The Honor of Family

When we started this crazy ride of Samson’s life, his parents were childless. The Angel of Yahweh visits them, and bingo, no longer childless. But we’re never told there are more kids following, at least not until now. Up to this point Samson has even acted like an only child, as if the world revolved around him. Only now do we discover that wasn’t it.

And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” And he bent with all his might so that the house fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he killed in his life.  Then his brothers and all his father’s household came down, took him, brought him up and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah his father. Thus he had judged Israel twenty years. (Judges 16:30 — 31 NASB)

Samson’s claim to fame lay in his great strength. And this strength was not in his muscles, but in Yahweh. The key to unlocking his strength was in his choice of Delilah over Yahweh. Sure, she had his hair cut, but it was his choice to tell her that brought him down. And, it’s in his death, in finally choosing Yahweh, he becomes the quintessential weapon of Yahweh against the Philistines. 

But, it’s also in his death we learn more of his family. We learn he had brothers. We learn of the family grave. And we learn of their honor of Samson. He is “gathered to his fathers”, which, in that culture, is acceptance highly prized. It means that, in his death, probably more so than during his life, he was accepted as one of the people of God. 

He went from “terrifying freak” to “Samson son of Manoah”, from weapon to champion. It’s not so subtle a change in their culture. In a way, his burial with his father, Manoah, brings this one so-holy-as-to-be-avoided, into the circle of a holy people. He was a Nazarite from birth who tears lions, kills a thousand men with a donkey jawbone, and carries the city gates of Gaza up a prominent hill. He probably gives people the creeps, especially when they look into his eyes and see the a man trapped in there. It’s haunting.

Now he’s home, finally. He’s at peace, finally. He’s among his people to stay, finally. And he’s welcomed, finally. There aren’t 3,000 of his own people showing up with new ropes to bind him and hand him over to his enemies. Samson is a tragic character. His tragedy is partly due to his lousy choices, but also due, maybe mostly due, to Yahweh’s choices of how to use him. 

We can’t blame others for our bad choices, not even or Master, Jesus. When our Master calls us to a purpose that we find uncomfortable or detestable, what choices will we make? Not the missionary type? Too invested in your secular job to consider vocational ministry? Does a jail or prison chaplain ministry scare you too much to consider?  Perhaps you’re too busy to be a hospital chaplain. 

The callings of our Master, from local soup kitchens to foreign missions, force us to chose. The Spirit of Jesus, living in us, empowers us for His use. And that empowerment can have detrimental effects in other areas of our lives when we resist that call to service. Often, people cling to the master of our warped culture’s pantheon, and resist the Master living within us. 

There’s time to relent, to cease resisting, to acquiesce to our Master’s intentions for us. I have, sort of. And in the struggle to be what He wants rather than what I want, I move in and out of bad choices along the way. I medicate fears and frustrations with choices that gratify my desires, not His. In a sense, it’s like I’m being passively aggressive with my Master, I’ll do what He wants, but refuse to be happy with it. 

And my culture says that it can’t be His call if I’m not happy. Not according to Samson. Not if we read of Jephthah. Not anyone familiar, really familiar, with Jeremiah. Scripture teaches me about my Master, and that He’s less interested in my happiness than in my usefulness to His Kingdom. My happiness saves no one. But His Kingdom redeems the whole cosmos.

That’s my view through my knothole this morning. What do you see of our Master through yours? 


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