Samson and the Laodicean Church
One of the most interesting stories in the Bible is that of history’s strongest man – Samson the Danite. Samson was called by God to be a Nazarite from birth and Jesus Himself – The Angel of the Lord (Judges 13:3; Ministry of Healing 333) – gave the prophecy of the birth, and the instructions to Manoah’s wife of how to care for Samson before his birth and his subsequent childhood. Samson was to be a judge in Israel and to help them become free from the oppression of the Philistines. We all know the sad and tragic history of this man of God and we have read the story many times and have heard it in sermons many times. But one of the most interesting things about Samson is not often told and that is how similar his life was to that of the history of the church of Laodecians in Revelation 3:14-22. It will be the focus of this study, and a series of subsequent studies to share some of these interesting stories, and connections.
I would like to share a few thoughts about Laodicea and about how this church compares with Samson. The name Laodicea is not clearly defined in the Bible but it appears that Laodicea is a construction of two Greek words – Laos – people and Dike – judgment, and thus one can develop the concept of a “people judged”. How this is connected to Samson is that he was to be a Nazarite and he judged the people for 20 years according to Judges 15:20. In addition to this thought when one becomes a follower of God then other people judge God on how we function and behave in the community. One of the themes of the Bible is how when God’s people went out in the community God’s name was profaned (Ezekiel 36:23) – to dishonor, make common, or to think less of. Samson did this regularly and Laodicea does things in a similar manner to the point that God threatens to spit them out of His mouth in disgust (Revelation 3:16).
Another part of Samson’s story, which is near and dear to our hearts, is that Samson displayed all kinds of defects of character. Samson loved women that God told him not to date, he had appetite issues, he liked to drink, he was a brawler, a mighty warrior, he took risks, and he appeared to at times have a big heart. Laodicea also had a variety of character issues which are near and dear to our hearts as well. Laodicea thought of herself as rich, could have been good looking, perceived herself as being increased with goods, and had enough things that she did not think she needed anything else (Revelation 3:17). We don’t know what her heart was like by Bible description but we do know that Jesus saw enough in her to use her as an example of the final phases of development of His church and so He continues to work with her to get her to the point of answering the door (Revelation 3:20) when He comes looking for her.
Another connecting link between Samson and Laodicea is that Samson had all of the Bible training that His parents, with the help of God, could impart. Laodicea is also in the lineage of the 6 other churches of Revelation 2-3 and she had a fabulous heritage, and all of the training that God could impart to her. Yet both Samson and Laodicea found ways to get all confused, and ended up with threatening and tragic experiences in their walk with God.
Both Samson and Laodicea were caught up with their spiritual gifts to the point that they did not know that they had become wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked (Revelation 3:17). We could see Samson’s descent into tragedy, but often times we have to look a little closer to Laodicea to see what is happening to her and often times our own eyesight is blurred because of our love and loyalty to our church – Laodicea.
Yet one of the wonders of the story of Samson is that God is able to use Samson to display great things even though he was weak and totally dependent upon God. We are blessed with the story of Samson so that we can see that even the mightiest warrior can be humbled if he leaves the side of God and yet in God’s great love and grace He can still use even the weakest of people to accomplish great tasks. This experience of Samson’s gives us hope that God can do the same thing through Laodicea. Even when we feel ready to dispose of her for she is so erring and weak our hope should be in the power of God to deliver and to accomplish great things through her.
A final thing that both Samson and Laodicea have in common is the fact that God does not give up. He promises us that those whom He loves He is willing to rebuke, correct, discipline, comfort, and to help overcome. He promised to take the initiative to seek them out and to offer them the gifts necessary in order to change. He offers to give them gold tried in the fire – the pure truths of the gospel, white raiment – the righteousness of Christ delivered to the saints, and eye salve – the healing power of grace that people might see their need of Jesus and the strength and power and willingness to accept His gifts of grace to the needy sinner. All of these things He offered Samson, and He offers Laodicea.
We have seen how God dealt with Samson and how He protected, cared for, used to accomplish great things for His people, and how the story of Samson is known all over the world as a testimony of the grace of God. We can see in Revelation 3:14-22 all of the care that God wants to extend to Laodicea and we now are a part of God’s final phase of His church and we get to decide whether God is telling us the truth about the state of Laodicea and thus the state of ourselves in our walk with God. We know how Samson’s story ended, in humiliation, and then victory. We can decide whether we can apply God’s grace to Laodicea and we to can have victory through humiliation and through God’s grace.
Bible stories are always interesting in that they are simple stories of how God chose to reveal Himself through His interactions with His people. We know that many people in the Bible “heard” of the things of God and they chose by faith to come and see for themselves as to whether these things were true or not. If they decide by faith that these stories are true then they had the opportunity to seek out God and to respond to His initiatives. If they do they to can have the victories that the Bible heroes had by faith in the power of God. They to can join the great list of those wonderful people described in Hebrews 11 where Samson’s name is boldly listed. By faith we can believe that Laodicea’s name will be listed there as well for she is the final display of God’s history of the new testament church, for she is the 7th church in the list of the 7 churches, and we know that the number 7 is a testimony of completeness (Acts of Apostles 585) so we can rest upon the prophetic omnipotence of God when He says that His 7 churches will fulfill His wishes and reveal Him to the full and that even though we have profaned His name where ever we have gone yet He will accomplish a miracle and His church will finally sanctify His name before all of the world (Ezekiel 36:23). It is the glory of these promises that we hold on to Laodicea and have chosen to be a part of this wonderful church. We believe by faith that what God was able to do for Samson He can do again for Laodicea. It is our task to learn the lessons of the Bible heroes, and come to Jesus and accept His corrections and His gifts of grace – unmerited favor and unmerited power to overcome. It is my prayer that as you read the stories of Samson, and the connections between Samson and Laodicea, that you will learn from both of them and come to Jesus before the tragedies happen. But whether we get there without stumbling or we get there by stumbling that Bible teaches us that the grace of God awaits all who respond to His call.