Summary: A sermon on the story of Samson.
"Father, I have a question. It’s about the Bible. Why is Samson such a highly praised figure in the Bible? I mean, he certainly wasn’t an image of virtue, and he didn’t deal well with his own passions. Why is he even in there?"
"Well," I said, " what is your impression of Samson?"
"Um, he’s a party-hearty spoiled frat boy," came the honest answer. "He’s just a pig!"
This from a mother of children who is trying to impart some love and knowledge of God and the Bible. What do you say to justify this man, the epitome of everything you are trying to teach your children not to do? What do you tell your children about Samson that will make any sense at all?
What about this guy? Samson is an interesting character, and he has some special characteristics that will help us see precisely why he is so very important in the Biblical narrative.
When most people think of Samson, they think "unrestrained." That is, unrestrained in both his strength and his passions, and particularly weak in his inability to resist destructive women. I actually have friends like this. They fall for the most psychotic, destructive women they can meet, and are not attracted to any others. Even the names "Samson and Delilah" are a parable almost by themselves. He is the ultimate hot tempered spoiled brat with a short fuse. He likes Philistine women, and this is his downfall. But there is more here than meets the eye.
Samson’s birth. First of all, Samson’s birth is foretold by an angel. His mother is barren - she can’t have children. Ah, but there is more. The angel tells Samson’s parents that this child will be special, consecrated to God from his birth. He must even watch what he eats. He is not permitted to even let wine touch his lips (wine was a principle component of early Canaanite idol worship ceremonies- hence its prohibition). He will be a nazarite - a specially chosen man who will live a particular way.
The name Samson is even fun to say. It has a great meaning; in Hebrew -"like the sun." His long hair would then represent the rays of glory coming from the sun. That glory must never be shorn. One might say that Samson will be strong only as long as he radiates this glory.
There are three things which Samson actually did which have special meaning, and tell us a great deal about the "meaning" of Samson in the Scriptures.
Samson kills a Lion with his bare hands. First of all, we know that, with his bare hands, he kills a lion. Have ever even tried to hold a cat that didn’t want to be held? Can you imagine what a terror it would be to stand before such a beast with nothing but your hands? Yet Samson escapes without a scratch, or at least nothing worth noting by the Biblical writer. He doesn’t even require a single stitch. It must have been a quick, heavily mismatched fight. More than that, we see that after Samson kills the lion, he passes by it again later, and there is a beehive and honey in the carcass.
Samson tears the City Gates from their hinges, and carries them off to the top of a hill. When the Philistines believe, at one point in the narrative, that they have Samson within their city, they close and lock the enormous gates, barring his exit. In the morning, they will search him out and capture him. So when our hero, in the middle of the dark night, finds the gates closed, barred and locked what does he do? He tears the gates from their hinges, and, just to add insult to injury, carries them on his back to the top of a nearby hill so everyone can see them. There can be no doubt who did it. Samson cannot be held prisoner in this place, and neither can anyone else once he leaves.
Sacrificial Death. In the final scene, so to speak, we find Samson shorn of his hair (and his strength and glory), weak, blinded, and put on display for the ridicule of God’s enemies, in their own temple. The once mighty Samson is now reduced to doing the work of a beast. Unlike many of the illustrations we sometimes see, the pillars in Philistine temples were not stone, but huge cedar pillars - hard, fragrant, and incorruptible. He prays to God one last time, puts his hands on the two pillars which hold up the entire edifice, and in one last mighty effort, sacrifices himself to destroy his enemies.
Here is a man,
whose miraculous birth was foretold by an angel.
His name means "like the sun."
He was a nazarite, and consecrated to God’s service from his birth.