Samson & Jesus
(excerpt from the sermon)
Sermon Series: Origins
The similarities between Samson and Jesus are amazing, but most of us have never gone back and read the original, the first part of the story before he gets to the end of his life.
Judges 15:9-20 says,
“The Philistines went up and camped in Judah, spreading out near Lehi. The people of Judah asked, ‘Why have you come to fight us?’ ‘We have come to take Samson prisoner,’ they answered, ‘to do to him as he did to us.’ Then three thousand men from Judah went down to the cave in the Rock of Etam and said to Samson, ‘Don't you realize that the Philistines are rulers over us? What have you done to us?’ Samson answered, ‘I merely did to them what they did to me.’ They said to him, ‘We've come to tie you up and hand you over to the Philistines.’ Samson said, ‘Swear to me that you won't kill me yourselves.’ ‘Agreed,’ they answered. ‘We will only tie you up and hand you over to them. We will not kill you.’ So, they bound him with two new ropes and led him up from the rock. As he approached Lehi, the Philistines came toward him, shouting. The Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him. The ropes on his arms became like charred flax, and the bindings dropped from his hands. Finding a fresh jawbone of a donkey, he grabbed it and struck down a thousand men. Then Samson said, ‘With a donkey's jawbone, I have made donkeys of them. With a donkey's jawbone I have killed a thousand men.’ When he finished speaking, he threw away the jawbone; and the place was called Ramath Lehi. Because he was very thirsty, he cried out to the Lord. ‘You have given your servant this great victory. Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?’ Then God opened up the hollow place in Lehi, and water came out of it. When Samson drank, his strength returned, and he revived. So, the spring was called En Hakkore, and it is still there in Lehi. Samson led Israel for twenty years in the days of the Philistines.”
It is important that we understand how our generation is thinking, because we want to speak the gospel in a way that's relevant to people where they can grapple with it. Because the gospel's beautiful. Once you get it, you want to dance. You want to shout. A man can't come up with this stuff, you know, this is only God.
I don't know if you know this, but Mother Teresa and Princess Diana died on the same day. And critics asked the question, why is there so much more grief over a celebrity than a hero? Because there was a lot more outpouring of emotion for Diana than Mother Teresa. And they answered their own question by saying, because it proves the shallowness of our culture. Other critics said yeah, but we really can't relate to Mother Teresa. She didn't care how she looked. She obviously wasn't concerned with her hair or accessories. She didn't talk about comfort, happiness, fulfillment. She never married. We can't relate to that. Diana cared about all those things. We can relate to her. Mother Teresa was strong. She had this sense of character and integrity and duty and righteousness. Diana was flawed, superficial, conniving, and most importantly, transparent. Two public figures, two heroes differently defined. One is righteous and strong with impeccable, almost incorrigible character. And the other is weak and vulnerable.
In essence, the social theorists tell us this is the difference between hero worship and hero deconstructionism. I remember when the movie Superman, the first one, came out with Christopher Reeves. Christopher Reeves always told the truth. He was calm under pressure, self-sacrificing, and was willing to risk his own life for the sake of all humanity. He was a type of savior, he was a hero. But then we come to the present. We don't have hero worship anymore. If you notice, our heroes today are deconstructed. This is the postmodern world.
We now have ‘hero suspicion.’ We're suspicious of anybody who really looks that good. They must be hypocritical. Nobody's that good. But the real reason we don't like the heroes of the past is that they make us feel bad about ourselves. Nobody can measure up and live up to that. They crush us. We feel insecure when we meet somebody with great character and integrity. We need our safe space. Social critics go on to tell us that in our world today, we much prefer celebrities over heroes because celebrities are flawed like us. They go on talk shows and talk about how they have the feeling to commit suicide or they're ashamed of their body or they're insecure or they lack meaning or purpose in life. Now those are people we can relate to.
Warren Truitt, a social critic, writes about American culture saying,
“We no longer look for salvation in unblemished heroes. We want people who are complex, dependent, and changeable. Most modern psychologists see the individual as more changeable than stable. We don't want one dominant authority to tell us what to do. We don't want people who crush us. We don't want someone who does their duty. We want authenticity. We don't want authority.”
Now, here's what they say about modern culture. Today we seem to be more impressed with an unrighteous leader who confesses and is transparent about their failures than we are with somebody who actually lives a pretty good, righteous life. Do you understand the difference? We're more impressed with somebody who blows it all the time and is at least honest about it than with somebody who actually sucks it up and lives a pretty good life of duty and righteousness, even though they're not perfect.
Transparency's good, but it's not the same thing as repentance.
When you come to the Bible, you don't find hero worship, but neither do you find hero deconstructionism because the truth is we can't bear either one. The beauty of the Bible is that when you look at the Old Testament, the Bible doesn't write those stories to tell you: Hey, you need to be like Abraham. You need to be like Jacob, Isaac, Samson. The Bible doesn't want us to be like those guys. They're just as flawed as we are. There's no hero worship. But neither does the Bible give us hero deconstructionism. It doesn't say that virtue doesn't matter. It doesn't tell us: it doesn't matter if you strive to be holy or not, just be honest.
What does the Bible give us then? Many see Samson as an old fashioned hero, a superman with hair for kryptonite. But as you look at Samson, he's anything but a virtuous hero. He's a sex maniac. That's Samson. He loves his women. He jokes after he kills people, hundreds and hundreds of them. He moves from chasing women and drinking, to joking at the destruction of humanity. Is this hero worship? Is the Bible telling you this to be like Samson? No. Is it hero deconstructionism? It doesn't matter if you pursue purity. No way. What does the Bible give us then? Hero vision.
I am never more passionate and excited when I get to preach the gospel. And Samson helps us do that perhaps more than any other character in the Old Testament, probably other than Joseph. Because here's what we know about Samson. He is very strong but, not only is he strong, he's very agile.
Everything you read about Samson not only tells you of his strength. So make no mistake, if you're going to understand what the Bible is trying to communicate to us about Samson, you also have to understand that he is deeply flawed. He is deeply weak – morally. Deeply weak spiritually. In fact, let me show you how bad it is.
In Judges 15:11 it says,
“Then three thousand men from Judah went down to the cave in the rock of Etam and said to Samson, ‘Don't you realize that Philistines are rulers over us? What have you done to us?’ He answered, ‘I merely did to them what they did to me.’”
You know what Samson's answer is? His answer to why he is killing them is: they started it. In verse 10, that's exactly how the Philistines responded – we're going to do to him, what he did to us. Why are you slaying Samson? He started it. Samson, why are you fighting the Philistines? They started it, and I'm going to finish it.
This is an extremely dangerous time in the moment of Israel. The early oppressors who militarily conquered Israel (the Ammonites, the Midianites, the Moabites) were very cruel to the Israelites, but the Philistines weren't. They weren't cruel. As a result, Israel comes to Samson and says, look, don't rock the boat here. We don't have our freedom but, you know, we have good jobs. We have just enough to eat. So why are you being an antagonist? They don't want Samson to deliver them. They don't want Samson to be the judge. They don't want Samson to be their champion. In their minds, they don't need a champion. What we find happening in the book of judges is that the Philistines are absorbing the Israelites, slowly, into their culture so as to destroy the people of Israel. Which would destroy the line of David, which would destroy the ability of the coming Messiah.
There are two ways to destroy a people. One way is genocide, by just physical annihilation. But there's another way you can destroy them – ethnocide. Ethnocide is to kill the culture of the people without killing the people. You kill everything about their culture so that over time there's no distinction and they blend in.
Israel was not only allowing the Philistines but was embracing the Philistine culture. They thought nothing was at stake, but everything was at stake. God knew everything was at stake. His people were about to be annihilated. So He sends a bozo. He sends Samson to create conflict. And Samson is a judge or a deliverer.
What does Samson do? Well, he marries a Philistine woman. At the wedding he tells a riddle because he hates the Philistines and he wants to mock them. He bets them that they can't solve his riddle. They cheat and trick Samson and beat him at his own game. Samson gets mad, so he just kills a bunch of them. They get mad at him. So Samson's father-in-law won't let him see his wife. Samson gets mad at him. So he burns all his fields. The father-in-law allows the Philistines to kill her. So his wife is now dead. In response to that, Samson kills hundreds and hundreds more of them. And this is where we find ourselves in Judges 15. Samson is just doing to them what they have done to him. Very mature.
But verse 20 says,
“Samson led Israel for twenty years in the days of the Philistines.”
So in spite of his moral weaknesses, in spite of his lack of spiritual wisdom, God uses Samson to deliver Israel. Now why is that important?
Judges were not judiciary. They were deliverers, military leaders that God sent at the right time, in the right place, when Israel was on the brink of destruction. So here we are in spite of Samson's stupidity, his ego, his wrong motives, his vindictiveness, and his immaturity, God uses Samson. Now how does He do it?
Samson was turned over to his enemies by his own people.
He allows them to tie him up and bind him. He could have called on his own power and prevented his capture, but Israel did not want to get away from their captors. Samson knew it. He allowed the enemy to bind him so that he could save them. Sound familiar? Samson may be immoral, but he's no military fool.
You know what Samson is thinking? He's thinking: Trojan horse. He's thinking, if I let them bind me, then more and more Philistines will incautiously surround me. They'll think I'm harmless and there'll be hundreds and hundreds more coming around me. That's when I can kill them all. That's when I can defeat the ultimate enemy. So his own people hand him over to be destroyed. We don't want you to be our judge. You're not our king. Because they try to avoid Samson’s salvation, they actually bring it about. His destruction means their salvation. Does this sound familiar?
Jesus is rejected and betrayed by His own. He is turned over to His enemies by His own people. Jesus, on the cross, is dying of thirst. He breathes His last breath, but the Father brings Him back from the dead. What I'm trying to show you is that the gospel is not something that God thought of at the last moment.
It's something that He continues to model through origins again and again.
People in general do not want saviors because if you want a savior, it means you think you need saving. And people don't want that. But the story of Samson tells us not only that God delivers through rejection of the deliverer, but also that God only needs one champion.
Jesus comes and He lives the life you're supposed to live. The Bible says He was tempted in all ways and yet He did not sin. Jesus goes through His entire life and never succumbs, never gives in. And the Bible says that because He did that, God looks at His life, takes what He did, and accrues it to your account so that when God sees you, He calls you a saint. That's the gospel.
God looks at the death on the cross and deems that sacrifice worthy to forgive you of any sin that you might commit – past, present, future. When you truly get those two things, you're going to dance, maybe not on the outside, but you're going to be dancing on the inside. Paul said God made Him who had no sin to be sin. So that in Him, we might become the righteousness of God. That means you and I are the righteousness of God. We are the trophies of God. And when the evil one comes into your life and tells you that you're worthless because of what you did last night and that you might as well give up, if you really got the gospel, I hate to use an old cliche, but when the devil reminds you of your past, you remind him of his future.
The point of Samson is that God uses flawed people. If you say, “God, use me because I'm good,” that's hero worship. If you say, “God, use me, even though I have no intention whatsoever of obeying You or Your word,” that's hero deconstructionism. But if you say, “God, I'm not virtuous. I wish I was and I'm trying, but is there any way you can use me anyway?” then God says, “You bet your life I can. You're the one I'm looking for.”
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