It’s fascinating how much biblical accuracy can get lost in the shuffle of catering a Bible story to children. This is especially done with Old Testament stories. We cling onto what can work in the midst of the pillaging, rape, murder, incest, and other sinful acts, and try to find something that we can mold into being kid friendly. The books of Judges often become a victim of this mission. One character in particular is practically the mascot of this method. It is our real-world Hercules/Superman. It is good old Samson.
People don’t realize how much of a failure the time of the Judges were. In fact, if you were to read carefully through the book of Judges you would notice two very distinct and intentionally elements in the narrative. One is that Israel goes through a constant cycle of disobedience, captivity, cry out to God, salvation, peace, back to disobedience. The other things you will notice is that with each repeat of the cycle Israel gets worse and worse, their judges become more flawed and they eventually quit crying out to God all together.
This is the scenario where we find Samson. The very last of the judges in this book, and the one with the greatest amount of potential. Samson is touched by God before birth. An angel comes up to his mother while ignoring his dad telling her that Samson will follow the nazarite vow, and that God is going to work through him. No other judge gets set up for this kind of opportunity to succeed. How does Samson handle this opportunity? He blows it. He blows it big time.
Different books of the Bible have different style of literature. One is narrative which is what we find in Judges. An important thing to pay attention to in narrative writing is paying attention to the first words said by a main character. It usually has something pretty gran to say about them. This is true even for characters who say absolutely nothing Like Joseph the earthly father of Jesus.
What are the first words out of Samson’s mouth? They are said after he finds a Philistine woman. A woman that was meant to be off limits for him to marry according to God’s law. “Fetch her for me for she is pleasing to my eyes.” The first words out of Samson’s mouth in his story depict his lack of respect for God’s law, and his hunger to indulge in the lust of his eyes.
It only gets worse for Samson. He was with multiple women only one of which he was actually married to. He slept with prostitutes, broke multiple elements of his nazarite vow, failed as a military leader, and failed as a military leader. The irony of it all is that Samson is actually a depiction of Israel at the time.
Just like Samson Israel was given an immense amount of potential to do good for God, but the squandered that gift. By the time Samson comes along things are so bad that they actually capture Samson in order to hand him over to the Philistines. They have turned their back on the person God has sent to save them. Have you ever wondered why God gave Samson supernatural strength? Because God needed a one man army to carry out his work. The rest of Israel had turned their backs on salvation. We look at Samson’s strength as the inspiring real life fairytale when in actuality it was a rebuke of Israel, and a wakeup call to just how bad things had gotten. God needed to pour everything into one man because all other men refused to be used by God.
In the end Samson still forgets to realize it is God who provided him with strength. It is interesting when he finally tells his secret to Delilah who already tried to betray him multiple times. He finally tells her that his hair is the secret to his incredible strength. In truth it was what the hair represented. Part of the nazarite vow was to never take shears to your hair. The cutting of the hair symbolized the completion of the vow. Samson’s hair was a symbol of God’s power being placed on Samson. He never acknowledges this part to Delilah. All he says is that it is something as mystical as the length of his hair.
Why have I gone through this whole history lesson on Israel and Samson? Because in this story there is a real lesson to be learned, and it is not that superheroes exist. Are you living your life in a way where you ae wasting the potential God has placed in you? Of Israel it was land and status as God’s chosen people. For Samson it was supernatural strength to kill thousands of men single handedly. Samson could have used his gift to rally the forces of Israel and draw them back to God. Samson could have been a beacon of hope and strength for Israel. Instead he hid in villages, slept with prostitutes, and in his final heroic act he died as a blind man, alone, buried under debris.
Samson’s story is one of reminder that God will do whatever is necessary to protect his children, but it is also a warning. A warning that the blessings of God does not guarantee a fulfilled life. A man who squanders the blessings of God is destined for pain and heartache. Samson had faith in God. He believed in who He was. He also screwed up big time, but still managed to perform some incredible things for God. Just imagine what he would have been capable of if he had remained fully sold out to God? What is holding you and me back? Are we simply wasting our God given talent and abilities? Are you like Samson? Are you just giving into the lust of your eyes?