The first time I heard Mike Posner’s song on the radio I didn’t really listen to the words. It was upbeat and catchy and I found myself bobbing along as I drove to work. The second time I heard it I paid more attention to the words—trying to catch the name of the song or at least enough of the lyrics to find the song again. The third time I heard the song, I cried. As I sat in traffic, somehow my brain connected Mike Posner to Samson—then, all of a sudden, something about Samson clicked.
Samson has always been one of my favorite characters. What boy doesn’t admire the strongest man that ever lived and wish they could flex those same muscles? Maybe this is why Samson is often relegated to the category of “kid’s Bible stories”—a shame, since he is one of the most vivid characters in Scripture. The story isn’t all that long (Judges 13–16), but it is packed with drama and action.
So what about this song got to me? The song itself isn’t substantial—the singer laments that fame isn’t all it’s cracked up to be—but for the first time I thought of Samson as a celebrity. If Samson could sing us a song from that final Philistine stage, would it sound like he took a Pill in Ibiza?
…you don’t wanna be high like meI Took a Pill in Ibiza, by Mike Posner
Never really knowing why like me
You don’t ever wanna step off that roller coaster and be all alone
You don’t wanna ride the bus like this
Never knowing who to trust like this
You don’t wanna be stuck up on that stage singing
Stuck up on that stage singing
All I know are sad songs, sad songs
As Samson stood on the Philistine stage (Judges 16:25), did he recount the events of his life that led him to that bound and blind place? He may have remembered the pride of his youth when he thought he could play fast and loose with God’s gifts. He may have regretted how carelessly he had treated God’s commands. No doubt his expectations for his life never included this place. Surely, here at the end, all Samson knew were sad songs. This is not the way we want our heroes to end up. Or is it?
Samson was a messiah that couldn’t save Israel from the real enemy. If Samson with all his might couldn’t save Israel then maybe the Messiah we need isn’t a strong man. Both in foreshadowing and in contrast, the story of Samson paints a vibrant redemptive picture that goes beyond the strong man to the loving God behind him. Right from the start, God is the main character in Samson’s life. Christ himself, preincarnate, announces Samson’s birth—as if to say, “This one. This one is special.” (Judges 13:3–5)
It’s almost as if God wanted to make it crystal clear that we shouldn’t look to physical strength for salvation. Samson had supernatural strength and it wasn’t enough. Through Samson, God may have begun to save Israel (Judges 13:5), but it wasn’t a complete work. God was digging down to the root issue. While God used Samson to deliver his people, Samson wasn’t able to break free from the chains of sin. And he wasn’t able to free anyone else.
As he stood on that stage taking abuse from God’s enemies, no doubt foremost on his mind was that memory of waking to discover that his God had abandoned him. Years of silence had passed. Samson had a lot of time to reflect at the end of his life. A lot of pride and arrogance fell away under the realization that everything had been a gift from God, a gift that Samson had taken for granted. Had he thrown away his only hope of salvation? Had God abandoned him forever?
Fortunately, someone else also experienced God’s back being turned, and Christ’s suffering reached back over the eons to a blind and broken man praying between two pillars. The strongest man in the world was now humbled and focused on the only thing that mattered—a right relationship with his Creator. His strength had been the only indication of God’s presence and he hadn’t felt that presence in a long time. So he prayed for God’s presence once again and God relented. Samson’s hope was rekindled in those final moments as he was reunited with his God and gave his life in obedience to God’s mission. In so doing many were saved. And that is not the end of Samson.
We have the same hope in us today that Samson had in those final moments. We serve the same God, are saved by the same gospel, and have the same Spirit living inside us. The hope of the gospel is a tangible and real hope. It is a hope of new life and resurrection. Samson could give up his life because he had faith that he would rise again (Hebrews 11:32, 39).
In that way Samson is not like Mike Posner. As I sat in the car, I was gripped by the realization that although Samson’s life may have been sad, at the end, he was granted a stunning grace! He had so much more to say than “it’s lonely at the top.” He had a faithful God who had forgiven him and granted him a future!