Maybe it’s a heart that was once broken
Maybe it’s a promise unkept
Maybe it’s a dream you lost forever
Maybe it’s a regret you can’t forget
Maybe a million things
But can’t you see?
They brought you here to me.
– Connecting the Dots
Bible Stories I Hated
Yesterday, while watching the livestream of my new favourite preacher, my brother, Joseph preaching at Victory Fort Bonifacio on Samson and Delilah, I was reminded of how much I hated this story when I was younger. Samson and Delilah was second place to David and Bathsheba in my short list of Bible stories I hated. Every time the story of David and Bathsheba would be told in school or in church, someone was bound to say to me, “Hey David! Where’s Bathsheba?” which I found really irritating. Most of the time I’d just ignore it, but one time I said, “Where’s your ugly face? Oh! There it is!”
I’m nicer now.
Samson and Delilah on the other hand I found really irritating for two reasons. As a kid, I hated the fact that he got tricked by a girl. Boys weren’t supposed to lose to girls. Of course back then I didn’t know what falling in love was like – where boys willingly lose to girls and smile about it.
I know now that we boys always lose to girls – and aren’t always worse off because of it.
As I got older the real reason why I didn’t like the story of Samson is because I could relate to it so much. Here was this guy who knew at an early age that God had a specific plan for him and he also knew what he needed to do (Nazarites were very clear on their rules which included not cutting hair), yet found himself making unwise decisions, particularly with his decisions on women – Samson plainly chose the wrong girls – and had expectations on him that were much larger than his true character could handle.
Like I said earlier, I can relate very much to Samson. Like him, I was introduced to God early and to the “rules”. I even memorised verses. Like him, I’ve also had expectations on me from a young age – expectations I know are much larger than the true quality of my character. And I too have made wrong decisions, some of which include women.
I hated this story because I know how it ends, or at least I thought I knew, that because of his many mistakes Samson would suffer, and more than that he would miss out on his destiny.
I hated the thought of “missing out on my destiny”. It was an idea drilled into my head over and over, that I had a destiny and that if I made the wrong choices I would miss out and if I made the right choices I would find it. Missing out on my destiny meant suffering, dishonour, pain, and all the bad stuff. Finding my destiny meant success, respect, honour, dreams come true.
And that’s why I had a problem, because I was too much like Samson, and not just because I used to have long hair, a temper, and liked pretty women too much. When I would really search my heart and be honest with myself, when it was just me alone in prayer, no businesses or blogs or involvements to hide behind, I knew that my character, because of years of pride, of selfishness, of doubt, of lust, of impatience, of bitterness, many little seeds planted, my character would never be able to handle the great expectations placed on me by others and myself.
I see this most clearly in discussions with others. It’s very rare that I open up to anyone and not get one of three surprises: a surprised response (as if they’re surprised I need help at all), an incredulous response (as if they’re surprised in the silliness of my failings, particularly my lack of abilities in normal day-to-day things), or of friendly dismissiveness (as if they believe I can fix everything myself because I’m me). Being helpful and working hard has created an expectation that I’ll always be wise and do the right thing. Which of course isn’t the case.
In the Gray
Life isn’t always as simple as people like to say. Choices aren’t always clear, neither are consequences. I’ve gotten into trouble for bad things (as is expected) but I’ve also gotten into trouble for doing the right thing. It’s not true that doing the right thing always leads to less complications. Sometimes it leads to more complications. For example, loving your children (which is good) can lead to more emotional complications than being detached.
Another example would be a good kid who gets molested. What wrong thing did that good kid do to have his life complicated all of a sudden? To have a simplistic understanding that doing good leads to less complications and doing bad leads to more is not completely accurate because the actions of others affect ours, meaning, even if one were to live a perfect life, one would still be affected by the wrong choices of others, such as what happened to Jesus, who was perfect yet was crucified. Another reason is because we live in a world that is not only made complicated by sin (sins such as murder, greed, lust) but also a world of compounded and compounding complications, meaning generations of complications. An example of this would be a bad father who beats his kids, and the kids in turn beat their friends, and friends beat their future kids. This is a simplistic example but the point is to illustrate the pass-on effect of sin.
Now when I think about this sin-compounded world, and I think of my own inability to always make the right choices, to always be wise, and to always do the right thing (which is always harder since doing is more difficult than knowing), I must admit that my chances of achieving this incredible “destiny” are slim and get slimmer and slimmer.
Reading Samson always just reminded me of this.
I looked for Jesus.
As I read the story of Samson afresh this line hit me:
“the boy will be a Nazirite of God from the womb until the day of his death.’
And I was reminded of another Nazarite, the most famous Nazarite, Jesus, and how He too, like Samson was from a miracle birth heralded by an Angel (Hannah was barren and Mary was a virgin), and I started seeing parallels between the life of Samson and Jesus.
Samson’s name means “the light” and Jesus is the light of the world.
Samson was purposed from birth to save Israel. Jesus was purposed to save us all.
Samson was tempted three times. Jesus was also tempted three times.
Samson was betrayed for pieces of silver. Jesus was betrayed for pieces of silver.
But here’s the part that really affected me, like Samson, Jesus loved, in effect, the wrong girl, from the wrong race, with the wrong background, and the very people who would betray Him.
Jesus loved me.
It makes no sense why anyone would do that. Reminds me of Romans 5 which says, “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.”
The verse basically says it doesn’t make sense for most people to lay one’s life down for others, not even good people, what more bad people? ‘t didn’t make sense for Samson, a guy with a great destiny, to love a girl from the wrong side of town – a race with a wrathful destiny. It doesn’t make sense for a guy who has made right choices to be with someone who has made wrong choices.
But thank God the verse doesn’t end there. It continues “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
While I was still a sinner. While I was committing the acts that hurt Him, that betray Him, that default me of a “great destiny”, Jesus demonstrated His love for me by laying His life down.
It’s these little thoughts, among with other realisations that have led me to redefine what destiny is for me, as I’ve mentioned in my story I Found My Blue Sky, “Destiny, where I’m supposed to be, is not a moment in time or a place on map. It’s anywhere and anytime with the One I love and loves me most.”
The story of Samson is not so much the story of a destiny missed, though it does show very vividly the consequences of sin, which should be avoided, and how these pulled him away from God, but despite these, it’s the story of destiny found, not as Samson the hero but of Samson realising his place not just in God’s plan but in God’s heart.
I’ve been going back to the story of Samson over and over the past couple of weeks, and I especially like how it ends:
Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived. – Judges 16:30
Many people say Samson missed his purpose, I beg to differ. Maybe he didn’t do it the best way possible, maybe it didn’t have to be as painful, as heartbreaking, for him and for the people who loved him, and hopefully for us it’s not as difficult a road. But in the grand scheme of things, and eternity is the grand scheme of things, to find God is the most beautiful of purposes to fulfil, not just to believe in His existence, which the Bible says even demons believe, but to accept His love with humility and surrender and learn to love others the same – through a life laid down.
And that’s how Samson’s story truly ends.
I said earlier that I hated the story of Samson because I knew how it ended – badly. But I now love the story because I know how it really ended. For Samson it ended with his greatest victory and a place among the greatest people of the Bible in a list famously known as the Hall of Faith, or a list of people honoured for putting their trust in God and achieving great things.
Hebrews 11 goes: 32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.
How does the poster-boy for bad decision-making make it to the ultimate honor-roll?
After all his mistakes, a chained and blinded Samson would find himself in the same place as all the rulers of the Philistines to deal them one final blow, a blow that would destroy the entire Philistine leadership. Even in Samson’s consequence, God had ordained his greatest victory.
Hebrews 12, after listing the heroes of the faith, goes on to say, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…”
Which leads me the my final reason why I love the story of Samson:
Because it’s a witness of Jesus.
Where Samson was a bad judge, Jesus is a perfect judge. Where Samson failed in temptation, Jesus overcame. And in death, Samson would achieve his greatest victory. In death, Jesus would achieve final victory.
And Jesus loved me, the wrong person, His betrayer, and of no achievement to deserve Him.
Hebrews 12 goes on to say “… fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
When I read the Bible and fix my eyes on the characters or the morals I’m supposed to follow, I either feel proud at how well I’m doing or discouraged at how bad I’m doing.
But when I step back, take my eyes of myself and fix them on Jesus, I find, like Samson, I am redeemed.