Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Thoughts on Samson

By My Anonymous Friend

I am planning to do some character studies on various biblical women and men. Let me share with you today a bit about what I have been thinking regarding Samson.

If you grew up in the church you will remember that Samson was a man of great strength who killed a lion, tied the tails of hundreds of foxes together and attached torches to them to burn down enemy crops, and who lost his life by tearing down pillars of a pagan building taking with him to their death several thousand Philistine revelers. You may also have learned that Samson fared poorly in the romance department but that part is often not discussed as much.

Samson was a study in contradictions! Amazingly, more information and detail is given about his life in the Scriptures than is given any other of the judges who ruled Israel.  It should make any Bible student curious. As with so many Bible characters, there is something to admire about Samson's life and there is also much to abhor. God set him apart to begin the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Philistines.  It is curious why the word "begin" is used in this context.  I will let that tantalizing thought slide by and allow you to pursue it for yourself if you wish.

So on the one hand, Samson was set apart by God for an important purpose. At numerous times in his life, the Spirit of God began to stir in him and God came upon him in power. Yet also during his life, Samson was impetuous, hot tempered, stubborn and rebellious. He violated his Nazarite vow on more than one occasion. He was obsessed with pagan women.  When he saw one, he was determined to get her for a wife. Although his parents earnestly pleaded with him to find a nice Jewish girl, Samson refused to listen.

In today's language we could say that Samson did not handle women well.  He also seemed not to learn from his mistakes and repeated his bad choices. He teased and sported with his wives but in the end always succumbed to their persistent "nagging." I find it somewhat amusing that Scripture says Samson felt Delilah's nagging was so severe that he was tired to death of it (Judges 16:16). One translation renders it "annoyed to death."

A few of the contradictions that struck me as interesting about Samson are:

1.  He accused the Philistines of "plowing with his heifer" to obtain the answer to the riddle he posed to them. For one thing this is a strange and not so flattering way to describe his bride.  For another could it not be said that Samson was the one who really made the mistake to plow with someone's heifer in that he refused to stay with his own people and chose instead a girl from the pagan Philistines to marry?

2.  The greatest contradiction or irony is that at the end of Samson's life when he was blinded, he finally was able to see things clearly and fulfill the purpose of his life to "begin the deliverance of Israel from Philistine domination.”

While there are many speculations and applications we might make about the entirety of Samson's life, to me his story is a story of the grace, mercy and sovereignty of God. I do not know exactly how to reconcile all the contradictions in Samson's life. To be truthful I am not always able to reconcile the contradictions in my own life either. Somehow woven through the trials and failures of the human race, God works out His sovereign plans. I cannot understand it always. But it is how God works.  In the end Samson is listed among the other faith heroes in Hebrews 11. Amazing grace indeed!!!!