In this episode of Friend Requests we’ll detour into something a little juicier, a little more scandalous. That seems to be the order of the day. The popularity of television shows like Scandal, the never ending obsession our culture has with airing the dirty laundry of celebrities and politicians, it demonstrates that we have a sweet tooth for seeing people at their worst, most humiliating moments.
You’ve been through the grocery aisle. You know exactly what I’m talking about. You know you’ve almost picked up a few of those scandalous rags to see what’s inside. They’re designed to lure us. Unless you’ve trained your eyes to immediately jump to the candy, which is evil all by itself, then you’re well acquainted with the curiosity that gets piqued, even when you know it’s just sensationalism.
There’s one man in the Bible that kind of gets the tabloid treatment. We know he was born to lead. We know that the Spirit of God was with him. But all we really know about him beyond that is his failures and weaknesses. I’m talking about the man, Samson. But first, let’s get a little history.
There was a time in Israel’s history where they had no king. After the death of Joshua, Israel was supposed to be led by God alone in a theocracy. Through Moses, God had given Israel everything they needed to govern themselves in the Law, contained in Genesis – Deuteronomy. Joshua led the people of Israel in their campaigns to possess the land of Canaan, but upon his death, no successor was named. The people were supposed to live according to the Law that had been given, and God would be their God, and peace and security would follow.
But shortly after Joshua’s death, the book of Judges says:
And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals. And they abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the LORD to anger. Judges 2:11-12
So this began a cycle of rebellion, repentance, and rescue. Israel would rebel, God would hand them over to their enemies, they would repent, and God would rescue. God would rescue his people by raising up judges. These judges would deliver Israel from their enemies, and would then act as a spiritual leader who would judge the nation until their deaths. Upon the death of nearly all judges, the people would return to their rebellion and whore after other gods.
Samson is the twelfth judge in the line of judges. Only one more would follow him – Samuel. You can find Samson’s entire story in Judges chapters 13-16. What we know of Samson is that his conception was announced to his parents by an angel (Judges 13:2-3). He was to be a Nazarite for life, which means his hair was never to be cut, he should never drank alcoholic beverages, and he should never touched a dead corpse (Judges 13:7, Numbers 6). And we know, most famously, that he had superhuman strength (Judges 14:6). In fact, Samson’s strength is what outshines everything else about him.
Samson judged Israel for twenty years (Judges 15:20), yet here’s all we know.
- His conception and birth were announced by an angel – Judges 13:2-3
- He had a thing for Philistine girls and prostitutes – Judges 14:2, Judges 16:1, 4
- He killed a lion with his bare hands – Judges 14:6
- He killed thirty men for cheating on his riddle – Judges 14:19
- He killed one thousand men with the jawbone of a donkey – Judges 15:15
- He was deceived by Delilah and captured by the Philistines – Judges 16:18-21
- He killed his Philistine captors, and himself, once his hair had regrown – Judges 16:28-30
For twenty years of judging, all we know about Samson are his special birth, his feats of strength, and his failures with women. We know that God chose him for this task. We know that the Spirit of God was with him. We know that he was a Nazarite, which meant he was devout. But that’s about it. Judges 13-16 really does read like a tabloid piece about Samson’s life. We see the man, who spent twenty years faithfully judging, broken down into a few vignettes that highlight the worst, most scandalous moments of his life.
Yes, Samson had a sexual appetite for foreign women and prostitutes. Samson had some anger management issues. But we’ve got to hold these things in tension with the fact that Samson was also God’s man. God chose him to be judge and set him apart for this task from his mother’s womb. Out of twenty years of service, why did God choose to only reveal Samson’s greatest failures? No doubt, there were probably some incredible moments in his career as judge that might’ve highlighted an entirely different side, perhaps that he was incredibly generous and just . . . we simply don’t know. God chose to show us a different facet of the man, Samson.
Why is that? Why did God only give us these insights? Why not a little more insight into Samson’s more godly qualities instead of his dysfunctions? I think it’s because God really has a heart for the broken. He’d rather use a sex addict with an anger management problem who knows his weakness and leans hard into the Lord for strength. He’d rather use the person that has issues but fights to overcome. So God showcases Samson in all of his brokenness, proving once again that he isn’t interested in using they guy who thinks he has it all together. God wants to use men and women who will unquestionably leave no doubts in the minds of others that HE is the one working and not them. Jesus said it best:
And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:31-32
Samson was a flawed man, full of faults, full of failures. Some of them huge. His final failure ultimately cost him his life. But even in that final moment, he is trusting God to deliver him and his people. It should remind us that our sins aren’t deal breakers. But it should also remind us that sin can be incredibly destructive. God wants you to know that you don’t have to have it all together for him to love you. At the same time, He wants you to understand that sin, even for the chosen, the called, will have destructive consequences in this life.
I wish we knew more about him. I wish we had a peek into those other moments of his life where he was growing in his faith and knowledge of the Lord. The lesson I take away from this is simple and potent. Samson’s acceptance before God wasn’t dependent on his performance, but on God’s promise. God called him from his mother’s womb and it was God’s work to ensure that the calling would be fulfilled. God was faithful to Samson, even when he wasn’t behaving faithfully to God. But sin brought down Samson in his prime. Who knows how much more God could have used him had he not given in to temptation?
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:15-16
In these evil days, we need to take a lesson from Samson. God is faithful, even in our faithlessness, but there are so many opportunities to be lured away from our calling. Walk wisely. Love Jesus more than the things that tempt you. Remember God’s grace and mercy toward you and let that deepen your walk.