannot comprehend the deep things of God. 41
The lion of Judah, I knew, was the Messiah, whose death at Passover would bring forth the sweet honey of the dabar of truth. From the strong lion, the faithful ones would eat the meat of deep truth that alone could mature them and reward them with the garment of salvation. That garment is the glory with which saints are clothed at the great marriage feast at the end of time.
Yet Samson’s Philistine friends were impure and unfit for such lofty revelation. Samson had not ventured to teach them the character of God and His plan for humanity. Neither had any Seed of Elyon been sown in their ears, by which they might hear the word and respond by faith and be begotten anew by the word.
Nonetheless, each was destined, as if by divine accident, to rise to a higher place, for the script was pre-written, not as a tragedy, but as a comedy. Even the villains played a part in this divine comedy. Their antagonistic roles were temporary, for at the end of the play, all who had been killed in the story would come back to life and bow to the audience, arm in arm with the heroes.
Samson himself was a cosmic riddle, an enigma to puzzle the philosophers and to divide religious men into competing factions. How could the Creator use such a flawed actor and still make sense of the play? Like actors who were chosen from a field of one, badly suited to the roles that each would play, a giant playing the part of a dwarf, a fool as a philosopher, or a cat dressed as a horse—this divine comedy was unlike any that even a gifted man could write.
The apparent foolishness of God 42 hides His wisdom until the last page of the story.
Only a wise Creator could tell the story and convey such deep truth through unlearned actors conscripted off the streets. Only a wise Creator could bring about His desired outcome after countless stumbles and stutters and outright ignorance. The incongruity of everything going wrong, but still turning out in the end, is the mark of a historical masterpiece unmatched by the greatest minds on earth.