The Old Testament character Samson appears in Hebrews 11, the great hall of faith chapter. He scarcely seems qualified as a candidate for this honor. Please comment.
Your question reminds me of a Sunday School teacher I once heard who, criticizing some Christian leaders he disagreed with ideologically, commented that he couldn’t understand how God could ever use some people. His comment has never left me, and I have come to see a great fallacy in the statement and to see its implications about someone who would make such a comment. But if we’re really honest, we must wonder how God could use anyone, especially us.
Samson had a great number of flaws, a fact that makes us wonder if he was a person of faith. This fact also drives us to look beyond this controversial, seemingly reckless individual.
First, we are forced to focus upon God, Who is the only One Who can truly know the human heart. He knows what He is doing and why. The Bible tells us that God had His hand on Samson from before his birth; his birth was even announced by a Heavenly Messenger, the Angel of the Lord (Judges 13:3–5)! This announcement reminds us of when the angel Gabriel appeared to the expectant mothers of John the Baptist and Christ. God chose Samson as His instrument to defeat Israel’s enemies, the Philistines. In large measure, Samson blew it, but God still appointed him for a job to do (though if the job got done even partially, it certainly happened in a very strange way).
Second, God wants us to look at Him regarding what He can do. People have called Samson the strongest man who ever lived. But he actually was the weakest. Nevertheless, when the Spirit of God (Who is mentioned several times in this account) worked in and through Samson, people marveled. They should have turned their eyes to God after witnessing such strength in such a weak, spineless person.
Samson lost his opportunity to focus upon the Lord. He had been appointed a Nazarite, a special “called-out” person who was to find his joy totally in the Lord rather than in strong drink or in relatives and loved ones. He was God’s man, and whatever success he did have or could have had came from God. In the end we find Samson crying out to God for strength to accomplish the final and greatest feat against the enemy God wanted him to destroy: “O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray! Strengthen me, I pray, just this once, 0 God, that I may with one blow take vengeance on the Philistines“ (Judges 16:28). It is sad that his life as a whole wasn’t in tune with God and that he waited until his two eyes had been plucked out before making such an affirmation.
Third, we are to learn to search the Scriptures to find clues for answers. For example, while we tend to focus on Samson’s treacherous or foolish acts, the Bible says that Samson judged Israel for twenty years (Judges 15:20). During this time no sinful activities reportedly took place. Could it be that much of Samson’s life was pleasing to God and that, therefore, he was placed in Hebrews 11 in spite of his big recorded failures? Or, if not, we need to also consider why David and others are mentioned in Hebrews 11, though they committed grievous sins. From our perspective no one deserved to be included in the hail of faith chapter.
Hebrews 11:33 and 34 say in connection with Samson and several others mentioned in verse 32, “Who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions.“ The phrase “worked righteousness” can refer not to personal virtues but to the power those people exerted. It is a reminder that those in authority today, including ungodly leaders, are ordained of God even though we (and God Himself) might not approve of what they do. The phrase “stopped the mouths of lions” draws our attention to Daniel, but we must not forget that this feat was also true of Samson (Judges 14:5, 6). God could have seen the act as a demonstration of faith.
It is because of God and His grace that we even have such a chapter as Hebrews 11 in Scripture. So if we see people instead of God in that portion of His Word, we miss the point, even though the example of faithful believers can also be a blessing to us.
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