â€œLet me die with the Philistines!â€ (Judges16:30)
Vol. 2 Issue 17
The Weekly Newsletter of True Potential Publishing
Courage Part II
What Makes a Hero?
Remember last week? Gideon fought the bad guys, the Midianites, and won. He was a Judge, remember? There was another Judge in old Israel, a few Judges down from Gideon; his name was Samson.
In the eyes of most folks Samson was a hero; the kind of stuff Sunday school stories are made of. He was bad to the bone, strong as an ox and a real ladies man. Samson was the kind of hero Israel was looking for. And they needed one. This time the bad guys were the Philistines; they had been the bad guys for about forty years. It was time for God to send Israel a new Judge, a deliverer, a hero. God had Samson in mind. You can read about him in the Old Testament book of Judges (of course); his story runs through chapters 13 to 16.
Gideon was minding his own business, just trying to stay out of the way, when the angel of God showed up to make him a Judge and a hero.
Samson’s story wasn’t like that. He was custom made for the job. The angel of God showed up to the lady who was to become Samson’s mother. She didn’t have any kids, she was sterile. God likes to prove a point. So the angel tells Samson’s mom-to-be that she’s going to have a very special son; he’s going to be a Nazerite, and he would deliver Israel from the Philistines.
A Nazarite was someone who was set aside for a special purpose. Sometimes that meant just for a certain period of time, sometimes it was for a lifetime. Samson was supposed to be a lifetime Nazerite.
Being a Nazerite required certain behavior. For instance, Nazerites weren’t allowed to touch wine or any sort of alcohol. This particular rule was so radical that Nazerites weren’t even allowed to be around grapes. That’s pretty radical.
If you were a Nazerite, you couldn’t touch any unclean or dead thing and you couldn’t cut your hair. There were a lot of restrictions.
Samson had his own way of doing things. He wasn’t into restrictions.
God has His own way of doing things too. When He says something’s going to happen, you’d better count on it. And how some folks think He should make His plans go down isn’t necessarily the way they do.
Samson broke about every Nazerite rule there was. He liked wine, didn’t mind dead things, and didn’t much care for rules of any kind. He was a guy who pretty much took what he wanted … and he wanted a lot.
Taking what he wanted got him into a lot of trouble. His strength got him out of trouble. It seems that breaking all the wine drinking, dead thing touching Nazerite rules didn’t have much of an effect on Samson’s strength. In the end it was getting a hair cut that did him in.
Remember the story from Sunday school? Samson goes to see his new flame, Delilah. Delilah’s a bad girl in more ways than one; she’s friends with the bad guys. Delilah gets him drunk, gets his attention, gets his secret, and gets him fast asleep. Then she calls in the bad guys to give Samson a haircut. Samson wakes up, jumps up and takes on the bad guys. Whoops! No more super powers. Samson finds out he’s just a regular joe. The bad guys poke out his eyes and make him their slave.
The Philistines throw a huge party and Samson’s the main event. They’re going to celebrate by making a mockery of the guy who had made a mockery of them. By now Samson has pretty much realized he’s screwed up his life. He has one last chance at destiny; one last opportunity to be what and who he was made to be. He asks the kid holding his chain to put him between the two pillars that hold the roof up. The kid, not knowing any better, does what Samson asks.
One last time, maybe the first time, Samson asks God to restore his super-strength. 3,000 bad guys got together that day to see Samson put on a show. They had no idea of the kind of show they were about to see. Samson put his left hand on the left pillar and his right hand on the right pillar. He bowed his back and pushed … and pushed. Then something remarkable happened. There was a crack, and then a pop, and then a little dust and grit fell from the ceiling. And then the roof came down. 3,000 Philistines and one Jew were killed that day.
Samson fulfilled his purpose; he delivered his people from the bad guys.
Kind of a different story from Gideon’s, wasn’t it? Gideon was like Barney Fife. Samson was like the Terminator. Gideon was a pip-squeak and certainly no warrior. But he did what he knew he had to do, even though it scared the ba-hookey out him. And he delivered Israel.
Samson, super dude, ate bad guys for breakfast. He never did anything he was supposed to do and the only thing that scared him was an empty wineskin. And he delivered Israel.
So what’s the moral of the story?
God’s going to do what He’s going to do. Sometimes … most times …. it doesn’t make sense to us. The guys who are supposed to be losers turn out to be heroes. The guys who are supposed to be super-stars turn out to be royal disappointments.
Maybe it’s not about the guys. Maybe it’s not about how we think things are supposed to go.
Maybe it’s about Him. About what He wants done and how He wants to work. Maybe we’re just supposed to show up and play our part.
Gideon didn’t ask to be picked for the hero job. He listened and did what he knew he had to do; even though he didn’t think he was up to it, even though the idea of being a hero terrified him. In the end God kept His promise, Gideon thrashed the bad guys and Israel lived in peace and freedom for forty years. Gideon retired and lived a long and happy life. The Bible says he sired seventy sons and had many wives (things were different back then). He died old and happy.
Samson was born for the hero job. He loved being superman. He’d kill Philistines at the slightest provocation (I think he liked it). Outside of looking like a hero, acting like a hero, and liking to do hero stuff, Samson just couldn’t get his head around why he was a hero and Who made him one.
The Bible says that Samson was a Judge in Israel for twenty years; that was before the Delilah thing. In that time, as far as we know, he never did anything good for the people of Israel, never kept any of his Nazerite rules and never listened to anything God might have said to him. He got himself into plenty of peccadilloes by fraternizing with the bad guys and got himself out by killing or generally hassling same. He suffered total failure and public embarrassment as a result of his final little faux pas with Delilah, ending up in chains with his eyes poked out.
Samson pretty much blew his life and the chances (minus one) of fulfilling his destiny.
My personal opinion? This was not the way God planned it. Samson was going to be Israel’s hero; that part was decided. But there was an option A and an option B.
Option A: You were born for the job, dedicated at birth for the job and given unique capabilities (super strength) for job. Everybody knows you’re Israel’s next hero because God said you were. Seriously, look at those biceps, you’re the guy. Take your job seriously, listen for the plan and execute. Gideon figured that much out – and he was a runt! God’s been with you since birth. He’ll be with you in battle – show up on the field and get the job done. When God is finished with you and you’ve fulfilled your purpose, you may get lucky like Gideon, have seventy kids and live the rest of your days in peace.
Option B: You were born for the job, dedicated at birth for the job and given unique capabilities (super strength) for job. Everybody knows you’re Israel’s next hero because God said you were. Seriously, look at those biceps, you’re the guy. Take your own wants and desires seriously, don’t deny yourself anything. You’ve got it all, live the good life; there’ll be time to fulfill your purpose later. Take what you want, live how you want. Who’s going to stop you? You’re Samson. Get into a little trouble? Power your way out of it. Use your gifts to your advantage.
Every day you wake up, do what you want and ignore your purpose. The days add up. One day you wake up with no hair, no strength and no options. You had it all and now you don’t. With zero options you’ll have plenty of time to figure out just what went wrong. Then you get lucky; an option pops up. Just one option. It’s a suicide mission, but hey, by now it’s finally dawned on you that you’re here to fulfill a destiny. You could have done it the easy way, but those days are gone. Now it’s the hard way. One last chance to do what you were born to do. And then you’re dead.
You fulfilled your destiny. Like I said, that part was decided in advance. You’re the one who gets to decide if it’s option A or option B.
Folks, each of us have a destiny, a purpose; that part has already been decided. The part we decide is option A or option B.
If you’re the Gideon type, do what you know you’ve got to do – he did fine, you will too.
If you’re Samson in a suit, don’t get cocky. It’s not about you. God’s gifts to you aren’t your gifts to mankind. They’re His gifts to mankind; you’re just the carrier. You’ve got a job to do, take it seriously.
Courage isn’t about doing what you know you can do because nobody will stop you. Courage is doing what you know you have to do even though you think you can’t. That’s what makes a hero.
There are a lot of heroes in the Bible. If I get the choice, I’d like my last day to be like Gideon’s, not Samson’s.
Until next week.
In the service of Him who makes us heroes,