Sunday School with Judges: Part 4, This Is Not the King You Are Looking For

The most famous character in the book of Judges is Samson.

Samson is an interesting character. First, let's admit this: The stories of Samson are great stories. Theology and ethics aside, we can see why the Israelites preserved and shared these stories. There's serious entertainment value here.

That said, beyond fireside tales of legendary exploits, what are we supposed to take away from the stories of Samson?

Here's the way I asked the question in my Sunday School class: Was Samson a good judge or a bad judge?

The answers here are all over the place.

Some say Samson was a good judge. In the stories, God is with Samson at critical moments. The New Testament book of Hebrews also lists Samson, along with other judges, as a hero of the faith.

But there are also many commentators who argue that Samson is the very worst judge. Some see a downward progression in Judges, each judge getting worse and worse and worse, finally culminating in the mess known as Samson.

I actually think this mixed message is the point we're supposed to take away from the book. Samson may be a hero, but he's also a train wreck.

And that's because all our heroes are like that.

Think about every hero you've had in your life, people you've put up on a pedestal. And then remember when they disappointed you. We want our heroes to be perfect, but no human is perfect. Everyone fails. Everyone disappoints. Everyone has skeletons in the closet.

Everyone, even the best of us, has a fall from grace.

Toward the end of Judges, after all the crazy stories, there is a refrain, a longing that keeps getting repeated: "In those days Israel had no king."

The message is clear. Samson might be a hero, but he wasn't the king we were looking for.

Saul won't be either, when Israel finally does get a king. David won't be either. Not Solomon. Not anyone. No mere mortal is going to be the king we are looking for.

And I think that's the big point of the book Judges by the time you get to the end. Judges leaves you with an ache. You might thrill to the stories in Judges or be horrified by them. Either way, by the time we get to the end of the book we haven't found the king we were looking for. And the world is suffering because of that. Judges leaves you searching and longing for the Kingdom of God.

In short, Judges is a mess, but what Judges leaves you with is a Messianic longing. An ache for the Kingdom of God. The longing for our rightful king.

Samson might be a great read, but he's not the king we were looking for.

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