Samson, you crazy man, you! Brave, foolish, proud, vengeful, impulsive and immature, lonely and tragic.
He’s one of the great, but compromised heroes of the Bible, a complicated man who had so much but threw it all away.
For it wasn’t what Samson did that makes his story so intriguing, it’s what he didn’t do!
His life is a whole series of tough lessons and warnings that all men should learn from. So here they are, based on passages from the Bible’s book of Judges, chapters 13-16.
Samson’s first warning for men: you’re not as strong as you think you are.
Samson’s story teaches men that ‘strength’ is not all it seems to be. The sad irony for Samson was that even though he was outwardly strong, he was inwardly weak. Even the mighty Samson was no match for the formidable nagging of his lovers!
‘She wept before him the seven days that their feast lasted; and because she nagged him, on the seventh day he told her.’
‘Finally, after she had nagged him with her words day after day, and pestered him, he was tired to death.’ Judges 14:17, 16:16.
And it was these inner weaknesses that eventually lead him to a lose everything.
So as men, we need to re-learn what it means to be strong.
And some of our bad ideas about strength were picked up when we were younger. Guys, ever been told that ‘big boys don’t cry’? Of course, you were. Little boys learn quickly that showing too much weakness means being teased and even friendless. So they learn to ‘toughen up’ and get strong. They then take this into life, especially through their teenage years into adulthood. And by doing so men bury their problems until a crisis of some sort point brings them to their senses.
Ever wondered why men will rarely see a doctor until they absolutely have to? We ignore health problems to stay tough (or in denial). But men too often neglect their emotional and mental health even more. Few men admit to themselves, let alone others, that they do have personal challenges to work through.
So don’t try to be strong. True strength comes in acknowledging our fears, weaknesses, and limitations. And it takes a strong man to say when they feel weak.
Samson’s challenge for men: be self-aware
I believe Samson’s big problem was that he completely lacked self-awareness, so much so that he thought he didn’t have any weaknesses at all! There are people like that and these kinds of personalities have the most trouble (and tragedy) in life. With Samson, we can see his faults clearly on display and this lack of self-awareness.
Things like pride, “this time, when I do mischief to the Philistines, I will be without blame.” (Judges 15:3). Womanising, ‘Once Samson went to Gaza, where he saw a prostitute’ (Judges 16:1). And anger, ‘he attacked them viciously and slaughtered many of them.’ (Judges 15:8).
What’s more, for Samson he made the same mistakes more than once (a sure sign of lacking self-awareness) by getting involved with the wrong women. Both his first wife and Delilah came from enemy tribes committed to oppressing the Israelites. Not good for a man called to lead his own people from the same enemy!
So don’t get like Samson, be very self-aware and disciplined with your temptations and weaknesses. Remember too that the strength God gives to overcome your enemies (and weaknesses), comes from Him alone.
Samson’s challenge for men: take responsibility for your actions.
Samson never took responsibility for his actions. Early on it’s clear that he is his own man, even if not a very mature one.
But at no point (until the last moment in his life) did he take responsibility for his own mess. All too often he blamed others, “If you had not plowed with my heifer, you would not have found out my riddle.” (Judges 14: 18b) or choose to remain blind to his own faults, ‘So he told her his whole secret,’ (Judges 16:17).
It was obvious that his sexual appetite was getting him into serious trouble. He had a string of women, one after the other (a wife, a prostitute and then Delilah). And finally, it was with Delilah that his downfall came.
So we mustn’t fall into the same trap by ignoring how we’re acting. If we feel like we’re walking off track then we need to take steps to get back on the right path. That comes from recognising negative or sinful patterns of behaviour and really knowing our weaknesses and temptations.
If spending too much money is your problem, then take steps to manage it and avoid opportunities to pull out the credit card. If you know that you have a problem with anger, then understand what it is that triggers it and take positive steps to manage it. We will all have some primary weaknesses we’re prone to (and plenty of other ones that pop up too) so we must take responsibility for them, for ourselves and before God. Because unchecked (and indulged) our weaknesses and sin can reap terrible consequences left to ourselves and our own devices.
Samson’s second tough lesson for men is that growing means making sacrifices.
Samson was raised in the Nazirite tradition where he should have made personal sacrifices in his dedication to God. But for nearly all his life, he couldn’t keep to living his vows, to be set apart for God.
Yet, he was given formidable strength by God and no doubt a strong personality that could’ve made him an exceptional leader. But Samson was more focused on putting his own desires first.
For sure, at times he did fight back against the Philistines and he did lead Israel for a period, but their oppressors were still present and Samson was inevitably drawn back into their presence. Like a moth to a flame, he just couldn’t help himself.
Eventually, he fell for another Philistine woman. Why oh why was it, Delilah? He did it again, weakened by his desire for women. And it was to Delilah that he revealed the secret of his strength, the keeping of his hair.
So his leadership and integrity were not consistent with a man called to serve God. He couldn’t fully let go and fully serve HIm. He wasn’t prepared to make all the years of his life, a living sacrifice for others and for God. And that was a wasted opportunity.
But God has his way. He uses all situations for our good. Even our mistakes, if we remain and trust in Him (Romans 8:28). God was eventually able to use Samson, but there’s a twist to the story. It could only happen when Samson was truly vulnerable.
Samson’s third tough lesson for men: power is made perfect in weakness.
Paul writes in his letter to the Corinthians of God’s power, ‘my grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Cor 12:9).
Looking back through the New Testament to the Old, we can see a foreshadowing of Jesus in Samson.
Samson was captured, punished and tortured and had his eyes (the very thing that leads him away from God) gouged out. He was almost completely powerless. It was only having reached the lowest point in his life that he was able to call upon the power of God.
‘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”’. Judges 16:28.
By using all his God-given strength, Samson was able to push apart the pillars of the Philistine temple and cause its destruction, repaying the unjust acts of the Philistine rulers and people.
But Samson had to make the ultimate sacrifice, his life.‘Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived’. (Judges 16:30).
He could find his power in a place of weakness and humility. It was then that he remembered who he truly was, a man called to set his people free. He found the power of God, in his moment of biggest vulnerability and weakness.
And that’s what every man should remember. We may have our gifts, our ‘superpowers’ that give us cause for pride. We may have our various trophies and achievements. But without the power of God and his calling on our lives, all these things count as nothing.
What makes a true hero?
We should be mindful of the life of Samson because it could’ve been so much more. Especially as many of the temptations that faced him are common to all men. But in the end, Samson’s life found fulfilment, but at a cost to himself. And that was what made it finally heroic. Could we do the same?
Jeremy – Not Only Sundays (About Us).
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© Not Only Sundays, August 2017.
Scripture quoted from the NIV translation.
Images sourced on www.pixabay.com image under a creative commons licence CC.