You've probably heard of Samson, the Old Testament's most famous superhero, but did you know he was more of a walking enigma than anything? Hebrews 11:32 names him as a man of faith, but he was not a faithful man.
Samson was raised to honor God, having been dedicated with the special vow of a Nazarite, which meant he wasn't to cut his hair, touch a corpse, or eat the fruit of the vine (see Numbers 6:1-21; Judges 13:5). But Judges 14 shows us how the decisions he began to make led him away from fulfilling the potential that God had for him as one of Israel's deliverers. To sum it up, he didn't take God or his own sin seriously.
First, Samson disregarded his God. After unwisely going out and choosing a Philistine girl to marry, Samson came to a vineyard, where a lion attacked him and he killed it barehanded (see vv. 5-6). Sometime later he came back and saw that bees had made honey in the carcass of the lion, so he took some and ate it (see vv. 8-9). In doing this, Samson broke his vow, becoming ceremonially unclean.
Now, what kind of Nazarite goes to a vineyard in the first place? A Nazarite who doesn't take his vows seriously. Samson's problem was that he wasn't devoted to the Lord; God wasn't first in his life.
A second bad decision Samson made was that he downplayed his failure. At his wedding feast, Samson posed a riddle for his thirty Philistine groomsmen to solve within seven days: "Out of the eater came something to eat, and out of the strong came something sweet" (v. 14). What was he talking about? The honey he took from the lion's carcass. It was bad enough that he disobeyed God, but it takes a special kind of callousness to make a joke out of your own sin.
Now, by the seventh day, the groomsmen still didn't know the answer, so they threatened Samson's wife to entice it out of him, which she did. Samson became so furious that he went out and killed thirty men to get the thirty sets of clothing he had promised the groomsmen for solving the riddle—which only defiled him further (see vv. 15-19). He just kept going down this path, making bad decision after bad decision.
Do you ever wonder how people with such potential, such empowerment by God's Spirit (see Judges 13:25), and such a godly upbringing can end up like this? Here are a couple takeaway points from this incident in Samson's life: First, take God seriously. Samson's parents made a vow and committed him to the Lord, but he squandered that. In the same way, whatever past expression of faith you've made is invalid unless it's translated into your present experience (see Matthew 7:21-23).
And second, make your choices cautiously. Samson was impulsive and impetuous, but Proverbs 8:5 in the Message translation would give him—and us—this advice: "Listen, you idiots—learn good sense! You blockheads—shape up!" How's that for straight talk from God's Word?
Samson might be called a great man, but the Lord's intention was for him to be an outstanding man, and he was far from that. It's not superpowers that make superheroes—it's being empowered by the Holy Spirit to reach the potential that God has designed for you to fulfill. So are you, by His power, reaching that potential?