I despise soap operas. Just saying. And I apologize if that offends anyone who may be a faithful viewer. But I just don't get it. What is it about our lives that makes us feel the need to get involved in theirs'? I mean, somebody is always trying to kill somebody else, or sleeping with someone else's wife. There is always at least one bad guy, with that awful soap opera bad guy glare. And at least one bad girl, who has to continually prove that she's the bad girl. Everyone is always loaded, really loaded, living in unbelievably huge houses and driving, excuse me, being driven around in unbelievably expensive cars. I just don't get it.
The story of Samson reads just like a script for a Monday afternoon soap opera, oh my gosh! Have you read that story lately? As I think back, I'm not sure that I have ever preached on Samson, so evidently I wasn't as familiar with the story as I thought I was. I mean, I knew about Samson and Delilah, and I knew that he whipped a bunch of Philistines with the jawbone of an ass. But, dang, Hollywood couldn't write a better script.
It starts out simple enough. His mother is getting older and has no children. An angel appears to her and says that she is going to have a son but that he will be a Nazirite from birth. He can't ever have fermented drink or any form of grape, he could never eat anything unclean, and he could never cut his hair. Samson was born and scripture says, "and the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him while he was in Mahaneh Dan..."
Then the drama kicks in...He had found a Philistine girl that he just had to marry, so he convinced his mom and dad to go get her for him. On the way a lion charged them and he ripped it apart with is bare hands. He went back to marry her, and found a swarm of honey bees in the lion's carcass, scooped out some of the honey, and went on his way. Then there was the bet...he told his buddies that if they could solve his riddle he would give them a bunch of stuff, if not they had to give him a bunch of stuff. After a few days, his new bride to be, threw the "You don't love me" stuff at him and he told her the answer, then she told them. Yada yada yada.
But I love what Samson says about all of that..."If you had not plowed with my heifer you would not have solved my riddle..." Now, if I had said that, I would have found myself rolled up in a bed sheet with my wife wailing me with a baseball bat, and like my dad says, I would have just had to lay there and take it because I earned it. But since this is an Old Testament soap opera, he can get away with it.
But wait! There's more! The drama gets even better. His future father in law thought Samson was mad so gave his wife to one of his buddies. So, Samson does what any jilted lover would do, he goes on a killing spree, and it was on from there. Cue Delilah and her treachery. He loved her, but she could be bought, and was. The Philistines promised her silver if she could find out the source of his strength, but Samson just played along for a while. 3 times he told her where his strength was, 3 times she told them. Then, o my gosh, she throws the "How can you love me if you won't confide in me?" stuff at him. His story does have a sad ending, but he does get some sense of revenge in the end.
I guess that all of this has shown me that not all of scripture needs some lengthly theological wranglings. I'm sure there are things within Samson's story that we could debate theologically, but on first reading, this is one heck of a soap opera. I have to say that after reading it that way for the first time, I'm not even sure what to do with it. Is it legend? Are there some metaphorical truths buried within it that I haven't uncovered for myself yet? Is it history? Did God give life to Samson and cause his story to be recorded for us to read all these years later? Did he get jilted by not one, but two, women so that we can glean some life lesson from that? Did he really push the pillars down in the temple of dagon, killing thousands of those who would stand around to mock him? And where was God while all of this was going on?
I don't know. Sometimes I just have to step back from a passage of scripture and let it soak in for a while, and then read it again to see if it reads the same. I guess that's what I'm going to have to do with this one, and encourage you to do the same. Again with the forest and the trees. This one has messed me up just a little. Nothing major, but I am going to spend some time with it this week, reading the drama out of it, and looking for the deeper truths within in.