Chosen by God: The Man Who Ate Honey but Pulled Down Pillars
(The following article was written before last week’s election. Especially after its result it gives us something to consider. Always remember God is in control. – TN)
He doesn’t drink wine, he has a tendency to lie, he has a weakness for women and his hair is sort of a big deal. No, I’m not talking about Donald Trump. I’m referring to Samson, God’s appointed judge over Israel.
The biblical book of Judges chronicles a 300-year period of the nation of Israel’s history. In this book, we are introduced to a man named Samson. “Then the woman gave birth to a son and named him Samson; and the child grew up and the Lord blessed him.” (13:24). He was appointed to serve as judge over Israel at a time when the people were absent any consistent, strong, or righteous political leadership. The story of Samson takes place before the reign of kings in Israel, and during a time when everyone “did what was right in his own eyes.”
Samson is an interesting character, to say the least. He’s not your traditional Moses or David or Daniel. Moses was “more humble than any man on earth,” David was a “man after [God’s] own heart,” and Daniel was delivered from extreme persecution on a number of occasions because of his unwavering faith toward God. Samson, on the other hand, often chose the easy route. Whether it be by lying, deceiving, or direct disobedience, Samson usually found a way to get what he wanted without acting righteously. My guess is Samson – who slept with a prostitute and was a womanizer – probably wasn’t a role model that Israel’s parents told their children to imitate.
So why did God appoint someone like Samson, when at other times he raised up Othniel, the son of Caleb; or Deborah, the prophetess; or Gideon, the general? Surely somebody with qualities more similar to these individuals would have made for a better role model and judge to lead Israel back to God.
To answer that question, we must go back to the very beginning of the story. In Judges 13 an angel of the Lord appeared to Samson’s mother. The angel told her that she would be blessed with a son and that he “shall begin to deliver Israel” from their enemies. (Note: the angel did not say that Samson will deliver Israel from their enemies, but that he will begin the process – this is important.). The angel told his parents their son would be a “Nazirite to God from the womb.” The Nazirite vow was taken by individuals who dedicated themselves to the Lord. The vow prohibited a person from consuming wine or “strong drink,” cutting their hair, or coming in contact with a dead body. This meant that the Lord was sanctifying Samson for a special purpose.
As a blessing, God endowed Samson with incredible strength. The source of his great strength came from his hair. But while Samson’s strength allowed him to accomplish great feats, it also often led to terrible misery and tragedy in his life. On one occasion, Samson was attacked by a lion while traveling with his parents. He used his great strength to overcome and kill the wild beast. Continuing on his journey, he came across a foreign woman whom he described as “right in his eyes” (Judges 14:3). He demanded that his father “get her” for him. His parents were displeased with his request and implored him to choose a righteous woman from among his own people. Samson refused. But the Bible tells us that his parents “did not know that it was of the Lord.” His parents failed to remember that God always has a plan. God is always in control. Later, Samson returned to the dead carcass of the lion that he had killed. Starving, Samson noticed that there was a swarm of bees and honey in the body of the lion. The Bible says Samson “scraped the honey into his hands” and went on his way eating. Unfortunately, this means that Samson broke his Nazirite vow by touching a dead body. He had sinned against God.
On another occasion, Samson fell in love with a woman called Delilah. This woman enticed, betrayed, and sold Samson into the hands of his enemies. Instead of choosing a woman who would have pleased God and his parents, Samson chose a woman who cared nothing for his well-being. He may have suspected this, because he lied multiple times to her to cover up the source of his great strength. Finally, he became so annoyed with her that he succumbed to the pressure and told her his secret. This was one of Samson’s great failures – and it would ultimately cost him his life.
After being betrayed and sold into the hands of his enemies, Samson would have his eyes gouged out and be forced into hard labor in a foreign land. God’s plan had failed because Samson was the wrong man for the job. He had broken his Nazirite vow, lied on numerous occasions, and chosen women who were not pleasing to God. Realizing that the situation was hopeless, and that Samson was a lost cause, God forsook his chosen leader.
Wait… that is how the story ends, right? Actually, no, it’s not.
While in captivity, Samson’s hair began to grow again; and as his hair began to grow, he began to regain strength. On a certain day, when his captors were feasting, they called out Samson to amuse them. To them, he was nothing more than a clown; an entertainer. They chained him between two pillars and “looked on” while Samson entertained them. Samson was humiliated by his enemies, who believed that they had defeated him. They never suspected for a moment that he would be able to avenge himself, but they had not factored in God.
God heard Samson’s plea for help (Judges 16:28), and He answered him. Samson regained his miraculous strength and used it to bring righteous vengeance upon the enemies of the Lord. With one giant heave, Samson pushed on both of the pillars he was chained to and collapsed the temple on top of all of his enemies. The number of people he killed that day was more than he had killed in his entire life. As a warrior, that says a lot. Samson died – but he died on God’s terms. He judged Israel for 20 years.
You see, God has a plan. And His plan is perfect. We have a very narrow view of the world in which we live, and we are often confused why things transpire around us the way that they do. We see someone who looks flawed attempting to ascend to the highest office in the land, and we ridicule them. We say, “He can’t be president – he’s nothing like Christ!” Or, “He can’t be my child’s role model – he has said nasty things about women! On TV, no less!”
Who said a ruler had to be like Christ? No man is devoid of sin like Jesus was. While others are living better lives, and perhaps obeying the Word of God more faithfully than others, that doesn’t give us the moral high ground, as Christians, to discount a leader’s ability to rule over us. A person’s ability to govern a country is not predicated on his religion. Is it? According to Scripture, the kings of ancient Babylon and Persia – Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus – believed in God. One sinned mightily on numerous occasions; the other was “appointed” by God. Both served God’s purpose of preserving His people.
Of course, as disciples of Christ, we should all be striving to appoint leaders who are morally upright and sound in spirit. Our mission in life is to bring sinners to Jesus, so it would be nice to have a righteous ruler who loudly echoed our message. But what about Samson? He turned to the Lord in the closing moments of his life, but where was his godly and spiritual example – as judge over Israel – the other years of his life?
As voters, we should cast our vote for who is most capable of improving and protecting our country. As Christians, we should be out on the streets spreading the good message to those lost in sin. As we accomplish our task, Lord willing, society will draw closer to God. As society improves, so will our presidential nominees.
Donald Trump is a sinner. Donald Trump is not perfect. Donald Trump is not a great spiritual role model. Check, check and check. …But Trump will not infringe on our rights to worship and peaceably assemble. Trump will appoint Supreme Court justices “in the mold of Justice Scalia.” As Christians, this should comfort us. And yet, while the Supreme Court does have great authority over the law of the land, Christians should not put all of their faith in man. Our faith should be in God.
In spite of his sins, Samson was given a spot in the “Heroes of Faith” chapter in Hebrews (11:32). In this chapter, Samson is listed alongside Abraham, Moses, and David. Sadly, you wouldn’t know that Samson had great faith in God by just looking at the life that he lived. Samson was misguided about many things, which is evident by the many mistakes and shortcomings he committed. But no one can take away Samson’s spot in Hebrews 11. The inspired author of Hebrews listed him with the other great heroes of faith for a reason.
Yes, Trump has eaten “honey” – but who’s to say he won’t also pull down “pillars”?