Ruth told me that she finally became serious about her relationship with Christ when she discovered how flawed most of the Bible characters are. When you grow up believing that all the Bible heroes are perfect and never make a mistake or do anything wrong it becomes very difficult to identify with them.
But when we finally stop thinking of Bible characters as Sunday School felt-board characters we soon see their imperfections. It is encouraging to know that God works through flawed personalities and accomplishes great and marvelous things through them in spite of those flaws. It gives us hope and assurance that even in our broken and sinful selves we are loved as well as led and directed by God.
Ruth and I were listening to a sermon last evening by Timothy Keller on Samson and I have to admit if there ever was a flawed character in the Bible Samson was it. He was vengeful, childish, arrogant, vindictive, sexually promiscuous, disobedient to God and the list goes on. Yet this is the man that God used to stir the hearts of Israel to believe that under God’s leading they could throw off their slavery to the Philistines and find their freedom once again.
Samson’s mission is foretold even before his conception. The barren wife of Manoah was visited by “the Messenger of Yahweh” who appeared to her in the form of a man. He told her that she would conceive a son and the boy was to be raised as a Nazirite and through him God would begin to deliver Israel from the Philistines, (Judges 13:5-6). There were three major conditions of becoming a Nazirite, you could never touch anything dead, were not to drink alcohol in any form, nor cut your hair. Before he was through Samson would break all three of these important vows.
Samson was a man who couldn’t control his lust for women and it got him into a great deal of trouble. Judges 14:3 tells us that he married a heathen woman simply because it “pleased” him. He spent time with prostitutes and we can read about one encounter with a lady in Gaza (Judges 16:1) that led to Samson tearing the city gates off and carrying them forty miles away. But, it was his love for the treacherous Delilah that brought his destruction and shame.
However, Samson had good traits as well as being self-centered. He never shirked his calling to be a Judge of Israel. He never led an army against the Philistines but worked as a lone warrior relying totally upon the power and strength that God gave him. (See Judges 15:18, 19)
Samson was willing to be used by God for the good of the people and even in his death at the hands of the Philistines he relied upon the strength and grace of God to bring glory to Him. Samson was a complex man who judged Israel for twenty years. He had his strengths and his weaknesses. He was stubborn and yet repentant. He could be vengeful and childish and later pensive and reflective. He was not only a man who created riddles but his life was a riddle.
In his last prayer we are given a glimpse into the heart of a man who knew God in a personal manner. Judges 16:28-30, “ Then Samson prayed to the Lord, “Sovereign Lord, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.” Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other, Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.”
In the above passage Samson employs three names for God. He appeals to Yahweh the covenant name of the self-existing God. (Exodus 3:14-15) He designates God as Adonai (Lord) and this is suggestive of the sovereignty of deity over man. Finally he calls God Elohim, which refers to the strength and power of God.
So, what is going on here in Samson’s final prayer? In the use of the three great names of God, Yahweh, Adonai and Elohim he brings into focus a God who is both personal and majestic. This is a God of strength and power for our times of need, but He is our covenant God who died on Calvary’s cross to set us free from the bondage to sin and its power over us.
This is the God who cradles us in His hand against the storms of life and yet can defeat the powers of evil with a man like Samson. And God could use Samson because Samson understood God, loved Him and longed for Him even through his weaknesses and rebellions. The wonder of the story of Samson was his final inward reflection that brought him to the place where he understood his own follies and what had brought him to the place where he was a blinded slave in a Philistine grain mill.
As his hair grew out so did his confidence and trust in God. Sometimes it takes adversity and suffering to understand who we really are and how weak our efforts seem in dealing with our problems. It is through those problems, however, that our trust in God grows because we have no one else or nowhere else to go.
As Christians we learn and grow closer to God through suffering and if we pay attention to what God is saying to us through those storms, like Samson, we can get to know the God of strength and of the covenant. We can put ourselves in His hands and rest assured all is well with our soul.
* Please remember to pray for the Christians who are suffering persecution for their faith in many countries around the world. There is a great evil settling on this earth and we must be vigilant in our prayers and stay close to Christ. Our hope is in Christ and he is faithful to his people. Please take the time to read about what is taking place in the world around us at http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ there is much more on the internet…