A Flawed Strongman
When we think of Bible heroes, who do we think of?
We think of Abraham or Daniel who are known for their great faith.
We think of David who is known for being a man after God’s own heart.
We might think of Gideon, who was doubtful at first, but did mighty things.
In the NT, aside from Jesus, we might think of Paul, who went from persecuting Christians to being a great Apostle of Christ.
One thing they all have in common is that they are all decent people.
Sure, they all have their flaws, but that’s everyone.
As we talked about last week, we all fail from time to time.
But generally we do good.
There is one individual, however, who is deeply flawed (more than anyone else).
He was immoral, entitled, lustful, angry, and played fast and loose with God’s blessings.
In the end he does redeem himself, but only after being brought so low, he had no other way out.
The individual I’m thinking of is Samson.
When you’re an adult and you read through Samson’s story, it really makes you wonder.
When we are children, he is seemingly held up as a role model, but why?
Amazingly, in Heb. 11, he is spoken in the same breath as Gideon, David, and Samuel (Heb. 11:32).
So why is that? And why do we treat him with what appears to be an undeserved level of honor?
This is a major downfall of many men.
Sure, women deal with it as well, but for some reason men seem to struggle with it more.
And this happens to be Samson’s biggest downfall.
First he demands to marry a Philistine woman despite the Law saying he isn’t supposed to marry a pagan foreigner (Jdg 14:1-3; Deut 7:1-5).
Despite the nature of this marriage, the Bible says, “his father and mother did not know that this was of the Lord—that He was seeking an occasion to move against the Philistines” (Jdg 14:4).
God often uses bad situations for His glory and His purpose, and this is no exception, but I wish Samson’s lust ended there.
After his give is given to someone else and killed, he sleeps with a harlot in Gaza (Jdg 16:1).
On top of this sin, it also leaves him open to attack.
Being Samson, he’s able to easily handle it, but it’s still not a good move.
But not long after that, we read of Delilah (Jdg 16:4).
It is because of his lust that he falls for this Philistine woman.
She actively tries to steal away the secret of his strength, and yet he still stays with her.
While his seeking a wife from Timnah is said to have been of the Lord, we get no such statement for the harlot or for his relationship with Delilah.
This ultimately is his downfall.
Anger is also a problem for a lot of men.
While women can be angry, too, it seems to affect men even more.
It also seemed Samson had acted out of extreme anger in several situations.
Yes, it was the Lord’s intent to use Samson to destroy the Philistines, but his motivations were not to deliver Israel.
They were to settle a personal score, it was for revenge (15:7).
He killed 30 Philistines because he lost a bet (Jdg 14:18-19).
(Of course, the other side cheated, but still.)
He set fire to a bunch of Philistine crops when he realized his father-in-law gave his wife to another man (Jdg 15:1-5).
When the Philistines found out why, they burned his father-in-law and his wife.
Out of vengeance, “he attacked them hip and thigh with a great slaughter” (Jdg 15:8).
Of course, that’s a good reason to be angry, but his reactions often seem extreme and rash.
His job as a judge was to deliver Israel from the Philistines, but he mostly ends up just reacting to a bunch of personal slights.
His anger and lust cause him to do some very foolish things (Eccl. 7:9; Prov. 7).
Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry, for anger rests in the bosom of fools.
Burning the Philistine crops causes them to retaliate and kill his wife.
And they almost retaliate against the men of Judah in Lehi.
But then he goes to Gaza, and finds Delilah in the Valley of Sorek.
He foolishly trusts her and tells her the secret of his strength, even after clear evidence that she was doing all she could to take it from him.
He is lustful, angry, and foolish, acting in such ways that one would not expect of a Bible hero.
But this is where his strengths outweigh his failures.
This almost feels foolish to say, but the first thing we typically think about when we hear “Samson” is about his superhuman strength.
So his strength is a strength….
Of course, with any strength we might have, we must know where to apply that strength to be effective.
But still, he knew what the secret of his strength was, for he was a Nazirite from birth (Jdg 13:4-5; Num. 6:1-5).
This means he never cut his hair… and he presumably never drank wine (Jdg 16:17). If he did, his strength would leave him, and he would be like any other man.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that his hair was literally some magical source for his strength.
He was obedient to his parents who told him what the Angel of God told them when his birth was announced, so he was obedient to God.
It wasn’t his hair that was the source, but God, as we see every time he gets involved in a feat of strength, the “Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him” (Jdg 14:6, 19; 15:14).
So, he had a level of commitment that is commendable, but having discussed his weaknesses, he was a mixed bag.
With that strength came a level of courage unmatched in Scripture.
Just a few chapters earlier, we read of Barak who would only go to battle if Deborah were with him.
Here we read of a man who single-handedly took on the Philistines.
While his actions done in anger indirectly caused the death of his father-in-law and wife, which in turn brought him to lash out at them in vengeance, he still did the responsible thing and allowed the Judahites to “capture” him and turn him in (Jdg 15:9-11).
This let the Judahites off the hook since they did not protect him, so that the Philistines would not retaliate against them.
It was in this event that he broke free of his bonds and killed a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey.
This was not done in vengeance or in anger, but it was done in battle to save his life.
In the end, we see his final act of courage, which also shows his faithfulness.
While he his hardly a role model for us in many areas, there are moments where he excels.
First, he shows his faithfulness by not cutting his hair, maintaining his Nazirite vow all his life.
He is not the most righteous, nor did he faithfully follow God’s Law, but at least he did this.
And after he allowed himself to be tricked by Delilah and she cut his hair, he was imprisoned, his eyes gouged out, and he was made to grind in the mill (Jdg 16:21).
His humiliation did not end there. At a celebration for the false god Dagon, the Philistines called him out of prison to perform for them.
Weak, blind, exhausted, defeated, humiliated – the lowest point of his life.
He says a prayer, “O Lord God, remember me, I pray! Strengthen me, I pray, just this once, O God, that I may with one blow take vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes!” (Jdg 16:28).
I know I’ve harped on vengeance and anger in this sermon, but this is more.
This isn’t just vengeance for his two eyes, but judgment from the Lord (Jdg 16:29-30).
While vengeance belonged to God (Deut. 32:35), Samson was asking to be the instrument of that vengeance and judgment.
Today the Lord authorizes civil governments alone to be the instrument of judgment and justice (Rom. 12:19–13:4).
In any event, this is the beginning of deliverance after twenty years of oppression (cf. Jdg 13:5b).
While he was severely flawed, he still had faith, he never fell to idolatry, he kept his hair long, and when it mattered most, he showed great faith in his last moments.
Despite our weaknesses, God can still use us.
I think this is the major application we can take from this.
We see people like Abraham lauded for their faith, but we see their shortcomings on full display as well.
But with Samson, his flaws run deeper than perhaps any other individual in Scripture.
While the others appear to make mistakes here or there, they are called out on it and repent.
Samson, on the other hand, makes mistake after mistake, and is rarely called on it.
He likely repents in the end, but well, isn’t that what matters?
And despite all of the problems we have in our lives, all the sin we commit, God can still use that for good.
That doesn’t give us license to do whatever we want, but it ought to bring us comfort as we look back at our lives, all the sin we are guilty of, and wonder, “How can God use a wretch like me?”
Well, He was able to use Samson in a mighty way—surely He can for you, too.
Things are easier God’s way.
God’s purposes will be accomplished one way or another.
God would have found a way to deliver Israel through Samson or not.
But don’t you think if Samson had been more righteous that things would have been far easier for him?
Considering all the hardships that he went through, much of it was brought on by his own actions and indiscretions.
Had he been a judge more like Ehud or Gideon, don’t you think things would have been easier for him?
God’s purposes would have been accomplished either way, but Gideon was asked to be made ruler over Israel, while Samson died a blind prisoner.
God’s strength is made perfect in weakness.
While Samson was strong physically, he was weak spiritually, up until the end.
Once his physical strength was taken from him, it would appear that his spiritual strength grew.
After all, the only recorded prayer that we see of Samson’s is here (Jdg 16:28), and he doesn’t strike me as the praying type.
As the Lord tells Paul when he prays that his thorn in the flesh should depart from him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).
When we are at our weakest point, the Lord is there.
Of course, He’s always there, but we are often blinded by our own ability.
When our ability is taken from us, His strength is more plainly seen.
Even in our ability let us recognize His power and strength and be faithful to Him.
Samson is an interesting character in Scriptures.
We read of all his faults and all his successes.
That’s not unusual in Scripture, but to use someone so clearly and deeply flawed as him is.
He is certainly an unlikely hero, a flawed strongman.
But we can take comfort in that, knowing that no matter how flawed we are, God can use us for good.
It also shows us that in our weakest moments, God’s strength shines through.
Let us take comfort in that, and do what we can to do God’s will.
Finally, Samson’s life also shows us that God’s way is best.
If we do things God’s way, things go so much smoother.
That doesn’t mean we’ll have an easy life, but we might have an easier life.
While God’s will is done, it is best if we do it His way.
And the first thing we must do to make sure of that is to first become a Christian.