A True Superhero for Our Time

Judges 16:22-31 But the hair on his head began to grow again after it had been shaved. 23 Now the rulers of the Philistines assembled to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god and to celebrate, saying, "Our god has delivered Samson, our enemy, into our hands." 24 When the people saw him, they praised their god, saying, "Our god has delivered our enemy into our hands, the one who laid waste our land and multiplied our slain." 25 While they were in high spirits, they shouted, "Bring out Samson to entertain us." So they called Samson out of the prison, and he performed for them. When they stood him among the pillars, 26 Samson said to the servant who held his hand, "Put me where I can feel the pillars that support the temple, so that I may lean against them." 27 Now the temple was crowded with men and women; all the rulers of the Philistines were there, and on the roof were about three thousand men and women watching Samson perform. 28 Then Samson prayed to the LORD, "O Sovereign LORD, remember me. O God, please strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes." 29 Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other, 30 Samson said, "Let me die with the Philistines!" Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived. 31 Then his brothers and his father's whole family went down to get him. They brought him back and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah his father. He had led Israel twenty years.

The Joker is laying siege to Gotham City. New York City is under attack by Dr. Octopus and the rest of the Sinister Six. Lex Luthor has another diabolic plan to take over the world.

The people of Gotham and New York and planet Earth are helpless. They are weak victims of crimes being perpetrated against them. They are powerless to stop their enemies.

They need superheroes.

The Israelites in the book of Judges are helpless. They are victims of the mighty Philistines. They are powerless to stop their enemies.

They need a superhero.

The difference is that the people of Gotham and New York and Earth have done nothing to bring the super-villains’ wrath down on them. The Old Testament Israelites are not so innocent. They bring the Philistine oppression on themselves by “continuing to do evil in the eyes of the Lord” (Judges 13:1). They continue on their path away from worshiping the true God and worshiping false idols of their own making. Each generation becoming less and less dedicated to the Lord. Each time in the book of Judges that the Israelites do evil in the eyes of the Lord, God causes one of the heathen nations in Canaan to rise up and oppress His people.

After the Israelites cry out for mercy and return to the Lord, God raises up a hero – a judge – to rescue them. But throughout the book of Judges, the Israelites continue in their downward spiral. Their transgressions become greater, their oppression becomes longer, and their hero/judge becoming less sanctified and godly.

But God would always raise up a new hero for their time. He does so once again with Samson. Samson is a miracle child, announced by the angel of the Lord to his parents. Samson is dedicated from birth to service to God. Part of his vows of service as a Nazarite is that he is not to cut his hair. God gives Samson tremendous – almost superhuman – strength to defeat the Philistines and free His people.

Samson does not receive his superhuman power from gamma rays or the bite of a radioactive spider or shouting the mystical word “Shazam.” Nor is his power in his long hair. His strength comes from the spirit of the Lord.

With the spirit of the Lord, Samson accomplishes amazing (Spider-Man), fantastic (Four), and incredible (Hulk) feats of strength. On the way to pick out a wife from the bad-guy Philistines, he is attacked by a lion. He tears the lion to pieces with his bare hands. Later he scoops honey from its dead carcass, tells a riddle about it in the midst of a seven-day party, and, after losing a bet to people who tricked him for the answer, wipes out 30 bad guys to pay off the bet.

On another occasion he captures 300 foxes, ties their tails and attaches torches, and sends them running in the fields of the villains, burning grain, vineyards, and olive trees. When his own people tie him up, hoping to curry favor with the Philistines, Samson breaks the ropes as though they are burnt candle wicks. He then grabs a jawbone from a donkey skeleton and it is clobberin’ time. The final tally is 1,000 Philistines dead.

After spending the evening with a prostitute in the Philistine town of Gaza, Samson realizes he might get caught. So he rips the city gates off their hinges and carried them to a hill five miles down the road.

When his Philistine mistress, Delilah, pesters him to tell the secret of his great strength, he finally gives in and tells her about his Nazarite vow. She puts him to sleep and cuts off his hair. His hair is gone. His strength is gone. But more importantly, the spirit of the Lord is gone. And the saddest part is that Samson doesn’t even notice that God’s spirit had left him (Judges 16:20).

All the superheroes in the comics have their weaknesses, their failings, and their vices. Superman’s weakness is kryptonite. Iron Man’s vice is alcoholism. Captain America’s failing is that he is from another era. Samson’s failings and vices are many.

But he is the kind of leader that the Israelites deserved.

We are the Israelites of today. We may complain about the political state of our nation and criticize the big-name religious leaders in our nation. But we get what we deserve. Because we as Christians have not been vigilant and attentive to our God, His worship and His Word, we have gotten the kind of leaders we merit – weak, indecisive, unscriptural, and unchristian – pretty much like us.

We have committed the same sins as the Old Testament Israelites. We practice open idolatry by worshiping the god of sports or sleep or vacation or money, more than the one true God.

We practice secret idolatry when we do not take God or His Word seriously. We know what is right, what God tells us to do and not to do … and yet we do whatever we want anyhow. And then complain when God doesn’t bless our sinful and selfish actions.

We practice closet idolatry where we say that we are Christians in public, but in private we are actually indifferent and apathetic to our Christian doctrines. We don’t know what God’s Word says about the hot topics of the day – abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, living together, false gods, etc. We just go along with the flow, getting swept away in our godless society that surges all around us.

We follow a false Christianity, which is permissive and encourages indulgence. For this is more attractive than true Christianity with its call to repentance, self-denial, and bearing of the cross.

And our children are even worse. We are raising little Christians who have no idea what it means to be holy and wholly committed to their Lord. And so God has every right to bring oppression on us – just like He did with the Israelites in the book of Judges.

Yet, in the end, God gave the Israelites a hero they did not deserve.

When they finally have the chance, the Philistines poke out Samson’s eyes and poke fun at him because they can now live a life of partying without worrying about Samson. He who made a donkey of himself by his self-centered behavior is now treated like a donkey. He who carried away locked gates is now locked in prison. He who burned grain fields is now grinding grain. Samson is blind, bald and humbled.

But verse 22 says very simply … and very ominously: “But the hair on his head began to grow.” This verse lets us know that although Samson, along with God and his people, seems to be defeated, there is still more to the story.

His hair begins to grow. This isn’t Rogaine or five o’clock shadow. This is God, who brought the miracle child Samson into this world, blessed him with miraculous strength that he abused, and now miraculously comes back to this sinner in mercy. God is not ready to give up on his flawed hero. The initial growth of Samson’s hair makes him realize that his strength could return, and he knew exactly where he would find it.

The Philistines fetch Samson from prison to entertain thousands of people and rulers in their pagan temple to their fish-god, Dagon – think Aquaman, but with a fish body. Samson is positioned between two pillars. There he prays, “O Sovereign Lord, remember me. O God, please strengthen me just once more.” Samson doesn’t thump his chest or pump his biceps. He prays a prayer of humility. He prays that God would use him one last time to bring glory to God’s name. So that he might bring death upon the enemies of God’s people, though he would die with them.

And so in his death, Samson kills more enemies than he did throughout his life. The Philistines, so terrified by the evidence of God’s almighty power in the catastrophe in their god’s temple, permit Samson’s family to dig through the rubble to claim his body. Their princes are dead. Their power is broken. And the Philistines are not heard from again throughout the book of Judges.

We are the helpless Israelites. We are the causalities of a war fought in the spiritual realms. But we have brought this war upon ourselves with our sin. We need saving.

Though we may have political and spiritual leaders that we deserve, in the end, God gives us a true superhero that we do not deserve. He is a true superhero for our time – and for all times. His name is Jesus Christ.

At the end of his life, Samson becomes a “type” or picture of Christ.

Jesus never tore a lion apart with His bare hands, but He is the lion of Judah who tore Satan to shreds (Revelation 5:5).

He didn’t dig honey out of a carcass to tell a riddle, but His words are sweeter than honey and can give life to those who are dead inside (Psalm 119:103).

On trial before Herod, whom he had described as a fox (Luke 13:32), Jesus said nothing and burned Herod with silence.

Jesus didn’t kill with a jawbone of a donkey, didn’t lift and carry the gates of a city to a hill. But He rode a donkey through Jerusalem’s gates, not to carry them away but to carry your sins and mine to a hill where we would wash them away from God’s sight with His blood.

Jesus kept Himself pure from temptations of prostitutes, but He was not afraid to deal with them, forgiving them and turning their lives around.

No one took Jesus’ strength. Jesus always possessed His divine strength, but kept it under wraps.

Jesus did not need to be humbled. He was humble from birth and humble before His death praying, “Not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

As Samson was mocked and slapped while being led to Dagon’s temple, so Jesus was mocked, slapped and spat on for the crowd’s sick amusement (Matthew 27:40, 43).

Jesus appeared defeated on the cross. But there was more to the story.

The enemies were in shock that this might possibly have been the Son of God, so they allowed Jesus’ friends to bury Him with honor (Mark 15:39, 43).

Samson brought about destruction when he pushed the temple pillars apart, but he was not merely eliminating a negative. He was bringing about a positive for Israel, which enjoyed peace from the Philistines for a time.

At the cross and at the grave, Jesus defeated His enemies once and for all. Yes, sin still plagues us. Death is still waiting for us. Satan still tempts and torments us. But they are defeated. We are given the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57).

But Jesus did more than just eliminate a negative. He also brings with Him positives for our time and for all time. They are the positives of forgiveness of our sins, peace with God, hope, joy, life with Christ and eternal salvation with God’s saints.

Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster created Superman in 1938. Bob Kane created Batman in 1939. Stan Lee created Spider-Man in 1962. They were superheroes for their times.

Because the Israelites were so powerless, God raised up powerful Samson as a hero for his people for that time. Because we are so helpless and weak, God has raised up a divine superhero in the person of Jesus Christ. He is our hero for our time … and for all times. Amen.