This post is written by Jared Bumpers and is published as a companion to Unit 9, Session 2 of The Gospel Project for Adults Vol. 3 (Spring 2022): From Conquest to a Kingdom.
Elvis Presley is known as the “King of Rock and Roll.” Born into a poor family in Tupelo, Mississippi, Elvis eventually became a cultural icon. He produced albums, starred in movies, and toured across the states throughout the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Some of his hit songs include “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Love Me Tender,” “All Shook Up,” “Are You Lonesome Tonight?,” “Suspicious Minds,” and “Burning Love.” Tragically, Elvis struggled with addiction and died at the age of 42 from a heart attack that was likely brought on by drug abuse. Although “Elvis has left the building,” imitators and admirers still exist today. The King lives on in the hearts of his impersonators and fans.
Like Elvis, Samson was a man with enormous potential who failed to control his physical desires. Samson’s parents must have been overjoyed at the prospect of having a child, especially since they were unable to have children prior to Samson’s birth. This excitement must have been heightened by the fact that Samson would be a Nazirite and a judge who would save Israel. Unfortunately, Samson struggled to control his passions throughout his life. He chased illicit relationships. He broke explicit biblical commands. His ignored his parents. He lost his temper. He yielded to the pressure of various women. In the end, his lack of self-control caught up to him. Samson’s hair was cut, God’s Spirit left him, and Samson was not even aware that his strength was gone. But he quickly realized his mistake as the Philistines capture him, gouged out his eyes, and enslaved him. Then, they brought him to the temple of Dagon, the Philistine fish god, to mock him. There, at his lowest point, Samson asked God to strengthen him so he could avenge himself, and he pushed down the pillars of the temple, killing himself and countless Philistines. Samson, whose life began with such hope and potential, ended in tragedy and death.
While Samson’s story is tragic, God’s grace is present in the narrative. God gave Samson godly parents who provided wise counsel (Judges 14:3-4). God used Samson to save Israel from the Philistines, providing freedom for twenty years (Judges 15:20). God gave Samson a chance to avenge himself and defeat the Philistines in his death. Despite Samson’s sin and failures, God was able to use him to save Israel. God is able to use anyone.
In contrast to Samson, Jesus was perfect. He never followed sinful passions because He was sinless. He lived the perfect life of obedience we could never live. He died the death we deserved. He rose from the dead in victory. Through faith in Him, anyone can experience forgiveness of sins and receive eternal life. Jesus is the ultimate “judge” who rescues His people and secures their future.
Jared Bumpers serves as Assistant Professor of Preaching and Evangelism at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri . He also serves on the preaching team at Fellowship KC in the Parkville area . He is married to Kim, and together they have four children: McCartnie, Rush, Maverick, and Jett .
 Britannica, Dave Marsh, “Elvis Presley,” June 9, 2021, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Elvis-Presley.