Readers may find previous posts on Judges here:
|Judging and perceiving (1)||Judging and perceiving (2-Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar)|
|Judging and perceiving (3-Deborah)||Judging and perceiving (4-Gideon, Abimelech)|
|Judging and perceiving (5-Jephthah)|
Whereas Othniel, Ehud, and Deborah appear to have acknowledged God’s role, human might was also integral in their stories, to the point that one begins to question the people’s allegiance to the One Deliverer. The Deborah/Barak “song of victory,” for example, allows a place for the Lord of Hosts, but the Hebrew people almost appear to be boastful rather than grateful. With Gideon, a mixture of faith and fear was in evidence. Abimelech was a blight in Israel’s history, showing nothing good at all. The Jepththah story is starkly tragic. And next, the inimitable Samson.
In the case of Samson, I perceive a descent, by an order of magnitude, into selfish foolishness. No matter how bloody Gideon’s aftermath, or how horrific the sacrifice of Jephthah’s daughter, I see Samson as worse. Despite his bravery and military heroism, he was pathetically human, with primary loyalty to his own needs and ego. Here are a few things we can see in this character’s story:
- Devotion (parents dedicated him, Nazir vow)
- Orientation to a cause (defeating the Philistines)
- Vengeful bloodthirst for vindication (for self or God?)
- Weakness (when lust for women came into the picture)
- Faith (regarded, in the end, by God)
We humans can readily become too excited about things that are relatively unimportant, or pay homage to things over than God. We pay rapt attention to, or become consumed by, unimportant things while ignoring the eternally significant. As I will illustrate in a related essay soon, humanity has always problems with lack of hindsight, foresight, insight, and prioritization. In short, we sometimes don’t perceive and judge or assess things rightly. The Israelites surely did that, and Samson did it in the extreme. Overall, the Israelites’ faithless downfalls may be starkly seen in the time of the Judges. I might frame all this as misplaced allegiance: for example, to Deborah over God, to victory over the Victor, to human strength or decision over God’s provision.
Speaking of allegiance
I frequently do battle with the creeping influence of Americanisn—a philosophy I find to have taken hold within the minds and hearts of a great many sincere, even studied Christian believers. (Actually, Mr. Americanism ain’t creepin’ no mo! . . . he done crept in and made hisself a home!) Allegiance to the U.S.A. is a topic too large for my scope here; it deserves more than a mention. I would be remiss, too, in an essay on priorities and allegiance, if I didn’t briefly address loyalty to denominations. At least in my mind, denominational partisanship is a more manageable, even simplistic topic than nationalism. Simply to denominate (to name) isn’t inherently sinful, but to have an organization that comes between a believer and his allegiance to God must be called out. Some denominations are more hierarchical than others, but it’s not the ones with the top-down mentality that do all the damage. What are we to think of Joel Osteen’s followers, for instance? Are they better, in the end, than the Scientology cult or the Mormon organization? Even grassroots loyalty that fosters subservience to dogma and clergy in relatively egalitarian organizations can be very damaging.
Further, we ought to reject and repudiate other loyalty-grabbers such as lodges and secret societies. As children, we might have secret handshakes or passwords for fun, but when this stuff escalates into adulthood, the potential is frightening. While Satanism or Wicca are blatant and to be avoided, we shouldn’t wink at the insidious potential of Freemasonry. The Masonic influence in history is the stuff of legend, documentary, and conspiracy theory, but it is not to be ignored. No God-respecting Christian should pledge allegiance to the Masons, or to the Mormon President, or to any other Lord or group. The influence of such groups in society may be mixed, but the influence on the individual soul who has pledged to Jesus as Lord is compromising and devastating.
What does this have to do with Samson? It’s but a tangent as I observe how the Hebrews’ loyalties were torn from the One who should have been their only God.
B. Casey, Aug. 26 – Sep. 22, 2019