We are amazingly reluctant to realize that our heroes have faults.
When it becomes glaringly obvious, we toss them aside, capes torn, shields tarnished, heroes no longer.
This must be why we find it so hard to realize that good people in the Bible do inexplicably bad things.
The really tough ones are the ones we never see say I’m sorry. I wrote about Lot recently (Jerk or Just) and the story has remained close to my heart since. We never see him building an altar, weeping over wrongs done, or even read any justification except what I call God’s gobstopping grace.
God called him righteous.
He’s another hero with a severely torn cape.
Read Judges 13-16. On the surface, Samson was an arrogant womanizer with major co-dependency problems. You know the good-looking jock in the movies who is led around by a gorgeous, manipulative harpy? That’s him.
The story starts beautifully with an appearance by God to Samson’s parents with a promise of his birth and instructions as to his rearing. (Kind of nice to have God Himself show up to deliver your What to Expect book!)
The last two verses in chapter 13 say, “So the woman bore a son and called his name Samson; and the child grew, and the Lord blessed him. And the Spirit of the Lord began to move upon him at Mahaneh Dan between Zorah and Eshatol.”
That is a pretty auspicious beginning.
Then the first thing we see Samson do as an adult is to let his parents know that there’s a hot Philistine chick that he wants them to get for his bride.
“Sammy, isn’t there a nice Jewish girl you’d rather bring home?”
They weren’t being prejudiced. The Philistines were in power over Israel at the time and they were ungodly idol-worshipping oppressors out for pure destruction.
“…But his father and mother did not know that it was of the Lord – that He was seeking an occasion to move against the Philistines. For at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.” (Judges 14:4)
Here’s where I think some of the denial comes in.
To me, it is rather clear that Samson’s parents were doing their job as Godly people, trying to steer their son in the right direction. They were simply unaware that God, in His sovereign plan, was going to work Samson’s willfulness into the greater good.
As I read commentaries, people seem to struggle with this, certain that, since God’s spirit often moved mightily on Samson, that he prophetically wanted the Philistine woman for his wife so that God could move against their enemies.
I think Samson just wanted the girl.
We can’t be afraid to see good guys without a cape.
Tweet Our God of grace is often beyond our understanding. He uses flawed people who do stupid things.
There are some unbelievable doozies of Samson stories I’d love to share but even a brief synopsis gets a bit lengthy. Read through Judges 14-16. You will notice that his deeds are not always accompanied by “the Spirit of the Lord came upon him.”
Sometimes, as when he ate honey from the lion carcass, he was completely breaking Jewish law. (Leviticus 11:27)
His marriage was clearly an ungodly one with horrible results for his wife. (The foxes didn’t fare so well either.)
Some of his actions appear to be purely out of anger or revenge.
Still, God had a plan to move against the Philistines and, more than once, He used a strong man with weak principles to do so.
The Spirit of the Lord did fall upon Samson in chapter 15 and he killed 1000 men with a donkey’s jawbone.
Gruesome? Yes. But these were enemies of God. There is no way one person could kill 1000 people in a day with anything but an explosive.
He followed that God-filled victory with a visit to a prostitute, then pulled up the city gate by the gateposts and carried it up the hill.
Flawed hero. Torn cape.
All of this leads up to the story of Samson and Delilah, one of the most infamous relationships in the Bible.
I’m won’t lend much space to that here. You know the story. This seductive worshiper of Ashtoreth, Dagon and Baal-Zebub manipulated him into telling her, not the Source of his strength, but how he could be robbed of it.
He paid a dear price for that dalliance. Blindness, bondage, humiliation and shame.
He eventually was able to push down the main pillars of the temple of Dagon, killing more enemies of the Lord in his death than he ever did in his life. God gave him an amazing victory.
And here’s the lesson:
While there are incredible stories in the Bible about Samson, he judged Israel for 20 years. Several times we see him destroying the enemy through the Spirit of God. Several others, we see him acting badly or questionably.
But we don’t know anything else that happened during those 20 years. We don’t know how many ways God used him. For some reason, God chooses show us Samson’s frailties. We see him succumb to seduction and give in to desires.
But God placed him in Hebrews 11:32 in the same verse as David, Samuel and Gideon.
And what about me?
Yep, you darlin’. All those failures. All that shame.
Past is past. He can use you too.
God exposes all that weakness, all that rawness, to teach us something.
Good people really mess up.
God uses really messy people.
Tweet Stay in the middle of your mess and the temple you are dallying in will come down on your head.
But He is willing to pull you out and He can still use you.
Tweet There are no chains so strong that the power of God cannot break them.
Tweet There is no blindness so dark that the light of God cannot pierce through.
Tweet There are no idols in your life on a pedestal so high that you cannot cast them at the feet of Jesus.
Samson went into the arms of the wrong person.
God gave him a glorious victory at the end of his life.
And God gave him, in all of his messiness,