Why do we elevate the most famous of our Old Testament saints? Why do we put them on pedestals? And why do we, as pastors, have a tendency to preach moralistic sermons encouraging our people to be like Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, Daniel, or Nehemiah?
They were all double-minded. They were all unfaithful. They were all sordid.
- Adam was apathetic and indifferent as a leader.
- Noah lacked self-control with the bottle.
- Abraham played the pimp with his wife.
- Jacob could never be trusted.
- Judah was the philandering business man and hypocritical judge.
- Moses couldn’t control his anger.
- Aaron couldn’t control his sons.
- Joshua never finished the job.
- Gideon led his family to whore after idols.
And then there was Samson, who was led sometimes by the Spirit, sometimes by rage, sometimes by ego, and oft times by his loins. In the 14th chapter of Judges, he fell hard for an unbelieving pagan:
Samson went down to Timnah, and at Timnah he saw one of the daughters of the Philistines. Then he came up and told his father and mother, “I saw one of the daughters of the Philistines at Timnah. Now get her for me as my wife.” (Judges 14:1-2)
In chapter 16, his promiscuous addition was presented again:
Samson went to Gaza, and there he saw a prostitute, and he went in to her. (Judges 16:1)
A short time later, his next rendezvous was presented:
After this he loved a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. And the lords of the Philistines came up to her and said to her, “Seduce him, and see where his great strength lies, and by what means we may overpower him, that we may bind him to humble him. And we will each give you 1,100 pieces of silver.” (Judges 16:4-5)
Up and down he was. Here and there he was. The Spirit rushed upon him at times, and then at other times he was left on his own. Samson was both powerful and pitiful. He was faithful and faithless. This strong man was the epitome of the double-minded man; he was unstable in all his ways. And the consequences of his sin were horrid. Towards the end of the story, Samson is the captured, humiliated, blinded, and bound poster-boy of Philistine domination. He is chained between two pillars in the temple of the Philistine god. He is used in the worship of Dagon as Exhibit Number-One in the exaltation of their god over Yahweh.
However, this is not how the story ends.
Now the lords of the Philistines gathered to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god and to rejoice, and they said, “Our god has given Samson our enemy into our hand.” And when the people saw him, they praised their god. For they said, “Our god has given our enemy into our hand, the ravager of our country, who has killed many of us.” And when their hearts were merry, they said, “Call Samson, that he may entertain us.” So they called Samson out of the prison, and he entertained them. They made him stand between the pillars. And Samson said to the young man who held him by the hand, “Let me feel the pillars on which the house rests, that I may lean against them.” Now the house was full of men and women. All the lords of the Philistines were there, and on the roof there were about 3,000 men and women, who looked on while Samson entertained. Then Samson called to the Lord and said, “O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.” And Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and he leaned his weight against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other. And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life. (Judges 16:23-30)
Friends, do you see how God is the hero in the story. God is the one who:
- Allowed his servant to reap some of what he had sown.
- Determined to work within the heart of his sin-sick judge.
- Gave him the gift of repentance.
- Granted him renewed faith.
- Renewed his desire to worship.
- Heard and answered Samson’s prayer.
- Granted him supernatural strength.
- Dominated, judged and executed the Philistines.
- Saved his people.
- Glorified his own name.
Therefore, let us read and teach the Bible differently.
Let us see God’s sovereign and providential usage of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, John the Baptist, the Disciples, Paul, Timothy, and others, and point to him. God is the heroic one throughout our biblical episodes.
Then, let us rejoice and serve differently.
We should find comfort and renewed faith in the fact that God is the same — yesterday, today and forever. He is still the one who:
- Allows his sons and daughters to reap some of what we sow.
- Determines to work within our hearts still plagued by the flesh.
- Gives us the ongoing gift of repentance.
- Grants us renewed faith.
- Renews our passion to worship.
- Hears and answers our prayers.
- Grants us Spirit-empowered strength.
- Dominates, judges, and executes his enemies.
- Saves his people.
- Glorifies his name.
Finally, let us handle success and failure differently.
Let us recognize our constant tendency to make ourselves the hero of the story. When we fail, we beat ourselves up thinking we should have done better. When we succeed, we gloat in what we imagine we have done. Friends, we are not that sharp, that good, that stable, or that strong. We are foolish when we think we are heroic and then get depressed over our failures. We are equally foolish when we think we are heroic and give ourselves the credit for our successes. No, brothers and sisters, we are more like Samson than we ever dare imagine; we are double-minded and fickle followers of Jesus. So let us not boast of anything except for our weakness and his strength. We are nothing. He is everything. And oft-times, he who is everything chooses to use us who are nothing. And when he does so, we can rejoice and be glad, but let us always remember that God is the hero in the story. Jesus is the Strong-man who never fails while serving his Heavenly Father, rescuing his friends, dominating his enemies, and giving glory to God.