Summary: Samson had all the resources to be a great hero, except for one thing, a powerful lust. What makes this man a candidate for the hall of fame in Hebrews 11:32? What makes us potential heroes for God?
WHEN HEROES FAIL US
Are there any heroes left? Do you have anyone in your life you would consider a hero? Are there men or women who you look up to?
Our children and teenagers look up to a variety of stars as models to follow. Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers have captured the younger hearts. Others look to professional sports for their heroes and with good reason. When a young person achieves a goal at a young age it amazes us, be it the popular attention of Hannah Montana or the exploits of Sidney Crosby. They have excelled beyond what their age expects.
Eventually heroes will fail us. Their claims of purity are washed away by the tabloids exploiting their broken vows. Athletes are revealed as steroid users and running gambling rings. Peel away the veneer of any hero and you will see things that are less than admirable.
My silver screen hero has always been John Wayne. He was a larger than life kind of person. When he entered a room he commanded the attention of everyone present. Because of him my heroes have always been cowboys.
But did you know that his real name was Marion Robert Morrison? Marion? What kind of a macho name is that? And did you know that he hated horses? What kind of cowboy hates horses? He had a stunt double do most of his riding. It was thought that John Wayne won World War 2 all by himself, at least if you watched “Sands of Iwo Jima” or “the Fighting Sea-Bees.” Did you know he refused to enlist so he wouldn’t ruin his career? Wayne was a great pretender.
Heroes will inevitably fail us. But that’s okay for a number of reasons. One is that they are human and humans fail. Second, it puts the responsibility for right living back on us and asks “what will you do with this situation?” And ultimately it asks us what it takes to be a hero of the faith.
Let’s look at the failings of one hero, Samson, and learn together what God wants of his heroes.
1. From Great Potential to Great Pretending
Samson was born with the potential to be absolutely great. We saw in Judges 13 how his barren mother was promised a child by none other than the Angel of the LORD. Samson was to be a Nazirite, a man set apart from others for the special purpose of delivering his people.
Samson’s biography is taken up in Judges 14 when he is around twenty years old. His childhood is not revealed to us and so we begin to know him as an impetuous young man.
The writer of Judges reveals a lot about Samson in very subtle tones. Five times the expression “went down” is used in this chapter. “Samson went down to Timnah and saw there a young Philistine woman” (v. 1). There is more than geography involved here; this is more telling than a man descending from an elevated town to a town in the valley. What the writer wants us to understand is that Samson was going down in a moral sense. He went to a Philistine town, in itself a clue, and began a spiritual descent into sin. We know this because he went down to the Philistines, political and spiritual enemies of Israel, not to war on them, but to visit.
Here we see our second subtle clue into Samson’s personality. Why was he visiting with Philistines? Samson had what I call “Philistine envy.” Philistines were technologically more advanced than the Israelites. Their civilization was more established and therefore more attractive. Philistine women also seemed to be more attractive, at least to Samson. He came back from Timnah and said to his parents, “I have seen a Philistine woman in Timnah; now get her for me as my wife” (v. 2).
Samson’s parents try to talk him out of this obsession. He has only seen this woman and thinks he loves her. His lust is based only on what he has seen since he has not talked to her. And worst of all, she’s a Philistine. Her godlessness will surely drag him down in his faith. Samson ignores his parents’ warning and persists, “Get her for me. She’s the right one for me” (v. 3). So under Philistine envy we find out two more things: Samson does not listen to Godly counsel; and he is driven by what he sees and lusts for.
Thirdly, our story offers a final subtle clue into Samson’s personality. He is a Nazirite, but he doesn’t take this vow seriously. A Nazirite was a person set apart for God and according to Numbers 6 was not to touch a dead body, was not to drink alcohol, and was not to cut his hair. These commitments were symbols of where the heart was at.