“And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, 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.” Hebrews 11: 32-34
How can Samson be listed among the “Heroes of Faith” in Hebrews 11? It’s understandable that his superhuman strength would make him look like a hero under human standards, but his weak inner strength in remaining faithful to God’s instructions certainly would not make him a “Hero of Faith.”
Samson clearly would meet the criteria of a “super hero” according to American media standards. He would fit in well with Superman, Spiderman, The Incredible Hulk, and the Fantastic Four. My personal super hero was Fearless Fly. When Fearless Fly would put on his magic glasses, he became all powerful. In Samson’s case, it wasn’t his magic glasses or his power suit that gave him great strength. It was his hair.
Samson’s story is a favorite for many children. It’s a story that lays down the law. As a Nazirite, Samson was given three rules: do not touch the meat of unclean animals, do not drink wine, and do not cut your hair. (Judges 13: 4-5). Those “do nots” can be rather tempting to young people who are fearless to the ways of the world. In Samson’s case, he broke all three rules. He ate honey that was in the carcass of a dead lion, and thus, touched the meat of an unclean animal. He was terribly tempted to go to an area called the valley of Sorek, which was “wine country.” The pull must have been too much for Samson. Not only did he find fermented beverages made from grapes throughout the area, but he also met a young woman named Delilah. Samson was strongly attracted to “grapeville” and Delilah, although neither were good for him. Delilah’s feminine wiles were too much for Samson. She continued to nag him for information about his great strength, and eventually she wore him down. He told her that his great strength was a result of his long hair. As he slept, Delilah cut his hair, and when he awoke she turned him over to his enemies, and he was powerless as they took him prisoner.
How can Samson be a “Hero of Faith?” He might have been strong in body, but he was rather weak in inner strength. On a continuum of inner strength, Samson would receive a very low score. How strong is your inner strength? On a continuum of inner strength where 1 is very weak and 10 is very strong, what number would you give yourself?
As a university professor, I talk to many students. In some classes, I would ask my students to assess their inner strength. Most college students gave themselves a 6 or a 7, but in two cases, the young women gave themselves a 2. I was amazed. In both cases, these young women had overcome tragic experiences. Ruth’s husband had been killed in an airplane crash, and Leah’s fiancé had been killed in an automobile accident. When I asked each woman why she gave herself a 2 on the inner strength scale, I heard the same answer. Both women said that during those experiences they found out how weak they truly were. It was during those times that God carried them. They were weak but He is strong. Ruth and Leah are “Heroes of Faith!”
That’s the point with Samson, too. His story doesn’t end with his hair being cut and his being taken prisoner. He was chained between pillars in a large temple where over 3000 of his enemies were gathered. He discovered how truly weak he was, and he sought God’s forgiveness and strength. God answered his pleas. Samson’s strength reappeared, and he pushed out the pillars killing himself and the enemies of God.
Samson is a “Hero of Faith.” He learned the hard way that he was weak, but God is strong. While Samson’s story tends to be a childhood favorite, it also has a lot to say to today’s adults. In contemporary American culture, it’s easy to get caught up in the self esteem movement and thoughts of personal aggrandizement. However, Samson’s story is our story. Sometimes, we need to learn lessons the hard way. It is God’s power that makes each of us a “Hero of Faith.”