Some years ago I was presenting on the life of David at a Bible study camp and had just finished a study on his battle with Goliath (1 Samuel 17). A sister came to me and said, “Ken, I could NEVER be like David—I don’t have what it takes to be a hero!” Is that how you feel too?
So, why has God showcased the lives of men and women in the Scriptures? Why are we told about Joseph or David? Why are we told about Sarah or Mary, the mother of Jesus? Does God record the lives of these faithful men and women and say effectively, “these were exceptional people, whom I helped—but just a warning to you—I don’t expect YOU to ‘go there’—you can’t be like them!” Or in all these wonderful examples, is God telling us something about Himself?
Earlier this month we read Hebrews 11, the wonderful chapter about men and women of faith. There are some interesting characters in the chapter and some wonderful examples of actions arising out of their belief in God’s promises. Consider the man who is in today’s first Old Testament reading—Judges chapters 14 and 15! By God’s instruction, Samson was to be a Nazarite from birth to the day of his death. The Nazarite vow (see its full explanation in Numbers chapter 6) was a means by which any Israelite, male or female, could behave like an Aaronic priest. For the period of the vow, he, or she, was required to observe God’s requirements.
But Samson doesn’t appear to be a great example of what God might have expected. He fell in love with a Philistine woman, and married her (ch 14). His actions were contrary to the wishes of his parents and most important, contrary to God’s instruction. Subsequently, after the death of his wife, he visits a Philistine prostitute and spends part of the night with her (ch 16 v 1-3). Later, he falls in love with another Philistine girl, Delilah. None of this behaviour was exemplary or according to the instructions which God had given His people. Yet, out of Samson’s weakness God does some amazing things. In fact, he had led Israel for 20 years (see ch 16 v 31) and so there is much more to the story than we are told. We have some brief hints in Judges regarding his faith in God, for example his prayer (ch 16 v 28).
However, it is another brief reference in Hebrews 11, that reveals God’s approval of Samson. The writer says:“I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised, who shut the mouths of lions, 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…. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection… They were all commended for their faith…” (vv 32-39).
“Whose weakness was turned to strength—commended for their faith”—God is not suggesting that it is OK to live the way Samson lived. He’s not suggesting that yours and my weakness is OK and we don’t have to change. He is not excusing our sin. But He does want us to trust Him and seek Him. We can please Him by having faith—by believing Him. When we do, our weakness, like Samson’s, can be turned to strength. Paul tells us of a time when he asked Jesus three times to remove a weakness that he thought was limiting his service. Jesus response is telling:
“My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul then continues—‘so then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me.’ (2 Cor 12 v 9).
He can do with each of us, if we have faith, what He did with Samson or Paul. Samson and all of God’s faithful men and women, are there to encourage us. They are NOT there to warn us that Samson and the others were exceptional and we can never do it! “I can do all things through Christ who makes me strong”, Paul says. It is God at work! He wants us to learn the lesson—He can do extraordinary things with ordinary people like you and me. It is God who puts the ‘extra’ in front of ‘ordinary’.
So dear fellow disciple—God is just waiting to show you what He can do using YOU. How about trying it this week?!
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