I’ve just finished reading the story of Samson in Judges, if you haven’t read it, it is a good read and it really highlights the grace of God and the fact that leaders (spiritual or otherwise) get their positions not by their skills or any other thing they have but by the grace of God.
Here are some of the things that stand out to me about Samson
Samson appears to have been spoilt as a child – at least that is how I read Judges 14:1-2. He sees a woman, so he goes and tells his father to get her as a wife. Get that – he doesn’t consult, nor does he ask his father – he simply tells him
“I saw one of the daughters of the Philistines at Timnah. Now get her for me as my wife.”
His parents put up a half hearted protest, but this pattern seems to be well established and he simply ends the discussion by stating "she is the one for me" (verse 3).
This of course is the beginning of a series of events that simply spiral from Samson being an young and unknown Israelite to a significant enemy of the Philistines.
The rivalry between Samson and the Philistines begins with a riddle which was probably intended to give a boost to Samson’s ego and earn him a little wealth (clothing is considered wealth throughout the Bible – 30 changes of clothing is significant wealth). It is probable that the value of the wager was set too high, meaning that to lose was a difficult prospect for the Philistines to consider, which leads to the cheating that they engaged in
This cheating of course didn’t go over too well as the riddle was completely unknown and without Samson directly spilling the beans, this was not even something that could be guessed.
When the told him the correct answer, Samson was furious and went and killed 30 Philistines and took the required clothes from them (Judges 14:19).
Next he went back to his wife a few months later to find that she has remarried -which is again not welcome news. Samson sets fire to their crops in revenge. When the Philistines find out why he did it, rather than taking it out on him, they burn his father-in-law and wife to death.
This of course only serves to further enrage Samson who then slaughters them. The Philistines cant have random Israelites attacking them like this, so they gather an army and go up against Judah. Judah isn’t interested in a fight with the philistines, so they send 3000 (!) men to bring Samson bound back to the Philistine army.
When Samson arrives, he breaks the ropes and then uses the Jawbone of a donkey as a weapon and kills 1000 (!) of the philistine soldiers who have come up to capture him. With that the Philistines seem to decide not to chase Samson for a while and for quite some time there seems to be some peace. However, when opportunity presents itself, they can’t help but to make an attempt on his life again.
In all of this Samson is not serving Israel but is generally just serving his own vendetta and in the process he is helping Israel too. However the dispute between Samson and the Philistines is for Samson a very personal vendetta, and it is questionable how much loyalty he has to Israel or anyone other than himself.
In Judges 16 we read about the repetition of the only successful strategy the Philistines have found to work with Samson – women. With this strategy he is worn down and ultimately destroyed. He is consequentially imprisoned and put to forced labour where his great strength would be useful – doing the work that would normally be assigned to an ox – grinding at the mill in the prison (Judges 16:21).
His finale comes when he is brought out as sport for a party. There he takes his last vengence on his enemies and kills 3000 of them in one instance by pushing the pillars holding the roof to give way, bringing the roof down on the party goers, and killing them and himself.
Childrens books focus on the physical power of Samson, which was obviously significant, and while this is certainly a stand out feature of Samsons story, it is not the only one.
The self centered cycle of destruction that Samson brought upon the Philistines was all planned by the Lord – in other words, in spite of his short comings – his adultery, lack of loyalty to his people and his self centeredness, the Lord used Samson to deliver Israel from the power of the Philistines.
The great lesson in this for me (and presumably you) is that even though we all have failings we are not necessarily discredited from some sort of useful service to the Lord as a result of these failings. Samson had great failings and was used by God anyway. However, this is not to say that anyone is qualified for any service for the Lord – scripture is clear that Elders and Deacons must meet certain criteria, however, just because you don’t meet those criteria, does not disqualify you for some other work.
Indeed, to take this further, it is possible for the Lord to use unbelievers to fulfill his purposes – Pilate would be a good example of this.
Samson was a leader in Israel, however, his leadership was not due to his chivalry or his wisdom or his charisma, as he probably had none of these qualities, rather he was a man who was raised up by the Lord for a particular task at a particular time.
With this in mind the other big challenge for us in this is to be content with the position the Lord has put us in regardless of how great or humble it may be. If you have the highest intelligence or wisdom or greatest speaking ability of any person in the world and the Lord chooses to put you on the shelf or give you a humble role, He is in His rights to do that. He doesn’t need you, but He will use you if He chooses (by His grace) to do so. In the meantime, do the things He gives you with all your might as working for the Lord and not for men (Col 3:23), and be content with your lot – as this is the lot the Lord has assigned to you for reasons that he may or may not reveal to you.
Understanding this gives great freedom. We don’t have to promote ourselves. If the Lord wants to use us to lead, he will make it happen, if he doesn’t call you to leadership, feel free to explore other opportunities that the Lord puts in front of you.
You are free – only use your freedom to serve one another through love (Gal 5:13).