A "Stranger and Pilgrim" Who Failed
Appendix: Strangers and Pilgrims On The Earth
From the Main Message of
Bread Upon The Waters Ministry
Old Testament Heroes.
As stated in the Introduction to this section, the heroes of the Old Testament discussed in Hebrews 11 confessed themselves to be "strangers and pilgrims on the earth", and we said that that is the way we have to live. To get an idea of what this required of them, let us take a brief look at some of their lives.
As the writer of Hebrew said, time would fail us to really go into any real depth about them. But in the Old Testament we have stories of incredible heroics of faith. We think of Noah, preaching righteousness and building the Ark in the face of what must have been constant ridicule, and most likely at the expense of all his personal resources, because he believed God's warning and promise. We think of Abraham, leaving his homeland and family to go he-knew-not-where, again, believing God's promise. We think of Moses facing Pharaoh, David facing Goliath, Elijah confronting Ahab, Daniel in the lion's den, and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace. And let's not forget Esther, laying her life on the line before Ahasuerus to save Israel from Haman's vicious plot. These are stories we tell to Sunday School children. But how much do we relate these stories to our own lives?
These stories aren't fables. These things really happened. These people all had to take awesomely courageous stands for their faith. How many of us could by faith do what they did? We may have to face the full fury of Satan via the Beasts. We will only be ready to do it if we are as serious about being "strangers and pilgrims" in the here and now as they were then.
The One Who Doesn't Fit
In the list of Old Testament heroes in Hebrews 11, there is one name mentioned that doesn't quite fit. That name is Samson. We can assume that he was, in his own way, a man of great faith, and he did do what it was prophesied that he would do; beginning the deliverance of Israel from Philistine oppression. But in the long run, his ministry, unlike those of the others in Hebrews 11, was a tragic failure. He failed because he wasn't committed to being a "stranger and pilgrim". He let the world get to him in the person of a treacherous woman named Delilah.
Someone Very Special
Yet a close look at Samson shows that he was meant for something truly great. His birth was foretold by an angel, a distinction he shares only with Isaac, John the Baptist, and Jesus Christ. He was also a Nazarite from birth, again, a distinction he shares only with the Prophet Samuel and John the Baptist. Clearly he was someone very special.
A Real Life Superhero
A study of his miracles gives us an idea of just how special he was. He wasn't just exceptionally strong. He was truly superhuman. A real life superhero. If Batman or Spiderman were real people, and Samson had fought them, he would have defeated them easily. He killed a lion barehanded. Do you know how strong a lion is? A traveler in Africa some years ago saw a lion leap a 10 foot wall with a cow (circa 900-1200 lbs.) in its mouth. Samson had to have been far stronger than that lion to do what he did. No normal human could be that strong.
In another miracle, he ripped out the gates of the city of Gaza, posts, bars and all. Now, we're not talking about little garden gates. These were the gates of a fortified city; the kind of gates they used to need huge battering rams to break through. He would have needed the strength of a big bulldozer to do that. Then he carried them to a hilltop overlooking Hebron. The trip to Hebron was about 40 miles, and included a climb up a 3000 ft. hill. More than that, he was probably running during at least part of the trip. There is reason to believe that there were Philistines chasing him (See Judges 16:2). Those gates had to have weighed several tons. So Samson was not only truly super strong but had super stamina as well. He didn't get tired. Thirsty, yes. Tired, no.
He was also super fast and super agile. The Bible says that he caught 300 foxes (or jackals - the Hebrew word could mean either). To do this in a short time, he must have run them down and caught them barehanded. To have trapped that many could have taken months or years. The Scripture gives the impression that he did it in at most a few days (compare Judges 15:1 with verses 4 & 5). He would have needed the super speed and super agility to do this, and, again, super stamina.
More than that, he was also invulnerable to injury when fighting. He would have needed to be so when he killed the lion and when he caught the foxes. They scratch and bite! This was most dramatically demonstrated at Ramath Lehi, when he killed 1000 Philistines with the jaw bone of an ass. He couldn't have killed that many if they had all been running away. The Philistines weren't cowards (See I Samuel 4:6-9). They were probably trying very hard to kill him. But they couldn't even hurt him. Samson was an invincible one-man army. More than that, he had his powers all the time, as long as he kept his Nazarite covenant relationship with God. Flatly, in the physical sense, he was the most superhumanly powerful man who ever lived. We should wonder why God gave him these powers.
Special note: This writer has no problem believing in the reality of Samson's powers because, on two occasions, for a few moments he was given the strength of Samson by the Holy Spirit. In both incidents, the power was given to enable him to help other people, and he didn't realize it had happened until he reflected on what had happened after it was over.
What Was The Reason For His Powers?
God didn't need to give someone super powers to free Israel from Philistine oppression. See the story of Gideon, Judges 6 & 7. Yet the special circumstances of Samson's birth, and the awesomeness of his super powers suggest that he originally had a calling at least in the same class with that of Moses. It appears that he was meant to be a sort of Old Testament messiah. God was giving Israel an opportunity to truly fulfill their calling. They were called to be, as a nation, a witness to the pagan nations around them. Unfortunately, they never really were.
If Samson had been truly obedient to God, he could have completely wiped out the Philistines. He could have brought all the surrounding nations to their knees. He could have put a complete end to all idolatry in Israel, and he could have established a kingdom that would have been really obedient to the Law. (But he, himself, wasn't really obedient to the Law.) The evidence of his powers could have motivated the surrounding nations to put away their idols and start worshipping the God of Israel. And he could have lived at least twice, maybe three times, as long as he did. Under his leadership, Israel could have become the most powerful, most influential nation on earth. And there would have been peace for generations.
Samson blew it all for a shaky relationship.
And anyone who let's anything this world has to offer stand between himself and being ready for the Second Coming is just as dumb as Samson. Do you think that anything the world has to offer is worth going to hell for? Neither is anything worth not being ready for the Second Coming.
After his fall, God did allow Samson to get his powers back one last time. But all he was able to do with it was get revenge for the loss of his eyes, and he killed himself in the process. What a tragedy! This can be considered as a good metaphor for what will happen to Christians who aren't ready. They will be able to get right with God, and be filled with the Holy Spirit after the Tribulation begins (if they live long enough). But beyond allowing them to survive spiritually, it won't do them much good in this world. In fact, it may get them killed.
The Victory of Jesus
Set against the failure of Samson, we have the magnificent victory of Jesus. During His life on earth, He accomplished everything He set out to do. He lived a sinless life. He healed the sick, raised the dead, and preached the Gospel. He laid the foundation of the Church through His Apostles. And most of all, He died for our sins and arose from the dead. At the core of His victory, more than His being the Son of God, and more than His being born without original sin, was His attitude that is mentioned prophetically in Psalm 40:6-8, and quoted in Hebrews 10:5-8:
"Behold I come....to do Your will, O God."
And implied in this is;
"And nothing but your will, regardless of the cost."
And don't think it was easy.
Samson could have said, "There are other fish in the sea", and walked right out of Delilah's door when she asked for his secret. But he gave in to the temptation and walked right into a vicious betrayal that he should have seen coming.
In the Garden
On the other hand, think of Jesus sweating blood in the Garden of Gethsemane. Do you know why He was sweating blood? It was because of the terrible emotional conflict that was going on inside Him. Few Christians have ever known the severity of temptation that Jesus endured that night. He knew exactly what was coming if He didn't get up and run away. His flesh no more wanted to go through with the torture and crucifixion than yours or mine would. His spirit was fighting His fear, and His fear wasn't giving up easily. Jesus was suffering for our sins long before He got to the Cross.
We Can Win
But Jesus won, and because He won, you and I can win. Win, that is, the seal of the living God, win the rewards that go beyond mere salvation. If we really "fight the good fight". If we really "run the race". If we really "keep the faith". (II Timothy 4:7) But to win it, we must commit ourselves to being "Strangers and Pilgrims on the Earth". We must, as much as we can, adopt the attitude of absolute obedience that Jesus had. We won't be ready if we don't.
So you are reminded for the last time in this series of Web pages,
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Contact Author, William D. Brehm