Leadership Struggles

“Give me now wisdom and knowledge to go out and come in before this people, for who can govern this people of yours, which is so great?” – 2 Chronicles 1:10

The fourth and final theme portrayed in Samson’s life is leadership. The last line of the Samson story in Judges 16:31 says, “He had judged Israel twenty years.” A Bible dictionary says:

The “judges” were essentially ad hoc military deliverers whom God raised up in times of military crisis to deliver the nation of Israel. The judges were, moreover, charismatic figures, not self-appointed or elected leaders. They were people whom “the Lord raised up” (Judges 2:16,18; 3:9, 15 RSV). Seven times we read that “the Spirit of the Lord” came upon or possessed various judges. The essential role of these leaders was to deliver (nearly two dozen references), and the book itself is a small anthology of rescue stories. (1)

Once God’s people occupied the Promised Land, they wanted a king. However, God was not ready to give them a king, because they had not yet started honoring Him as King of Kings. For roughly 300 years, the judges were raised up by God as interim national leaders, and all of this is recorded in the book of Judges. The judges were supposed to be political and military leaders who honored God as King and led God’s people into godliness.

Despite being a judge for 20 years, Samson does not demonstrate many, if any, true leadership qualities.

●      He never gathers people and is a complete loner most of the time.

●      He never builds teams or shares power; he’s literally a one-man wrecking crew.

●      He never plans strategically; all his decisions are impetuous and driven by anger or lust without considering the consequences.

●      He lacks followers, as most people, including his own people who handed him over to the Philistines, were scared of him.

●      He never seeks wise counsel; his life is void of sagely advice or seeking to learn from anyone.

●      He is never under any authority; he tells his parents what to do, breaks the law, and ignores God.

Samson was a lot like the people in his day, so they got the leader that reflected their values. In our day, things are largely the same. As we look at our political leaders, even those who claim to believe in God, we often see people who are a lot more like Samson than like Jesus.

A Bible dictionary says:

Although cast in the form of literary tragedy, the story of Samson as told in Judges also has a remarkably contemporary feel. It might have been written by a magazine staff writer based on material provided by a gossip columnist. The focus is as much on the sexual misconduct and marital failure of a public leader as on his political and military exploits. Yet somewhere inside this flawed man was a passion for God. God noticed and used it. So did the author of Judges, who gave Samson more space than any other judge to send the implied message “if God could use this person, he can use anyone.” (2)

In the final devo of this week, we will look at the signs of the rise and fall of nations, comparing and contrasting Israel in the days of Judges with the United States today.

Do you see any similarities between Samson’s leadership style and your own? In what ways can you improve on leading those around you?

1.    Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, op. cit., 467.

2.    Ibid., 755-757.

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