One of the struggles we have to face as disciples of Jesus is that Who we worship refuses to conform to our imaginations. Jesus, Yahweh, God refuses to be Who we expect or imagine Him to be. This is why Bible study is so important. In Scripture, our Creator has recorded His interactions with His human creatures. Our relationship with Him is defined therein. If you want to know the “rules” of the relationship, then that’s where you find them, in Scripture. Part of that knowledge is learning about the One we worship. And He is often really unexpectedly weird.
Then Samson went down to Timnah with his father and mother, and came as far as the vineyards of Timnah; and behold, a young lion came roaring toward him. The Spirit of the LORD came upon him mightily, so that he tore him as one tears a young goat though he had nothing in his hand; but he did not tell his father or mother what he had done. (Judges 14:5-6 NASB)
What is translated here in the New American Standard as “mightily” is the Hebrew word, tsalach (Strong’s 6743). In the Septuagint, there are two versions, one has the Greek word, hallomai (Strong’s 242), and the other has kateuthuno (Strong’s 2720). So what? Well, this is the work of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Yahweh, and so, displays the character and will of God in this event, the tearing of a lion.
The Hebrew word, if you followed the link, you’ll see refers to prospering, or being successful. The Spirit of God worked in Samson to give him success against the lion. This doesn’t surprise us because God was keeping Samson safe. Regardless of Samson violating his Nazarite state by touching the body later, the Spirit of God worked in him then to keep him safe. It wasn’t a statement about Samson’s righteousness, but his usefulness to God.
Flash forward to after his “companions” extort the answer to the riddle out of Samson’s wife:
Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon him mightily, and he went down to Ashkelon and killed thirty of them and took their spoil and gave the changes of clothes to those who told the riddle. And his anger burned, and he went up to his father’s house. (Judges 14:19 NASB)
You’ll never guess which words are behind “mightily” here? Maybe you would. The Hebrew is the same, and the two versions of the Septuagint both have the same word choices. Consider this: what happened in the first instance to save Samson from the lion happened again as he goes to essentially murder 30 unwitting unsuspecting Philistines. Do you realize that, today, we would brand Samson as a serial killer, and he’d have his own episode of Criminal Minds? But this is Scripture, so we say that God inspired him to act in this way. But, today, what do we say about the character of the One we worship?
You may be very uncomfortable with this line of thinking, but we need to go here. It’s necessary because we must confront what God says about Himself. We cannot allow ourselves to make up who we think He should be. We must allow Him to define Himself. You can’t make your spouse who you want them to be, that never works. So, why would we turn around and do that with God, our Creator? Why, because who He is makes us uncomfortable.
The thing is, defining our Master from this one passage is impossible. That’s not the expectation. Jesus died for our sins. “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32 NASB) The One we worship is still this One. But He is also the one inspiring Samson to murder the enemies of God’s people, by our modern definition. The challenge is to hold both things as true at the same time.
Perhaps accepting the difference in societies and cultures between then and now will suffice in explaining why God worked the way He did then. And that’s fine, as long as both characteristics are true simultaneously. We must let God be who He is, as He describes Himself. Keep very close to the surface of your mind as you study Scripture that this is what He wants us to know about Himself. He wants us to know that He inspired Samson to kill those 30 Philistines as he did. It wasn’t war, those thirty men didn’t attack Samson (that we know of, at least that detail wasn’t important to record), there was no record of provocation from those who died.
How you deal with that challenge is on you. The consequences of Samson’s actions were felt by Samson. The Philistines didn’t excuse him because he was inspired. Jesus clearly instructs us to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us. Yet, in this passage, that same Person inspired Samson to murder some of the enemies of God’s people.
This isn’t saying we should be violent. But perhaps it is saying we need to be aware that our Master sometimes is violent. This is another lesson that sin is defined by our relationship with our Master, not by a list of unapproved actions. The same actions by different people may result in sin for one and righteousness for the other. It all depends on the relationship. This is only “situational ethics” as long as the “situation” is always our relationship with our Master.
Well, that’s my strange view through the knothole this morning. What do you see of our Master through yours?