The Strength of Samson

When Princess Di and Mother Teresa died at the same time there was a lot of discussion about one thing in particular, and that is why there was so much more of a public outpouring of grief over Diana than Mother Teresa. There was a lot of discussion about that. What’s interesting about it is there really were two sides, and yet they both agreed on the reason.

They agreed on the reason, but they used the reason differently, one very critically about Diana’s supporters, and one very, very sympathetically. The critics said, “This is it. The reason for the difference in the grief is Mother Teresa was a hero, and Diana was only a celebrity.” That’s what the critics said.

“Mother Teresa was a hero. She accomplished something. Princess Diana was just a celebrity. What did she accomplish? The fact that there was so much more grief over a celebrity than a hero proves the shallowness of our culture.” That was what the critics said. On the other hand, there was a lot of sympathy. There was a sympathetic use. There were a lot of people who said, “Yes, of course, Mother Teresa was a hero and Princess Di was only a celebrity.” But this is how they would go.

They would say, “Mother Teresa did not care a bit how she looked, obviously. Princess Diana did. We can relate to that. We can’t relate to Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa didn’t seem to care about her happiness at all. She didn’t seem to care about her comfort, her happiness, her fulfillment at all. Princess Diana obviously did, and we can relate to that. We can’t relate to the hero. Mother Teresa seemed absolutely strong. Doing her duty perfectly, incorrigibly. Princess Diana was very weak, but she admitted her weaknesses and her flaws. We can relate to that.”
What you have in the two sides, both admitting the same thing but using it differently, you have an illustration of really two kinds of public central figures. In the early part of the twentieth century, we had the hero. The hero was big, not only in reality, but you had The Lone Ranger. You had Superman. What are these? The heroes were ones who did their duty incorrigibly, never flinching.

In the late postmodern twentieth century, you have not hero worship, but hero deconstruction, not hero worship, but hero suspicion. We don’t like heroes. We don’t really trust them. One of the things I realized over the years is, when I read the Village Voice, they were so critical of Mother Teresa, which didn’t make much sense because she was for the poor, and I thought maybe it had to do with her stand on abortion.

I came to realize they just don’t trust anybody who looks that noble. They just don’t. We have to suspect anybody like that. Hero deconstruction is prevalent. We don’t want heroes. We want the celebrities, who come on talk shows and tell us about their problems. Even though they’re beautiful and even though they’re athletic and talented, we can relate to them. They’re just like us.

Walter Truett Anderson has a very interesting statement. He’s a social critic, and he wrote this a few years ago. He says we no longer look for salvation in unblemished heroes. We want people who are complex, dependent, and changeable. Postmodern psychology sees the individual as more changeable than stable.

We don’t want one dominant authority to tell us what to do. We don’t want heroes. We don’t want people who are so strong who crush us by the standards. We want people, not who do their duty, but who are willing to say, “Who cares about duty? I want authenticity. I want personal vision. I want fulfillment.” That’s what we want.

Interestingly enough, Carol Gilligan wrote about why we like Princess Diana in the New York Times. She said it was a relief to everyone to know she was not an angel, that she did not sacrifice herself for the sake of her children. The outpouring of emotion revealed how deeply she was joined in the choices she made. Like Eve, Princess Diana came to know good and evil, but unlike Eve she refused to be ashamed and refused to hide. She found her voice. She found her pleasure, and she shattered the icon that imprisons us.

What is Carol Gilligan saying? That’s very typical of late postmodern hero hatred. Princess Diana, she says, frees us from the crushing weight of heroism, of duty. We don’t want that. We can’t stand that anymore. That just led to hypocrisy or it led to incredible disaster and a sense of failure. Forget the heroes, duty, and strength. We want authenticity. We want personal vision. We want to find what really is important for us. That’s what we want.

Somebody says, “I know what’s coming. You’re a minister, aren’t you? Well, I know what you’re going to say. What you’re going to say is, ‘How awful! We need heroes again. We need traditional values. We need virtue instead of this self-indulgent, relativistic culture.’ Isn’t that what you’re going to do? Aren’t you a Christian minister?” That’s that you’re thinking.

Surprise! Neither the modern hero nor the postmodern celebrity, neither hero worship nor hero deconstruction will we be able to bear. We will not be able to bear it in our personal psychology or in our corporate sociology. We will not be able to bear it. They will both destroy us. You say, “Well, wait a minute. I thought Christians lift up traditional values and say, ‘Let’s live like the heroes. Let’s live in virtue.’ ”

Okay, let me get you an example of a guy who was really, really big on traditional values, really big on virtue, the apostle Paul. Before he was converted, before he became a Christian, when he was killing Christians left and right, he was big on virtue. He was big on personal values. Listen, I’m trying to confuse you, by the way. It’s called getting you interested.
After his conversion in Romans 4:5, he says, and I’m paraphrasing only a little bit, he says, “Now to those who do not live virtuously, but who cling to the one [God] who justifies the unvirtuous, those are Christians.” He says, “Now to those who do not perform virtuously, but who cling to the one who saves the unvirtuous, those are Christians.”

The Bible does not provide just paragons of virtue. It does not give you The Lone Ranger. It says, “Let’s not get back to The Lone Ranger. Forget Clint Eastwood, Spaghetti Westerns, the anti-hero, troubled, flawed. ‘I’m a Christian minister. I’m saying, “Let’s get back to The Lone Ranger.” ’ ” They will both kill us. Here’s what you need, not hero worship, not hero hatred or deconstruction, something else, and the Bible doesn’t give us either of those.

Look and see what it gives us. First of all, the Bible gives us Samson, but the Bible points to something else. Samson himself, as weird as he is, some people have looked at Samson as an old-fashioned hero, Superman with sort of hair for kryptonite, but he’s not. Oh no, he’s not. Other people might.

I’m waiting for people to come along and say he’s the anti-hero. He has sex with everybody, and he makes jokes when he’s killing people. Do you notice where it says, after he kills these people, he’s knee-deep in blood? Boy, he’s making a joke because in Hebrew the word for ass and the word for heaps of bodies is the same.

So basically he’s trying to say, “With a donkey, I’ve turned them into donkeys,” something like that. He’s making jokes, he’s kissing women, he’s jumping in and out of bed, and he’s following his own voice. He’s following his own pleasure. He’s not doing his duty. Friends, he’s neither of these. Here’s what we find out about him.

First of all, Samson was very strong, absolutely, quite strong. Did you notice when the Philistines come to get him? It says they camped. They spread out. Thousands of them to come to get a guy. When the Israelites decide, “We have to put an end to this, and we’re going to go capture him,” 3,000 go to get this guy. He was a man of incredible strength, enormous physical prowess. That’s one of the reasons he’s so famous, of course. Outside of the Bible he’s very, very famous.

The thing that’s most important to understand if you’re going to get the meaning of the story is he was deeply weak morally and spiritually. He was tremendously flawed, and you can see part of this in verse 11, when they say, “What are you doing?” and he says, “I’m just doing what they did to me.” Actually that is the story of Samson’s weakness. He doesn’t even rise up beyond the Philistines, who in verse 10 say, “We’re just doing to him what he did to us.”

Historians will tell you that was an incredibly dangerous moment in the history of Israel, tremendously dangerous. Why? If you read the book of Judges, you will find the early oppressors, the earlier groups that came in and militarily conquered Israel and then turned them into slaves and captives, the Ammonites, the Midianites, the Moabites, were much crueler, terribly cruel.

Because they were cruel, when Deborah or Barak or Gideon, when any of these other judges came along to try to help the Israelites to rise up, they rose up. They came up. They shook off their chains. They shook off the cobwebs from their hearts. They got their courage up, and they said, “Yes, we have to cast of our oppressors.”

When you get to Samson, what are they doing? Do you see what they’re doing? They’re saying, “We like the Philistines’ captivity. What are you doing to us? These are our rulers.” The historians tell you what was so dangerous about the Philistines was they really weren’t that cruel. They were absorbing the Israelites. They were intermingling. They were intermarrying. They were interpenetrating. They were tying them in economically.

What was really going to happen to the Israelites was far more dangerous than what would’ve happened with the other oppressors because what was going to happen within just a generation or two is the Israelites would have, through that assimilation, lost not only their distinctive culture but lost their faith, plus the world’s salvation. By almost any standards, all sorts of people who aren’t Christians recognize what the world would’ve lost if they had been wiped out at that point, and they were about to be.

At that time, God raises Samson up to come and create a conflict with the Philistines, to get the Israelites fighting them, to destroy the Philistines’ power. Do you know how he does it? He never sees the spiritual issues. He never sees the moral issues. He’s such a spiritually immature person. The way he has gotten into this, the way God gets him into these conflicts with the Philistines, is he marries a Philistine woman, and if you read the story, it goes like this.

He tells a riddle to a bunch of people at his wedding, which is a big bet. He made a bet they couldn’t get the riddle. They cheat him and beat him at the riddle. In retaliation he kills some of them. In retaliation the father won’t let him see his Philistine wife. In retaliation he burns their fields. In retaliation they kill his wife. In retaliation he kills hundreds of them, and that’s where we are right now in the story. Samson is just doing to them what they were doing to him.

That’s it. That’s as far as Samson has come up, but verse 20, the last verse is extremely important for the whole text. It says, “But Samson did lead Israel.” Now, unfortunately, in the NIV translation you miss the point. You say, “Sure, he lead Israel,” but the Hebrew word there is judged. He judged Israel, and what we’re being told is in spite of his moral weakness, in spite of his lack of spiritual vision, God actually judged Israel with him.

The reason it’s so important to understand this, and we’re almost done with his story here, is judges in Israel were not people who were in some official position. A judge was not the judiciary. A judge wasn’t an office you had to have. “We always had a judge. Then he died, and somebody else was brought.” No, no, judges were saviors. Judges did yasha. They were the deliverers.

When Israel was on the brink, when Israel was under disaster, they were saved by the judges, usually military chieftains. What we’re told here is in spite of all the stupidity of Samson, God used Samson in spite of his wrong motives, in spite of his ego, in spite of his pique, and his vindictiveness. In spite of all that, God did save them. How did he save them? You can see in the passage. They turned him over. They betrayed him. They rejected him, but through the rejection do you see what happened?

Because they came to tie him up, even though they didn’t want to get away from their captors, he was disturbing the peace of their slavery. He lets them do it. Notice he’s not a military fool. He’s a spiritual fool, but he’s not a military fool. He says, “If you tie me up, will you kill me?” They say, “No.” Why does he say, “Fine”? He says, “Well, if I let you tie me up, then these guys who would never be incautious otherwise will get all around me, and then I can kill them.”

That’s what he’s thinking. He’s very smart. He says, “Now if you tie me up and you kill me, it’ll all be for nothing.” That’s what he’s thinking. They say, “We don’t want you to be judge. We’re going to destroy you.” It’s because they hand him over, because they try to destroy him, because they try to avoid his salvation, that they actually bring it about.

Right afterwards, he’s just about to die. Do you notice in verse 14 this enormous power comes over him? The very thing the Israelites are trying to avoid they actually help it to happen. This enormous power comes over him, the Spirit of the Lord. In verse 18, when he says, “I’m about to die,” I don’t think Samson is a crybaby.

I think it was happening. I think, because of this enormous energy that virtually consumed his body, he was about to die, and he would’ve died. He had actually given his life for the deliverance, but God opened a spring and brought him back from the precipice of death. Now what does all this mean?

You say, “You know, he was a flawed hero. What does it all mean?” Here’s what it means. Hero worship does not help, but hero deconstruction doesn’t help a bit, not a bit. We need something else. I was reading an interesting book review in the New York Times a couple of weeks ago on the difference between diaries of teenage girls in the 1890s and in the 1990s. It’s called The Body Project. You can see … It’s fascinating.

In the 1890s, young girls who wrote their diaries were really, in a sense, being driven by the need for heroism, but young girls in the 1990s, are they liberated the way Carol Gilligan suggested? “We’re liberated. We now can develop ourselves. We don’t need duty.” Are they liberated? Listen to this. This is great. Here’s a quote from the 1890s teenage girls’ diaries. This is very typical.

“Resolved to think before speaking, to work seriously, to never let my thoughts wander, to be completely self-controlled in everything I do and say, and to show much more interest in others than I do to myself.” You say, “Good luck. Thankfully, we’re not into all that stuff anymore, that heroism.” Okay, here’s a typical piece from a teenage girl in the 1990s. “I will try to make myself better in any way possibly I can. I will lose weight. I will get new lenses. I already have a new haircut, good make up, new clothes, and much better accessories.”

Christina Kelly in Sassy magazine wrote about celebrity worship, and she says, “We worship celebrities because our society is not as religious as it once was, but celebrity worship is a warped and unfulfilling substitute. We make them stars, but then their fame makes us feel insignificant. We can never live up to their beauty. I am part of this whole process. No wonder I feel soiled at the end of the day.” She writes for Sassy.

Now what’s going on here? Do you think you’re more liberated by the deconstruction of heroes than you were by the construction? Absolutely not. We need something else, and Samson points to it. There was somebody who came with a salvation, and they said, “We will not have you be ruler over us. We’re happy where we are.” They turned him over, and they tried to destroy him. He didn’t save them just in spite of their effort to destroy him, but he saved them through it.

When he was on the cross, he was a warrior. Do you know why? As they were piercing him on the cross, the strongest thing anybody could possibly say is, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” I’ll tell you what the easier thing would’ve been. A weak person would’ve said, “Father, curse them as they’re cursing me,” but instead he said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

As a result 50 days later, the people who were killing him because he had been killed, were being baptized in the Spirit and water by the thousands in the same city. There was one who was also handed over like Samson. There was one who the people didn’t want to be liberated. People don’t want salvation. People always reject saviors.

In AA, they’ll tell you not just the alcoholic, but the whole family of the alcoholic, gets absolutely comfortable in their sick equilibrium. They don’t want him to get sober. They don’t want the family to get better. They like their self-pity. They like the excuses they have for lack of transparency and intimacy. They like feeling like martyrs. They like it. If somebody comes in to try to save them, they’ll say, “What are you doing to us?”

That has been true of every savior, ever deliverer, mini or maxi. When the great Savior of all history came, they did it. Not only does the story of Samson tell us God always delivers through the rejection of the deliverer, but the story of Samson also tells us when God saves he can always save through one champion.

If you read the book of Judges, you’ll find in the early part of the book when the judges come along, the nation rises up, and they work for their salvation. When you get down to Gideon, it gets worse and worse. By Gideon’s time only 300 are willing to fight. We get down to Samson. Only one is willing to fight, but what’s the message of not just this story, but of the Bible?

God can save with just one. Here’s what’s so weird. The military victory of Samson accrues to all the people. Do you remember little David? David stood forth all by himself to fight against Goliath as the champion, and what was a champion? A champion was one who represented the army and represented the nation, and if the champion lost, the nation lost. If the champion won, the nation won.
Samson stands forth all by himself as a champion to show God doesn’t need a nation. God doesn’t need 300. God only needs one, and he can save the whole nation. Even a stupid nation, even a nation of fools, even a nation of people in denial, even a nation of people who like their slavery, he can save through one.

The saviors of the Old Testament, yes, they were champions in that their victory becomes the victory of the people. The freedom they win becomes the freedom everybody has, but the great Savior, the great Deliverer, the one this is pointing to … When Jesus Christ came, he fought. Let me tell you the two battles he fought.

1. He lived the life we should’ve lived

I don’t know if any of you have heard of this. The World Harvest Mission, in order to make you understand where you are spiritually, gives you a little thing called the tongue exercise. The tongue exercise basically says for one week don’t ever cut anybody down with your tongue. Don’t ever gossip. Don’t ever speak unkindly, and don’t ever defend yourself. Just for a week.

Or just a day. Try it for an hour, and you’ll find yourself in the fight of your life. You’ll be in a fight. It’ll be blood, sweat, and tears, and you’ll be going down in flames before you know it. Jesus Christ came, though, and he fought the biggest fight ever. He loved the Lord his God with all his heart, soul, strength, and mind, and he loved his neighbor as himself. He came, and he fought. He did it. He lived the life we should’ve lived.

2. He died the death we should’ve died

He fought that fight, but then when he died, he died the death we should’ve died. He wasn’t bound with just the cords of rope. He was bound with the bands of death, and he did it, though, as our Champion, just like Samson, just like David. As our Champion, which means when he rose, he didn’t just break the bands of the ropes. He broke the bands of death, and what it means is simply this.

In 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made him sin who knew no sin that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” What does it mean? Does it mean on the cross he became actually wicked? No. God treated him as if he had done everything we had done. That means when you become a Christian, the minute you believe, does that mean you become actually wonderful and pure and holy? No. It means you are treated as if you had fought those battles, as if you had lived that life, and as if you had died that death.

It means suddenly the victory of the Champion is yours, and God treats you that way. That’s what salvation is. That’s what the gospel is. That sounds in all those ways like David. It sounds like Samson, but there’s another way in which Jesus Christ is utterly unlike them. If Jesus Christ was just like them, Jesus would be a hero, but he’s also very unlike them in one particular way.

If you go back in the Old Testament, you’ll see the heroes, the saviors, always fill the earth with bodies. “With the jawbone of an ass,” he literally says, “I have heaped them up.” He’s reveling in that, and somebody says, “This is what I hate about Christianity. This is what I hate about the Bible. Blood and military stuff. This is so violent. I believe in a God of love.” Please stop. Please listen.

In the Old Testament the saviors always heap up the bodies. They fill the earth with bodies. In Psalm 110, which is a psalm that is quoted in the New Testament more than almost any other psalm as a messianic psalm, a psalm talking about Jesus the Messiah, it talks about this Messiah who is to come.
It says, “The Lord said to my Lord [the Messiah], ‘Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool.’ The Lord is at your right hand. He will crush kings on the day of his wrath. He will judge the nations. He will heap up dead bodies.” That’s in Psalm 110. “He will drink from the brook beside the way; therefore he will lift up his head.”

Clearly, Psalm 110 is looking at Samson. “He will heap up bodies. He will put enemies under his feet.” Look at that. “He will drink from the brook beside the way. Therefore, he’s revived. Therefore, he will lift up his head.” Ed Clowney, in his exegesis of this text, points out in Ephesians 1, Paul draws on Psalm 110 to say, “Yes, it has been fulfilled in Christ,” but look.

In Ephesians 1, it says, “God has raised him up and put everything under his feet, and he’s seated at the right hand,” which is the victory of Jesus. Then at the place where in Psalm 110 it says, “And he fills the world with bodies” (the old-fashioned way), in Ephesians 1, it doesn’t say he will lift up his head. It says he is the head. It doesn’t say he will fill the world with bodies. It says, “And he will do all this for the church which is his body, which will fill all in all.”

Here’s what Paul is saying. The old saviors filled the world with the bodies of the enemies. When you kill an enemy, you’ve destroyed the enemy. Well, not exactly. You’ve just made them impotent enemies. You made them dead enemies, and if there are any left, you’ve made them very, very angry enemies.

You can see there is a better way to destroy enemies. There is a more thorough way to destroy enemies. What Jesus Christ has done is with the sword of his grace he is not filling the world. He’s not destroying the enemies of God by filling the world with their bodies. He’s filling the world with the body of Christ. He’s filling the world with us. We are the slain of the Lord.

What is he doing? He is destroying your enemyness with his grace in the most thorough possible way of getting rid of enemies. He’s turning us into his eternal friends, joyful friends, and this is the new way to fight. If you don’t understand this … You’re going to be into the old heroism if you believe Christianity is saying, “Be like Samson. Be like David.”

It frightens me to read the commentaries by Christians on Samson and David. They say, “That’s what we ought to do. Don’t do the bad things. Don’t jump into bed with every woman like Samson, but fight. Just know if you fight, God will be with you, and things will go well.” If you do that, you will think spiritual battle means, “I’m right. They’re wrong. We have to get them out of power. We have to do what we can do.”

Jesus Christ when he came along, in John 18:36, he says, “If my kingdom was that kind of kingdom, my followers would be fighting you with a sword to keep you from arresting me, but no, I have come in the strength of weakness. I have come to forgive you. I have come to slay the enemyness in you through grace.”

Don’t you see? When he was on the cross, this is the new way of the Spirit. This is the new power of the Spirit. This is the new way to fight. This is the new way to destroy the enemies of God. This is the way Jesus Christ has done it. Instead of saying what you might get the impression of from Psalm 110, when he’s on the cross, he says, “Father, now wipe them out. Heap up the bodies.” Instead he says, “Father, forgive them.”

Because of what he was submitting to, the Father could. Because of his grace, he destroyed those enemies. He turned them into his church. Thousands of the same people who were crying out for his blood and who were delivering him over to be nailed on the cross, just 50 days later on the day of Pentecost were being baptized in the Spirit and baptized into the church.

That is what we have. We don’t have a hero. The Bible doesn’t give us a hero to worship and emulate. The Bible doesn’t give us a deconstruction of heroes, of course, not. The Bible gives you hero vision. Do you know what hero vision is? Hero vision is looking at Jesus Christ and having three things happen to you to turn you into the same kind of fighter he is, the same kind of warrior he is, with the same kind of Spirit he has and the same kind of weapons, which Paul says are not the weapons of the world. They’re the weapons of truth and love and grace.

First of all, if you look at Jesus Christ, not Samson and David as themselves, but as pointers to Christ, what are you going to see? You’re going to be humbled by the vision of the real Hero, Jesus. You’ll be humbled by him. When I say humbled, I mean if you say, “Lord, use me because I’m doing my duty,” you haven’t seen Jesus. In fact, you haven’t even seen Samson.

Don’t you realize the point of Samson? The point of Samson is God uses flawed people. God uses people who hardly know which end is up. God works in the lives of messed-up and flawed people. If you say, “Use me because I’m doing my duty,” that’s hero worship. On the other hand, if you say, “Use me even though I’m going to jump in and out of bed with whoever I want to,” that’s hero deconstruction. You don’t have that in the Bible.

Here’s what you have. If you admit your lack of virtue, not say, “Who cares about virtue?” and not say, “I am virtuous,” if you admit your lack of virtue and you cling to the one who saves those who admit they don’t have virtue, God begins to work in your life in spite of all of your flaw, because then you’re a Christian, because then you know he loves you as if you had done the battles of Jesus Christ, lived his life, and died his death. It makes you humble. You’ll see God working through you, but you’ll be very humble.

If somebody comes up to you and says, “Your words helped me through my time of crisis. Your words brought me to Christ. Your words changed my life,” do you know what you’re going to say inside? Don’t say it outside. Say it inside, “Yes, the Spirit helped you, but through the jawbone of an ass.” The joke is on Samson. He thought the jawbone of an ass was a joke. “With an ass, I’ve made asses of them,” but he’s the jawbone of the ass. He’s the idiot God is using to deliver, and you and I are the asses.

If we’re willing to admit who we are, our foolishness, our stupidity, God will work through us. If somebody ever comes up to you, which does happen to me sometimes, and says, “Because of what you said, I have met Christ,” in my heart I have to always say, “Yes, the Spirit used the jawbone of an ass to make you into an eternal friend.” First of all, you have to be humbled by the vision or you’ll never change.

Secondly, you have to not just be humbled by what Jesus has done; you have to rest in it. If you go out into the world to try to be good and pretty virtuous and help people and take care of them hoping God will accept you, you will faint for thirst. You’ll die. You won’t see the real fountain, which is the gospel. Only people who know they’re already accepted will ever be able to get out there and love as Jesus loved and change the enemyness of people’s hearts toward friendship to others and to God.

You’ll never be able to do it if you think in your striving that’s what’s going to make God happy with you. Hero worship will crush you and turn you into a hypocrite, or it’ll turn you into despair. If you want to really fight like Jesus Christ, you not only have to be humbled by what you see and admit you’re not virtuous, but secondly, you have to totally rest in the fact that he’s your Champion, that you’re saved because of what he has done, not because of anything you’re going to do.
Last of all, if you see the first two, if instead of hero worship or deconstruction you admit your weakness and you rest in what Jesus Christ has done for you, you will move out into the world, and you will now fight in the new way of the Spirit. Now what’s the new way of the Spirit? If you go to the New Testament and you see places where spiritual warfare language is used, it’s not used the way the average person uses it in the evangelical world today.

Go to Romans 12, where it says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good,” the word overcome is fight, beat it, and destroy it. They’re all military words, but look and see. What is Paul saying? When Paul says, “Do not be overcome with evil, smite evil, destroy evil,” how? Forgive with good. If somebody has wronged you, here’s what you usually do.

On the outside you say nothing because you’re afraid either of disapproval, or you’re afraid of blowing up. On the inside you hate them. On the outside you say nothing. On the inside you hate them. As a result, evil is winning. Evil’s winning inside you, and evil’s winning in that person.

If you look at what Jesus Christ has done for you, if you know he’s your Champion so you’re not afraid, he has slain the fear of approval in you. He has slain the pride, and he has slain the sense of being unworthy. You know what he thinks of you. You know how much he loves you. You will do the exact opposite. You will speak up and say, “What you did was wrong,” but you’ll be able to do it in love, because inside you’ve forgiven completely.

That’s power. If you can do that, you’re a fighter like Jesus. Jesus told the truth enough to get crucified, and then he forgave the people who were crucifying him and, as a result, changed their lives. If you won’t see what he did for you, you’ll never be a fighter for him. You’ll either be a coward or you will go around heaping up and filling the world with bodies instead of filling the world with his body.

Somebody says, “That’s a whole new take.” Yes, of course, it is. Humbling yourself by looking at who he is, resting in what he’s done, you will have the power and the strength to move out into the world to people who don’t want to be delivered and who will reject much of what you have done. You’ll be able to love them and check the spread of evil in yourself and in them.

Somebody says, “Well, I just don’t see how that can happen. I’m not strong enough to do it.” Don’t forget the hair. Somebody is going to say afterwards in the Question and Answer, “What about the hair?” Let me tell you about the hair. He gets into a relationship with Delilah. He’s in love with her, and he’s a Nazirite. Do you know what the Nazirites are? Nazirites are people who took three vows as a way of saying I’m really committed to God.”

They said, “I will not touch a dead body. I will not drink any alcohol, and I won’t cut my hair.” There are reasons for that, but that’s what they were. We know this about Samson. He touched a lot of dead bodies. He drank all over the place, but he didn’t cut his hair. It was sort of the last thing he had left.
When Delilah was saying, “Oh, Samson, please tell me. What’s the secret of your strength?” every time he would tell her, “Well, tie me with green ropes.” She’d tie him up, and then she’d let her boyfriends come in to try to kill him. Then he’d burst up, and he’d kill them. She’d say, “What was the real secret?”

“Tie me with brown ropes.” She would do it again, and he’d kill them all. “Tie me with black ropes,” and she’d do it. Finally, she says, “What is the secret?” It says he told her everything. He told her about the hair. Some people say, “Well, that was stupid.” Yeah, it wasn’t as stupid as you think. He was a fool, but he wasn’t a military fool. He did not believe he was telling her the secret of his strength. He couldn’t have.

People say, “Oh, he was trying to tell her the truth so she could be mollified.” She couldn’t be mollified unless she knew it was the truth. She couldn’t know it was the truth unless she tried to kill him. He wasn’t committing suicide. He thought because they were so superstitious, they were going to cut his hair, and as far as he knew he’d have to do it himself. If he did it himself, then he knew that would be the last straw.

Then he knew he would probably lose his strength because at that point, he would’ve finally said to God, “There’s nothing I’m doing.” God works through flawed people, and yet there’s a spot at which God himself will pull the plug on you if you keep on sinning. God pulled the plug. When Samson woke up and he hadn’t cut his own hair … There’s no particular reason why God should’ve withdrawn. It doesn’t say he didn’t know his hair was gone. Therefore, he couldn’t win. It says he didn’t know God had left him. You can read that in chapter 16.

What is this telling us? God leaves you even though you’re imperfect if you keep on sinning, but that’s not all it says. What happens is Samson has his eyes put out, and he’s put into a dungeon. When he’s there, he gets it. His hair grows back because his repentance grows, and for the first time he begins to get some kind of vision. He begins to see, and he turns to God in repentance.

You all know the very famous story. Because he has never been this weak, as a result, the Philistines have no problem with surrounding him. When he throws down the pillars and he destroys this great house, it says he killed more Philistines with his death than he ever had with his life. The weaker Samson got, the stronger Samson got. He finally in the end proved exactly what Paul says. When you’re weak, then you’re strong. When you’re repentant, then you’re strong.

God will never abandon you completely. He can show you by the things that have happened in your life that you have to get things straight. Sometimes he will pull back just to wake you up, but he will never stay away if you repent. If you repent, you can’t muck your life up. You will become a greater instrument for him than you’ve ever been before. Do you understand that?

You say, “But I’m too weak.” You can’t be too weak; you can only be too hard. You can’t be too weak; you can only be too proud. If you get humility connected with that weakness, you’ll be the most potent thing ever, and you’ll be much more potent than you were when you thought you had your strength. You’ll be much more potent than before your failures. Do you understand? “… the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength,” and “… His compulsion [and his service] is our liberation.” C.S. Lewis said that

Keller, T. J. (2013). The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive. New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church.