It’s Christmas and I’m a Southern Baptist pastor.
That means that my attention is on the story of an unsuspecting woman who would give birth to a hero. At the time of the birth, there were no Christmas carols. There was no gift giving. Just an angel with an unusual message and two scared parents. And then a baby.
This baby was special. He wasn’t going to be like anyone else. He was born with a mission to deliver his people. But it didn’t work out as planned. You could even say that this promising baby grew up to be a failure. He lived much of his life as a prisoner to the very same desires that were keeping his people in bondage. And at the end of his life, he was living as a slave to the very people he was meant to defeat.
Samson was a slave to his desires. Just like his people (Judges 13:1) he did what seemed right in his own eyes. Whenever the Bible says something about a person or group of people doing what seemed right in their own eyes, look out. Bad things are coming. For Samson, what seemed right was marrying a Philistine.
Samson went down to Timnah, and at Timnah he saw one of the daughters of the Philistines. Then he came up and told his father and mother, “I saw one of the daughters of the Philistines at Timnah. Now get her for me as my wife.” But his father and mother said to him, “Is there not a woman among the daughters of your relatives, or among all our people, that you must go to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me, for she is right in my eyes.” Judges 14:1-3 (ESV)
Samson was supposed to defeat the Philistines, not marry them. But his decision proved to be one of many compromises that led to his death (Judges 14:8-10).
If you’ve grown up in church, you know the story of Samson and Delilah. For Samson, Delilah was a rebound of sorts from a quick fling he had with a prostitute. Delilah was no fling. The Bible says that she was relentless in her pursuit of the source of Samson’s great strength (Judges 16:16). Samson never told Delilah his secret and used her inquisitiveness to kill more Philistines while displaying his great strength. Finally, as he was accustomed to doing, Samson gave in. One of his last sayings as a healthy and mighty warrior was a tragic mix of arrogance and practical atheism.
“I will go out as at other times and shake myself free” Judges 16:20 (ESV).
You’ll notice that there was no mention of the spirit of the Lord as was the case earlier in Samson’s life. The next line of verse 20 is heart breaking.
But he did not know that the LORD had left him.
The Philistines captured Samson and gouged out those eyes of his that got him into trouble at the beginning of the Bible’s account of his life. The story ends with Samson’s hair growing back and his strength returning with it for one last battle with the Philistines. Samson killed a bunch of them and himself too in the process. Samson was gone for good. But the Philistines did not go away. Years later a small shepherd boy would take down a big Philistine with a small rock. And even that didn’t do away with them completely.
Thankfully, there was another baby.
Unlike Samson, instead of just doing what seemed right, he did what was right. All of the time. He was obedient.
Unlike Samson, he didn’t come to deliver his people from Philistines. To the dismay of some of his contemporaries, he didn’t come to bring deliverance from an oppressive Roman government. No, this baby was a greater warrior than Samson and he came to defeat a greater enemy – sin.
“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21 (ESV)
God left Samson because of Samson’s great sin.
God turned is back on his own Son because of our great sin.
Both men knew that feeling of abandonment. Only one knew it without sin.
Samson’s life is a story of promises that never came to pass. Jesus’ is a story of promises fulfilled. He didn’t peak in early childhood only to fall away like other supposed saviors. He was obedient to the point of death. All of the time. And he didn’t come to bring temporary relief from a pesky enemy. He came to bring eternal life from sin and its eternally deadly consequences.
Just like Samson, Jesus didn’t stay a baby.
Just like Samson, Jesus’ mission led him to the grave.
But unlike Samson, Jesus isn’t there anymore.
Immanuel, God with us, promised that he would always be with us. Even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).
Our enemy is greater than anything we could ever know.
But our Savior is greater than anyone who will ever live.