For most of us who have been around church for very long, we’re familiar with the story of the strongman Samson. His story is part of today’s Bible reading*. As I pointed out yesterday, Samson’s mother took a Nazarite Vow for herself and her yet-to-be-born son. The Nazarite Vow (Numbers 6) required total abstinence from grapes (including wine), avoiding everything unclean, and not cutting one’s hair for the duration of the vow.
Samson’s story reveals that he never took seriously his vow. For his part, he didn’t actively participate in it. He scooped honey from a dead lion’s body (Judges 14:9) and he used the jawbone of a dead donkey to kill one thousand Philistines. (Judges 15:15) Each of these acts would have made him unclean. Now, we aren’t told that Samson ever drank wine, but his comment to Delilah about his hair (Judges 16:17) may indicate that he knows his uncut hair is all he has left of his Vow. After the Philistines cut Samson’s hair, he is as weak as any other man. They gouge out his eyes and force him to grind grain in the prison. (Judges 16:21)
The end of Judges 16:20 is one of the saddest sentences in the Bible” “But he did not know that the Lord had left him.” Judges 16:20 (CSB) Samson woke from his nap and assumed he would rise up and fight off the Philistines as he had before. But his strength was gone. The Spirit of the Lord was gone. He had lost everything.
As sad as the end of Judges 16:20 is, Judges 16:22 is one of the most encouraging sentences in the Bible: “But his hair began to grow back after it had been shaved.” Judges 16:22 (CSB) Little by little, Samson’s strength grew until his suicide when he killed more Philistines than he ever had as a Judge. Judges 16:30
But what Samson didn’t realize was his strength wasn’t in his hair. God Himself was his strength. Losing his hair was a wake-up call for Samson. He had always taken his strength for granted. He had also always taken God’s presence for granted. And in losing his hair, he lost God’s presence, too.
Even in his bad choices, God grants Samson favor by letting the symbol of his strength begin to grow back. As he ground grain in the prison he had a lot of time to think about his relationship with God. He had a lot of time to remember where he had come from and how far he had fallen.
Perhaps you have taken for granted God’s presence in your life. Perhaps you have taken for granted God’s gifts and provisions. It’s never too late to ask for forgiveness and rekindle your relationship with God. Do it today.
* Chapters covered in today’s reading: