Formations lesson for Aug. 26: Samson
August 3 2001 by F. Calvin Parker , Judges 16:23-31

Formations lesson for Aug. 26: Samson | Friday, Aug. 3, 2001

Friday, Aug. 3, 2001

Formations lesson for Aug. 26: Samson

By F. Calvin Parker Judges 16:23-31 Samson is one of the most fascinating characters in the Bible. He is a super man, often compared to Hercules. He is a folk hero likened in our country to John Bunyan. He is memorialized in Handel's oratorio "Samson" and Milton's dramatic poem "Samson Agonistes." His exploits live on in paintings by Van Dyke, Rubens and Rembrandt. He is one of the towering figures of all time. For Christians, Samson is a warning, not an example. Dedicated to God as a Nazirite, he made a mockery of his vows. He can be described as a brawling, blustering brute with more brawn than brains. Webb Garrison called him "a prankster who derived equal pleasure from tricking his enemies, killing dangerous beasts and conquering women." Unlike Gideon, he never led an army. Unlike Deborah, he never held court. Yet Samson "judged Israel twenty years."

Circus Strong Man (Judges 16:23-27) The earlier portion of this chapter tells how Delilah, bribed by the Philistine lords, wheedles Samson until he reveals the secret of his strength. She then lulls him to sleep, has his locks shorn and betrays him, now weakened, into the hands of his enemies. They gouge out his eyes and set him to work, like a beast, grinding grain in the prison.

In this passage the Philistines gather to worship their chief deity, Dagon. Perhaps the lords and ladies sit in the inner chamber of the temple while the commoners watch from the roof. They all chant a triumph song in praise of their god for subduing Samson. Then they call in their prize captive, who entertains the crowd as though a strong man performing at a circus.

A Prayer for Vengeance (Judges 16:28-30) In desperation, Samson prays for strength to get even with the Philistines for putting out his eyes. Nothing is said about avenging wrongs done to his nation. On one occasion Samson allowed the tribe of Judah to turn him over to the Philistines rather than suffer on his account, and no doubt his personal exploits helped keep patriotism alive. But the overall picture of Samson is that of an individual looking out for number one. Still, his prayer is answered and Samson literally brings down the house. Like a modern suicide bomber, he dies a hero to his own people.

Keitaro Yoshida was a member of Parliament in prewar Japan. When he learned of the attack on Pearl Harbor, he made a speech urging the government to sue for peace on grounds that Japan could not defeat so strong a nation as the United States. Though a true patriot, Yoshida was accused of treason and thrown into prison. He seethed with anger over the unjust treatment and vowed revenge against Prime Minister Tojo and his cohorts.

As the bleak months passed and he grew weak from malnutrition, Yoshida came across a New Testament in the prison library and began reading it straight through. He was deeply moved by Jesus' teaching and example on forgiving one's enemies. When he was reading Paul's letter to the Romans, one passage brought him to his knees: "Beloved, never avenge yourselves. ... 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord'" (Rom. 12:19). Yoshida turned all his resentment over to God and vowed to follow Christ as Lord. After the war he served as pastor of Wakayama Baptist Church as well as mayor of the city. He is a better example to follow than Samson.

The Prodigal Returns (Judges 16:31) After Samson's death, his brothers and other family members came into hostile Philistine territory to claim his remains. They buried him with his father, Manoah. Thus the prodigal son came home at last to his waiting father. Manoah had opposed Samson's marriage to a Philistine woman but had tried to be supportive of his rebellious son. In Milton's version of the story, he even tried to ransom the blinded Samson. The chorus sings to Manoah:

Fathers are wont to lay up for thir Sons, Thou for thy Son art bent to lay out all; Sons wont to nurse thir Parents in old age, Thou in old age car'st how to nurse thy Son, Made older than thy age through eyesight lost.

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8/3/2001 12:00:00 AM by F. Calvin Parker , Judges 16:23-31 | with 0 comments
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