Tag Archives: Judges 15

Who I Don’t Want to Be

Who I Don't Want to Be (CaD Jud 15) Wayfarer

Samson said to them, “Since you’ve acted like this, I swear that I won’t stop until I get my revenge on you.”
Judges 15:7 (NIV)

Along my life journey, I have known certain individuals who became antithetical life examples for me. In other words, they were individuals whom I regarded as persons I never wanted to be like. It might have been their actions, their attitudes, or the way they treated others. Looking back, I’m grateful for them. I believe there have been waypoints on life’s journey where I was more motivated by who I didn’t want to be as much as I was who I did want to be. God has used both motivations in my story.

This explains the love-hate relationship I’ve always had with the person of Samson. The boy-child in me loves the stories of legendary heroes and superheroes and their save-the-day heroics. Samson’s legendary birth, size, and strength, along with his legendary feats, certainly fit into that category.

The problem is that Samson is a jerk. He’s selfish, impetuous, shallow, reactive, vengeful, and driven by his base appetites. He also makes continuously foolish choices.

It took me a long time to realize that this was the very point God is trying to make in Samson’s story.

Samson’s story is the story of the Hebrew people themselves.

Samson is divinely birthed and set apart from the beginning, just as the Hebrews were going all the way back to God’s promise to Abraham.

Samson was called by God to live differently than everyone else by taking a life-long Nazarite vow never to drink and never to cut his hair, just as the Hebrews were called by God to live differently than all the other people groups around them by keeping His law and commandments.

Samson lustfully desired and chased after Philistine women rather than women from his own tribes, just as the Hebrews lustfully chased after other gods rather than remaining faithful to God.

Samson’s impetuousness and foolish choices perpetually lead to violent and chaotic ends, just as the Hebrews’ foolish alliances and relationships with other nations lead to similar ends.

Samson’s story is the story of the Hebrew people. Samson is an antithetical example. He was special from the beginning. He is God’s man. He is divinely gifted. He has a calling and a purpose. Yet, all he does is act foolishly, get himself into trouble, and live selfishly.

And God continues to bless Samson, give him strength, deliver him, and miraculously provide for him.

“Remind you of anyone?” God is asking His people through the person of Samson.

He’s also asking me the same question as I read the story.

Looking back on my own life, my own story, how many times has God blessed me in ways I never deserved? How many times have I acted selfishly, impetuously, and foolishly? How many times have I allowed my own tragic flaws to get me into trouble even though I know I’m making the same mistake I’ve made before and I know where it leads? How many times have I been unfaithful to what God asks of me, only to have God remain steadfastly faithful to me?

I don’t want to be a Samson!

“Good,” God’s spirit whispers. “I don’t want that either. Remember that today as you live, speak, think, and make decisions. Don’t be a Samson.”

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Samson’s Ends and Means

Samson said to them, “This time, when I do mischief to the Philistines, I will be without blame.”
Judges 15:3 (NRSV)

So… I get that Samson was an ancient John Rambo with his long hair and lethal jawbone. But, I couldn’t help noticing this morning the pattern of events that lead to his most famous homicidal slaughter…

  • Samson chooses to betroth a Philistine girl, then threatens to impoverish and humiliate his fiance’s with a silly riddle which causes…
  • The Philistines to threaten the fiance with bodily harm if she doesn’t worm the answer out of Samson which causes…
  • Samson to go on a homicidal rampage, killing his bride’s own people and rejecting her which causes…
  • Samson’s father to give his betrothed to the best man as a wife, which causes…
  • Samson to take his anger out on the Philistines (not his father, or best man) by torching their fields which would take food away from their families and ruin their livelihood, which causes…
  • The Philistines to burn Samson’s betrothed and her father alive, which causes…
  • Samson to swear revenge on the Philistines for burning the bride that he rejected and left standing at the altar, which causes…
  • The Philistines to muster an army and march on Judah, which causes…
  • The men of Judah to hand him over to the Philistines, which causes…
  • Samson to go off on an even bigger homicidal rage with a jawbone.

We often hold Samson up to our children as a hero for his strength and violent victory. The story is actually a bit more messy than that. In fact, I find it quite tragic. The truth is that Samson started and exacerbated the chain of events that led to unnecessary human carnage, and the ends do not justify the means.

This morning I am reminded that God uses people despite their foolishness, but I don’t believe that this excuses the foolishness of those who God uses.

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Chapter-a-Day Judges 15

Sibling squabble. Three companies of men from Judah went down to the cave at Etam Rock and said to Samson, "Don't you realize that the Philistines already bully and lord it over us? So what's going on with you, making things even worse?" He said, "It was tit for tat. I only did to them what they did to me." Judges 15:11 (MSG)

As a child, there were plenty of conflicts between me and my siblings. My sister was my closest sibling and, therefore, the one with whom I fought most of the time. We would cycle into periods of conflict when all we did was fight with each other. There was always a past hurt or misdeed she or I could point to justify our current attack. "She did that to me," I would argue, "so I don't feel the least bit guilty about doing this to her." And so, the pattern of perpetual conflict continued. Fortunately, our sibling grudges faded with time and maturity.

Nevertheless, I have seen the same patterns of conflict between married couples, friends, neighbors, and nations. There is no end to conflict when each party perpetuates and justifies it by pointing to a host of past wrongs. We see the same cycle at work in Samson's continuous acts of violence and retaliation.

Today, I'm thinking about conflicts in my own life and contemplating the ways I may be contributing its' ongoing cycle. The holidays are approaching and I'm mindful that God chose not to hold my sins against me, but to sacrificially reconcile me to himself. I think it's my job to be engaged in the act of sacrifice and reconciliation rather than perpetuating conflict.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and KenWilcox