In this episode we take a look at one of the most surprising characters in The Hall of Faith. We explore what makes Samson worthy of The Hall of Faith and why many have such a difficult time with it. We often struggle to find the right perspective about ourselves and our relationship with God. Yet, we are called to try, to continue to make our choices, and do our best to exercise the power of our faith.
Samson—A Bible Story
I’m going to start with a children’s sermon. I’m going to read this children’s Bible storybook. This book was one of our kids’ two favorite Bible storybooks. One of the things we did right as parents was we read to them a lot. Every night we would read, and we would always end with a Bible story. This is about Samson.
Kids, did you know that the Bible has Avengers in it? And this guy is just like The Incredible Hulk! Grrr! He’s so big and powerful! It’s amazing! He doesn’t turn green; but God’s Spirit comes on him, and he can do amazing, strong things. And he was avenging his nation, Israel, against the Philistines who were oppressing them, just like in the movies; but for real.
So let’s read this book together, ready?
Samson had a secret. He knew he was to be a Nazarite, God’s servant to set his people free.
He traveled down to Timnah, and near a vineyard there, a lion strong attacked him. Its roaring filled the air.
No spear or sword had Samson. No club was to be found. He tore apart the lion and threw it to the ground.
He caught 300 foxes, tied torches to their tails. They ran through fields and orchards, left fire to mark their trails.
Philistine men held Samson with new ropes tightly right bound. God’s Spirit came upon him. The ropes fell to the ground.
The jaw bone of a donkey he found nearby. Then with this his only weapon, he killed a thousand men.
His enemies were waiting at Gaza by the gate. They planned to capture Samson. Their hearts were filled with hate.
But Samson left at midnight. He left without a sound. And as he passed the gate posts, he tore them from the ground.
He put them on his shoulders and took them miles away; and left them on a hilltop before the light of day.
Now Samson loved a woman. Delilah was her name. And to her home one evening, Philistine rulers came.
“We’ll give you bags of silver,” they whispered in the night, “If you will learn the secret of Samson’s power and might.”
When Samson came to see her, she said, “Please tell me true how you can kill your enemies without them hurting you?”
“If they use rope,” he told her, “A new rope it must be, and bind my hands up tightly, I cannot break them free.”
She bound him. Then she shouted, “Philistine men are here! He snapped the ropes off quickly. The men ran off in fear.
She said, “You say you love me, yet you mock me with your lies. Now tell me your great secret, dear Samson, strong and wise.” (And then she batted her eyelashes.)
Day after day she teased him until one day he said, “At no time has a razor been used upon my head.
“It was my Lord’s commandment my hair and beard should grow. And if I used a razor, my strength would surely go.”
One night as mighty Samson lay sleeping on the bed, Delilah called a barber who quickly shaved his head.
She cried, “The men are on you!” When he arose to fight, he found the Lord had left him. He had lost his power and might.
They bound his hands behind him, put chains upon his feet. They blinded him then led him along the Gaza street.
Without God’s power to help him bald Samson, weak and blind, was shackled to the mill wheel, prison wheat to grind.
Day after day he labored, but people did not know that as the days were passing his hair began to grow.
One day when all were feasting, some said, “Bring Samson here! He’ll be our clown to cheer us, no more a man to fear.”
They led him to the temple between the pillars high. He placed his hands upon them. His face turned to the sky.
He prayed, “Oh, Lord, forgive me for sinful, selfish ways. Avenge, dear God, my sightless eyes, and let me end my days.
The God of Israel heard him, and gave him strength once more. He pushed the temple pillars. The roof crashed with a roar.
Three thousand who had gathered to praise a God of stone fell dead along with Samson. His work for God was done.
So that is the story of the biblical Incredible Hulk. Isn’t that amazing?
Introduction—Why We’re Surprised Samson’s in the Hall of Faith
So now I’m going to encourage you to have your kids go play because Samson’s a story that’s really not appropriate for children if you go into the details. I like the way they sort of whitewash the killing of a thousand men and the guys all kind of look like cartoon characters.
So Samson. Samson surprises us that he’s in the Hall of Faith, the list of great heroes of the Bible in Hebrews 11. And we could—and it would be appropriate to talk about reasons why Samson’s in the Hall of Faith in spite of our misgivings about it.
But what I’m going to try to do is take a little bit of a different twist and look at more why we are surprised that Samson’s in the Hall of Faith. I think there are three reasons why. One is that we don’t have a proper perspective about Samson’s weaknesses. And the second is I don’t think we have a proper perspective about Samson’s strengths. And the third is I don’t think we have a proper perspective about ourselves and our relationship with God.
So we’re going to talk about Samson, but we’re mainly going to talk about why we are surprised that Samson’s in the Hall of Faith.
We Don’t Have a Proper Perspective About Ourselves and Our Relationship with God
I’m going to start with the third one first. We don’t really have a proper perspective of ourselves.
See, we look at Samson, and, in our day and age, what we tend to do is say, “Well, somebody that’s immoral like that can’t really be a believer. Not really.” And what we’re saying when we say that is, “You’ve got to be a certain amount of good to be redeemed by the blood of Jesus.”
And the Bible teaches just the opposite. There’s no amount of good that we can do. We don’t have a proper perspective about our own sin.
Here’s what the Bible says about us. 2 Corinthians 4:7 says this: But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.
The first part of this verse tells us that we tend to focus on the outside part, but it’s just dirt. And we get surprised when dirt is dirty.
I want you to do something. Look at the person next to you, or if you’re by yourself, just say this to yourself. Say this to them. Say, “Your physical appearance is nice, but it’s just dirt.” Can you do that for me? There you go. “Your physical appearance is nice, but it’s just dirt.”
And now I want you to do the same and say, “Your physical appearance is nice, but inside you’re a priceless treasure.” Because that is the truth about us.
We’re sinful. We’re fallen. The reason Jesus needed to die on the cross is because we’re all messed up, and there’s no such thing as somebody’s past redemption. This is what the teaching of grace is. We should never be surprised when something made out of dirt is dirty.
And the second part of this verse leads us to consider that faith superheroes do things that people look at and say, “Wow, that must be supernatural. It’s beyond what I know that person can do.”
And one of the reasons why Samson is a good faith superhero is because he was so flawed and, yet, still did amazing things.
2 Corinthians 4:16 says this: Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.
We can’t live in this earth without an earth-suit, and that’s what this thing is, this thing that we tend to focus on. But the real “us” is inside the earth-suit. And the earth-suit is deteriorating, and one day it’ll spring a leak, and we will die, in space, so to speak.
But, inwardly, we have this treasure that’s being new day by day, and we don’t tend to look at other people that way. We just look at the dirt and judge them based on that.
Isaiah 53:6 says this:
All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
After excoriating the competing Jewish authorities in Rome for being hypocrites and slandering his gospel, Paul says, What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. This is Romans 3:9. Paul just blasts these guys, and then he says, “I’m in this same boat.”
These guys have slandered his gospel. They’re his political enemies. He’s having a huge fight with them. And he says, “Well, I’m just like them.”
And then he quotes a Psalm that says “There’s none righteous, no, not one.”
Well, we don’t have any sheep, but we have a dog, Raider. And Raider does not think that physical activity is all that important. He pretty much just lays around and tries to get petted. Except when we moved out to Happy Trails, he discovered rabbits. And his purpose in life is to chase and catch rabbits, and he’s pretty good at it. I didn’t even know that it could run, really, until we moved out there, and he saw rabbits. But something convinced him that there’s always a rabbit underneath the front end loader of our little tractor.
You can lift it up and show him “no rabbit” and set it back down on the concrete. He goes right back to sniffing again. He’s totally convinced that there is a rabbit under that front end loader. No amount of logic, no amount of demonstration will convince him otherwise.
Well, mostly that’s harmless because he would just be sleeping on the porch otherwise. But, yesterday, I was taking a load of dirt somewhere, and he decided that maybe a rabbit would come out of that front end loader while I was in full speed on the tractor. And so, now, he was endangering his life chasing a rabbit that could never exist underneath the front end loader.
And that is kind of how animals work. They just don’t understand perspective. And we look at them and say, “How dumb! How could you really be that dumb?” The Bible says we’re the same way. We’re looking in places for some benefit, and there’s nothing there. There’s no possible way we can get our desires fulfilled, and we just keep on sniffing. We just keep on digging.
Last week, one of our granddaughters dropped her ice. We have an ice machine. It’s kind of got Sonic ice, and they liked to get a little cup and put ice in it. And she dropped her ice. And the world ended! She was beside herself! And her Mimi said, “There’s an ice machine ten feet away. Why don’t you just kind of get it together and just get some more ice?” But, no, she couldn’t gather herself because the world didn’t go the way she expected it to.
And that’s us. We’re sheep, and we’re children according to the Bible. And we just don’t see ourselves that way. We see ourselves as grownups, and we see that God should fit into our plans; but that’s not the way it works. And that’s why we tend to be surprised rather at Samson because our perspective is messed up.
I want you to practice having a truer perspective about yourself. Try this: Think about who bugs you. Just think about that for a minute. Who bugs you? What person do you hate being around? What person do you dread being around? What person, when you’re around them, offends you? What person, when you’re around them, makes you wince?
You know what I’ve found? The people like that, for me, are arrogant people. You know why? Because that’s my problem.
And what tends to happen is if you see someone else and you’re really judgmental about them, that probably means that’s you.
And when we start looking at, okay, let me get a true perspective about myself, now we’re making some real progress.
Now, sometimes, when you see someone else and they really bother you, they’re tripping one of your value wires because we all tend to have different priorities about values. And a good way to discern whether this is my problem I’m seeing or tripping a value wire is whether you feel offended or not. Try that. Practice it.
You know there are a couple of good resources about choosing a true perspective. One is a devotional I edit called YellowBalloonsDevotional, and you can get it at yellowballoons.net. We have several thousand people that follow it daily, and it may be a one- or two-minute devotional. And it’s focused on choosing a perspective that the Bible tells us is true. I recommend it as a resource.
The second thing is a big Netflix hit called Greater. It’s really a terrific movie, and it’s about perspective, that you have to get up where God is to have perspective. And the Bible gives us the opportunity to do that.
So the first reason we’re surprised at Samson’s being included in the Hall of Faith is because we have a false view of ourselves. And the truth about ourselves is we’re treasure in earthen vessels, and we are sinful people. We are sinful people. We’re not better than anybody else. We should never say, “Well, that person must not really be a believer.” God knows that. We don’t know that. What we should say is, “There by the grace of God go I, and I’m just as bad.” That’s the truth of it.