Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Enigma of Samson

Undoubtedly the account of Samson is an interesting read, but trying to prepare messages for my church from this text that faithfully explain what, if any spiritual lessons are for us today is not without its challenges.  This seems to be one of those texts that reminds us how careful we must be in “finding Jesus” in everything.  While Samson’s birth was miraculous and he was a deliverer of his people, there is little else about Samson that looks much like the Lord; at least as best as I can see.  But there are two things that I found of interest while studying him and there is a connection or sorts between them. 
First of all there are indications that perhaps Samson did not appear outwardly to be unusually strong.  In other words he might not have looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger as all my childhood flannel graph lessons suggested.  For one thing, the Bible never mentions anything about his physical appearance at all which might seem a bit odd since his physical feats are what he was known for.  When he did perform some feat, it is the Holy Spirit that gets the credit and even when He isn’t mentioned by name, the implication of the whole account is that his strength came from the Holy Spirit and without Him there was no unusual strength. 
The other indication is that the Philistines bribed Delilah to find out his secret so it must not have been obvious.  Delilah said, “Tell me where your great strength lies”.  To them his strength was a mystery not readily apparent by looking at him.
This leads to a second point of interest which is, why is this account in the Bible at all.  With all of Samson’s failures morally, it seems he should have been one of those judges that is named but passed by as quickly as possible.  Perhaps one reason is that Samson has an eschatological lesson.  If Samson parallels anything, it seems it would be the nation of Israel.  Here is a man that was chosen before he was born and was brought into a covenant relationship with the Lord; seen in the Nazirite vow.  He was to be devoted unto the Lord but all of the vows are broken in the account and his most noticeable sin was his loving the wrong kind of women.  It is his womanizing that leads to his destruction.
By now you start to see where I am going with this, right?  Here is little Israel blessed with a covenant relationship with God unlike anything ever seen.  She is small in number but able to defeat any enemy easily by divine power, not her own.  (Thus, this might be another reason to suspect Samson didn’t “look” the part)  But while she was to be totally devoted to Jehovah alone, her one big weakness is that she loves other lovers.  Like Samson, it was a sin that causes her one problem after another.  Like Samson also, it was as she compromised with other lovers that she didn’t realize that her real strength was departing.  Eventually, as she would come up against her enemies, she would meet defeat and then wonder why.  She assumed that the covenant would always be there to bail her out, but just like with Samson, it wouldn’t.  So in the end, it was her idolatry that caused God to forsake her which led to her destruction.
Israel was given a mirror to see herself but she didn’t take advantage of it.  But it was in Samson’s seeming defeat that he gains the greatest victory.  And so it was with Israel when that true Israelite, that true Vine died in what looked like defeat, it actually becomes the victory.  In the place of death all the enemies of God’s people are dealt with at once.  One lesson we might get from this is that the secret of the strength of the saint is the Holy Spirit working in us.  Another is that if we quench the Spirit we will be unable to stand in the day of temptation and trial.  We might learn also that the enemy is always looking for a way to find out our weakness and exploit it. 
The connection between the two points is that just like Israel and Samson, we Christians might not look like we can do anything to serve the Lord outwardly.  But that doesn’t matter because we can do all things through Christ which strengthens us.  The “all things” are whatever the Lord calls us to do.  It is the ability to glorify God in the most severe situations when physically there is no reason to think we can be victorious.  It is to be content in sickness, sorrow, wealth and poverty.  The mighty feats of the gospel age is to be faithful to the Lord when everything around us is saying forget Christ, your heavenly husband, and love me instead.  Our strength is in the Lord.  Well, I guess there is more in the account of Samson than we might think. 

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