Samson's Fall and Restoration
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Since life is getting a bit more routine again here in “good old Germany” I wanted to start writing blogs about the Bible again. I’ve done this for a while last year, but I put it on hold for more than a year, since “finishing well in Shanghai”, moving to Germany and settling down here really took all our focus. But now I feel I can get started again, and I’m aiming for 2 or 3 teachings in a month. And today I want to get started with a story I read to my kids yesterday: Samson’s strength. We can read about him in the book of Judges, Chapters 13 – 16.
Many of us know the story, right? Samson has superpowers that come from his hair. When his wife Delilah cuts his hair, he loses his strength and gets captured. And then in the end, he kills many of his enemies (but also himself) by destroying their temple.
When I read this story to my kids yesterday, I was struck by a particular phrase:
Judges 16:20 And she said, The Philistines be upon you, Samson. And he awoke out of his sleep, and said, I will go out as at other times before, and shake myself. And he knew not that the LORD was departed from him.
I’ve heard many times that “Samson’s strength came from his hair”. I kind of knew that wasn’t true, of course it came from God. But I never saw how direct the Bible actually puts it in this verse: Samson didn’t have his strength any longer, because “the LORD was departed from him”.
And we can clearly see this at the end of the story as well: Samson did get his strength one more time, NOT because of his hair, but because God gave him his strength.
Which then of course led me to the question: If his strength didn’t come from his hair, then why did the Lord leave Samson at that particular moment? What happened?
Well, let’s look at the whole story a bit closer. Judges 13, an angel appears to Samson’s mother, giving her a promise, but also a clear commandment:
Judges 13:3-5 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, you are barren, and bear not: but you shall conceive, and bear a son. Now therefore beware, I pray you, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing: For, lo, you shall conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come upon his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.
Obviously, God has a special plan for Samson. But also a couple of conditions: The mother needs to watch her diet, and the child was not allowed to cut his hair.
We don’t read much more about the mother (the Bible doesn’t even mention her name), but I think it’s safe to assume that she kept her part of the deal. And we can also be absolutely certain that she told Samson at least around 1791 times during his childhood to not cut his hair. I imagine that if you woke up Samson at 3am in the morning, the first thing he would have done was to check that you didn’t accidentally cut his hair. (Well, not literally, but you get the message) All is good.
Samson grows up, has a few missteps along the way, but grows into a very strong man, singlehandedly defeating hundreds of Philistines in battles.
Then he marries Delilah. All we know about her is that in Verse 4 of Judges chapter 16, he marries her. In the very next verse, she is being persuaded by the Philistines to deliver him into their hands. For money. And she does it. Three times she asks him for the secret of his strength, every time Samson gives her a wrong answer. She does what Samson tells her, but Samson still has his powers. By now, Samson should have gotten the memo: Delilah is serious about this. If he tells her the secret of how he loses his power, she’ll do it, and he’ll be in trouble. Nevertheless, after daily nagging from his wife, he gives in. He tells her the secret, she cuts off his hair, Samson loses his strength, and he gets captured by the enemy. Now the story does still have a better ending. But nevertheless, fact is: Samson gets captured, loses his eyes and then his life, when he kills the Philistines, along with himself.
So, back to my question: Why did Samson lose his strength? Well, Verse 20 says the reason is because the Lord had left him. So why did God leave him?
Well, I think the answer is quite obvious: Rebellion against God’s command. All his life, Samson knew one thing: God called him, but there was a special commandment upon him, a special test of obedience: “Don’t cut your hair”. God’s calling on Samson’s life was dependent on his obedience.
Now of course, in the end, God’s calling came true. Samson did exactly what God said he would do: “and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines”. God’s sovereignty was never at stake. But the price that Samson paid for his disobedience was his own life! Samson didn’t interfere with God’s plan. But he himself suffered severely for his disobedience.
But what about all the other incidents? Samson did some pretty bad things before. Marrying a Philistine woman, sleeping with a harlot, not taking care of his wife, so that her father felt the need to give her to someone else,… What about all that stuff? Isn’t that worse than cutting your hair? Why didn’t God leave Samson at any of those earlier moments in his life? Why here when it came to cutting his hair?
That’s a great question. And I’m not sure if I understand it fully. But I do know that there’s a major difference between “sinning out of weakness” and “sinning out of rebellion”. Look at Kings Saul and David. Saul brought a few cows home that he was told not to. David committed murder and adultery. It’s obvious who is the bad guy, right? Well, in the end, Saul was rejected by God, David is called “a man after God’s own heart”. Why is that? Because when you look at their reactions when both of them get confronted with their sin, then it becomes obvious that Saul did not see any fault in what he did. He blamed others, he made excuses, he minimized his involvement,… All he did was defending himself. Bottom line: He sinned out of rebellion in his heart and was trying to get away with it. David on the other hand, when he was confronted with his sin, he didn’t make any excuses. He simply acknowledged his fault, and wrote Psalm 51 in response. He didn’t try to get away with his sin. He pleaded for God’s mercy.
When Samson was cutting his hair, he did something that he heard his whole life not to do. From the day he was born, he must have heard his mother and father telling him all the time: “God told you not to cut your hair.” This command was personally connected to his life from eternity, and he knew it. Plus, there was no reason to cut his hair, there were no urges inside of him to cut his hair. He simply rebelled against God’s command that he perfectly knew deep down in his heart.
Samson ruined his life, simply because he rebelled against God’s command. And so: The Lord left him. When he then repented later, he got his strength back, God was with him again. But: The price had to be paid: A time without eyesight, before he had to sacrifice himself, to fulfill his calling.
How does that apply to us? Well, I think many of us (including myself), we know we are rebelling against God in our hearts. Let’s be honest: For some of us, there are secret thoughts and desires we entertain. Some of us do things secretly, when nobody from church is around. Some of us look at things on the internet or on TV that we know God doesn’t want us to see. Some of us hold on to anger, bitterness and unforgiveness. I think if we are honest, most of us would have to admit: There are parts in our lives where we do rebel against God. And we entertain, justify and enjoy our sin. Not just out of weakness. But because we enjoy the sin, we enjoy disobeying God.
Or maybe we commit sin the other way around: We don’t do what we clearly know God told us to do. We have a calling to join a ministry. God told us to reach out to our neighbor, take a risk and tell them about Jesus. Maybe God speaks to us to finally be faithful in tithing. Or maybe God convicts us to finally get out of a dating relationship that we perfectly know was never meant to be and is never going to work out. But we brush it off, ignore his words. We much rather want to keep the life we have, and we don’t want God to change things. We rebel against God by NOT doing something He told us to do.
Rebelling against God is a serious sin. What happened to Samson? Well, simple: “The Lord was departed from him”. And he lost his freedom, his eyesight, and soon after his life.
What happens to us? Well, the same principle applies to us as well: “The Lord departs from us”. And the consequences are sometimes minor. But too often, if we keep rebelling against God, the consequences grow. Eventually our health suffers. Our family suffers. Our job doesn’t go well. One thing after another seems to be going wrong. And we ask God: “What’s happening? Why do you allow all of this? Do something to stop it!” And God’s response is simply this: “You stop it! You stop rebelling against me, and I’ll be by your side again. But if you keep on disobeying, then I won’t answer your requests. Not because I don’t love you any longer. But because I need you to return to me wholeheartedly.”
Is that you? Is God speaking to you? The good news about Samson is this: He did return to the Lord. He didn’t complain about his eyes, he didn’t accuse God, he didn’t give up. In all his pain, frustration, anger and disappointment in himself, he returned to God, with an amazing prayer:
Judges 16:28 And Samson called unto the LORD, and said, O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray you, and strengthen me, I pray you, only this once, O God, that I may be avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.
Samson returned to God, and His strength returned. It wasn’t in His hair. It was in God all along. Now God didn’t undo all the damage that Samson had caused. And Samson had to sacrifice his own life to fulfill the calling that God had given him. So yes, worldly speaking, his disobedience had terrible consequences.
But do you know how Samson was described many, many centuries later by the author of the book of Hebrews? In Heb. 11:32 Samson was listed among the Heroes of Faith in the Old Testament, right next to names like King David, Samuel the Prophet and others.
Today, God doesn’t blame Samson for the mess that he had created. Now God calls him one of the Heroes of Faith.
We have that same choice today that Samson had after he lost his strength and got captured. We can continue in our rebellion and choose our own life. We can keep on digging down the hole in which we ourselves are.
Or we can say: “God, help me. Rescue me. Restore me.” That doesn’t mean that all the problems we created simply disappear. But it does mean that God will call to us with the same words that He called Jesus: “You are my beloved son (or daughter). In you, I am well pleased.”
Each one of us has to make that choice. We can continue in our rebellion. Or we can surrender to Jesus and allow Him to embrace us again. I know the choice I will make. I want to encourage you to make the same choice today. Return to Jesus, and then cooperate with whatever He tells you to do. And enjoy being embraced, changed, empowered and restored by your heavenly father once again.
And hear Him say to you personally: "You are my beloved child. And I am pleased with you!"
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