When I was a small child, Saturday mornings were spent with cowboy shows on the TV. One of my Grandpa’s favorites was The Lone Ranger. He was impeccable sitting astride a white horse with his white cowboy duds and his black mask. What a guy! All his adversaries were dressed in black and it was easy for even a child to identify the good guys from the bad.
In the same manner, my childhood Sunday School heroes were presented in the same manner- good, trustworthy, riding to the rescue. Sadly to say, they were not always as they were presented. Today’s reading introduces us to a childhood Sunday School hero — I can still see him holding up the remains of a building he was going to bring down to destroy God’s enemies by the thousands. But, in reading the Biblical account of his life, it depicts quite a different type of guy.
He came into this world in a miraculous way to aging parents with a call of God on his life. If there could be a spiritual silver spoon, Samson would have been born with it in his mouth. He was wanted, conceived in a miraculous way, into a home with deeply spiritual parents. He had every advantage of success in the coming years. But, as we see so often in Christian homes, he did not value his parents and the heritage they provided him. He did not adhere to the religious education he was given. He did not respect and revere the God who had given him breath. He grew up and became a negative Lone Ranger riding again over the land of Israel, serving himself, gratifying his fleshly appetites, and wallowing in revengeful behavior. How could my Sunday School hero have such feet of clay?
Samson became one of Israel’s judges during a period after the death of Joshua and until the kings began to reign. It was a time that is described as “everyone did what was right in their own eyes”. It was also a time when Israel was a conquered land under Philistine occupation. It had been so for a number of years and the Israelites had grown accustomed to the situation and just wanted to live in as much peace as they could. Into this mix, God miraculously raised up a man called Samson, declared by God to be a Nazarite from his birth until his death. When he was older the Spirit of God began to stir within him and he knew that God had called him to begin the deliverance process from their conquer0rs.
But, alas, Samson was not long revealing his true character to the world. He began by demanding a woman for his wife that was a Philistine. When his father had finally negotiated the bridal dowry and the ensuing celebration had begun, the disaster of his life begins to unravel.
He slays a lion on his way to his bride’s house (a Nazarite cannot touch a dead thing). Then on a subsequent trip he purposely goes to look at the carcass and eats honey out of it, also feeding it to his unsuspecting parents. He drinks strong wine at his bachelor party (Nazarites were forbidden to drink). He brings his future wife a goat as a wedding gift! (Mr. Romance he was not.) He calls his wife a “heifer”! One more point for romance! His future wife cries during the whole celebration trying to get information out of him. He stalks out on his wedding night before the marriage is consummated. His wife is given to his best man! When Samson finally decides to go consummate the marriage, his father in law tells him his wife has been given to his best man! He lets his rage take over and ties foxes tails together and turns them loose in Philistine farmers fields of grain and burns the economy of that valley to ruin. (What did the farmers do to him?) The Phillis tines retaliate by taking his ex wife and her father out and burning them to death. Now the Philistines and the Israelites are both angry at Samson. Three thousand of his countrymen bind him and deliver him to the Philistines to keep them from attacking them.
At the site where he was turned over to the Philistines, Samson stood bound with ropes, waiting for the death sentence to be carried out when he spies a jaw bone of donkey lying at his feet. He simply breaks his bonds, picks up the jawbone and proceeds to slay a thousand Philistines with it. Can you imagine the awe of his Israelite brothers as they watch this spectacle! Moffatt in his translation of this story indicates that Samson was somewhat of a poet by Samson saying “With the jawbone of an ass, I have piled them in a mass!” This site became known as “Jawbone Hill”.
So, what can I gather from this interesting, if somewhat bizarre account of Samson’s life? I have wondered this question often in the past few years and I think just this week have garnered something that gives me comfort. God was using Samson to achieve His purposes even though he was an unwilling, uncooperative vessel. As we see our country surging down the wrong road economically and spiritually, should we stand in the shadows wringing our hands as if God’s purposes are at risk? We have long ago been told what God was going to do in the future, and no power on earth can thwart His purpose. God is able to use even unwilling vessels to bring about His plan! In spite of Samson’s efforts to indulge his flesh, he never received the satisfaction he craved. When we live for the flesh we can expect less than happy results. Man’s need for a deliverer has never diminished, but man cannot provide what is needed – only Christ could! Man will always be but a flawed shadow of the genuine.
A flawed vessel used by God was Samson. God is using flawed vessels today – His plan and purpose to achieve! Look up Christian! God is in control!