Russell and Duenes

What Should We Make of Samson?

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Yes, Samson, Barak, Jephthah and others are commended in the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11.

But I take it that they are not there so that we would imitate them in every way. What is often missing from the stories we tell our children about the “heroes of the faith,” is the way in which these heroes contribute to the overall plan and purpose of God in redemptive history. They get pulled out of the story, as it were, and then become “character studies.” This seems a less fruitful path than one where we remind our children again and again about the narrative of the entire Bible: Creation, Fall, Redemption, Consummation. Or as Douglas Wilson puts it: “What’s the point of the whole Bible? Kill the dragon and get the girl!”

We need our thinking and living to be shaped by a profound consciousness of the overall plan and story of what God is doing. When we come to Samson, say, with a view to his place in “Creation, Fall, Redemption, Consummation,” then he is no longer simply a man who had intermittent faith, or a fool who unwisely married and allowed himself to be influenced by a Philistine woman. His overall life may not be one to imitate. Rather, we begin to see him as someone God was using to bring about His redemption from sin and victory over wickedness. We see him as part of God’s covenantal faithfulness to Israel. Yes, Samson had faith, as Hebrews 11 points out, but his faith is set in the context of the entirety of what God has been doing since Creation and the Fall. And it points to the Consummation. Samson and others are worth looking to because “though they were commended for their faith, [they] did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.”

Even a “man after God’s own heart” must be seen and imitated in this context. We ought not to pull him out of the plot line of redemptive history to analyze his character. King David was a man after God’s own heart because he saw and pursued God’s purposes. His life fits into the larger story. Thus, from David’s adultery and accomplice to murder we take away mainly that such sinfulness on his part did not derail God’s larger plan and purpose to bring the Messiah through David’s line, to give the Messiah David’s throne. Yes, we certainly learn that God was merciful to David, even when David deserved to die for his wickedness. God is similarly merciful to us. But I think we have to look at David’s whole life primarily as a testament to God’s unwavering faithfulness to His own promises. Samson’s faithfulness in the end is exemplary of God’s own faithfulness at all times to the people He has redeemed.

Perhaps I’m creating a false dichotomy, but I agree with D.A. Carson that part of our life of faith includes having our thoughts and actions formed by and carried out in the light of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation. Our faith includes thinking of people of the Bible within this framework. This keeps before us a true sense of what it means to “consider the outcome of their way of life,” and thus, to “imitate their faith.”



Written by Michael Duenes

September 17, 2013 at 9:48 pm

Posted in Duenes, Theology

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