By Jonathan Brown
When one thinks of the great men of faith from the Bible one tends to think of Abraham, Noah, or Moses. The eleventh chapter of Hebrews, which many have referred to as the “Great Hall of Faith,” includes these men and many others like them. Surprisingly, however, this list also includes the Old Testament judge, Samson. Hebrews 11:32 reads: “And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets.” One may ask, “Why is Samson included in this list of faithful men?” This is the same Samson who decided he wanted an evil Philistine woman, rather than a godly Israelite woman, for a wife (Judg. 14:1-3). This is the same man who, because he lost a bet with thirty men, killed and robbed thirty other men to pay-off his debt (14:12-19). He is the same judge of God’s people who went in unto a harlot in Gaza (16:1, 2). This is the same Israelite that fell in love with a Philistine woman that tricked him into breaking his Nazarite vow (14:12-19). On the surface, it appears that he deserves to be on the list of “God’s most unfaithful servants,” rather than Hebrew’s “great men of faith.”
However, the Hebrew writer continues in Hebrews 11:33-34 to explain that the men mentioned in v. 32, including Samson, were men “who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, be-came mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.” This passage teaches that, despite his failings, Samson was a faithful man of God. A closer look at some of Samson’s faithful acts reveals why the Holy Spirit included him in this list.
Shut the Mouths of Lions (Neb. 11:33)
In v. 32, the Hebrew writer states that the people he listed “shut the mouths of lions” by faith. This could apply to Samson. When he was on his way to Timnah to find a Philistine, “a young lion came roaring toward him” (Judg. 14:5). With the Spirit of the Lord, Samson tore the lion “as one tears a kid” (v. 6) with his bare hands. Samson could not have expected this event. If Samson had known a lion was going to attack him on this path, he would have chosen another one. Yet, he was ready. Similarly, we must also arm ourselves in the Lord so that we will be ready for the unexpected spiritual trials that frequent our path.
Samson did not overcome the lion by his own strength, but by the “Spirit of the Lord.” As strong as he was, he could only do great things with the strength of God. This may be the one redeeming quality of Samson’s character. He allowed God to help him to do that which he could not do alone. Because the Spirit of the Lord came during Samson’s greatest need, Samson needed no other weapon.
Being much weaker in strength than Samson, we are foolish when we try to take on the unexpected dangers that occur in our lives without the help of the Lord. We can do “all things through Christ who strengthens” us (Phil. 4:13). He is there to help us in our times of greatest need. We must have faith in God, as Samson did, to overcome spiritual dangers. When we have overcome these dangers, we will have strength and endurance in us that we may be “complete and lacking in nothing” (Jas. 1:2-4).
Performed Acts of Righteousness (Heb. 11:33)
We also see Samson’s faithful dependence on God at the end of chapter 15. After defeating a thousand men with the jawbone of a donkey, Samson became very thirsty. Samson realized that God was the sustainer of his life and asked God to quench his thirst, confidently knowing that God could. At first, Samson’s prayer seems disrespectful and out of anger toward God. Samson, however, also acknowledged that he should glorify God because it was by his power that he killed 1,000 men. Furthermore, Samson did not want God’s glorious victory to be diminished by the surrendering of one of God’s servants to his enemies. Viewed in that light, his prayer was the furthest thing from being disrespectful. Because of his sincere prayer, God sent water to revive Samson. As James writes, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (Jas. 5:16). Certainly, it was “by faith” that Samson “performed” this act of righteousness.
Became Mighty in War, Put Foreign Armies to Flight (Heb. 11:34)
As a judge, one of Samson’s responsibilities was to de-liver God’s people from oppressors (Judg. 2:18). Samson was faithful to God by carrying out God’s purpose for him. The Scriptures tell us that Samson sought “an occasion against the Philistines” (14:4). Samson found two separate occasions to afflict the Philistines in chapter 15. The first was “a great slaughter” (v. 8). The second was the occasion where Samson killed a thousand men with a jawbone of a donkey (v. 5). Samson certainly became “mighty in war” and “put foreign armies to flight” for the sake of God and his people.
God has given us a purpose as well. Paul said that we were “created for good works, which God prepared before-hand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). Like Samson, we must be faithful to God by carrying out his purpose for us. We must constantly seek occasions to do good works for God and men. Only then may we be “mighty in war” in God’s army.
Mockings . . . Chains and Imprisonment
… Afflicted, Ill-treated (Heb. 11:36, 37)
As a result of Delilah’s trickery, Samson lost his strength and the Philistines put him in chains. According to Hebrews 11:36-37, the Philistines afflicted him by gouging out his eyes and taking him to a pagan ceremony where they mocked him in front of 3,000 spectators. Samson realized that his sin had caused all these worldly people to mock both him and God. Faithfully, Samson did not give up on God and prayed for deliverance. God granted him strength again. Samson used this God-given strength to carry out God’s will and deliver God’s people from their enemies. While this cost Samson his life, it allowed him to kill “more than those whom he killed in his life” (Judg. 16:30). Samson died faithfully.
There might be some public sin in our lives at times that may cause the God whom we claim to serve and the brethren with whom we have fellowship to be mocked and tortured. In this situation we must repent and faithfully pray to God to give us strength. In repenting, we must turn away from sin and try to correct our lives in the area in which we were wrong. We must use the newly found strength to over-come God’s enemies with abstinence from sin. In doing so, we will live faithfully.
We live in a world in which we look at most things from a pessimistic point of view. I have always tended to do this with the life of Samson. It is remarkable to consider that de-spite all the evil things he did in his life, he was able to turn back to God and God then considered him faithful. It gives us courage to know that we can turn from our many failures and faithfully do the things God has planned for us to do.
Guardian of Truth XLI: 7 p. 20-21
April 3, 1997