If you know anyone whose life goal is to become a gossip columnist, I have a suggestion for you. Tell them about the Bible book of Judges. In fact, you can specifically mention chapters 13 – 16. It’s a textbook case. It has all the ingredients of a run-away bestseller. It begins with hope and promise and a prospective hero. It might have begun, “Once upon a time,” and ended, “And they all lived happily ever after.” Classic.
Samson takes early center stage in this drama. Born into the home of devout parents, blessed by God from birth, his long hair is a testament to his unique destiny. Samson is commissioned by God to deliver Israel from her enemies. He will be known as the strongest man who ever lived, and perhaps the weakest. Some of the most epochal promises God makes to anyone, he makes to Samson, yet few have created a trail of more remarkable calamities.
Very early one morning, after he had spent the night in a bed he should not have been in, he arises and in self-disgust seeks to leave the city. But the Philistines have desired to keep him in confinement and have securely locked the huge, barred gate. But Samson’s biceps have outpaced his morals and he twists the gate off its hinges and carries it – some estimate a thousand pounds – 18 miles up a hill. He steals their gate but he leaves his honor behind.
For nearly two decades Samson serves as a “leader” in Israel. For nearly two decades God seeks to redirect him to the Kingdom purpose for which he was born. But every time God sends a bus, Samson misses it. It’s as if he is determined to ignore God’s purpose for his life.
And then there is the infamous Delilah chapter. She whines and nags until he discloses the secret of his strength, the Philistines pounce, gouge out both of his eyes and haul him off to the prison where he spends his days walking in a circle, pushing the bar of a grind stone to provide food for his captors. Perhaps that time of darkness moved him toward the light – and repentance.
To celebrate their victory the Philistines throw a huge party for Dagon – their fish god. They send for Samson so they can taunt him and his God. Samson pushes apart the two central pillars of Dagon’s temple, it collapses and 3,000 revelers die. So this life, begun with so much promise ends in a suicide. Tragic story.
Except that 1,100 years later Samson’s picture shows up on God’s wall of fame. Now explain that to me. In Hebrews 11:32 Samson’s name shows up beside Gideon, and David, among the heroes and heroines of faith. That’s an amazing roster, really. Rahab, whom we know as a harlot is there, too. There’s a reason. We call it grace. Amazing. Beyond understanding. When God completes that list we’ll all be surprised at who’s there. By grace, you’ll be there. By grace, I’ll be there. Even though we, too, missed a lot of busses.
By Don Jacobsen