By appearances, Samson was a man powerfully touched by God.
The book of Judges relates to us the life of Samson and paints a conflicted portrait of this Hebrew “hero.” He single-handedly slaughtered 1,000 Philistine soldiers with a jawbone, he tore a lion apart with his bare hands, and he hoisted the weighty stone gates of a town upon his shoulders and then walked dozens of miles to the top of a hill with them. He seemed a man’s man, a man of renown. He was also something of a loner, however, and he had a real weakness regarding women, particularly foreign women.
Samson lived under the Nazirite vow, a vow conferred upon him before he was born. His mother, the wife of Manoah, was barren, like other mothers of the Bible — Sarah, Hannah, and Elizabeth among them. Each of these women would be visited by God and give birth to a marvelous son of promise.
An angel of the Lord came to the wife of Manoah and told her that Samson was coming and instructed her in how to keep herself and her unborn child from defilement. She was not to drink wine or eat of the grape during her pregnancy. The promise from the angel to this woman, her husband, and, ultimately, to Samson himself was this — “for the child shall be a Nazarite to God from the womb to the day of his death” (Numbers 13:9). He was a promised deliverer for the nation of Israel.
Practices of Consecration
Nazirite comes from the Hebrew word, nazir, which means to separate. The characteristics of the vow are defined in Numbers 6. There were three primary practices followed by one under the vow: he separated himself from wine or vinegar and anything fermented or related to the grape, he was not to go near any dead body — not even that of mother or father — and no razor was to come upon his head.
In Samson, the way of the Nazarite could seen in his hair. Not a lock of it had been trimmed. Outwardly, this man carried his consecration. The demonstrations of power and victory indicated that all was well with him.
What was going on in his heart was very different, however. The life of Samson had a surface quality. Still, there was no depth of spirituality to this man, even though God used him.
In Judges 14, we read that Samson violated the other two points of the Nazarite commitment. Due to be married to a Philistine woman, Samson threw a bachelor party “as the young men used to do” — a phrase that indicates the wild, drunken nature of the gathering (Judges 14:10).
Before the party, however, Samson visited the site of one his great exploits. There, he saw that bees had made a hive in the carcass of the lion he had killed. So he scraped out some of the honey and began eating it. He even shared the honey with his father and his mother.
Not a handsome picture, is it? Samson made himself and others unclean. No one knew about it but him and the Lord.
Vexed and Victimized
The casual way Samson followed his vow cost him once he met and fell for Delilah. She was a lot like Samson in how she used people. She proved more than a match for a man who spent little time in meditation and thinking upon the things of God.
Delilah pressed him, wined him, dined him, and manipulated him in search for his source of strength. “You don’t really love me– you never tell me your secrets,” she said once. It was enough to wear away the last bit of veneer on Samson’s character and got him to reveal all his heart.The casual way Samson followed his vow cost him once he met and fell for Delilah. Click To Tweet
The woman seized the moment, shaved Samson’s head, and so the Lord and His power left Samson. Taken captive and blinded, this hulk of a man was imprisoned, enslaved, and mocked by the enemies of God’s people.
Here, in his afflictions, in the pains he really had brought upon himself, Samson began to focus on the Lord. A small phrase tells us this — “the hair of his head began to grow again” (Judges 16:22). It’s a short sentence that lets us know that God never forsook this man, even in his gross transgressions.
The Faithful God who Hears
“And Samson called unto the LORD, and said, O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God …” (Judges 16:28).
At last and in death, Samson experienced his most significant triumph in the midst of a crowded pagan temple. God honored Samson by answering this final prayer as he “bowed with all his might.” All the lords of the Philistines perished under the weight of stones that fell as Samson became a one-man implosion force. His bowing brought the building down on himself and his enemies. More died in this act than in all of Samson’s other triumphs combined.
The lesson here is that our spirituality has to have a depth and foundation to it. To walk with God in His way through this world at this time, we must possess something rooted inside; we have to have truth settled deep in the soil of our hearts.
Psalm 119 provides an excellent series of instructions on how to develop a sturdy frame of reference and a firm foundation for life. This psalm, with its 176 verses, encourages us to consider and reconsider the Word of the Lord. His statutes, percepts, commandments and testimonies cleanse us from sin (verse 9), keep us from sinning (verse 11), quicken us for the day (verse 24), light our way (verse 105), and provide great peace when we feel wronged (verse 165).
The shallow, surface things get exposed, as Samson found out. The underdeveloped muscles of his inner life could not keep him upright in the midst of temptation.
Yes, Samson’s failure was great, but the faithfulness of God was greater. His hair grew again and he learned to bow with his might. May we understand more and more the power of God’s Word and the reality of His unchanging love.
For more about Samson, the inner life, and our foundation for living, listen to “Attitude, Foundation and Faithfulness” from Thomas Schaller, pastor of Greater Grace Church in Baltimore.