It all starts well - the people of Israel have forgotten about God. They are now bearing the consequences in the form of oppression by the neighbouring Philistines. God announces to a barren woman that she will have a son who will start to save Israel from its enemies.
Great news! Can't wait.
Then we get onto chapters 14-16, and we meet Samson grown up. At his wedding, he makes a bet with 30 of the guests. When they win, he goes off an kills 30 other people to cover the gambling debt. Then he storms off from the wedding in a huff, leaving his wife to sleep with the best man. Later, he gets his knickers in a knot about his wife's affair with the best man, and burns down all the farms around the town. They attack his missus and her old man, so he strikes back. The body count rapidly mounts over the thousand mark, and we're only at the end of chapter 14!
This guy's life is an absolute train wreck, and this is the man God put in charge of the Israelites for 20 years?
How on earth can I make sense of that for the kids?
It seems to me that there are two big ideas to come out of Samson's sagas:
- This sort of leader can't be the height of God's plan. Samson is not the sort of man I want to follow, which sends me back looking for someone I am willing to follow and trust. I'd look in vain through the history of Israel's kings (although some are better than others). There's no-one else in the rest of world history that I can follow unconditionally. I'm driven, as ever, to Jesus - he is the only king worthy of allegiance; the only hero worth praising; the only role-model I can adopt without reservation.
- God can still use messed-up people to put his plans into action. As I look at myself, at our leaders in government, religion and business, this is a comforting thought. God isn't limited to working through perfect people - if he can work through Samson, he can work through anyone.