Anointing vs. Character

“[T]he Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him, and the ropes that were on his arms became as flax that has caught fire, and his bonds melted off his hands. And he found a fresh jawbone of a donkey, and put out his hand and took it, and with it he struck 1,000 men.” – Judges 15:14

The Holy Spirit is explicitly said to have empowered Samson more than any other judge in the 300-year history of the 12 judges. In Judges 15, the Spirit of God famously empowers him to escape from arrest and slaughter a thousand men with the jawbone of a donkey that happened to be laying nearby.

In the life of Samson, we see on full display the difference between anointing and character. Anointing is the powerful work of the Holy Spirit, through you, that is nearly entirely done by God. These are the gifts of the Spirit. Conversely, character is something that you have to cultivate by surrendering to God’s rule over all of your life.

This is the fruit of the Spirit. It explains why Samson has a powerful anointing but pathetic character. In the New Testament, there is an entire church at Corinth whose members act like disciples of Samson. They are a very powerful and gifted church but are guilty of all the same sorts of sins as Samson, from sexual immorality to fights and drinking.

After abandoning the sexually desirable Philistine woman he married because he could not live without her, sometime later, Samson “went to visit his wife” with the gift of a “young goat” instead of a box of chocolates and bouquet of flowers. As a crude brute of a man who knows nothing of flirting, he said, “I will go in to my wife.”

Her father, however, stopped Samson from entering her room. Why? Because he had been gone so long, with no communication, that the father, assuming they were divorced, said, “I really thought that you utterly hated her, so I gave her to your companion (the best man from their wedding).” In a horrifying revelation of the depravity among the Philistines, the father says, “Is not her younger sister more beautiful than she? Please take her instead.” The way men treat women, and the way that fathers view daughters in their day, is sickening and sadly not unlike our own.

Feeling like an “innocent” victim, Samson somehow took the time to catch 300 foxes, which is not an easy feat. He then tied their tails together, set them on fire, and sent them racing to the stacks of grain and orchards, destroying the Philistines’ food and livelihood.

At the risk of stating the obvious, Samson’s life looks like a very dark horror comedy movie with a deeply troubled main character. The angry Philistines responded by burning to death his ex-wife and her father. In pure vengeance, as their war is escalating, “Samson said, ‘I swear I will be avenged on you, and after that I will quit.’ And he struck them hip and thigh with a great blow[.]”

A bit like a Hebrew Rambo, the one-man wrecking crew then went camping in the cleft of a rock while his enemies formed an angry mob to kill him. Joining them were 3,000 Hebrews, as his own people turned against him and sided with the Philistines! To both sides of the conflict, Samson was considered a terrorist; the one thing to which these enemies could agree was that the biggest threat to them was the Spirit-filled son of Manoah.

Samson willingly allowed the Hebrews to take him as a prisoner of war and bound him with many ropes. Judges 15:14 describes the scene as they handed him over to the Philistines:

[T]he Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him, and the ropes that were on his arms became as flax that has caught fire, and his bonds melted off his hands. And he found a fresh jawbone of a donkey, and put out his hand and took it, and with it he struck 1,000 men. And Samson said, “With the jawbone of a donkey, heaps upon heaps, with the jawbone of a donkey have I struck down a thousand men.” As soon as he had finished speaking, he threw away the jawbone out of his hand. And that place was called Ramath-lehi [meaning Jawbone Hill].

The entire Samson story is one of escalating violence caused by vengeful revenge. Samson says this very fact in Judges 15:11: “As they did to me, so have I done to them.” 

Even though his life and this scene of his life offer a case study in vengeance, which the Lord prohibits as a sin, God allows Samson to emerge victorious over the Philistine enemies. Rather than praying to God, or praising God as Deborah had done with Barak after God gave them a battle victory, we simply read (in Judges 15:18), “he was very thirsty, and he called upon the LORD and said, ‘You have granted this great salvation by the hand of your servant, and shall I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?’ And God split open the hollow place that is at Lehi [Calling Spring], and water came out from it. And when he drank, his spirit returned, and he revived.”

Like many if not most men, Samson is driven by anger and motivated by pleasure. When he finally does pray, it’s a selfish prayer that sounds more like scolding God for not getting him a drink. Samson treats his God a bit like a bad waitress who has failed to fill up his glass. God very kindly does not strike him dead, but instead brings forth water from a rock, which sounds a lot like the days of Moses.

The scene is now set for the final moment of Samson’s life, which is his most famous moment and one of the best-known Bible stories that we will examine tomorrow.

What do you learn about God as you witness His patience and provision in the life of Samson? How have you seen a measure of this in your own life?

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