Monday, November 1, 2010

Judges series - Samson as type to Jesus

The concepts of types and parables

What is a type when used in Scripture?
When we say something is a type for another, what we are saying is the first mentioned thing (usually referred as “the type”) has enough attributes to somewhat show us what the second mentioned thing is about.

It is NOT equal to, and NOT the same as the actual thing (the second thing, in the above para.) that we are referring to, but the knowledge and understanding of the type can help us to understand the actual thing. It points us to the actual thing, yet it is NOT a pointer merely, for a pointer or sign per se, does not have attributes or elements of, or is a representation of the actual thing.

For example, a “L” plate hung on a car on the road, is a pointer or a sign, telling us the driver is a learner-driver; there is nothing on the plate that can be considered as attributes, elements or a representation of the driver in the car.

A type, on the other hand, would have some attributes or elements in common (or nearly common) with the actual thing. For example, and is one quite widely accepted, Moses is considered as a type to Jesus Christ. Why do we say that? Because these are the attributes or elements in common:

1. Jesus (the actual thing) is a Deliverer, and Moses was a deliverer.
2. Jesus is leading God’s people to Heaven (Our Eternal Promised Land), and Moses was leading God’s people (Israelites, then) to the Promised Land.
3. Jesus was sent by God into the world (John 3:16), and Moses was sent by God (back) into Egypt (Exo 3:10).
4. Jesus faced death threat at infancy (Mat 2:16), and Moses also faced death threat at infancy (Exo 1:15-16).
5. Jesus left royalty to be the Deliverer (Phil 2:6-8), and Moses also felt royalty (Heb 11:24).
6. Jesus was rejected by some of his own (Matt 23:37, and Matt 12:24, Matt 27:22), and Moses was also rejected by some of his own (Acts 7:23-27).
7. From rejection by his own, Jesus embraced the Gentile, converting them to be part of His corporate bride (Rom 11:25), and Moses, also from rejection by his own, took and converted a Gentile wife (Exo 2:21, Exo 18:5-12).

Moses was not a mere sign; he was a type, pointing to Jesus Christ as the actual Deliverer, the perfect Deliverer.

Samson as a type to Jesus Christ

Samson was also a type to Jesus Christ. The story of Samson, as would, the story of Moses, was a parable. What then is a parable? For clearer picture of what is a parable and what to watch out for, in interpreting a parable, see my separate article, “The Parable of the Shrewd Manager (Luke 16:1-15)”. Just remember that in the story of Moses, as a parable to Jesus’ story, Moses was the type to Jesus, likewise, in the story of Samson as a parable, Samson was the type to Jesus. Also, remember that a “type” is not “the thing”, and so, even as Moses did not represented Jesus fully or completely, so was Samson not able to fully or completely represent Jesus. The only one type that can fully represent another is Jesus as a type to Father God, for truly when we see Jesus, we see the Father (John 14:7,9).

The Parable of the Samson story

In regarding Samson as a type to Jesus, the story of Samson, in this regard (pointing to Jesus), was a parable. The story of Samson in itself is more of a narrative, and NOT a parable, as such. This understanding must be noted, so that we do not go round mindlessly interpreting plain narratives, allegorically.

Here is the story of Samson in a snapshot:
1. Before he was even conceived, his arrival was already proclaimed (Judges 13:3).
2. The LORD spoke to both his parents about him coming (Judges 13:3,11).
3. He was set apart for God since birth, to be the “light” in the dark season of the people; the people of God were greatly oppressed (Judges 13:1), and he was to begin the deliverance of God’s people (Judges 13:5).
4. As he grew, God blessed him (Judges 13:24).
5. He overcame the lion (Judges 14:5).
6. The Spirit of the LORD came upon him in power (Judges 14:19).
7. He was betrayed (Judges 16:5-6).
8. He was bound, blinded and mocked (Judges 16:21,25).
9. He entered into sacrificial death (Judges 16:30).

Whose story does the above look like? Yes, the story of Jesus. Not exactly the same, because it was a parable when it serves to point to Jesus. Samson was a type to, and a metaphor for Jesus, and it pointed to us, the limitation of a man as a deliverer or savior, and therefore, begged the coming of a true deliverer, Jesus Christ who is of God, and is God.

For the benefit of readers, for the same story, references for Jesus are now given: the story of Jesus Christ in a snapshot:
1. Before he was even conceived, his arrival was already proclaimed
(Luke 1:31).
2. The LORD spoke to both his parents about him coming (Luke 1:30-31,Matt 1:20)
3. He was set apart for God since birth, to be the “light” in the dark season of the people; the people of God were greatly oppressed, and he was to begin the deliverance of God’s people (Matt 1:20-21, John 1:9).
4. As He grew, God blessed him (Luke 2:40).
5. He overcame the lion (Satan – the roaring lion {1 Pet 5:8}, Gen 3:15, Jesus crushed Satan’s head – symbolic to mean the wrestling back of authority).
6. The Spirit of the LORD came upon Him in power (Matt 3:16-17, Jesus empowered to defeat Satan in the 3 counts of Temptations in the desert).
7. He was betrayed (Matt 26:15-16).
8. He was bound, blindfolded (“blinded’) and mocked (Matt 27:2, Luke 22:63-65).
9. He entered into sacrificial death (Heb 2:14-16; 2 John 2).
10. He was resurrected (Acts 2:31-32, Ps 16:10-11) [added, Samson’s story did not have this. I will address this in a while.]

There are of course, other “parallels” that can be extracted from the story of Samson being speaking in parable form, the life of Jesus. For example, Samson means “like the sun”, and in that respect it spoke of proximity to the LORD, for the LORD is a sun and shield (Ps 84:11), and we have Jesus being the said to be the light (John1:9), and God is light (in Him there is no darkness) {1 John 1:5}. Even, Samson’s father’ name can signify something – Manoah means “rest”, and we often speak about (from Isaiah 57:2) entering into the God’s rest. The “God’s rest” is referring to the rest in the Father God, Jesus’ father. One can even argue why the Philistines were called Philistines, for Philistine means “one who crawls in the dust”, and the serpent of old (Satan) was the one described that way (Gen 3:14). But just do not go overboard, and try to make every verse describing Samson’s life as pointing to a similar thing in Jesus’ life, for parables are parables, it is not necessary to do that, and it will be wrong to “force” it, for the type or metaphor is always imperfect relative to the actual thing, in this case, Jesus Christ.

I added a point 10 in the story of Jesus; this was of course, without equivalent in the story of Samson. It is how it is, with parables or metaphors; a parable or metaphor cannot capture everything of the “actual thing”. Even in the things that were illustrated, they were still illustrations, always short in fullness and extent, for men or the world is nowhere near God, and kingdom of God. Although man was created in the image of God, the fallen man is nowhere a sufficient model or representation of God, yet infallible God works with fallible men, to achieve His ends, which include the establishment of eternal bliss for all in the kingdom of Heaven.

Now, since I have established some grounds to classify Samson as a type to Jesus Christ, does it therefore mean that, whatever happened in the life of Samson was a matter of engineering by the LORD, including the failings we have visited in the expositions of the 4 chapters that God had allowed the story of Samson to occupy in the Holy Scripture? Remember, the story of Samson had episodes of him sleeping with enemy prostitute, and then ripping the gate of enemy town and waved it around on a mount. Some even argued he did not honor the vows of a Nazirite; God said he was to be a Nazirite even before conception. My short answer is that it was probably not like that - that God would have engineered all his steps in life. I believe it was more of God distinctly decided to grant favor upon Samson, even before his conception, and that decision was followed through, but it was perhaps, the lack of sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, and the lack of guarding his heart (or what I call, lack of tending the “garden” of our heart) that had made him short of the truly admirable deliverer of the people of God, the Israelites, then.

I like to remind people not to subscribe, even subconsciously, that our life is a completed movie being screened. We are living in real-time, and God deals with us in real-time. Samson (and we, too) was with free-will, and so he was free to choose what he did in his life; and we, our life, in appreciation of the favor and grace of God in our life, to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, with full sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, so as to fulfill the will of God in our life. The “whatever will be, will be”, fatalistic view, is wrong. In Samson’s case, despite whatever failings on his part, and even in all our own cases, God was and is doing according to Romans 8:28 - And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Despite Samson’s presumptuousness and failings, God did not withdrew His hand completely, but had still performed miracles when Samson had needed it, for the sake of His name, and as a grace to Samson.

The riddle - out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet

Lastly, I have said in my exposition of Judges 14, I believe the giving of the riddle, “Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet.” was prophetic, i.e. it was the LORD’s idea to give the riddle. Its contemporaneous answer was the lion, but the prophetic answer was another! And, I said that I will attempt to answer the riddle at the end of my exposition of the 4 chapters devoted to Samson in the Scripture. Different people have different views on this; nonetheless, here is my take:

In 1 Pet 5:8, we read this: Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. The eater, indeed, was the lion, and is the lion – Satan; he devours, he is the eater.

Now, who holds the keys to Hades and death? It was Satan, initially, and the keys are now in the hands of Jesus Christ. This, we read in Rev 1:18 - I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. When Jesus Christ died, crucified, he was swallowed by death and Hades. If you want a visual metaphor, the stings of death put Jesus into the eater (lion). What stings of death? They were represented by the bees in the story; they were the stings of death that were in all men because of men’s sins, for the sting of sin is death. It was all our stings of death that forced Jesus into the eater, the lion, or into Hades.

But out of it, something to eat, said the riddle. What was there to eat? When Jesus was resurrected, meaning He got out of Hades, or the metaphorical lion, there is something to eat. What is that? It is the very body and blood of Jesus Christ. When we partake of the Holy Communion, we consume elements representing the body and blood of Jesus. God defeated Satan (lion) with Jesus Christ dying, being forced by our stings of death into the lion or Hades, and then by God’s power Jesus was taken out of the eater, and He ended up as the something we can partake of.

Lion or Satan was strong, Jesus as man (Jesus on earth, was fully man), was not; that was why the second part of the riddle said “Out of the strong” came something sweet. Jesus said that His body broken for us and His blood shed for us, were what would set the New Covenant into place. What is this? This is the Good News – the Gospel, the sweet Gospel. This was not just honey, but honey from the rock (Ps 81:16). The honey is Jesus; it is also the Good News, it is sweet Jesus, it is sweet news! Samson was pointing to a more perfect, in fact, the perfect Samson - Jesus Christ is His name.

Anthony Chia – You, Oh Lord, is that something we eat; you, Oh Lord, is that something sweet. May we feed on you, always, and live.

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