As small as Samson

As small as Samson

- in Feature, Opinion
@Jon Joaquin

Here’s one question I’ve had for a long time: Why does Superman have such a muscular physique? He’s super-strong, so nothing is heavy for him. In one cartoon he actually pushed the entire earth to save it from something (I can’t remember what now).

Batman affirmed this fact in the new Justice League movie when he said Superman was “stronger than a planet.” If that’s the case, how could he have built all those muscles? What did he lift on a daily basis to make himself look like Arnold Schwarzenegger? Could he have been pressing planets, or moons, or asteroids? We can only speculate.

But there’s one thing I’m sure of: Superman doesn’t have to be that ripped. He could be a scrawny 50-pound skeleton of a man or an extremely overweight Jabba the Hut — or he can look like a regular Juan de la Cruz like you and me — and still beat his nemeses. In fact, if I were Superman I would purposely keep myself out of shape in order to confuse my enemies. And to make them feel bad about themselves because they were beaten by an average-looking guy.

You know who else felt bad that they were being beaten by an average-looking guy? The ancient Philistines. You know this story from the Bible, but I bet you missed one important detail, one that can change your view of yourself and how you fit in God’s plan.

When you think of the biblical character #Samson, you immediately think of how he has been depicted through the ages: a muscular man, sort of like Superman, but wearing a robe. Movies and television shows have shown him that way, with actors like Victor Mature (left) and Eric Thai (right) portraying him as a buff hero.

And now there’s a new movie coming, starring Taylor James reprising the role in similar fashion:

But did you know that there is no actual description of Samson’s body in the Bible? He could have looked like Victor Mature or Eric Thai or Taylor James, but he could equally have looked like any person you meet on the street. He could have even looked like you or me. We do know a few things about Samson from the Book of Judges. First of all God made him strong, and He used that strength against the Philistines who were oppressing the Israelites at the time:

14:19 — Then the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him. He went down to Ashkelon, struck down thirty of their men.

15:14,15 — As he approached Lehi, the Philistines came toward him shouting. The Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him. The ropes on his arms became like charred flax, and the bindings dropped from his hands. Finding a fresh jawbone of a donkey, he grabbed it and struck down a thousand men.

In chapter 16, when Samson fell in love with the Philistine woman Delilah, the rulers of her people came to her and said, “See if you can lure him into showing you the secret of his great strength and how we can overpower him so we may tie him up and subdue him.” (verse 5). Here we get a clue: Samson’s strength was such a puzzle to the Philistines that they had to bribe Delilah to find out why he was so strong. This tells us that his looks did not match his strength.

Now of course that doesn’t automatically mean Samson was scrawny or out of shape; after all, killing a thousand men would still have been a miracle for even the most muscular of men. But while we don’t know how Samson looked like, wouldn’t it be so like God to choose “the foolish things of this world to shame the wise” and “the weak things of the world to shame the strong” (1 Corinthians 1:27)?

Now why should it matter how Samson looked? I think one of the lessons we miss in reading this account is that God uses people no matter how lowly they seem to be and, in Samson’s case, how flawed they are. That should make a huge difference in how we see ourselves and ultimately in how we act. If God can use someone like Samson — average looking, overly emotional, morally weak — then He can use any of us.

And given how Samson’s life ended (read the rest of chapter 16), it’s also a cautionary tale. We can be too confident in our calling that we throw away our purpose in life. God’s will is still accomplished, but at what cost for us?

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