How close do you feel to God? Do you know if he is a part of your life? Is it possible that he has left you? Today we read that God leaves Samson. Yes, you read that right. God leaves Samson. Is that wrong of God? Is God allowed to do that, based on the character of God himself? What is going on?
In the previous post, we learned about the devastating blow Samson dealt to the Philistines, the people who had occupied and ruled Israel for 40 years. The conclusion of that part of Samson’s story, as told in Judges 15, was that Samson led Israel for 20 years. In Judges 16, the writer of Judges fast-forwards to the end of those 20 years.
We read that Samson goes to Gaza, which is another Philistine area. As we have seen in this series of posts on Samson’s story, it seems he loves to spend time around the enemy, doesn’t he? In Gaza he spends the night with a prostitute. In so doing, Samson again shows no concern for God’s law. I say, “again,” because he has been playing fast and loose with God’s law numerous times in the account.
The Philistines hear that Samson is in their town. They surround the house where he is staying, and they wait, planning to kill him when he leaves the next morning. But Samson awakes in the middle of the night and slips away, though not before ripping their town gate from its foundation and carrying it away to the top of a hill. I guess he just loved to mess with the Philistines.
Sometime later, the writer of Judges next tells us, Samson falls in love with a woman named Delilah.
The Philistines come to her secretly, hoping to entice her to conspire against Samson. Five Philistine rulers each offer her a huge amount of money to learn the source of Samson’s strength and tell them. For 20 years they have been not been able to unseat him, and they are at their wits end. Delilah agrees to the scheme, cluing us in to the kind of woman she was: a massive bribe was enough for her to betray Samson.
She asks Samson for the source of his strength. He lies to her, and she, believing him, tells her co-conspirators, and ties Samson up one night, thinking she is trapping him in his sleep. When the Philistines come to grab him, he easily breaks the bindings and is free, and the Philistines scatter. This goes on multiple times.
It would be obvious to Samson that Delilah is betraying him. Why does he stay with her? Why did Samson not at least ask Delilah, “Why are you doing this?” Instead, he just goes along with her schemes, lying to her each time. Why? Maybe he just arrogantly thinks he can toy with her and nothing will ever happen to him. He has been undefeated for two decades. Perhaps it was like a game for him.
After multiple rounds of this bizarre game, Delilah is frustrated. She has dollar signs in her eyes, and Samson is blocking her ability to collect on the bribe! Finally, though, in verse 15 she plays on his emotions. She tells him that in a loving relationship, they should be totally open. A good argument, isn’t it? On one level, she is right. In a healthy, trusting relationship, there should be no secrets. She nags him day after day, until the writer tells us Samson was tired to death, and he divulges the source of his strength, his hair that had never been cut since birth. (That would be some world record length hair, I would guess, right?)
Think about this with me a minute. What should Samson have done? Well, he shouldn’t have told her the source of his strength. But shouldn’t he be honest with her? Yes, except that the reality is that he shouldn’t have been in with her in the first place. The text never says they were married, so Samson was in another inappropriate sinful relationship. Yet we can go back further, he shouldn’t have been in any of those bad relationships, and he shouldn’t have been so arrogant and prideful. We could go back further, he should have followed the Lord’s way all his life. He had allowed his life to go so far beyond what God desired. The reality is that there is something deeply wrong inside Samson.
Finally he gives up the truth to Delilah. Was he being flippant or arrogant, thinking he had defeated the Philistines for years and so there was no way he would lose? Was his arrogance deceiving him about his ability to keep winning? Could be.
I suspect he was self-deceived by his arrogance. The source of his strength was not truly his hair, but God. When he disobeys God, he is showing his disrespect and arrogance, and ultimately his self-deception about the source of strength.
Delilah has a man come shave off the seven braids of Samson’s hair one night while he was asleep, and in verses 19-20 we read that his strength left him, but more importantly God left him, and Samson had no idea, blinded by his arrogance. From birth God had set Samson up to be a great leader of his people, and now things have degraded to the point where God leaves Samson, and Samson is not aware of it. What a sadness.
The next day, his strength gone, God done with him, the Philistines capture Samson, gouge out his eyes, and imprison him, where the Philistines put him to work turning a stone wheel for grinding grain.
The story concludes at a Philistine banquet to their god Dagon. It’s packed in the temple, with 3000+ people there. They bring Samson out to entertain and he performs for them. But standing by the load-bearing pillars of the temple, he offers a prayer to God, pushes over the pillars and kills all the Philistines in the banquet, and killing himself.
A quick read can leave us mistaken thinking that Samson has finally returned to the Lord and is sacrificing his life on behalf of his people. But look closely at Samson’s prayer. Yes, he is reaching out to God, and that is good. What he says, though, is that he wants revenge on the Philistines for gouging out his eyes. Once again, Samson war is lonely, bitter and vengeful. Never in his entire life do we read that Samson is concerned about following God’s ways, or that Samson wants to lead Israel back to faithfulness to God. Never do we read that his war with the Philistines is anything but one man with a superpower, drenched in anger and revenge, controlled by his passions. In the end, God left Samson.
The story of Samson is serious caution for all of us. Is God with you? Would you know if he left you? What should you do to find out? Examine Samson’s life, first of all: his lust, anger, revenge, deceit, foolhardiness. Does that describe you at all? If you’re like Samson, the problem is that you wouldn’t even know it. He had very little self-awareness. So who in your life can tell you the truth about yourself? Maybe you need to see a professional counselor, asking them to be honest with you.
Second, nurture a warm heart to God through spending time with him. Samson seems not to have done much to build his relationship with God. Learn to pray, listen to God, meditate on his word, fellowship with other Christians in a church family. Serve him.
These are all ways to avoid the self-deception of Samson, and the destruction that can follow in the wake of the self-deceived.