“Faster than a locomotive. More powerful than a speeding bullet. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Look! Up in the air! It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s Superman. Superman, a visitor from a strange planet endowed with powers and abilities beyond those of mortal men. Superman, disguised as Clark Kent, the mild-mannered reporter for the Daily Planet, wages a never ending battle for Truth, Justice and the American Way.” No word or character could describe Samson better than “Superman.”
George Reeves was one of the original actors who portrayed Superman on television, but his fame was not without certain risks. Every time he donned his superman suit in public there were people who would kick him in the shins, hit him in his back with their fists, and otherwise assault him. His young admirers didn’t mean any harm really… they were just eager to prove how strong the “Man of Steel” really was.
One afternoon in Detroit in 1953, Reeves’ costume nearly cost him his life. He was making an appearance at a department store when a young fan pulled out his father’s loaded forty-five caliber Army Colt and pointed it directly at Reeves’ chest. Miraculously, Reeves talked the young man into putting the gun down. He assured the boy that Superman could stand the force of the shot, but “when bullets bounce off my chest, they might hurt you and others around here.” Just as George Reeves proved to be mortal, so did Samson, in more ways than one.
To paraphrase an old Jim Croce song: “You don’t tug on Superman’s cape, you don’t spit in the wind, you don’t pull the mask off the ol’ Lone Ranger…” and we might add, “you don’t mess around with Samson.” The Philistines, the long-time enemies of Israel, would learn this lesson. Just as God’s strength was available to Samson it is available to every Christian. The Apostle Paul put it best when he said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). But just as the power of God is available to us in the spiritual realm as it was to Samson in the physical realm, he had an area of weakness. Chuck Swindoll said this about Samson, “… just as Superman was vulnerable to kryptonite, so Samson had a chink in his armour through which his greatness was sapped. He was king of the hill when it came to physical prowess, but when it came to women (sexuality); he was a pawn of his own passions.” Everyone has a kryptonite weakness, it may not be Philistine women, but there is an obstacle that we all must overcome. Whatever it is, take extra care in that area and stay true to the Scripture as Paul says “put on the Lord Jesus, and make no provision for the flesh to fulfil its lusts” (Romans 13:14). Samson’s biggest problem was that he lived to close to the edge.
Just like Superman had his cape and a large “S” on his chest, Samson had one thing that set him apart from other men. He had one distinctive mark, one unique characteristic that even to this day identifies Samson as a superhero. When you think of Samson, you think of his long hair. Samson’s long hair was the mark of his vow to God, the Nazirite Vow, the symbol of the call of God, and his obedience to that call, or the lack thereof.
The story of Samson is a story of failure, that of both a nation and an individual. Redemption does not prevail until we come to the end of Samson’s life. Author and inspirational speaker, Samuel Chand, a friend from the past, is the General Editor of a book entitled, Failure, the Womb of Success. This is a unique book because it does not chronicle the successes of prominent spiritual leaders, but it is about their failures and how as a leader they overcame, and even grew through those failures. Failure does not have to be fatal and eternal, nor does it have to be the end, but it can be the seed that gives birth to a new direction or a new beginning filled with passion for God and fueled by a desire to not experience failure again.
There are some great lessons that we learn from Samson’s failure that could help us be able to avoid the pitfalls that entrapped him. I once sat across the dinner table from a man who had extremely large hands and I noticed a sizeable school class ring on his finger. I asked him where he had graduated from, thinking he would proudly inform me, and he showed me the words that circled the gem on the front of the ring. It read, “The School of Hard Knocks!” We have all been there at some point of our life and it is generally not a pleasant place to get an education. Learning from the failures of Samson could invariably keep us from attending this not so popular institution.
I once heard the story of a king who was looking for a driver for his chariot, which would be quite an honor. The king took several potential drivers to where there was a curve in the road and at the edge of the curve was a drop of several hundred feet. He proceeded to ask each driver how fast they could take the curve and how close could they get to the edge without tumbling down the cliff. Each driver gave an answer stating that they could take the curve at a high rate of speed and come within inches of the cliff. The last driver was asked the question and his answer was quite different. He said that he would go very slow around the curve and stay as far away as possible from the edge of the cliff. The king immediately said, “Congratulations, you’re my new driver.” Samson was one of the drivers who would take the curve as fast as possible and get as close to the edge thinking he would never go over the cliff. Samson’s “live as close to the edge as possible” attitude would eventually lead to a fall and he would learn a tragic lesson. Take a few minutes to go to the Bible (Judges 13-16) and learn more about the life of this man. You will read about his miraculous birth, his feats of great strength and of his humbling weaknesses. Yes, in the end it is a tragic story of failure, but it has a heroic ending that puts on display the amazing grace of a forgiving God.
The writer is the pastor of Northtowne Church of God in Sidney.