Today’s reading: Judges 16-18.
Can I tell you anything about Samson that you don’t already know? His long hair, his remarkable strength, his temper, his deadly quarrels with the Philistines, his unbridled lust, his betrayal at the hands of Delilah? Yes, that hair. We do need to talk about the hair. Remember that Samson had been raised as a Nazirite since birth. The outward sign of his vow, the uncut hair, symbolized his inner devotion to God. The angel of the LORD who announced his coming said he would be set apart to God from birth. As he grew the LORD blessed him and the spirit of the LORD began to move in him. It’s questionable how much Samson devoted himself to the Nazirite life, but at the very least he never cut his hair until he fell into Delilah’s hands. His parents completely obeyed their charge to raise him in that devoted fashion, and the results when he reached manhood were undeniable.
His lack of self-control was also undeniable. He was the original bull in a china shop, and the Philistines were the china dolls who shattered by the thousands at his hands. His anger repeatedly led to violence. His lust led to promiscuity. For one so outwardly marked off for God, he showed so little inner evidence of devotion. He was a breaker (of the Philistines) who was himself broken, yet God continued to use him in a mighty way. Then he met Delilah. She weakened his will and strengthened all his weaknesses. In the end she was stronger than the strongman. He told her everything.
Having put him to sleep on her lap, she called a man to shave off the seven braids of his hair, and so began to subdue him. And his strength left him. Judges 16:19
Samson’s refusal to cut his hair was the one part of the Nazirite vow that we know he fulfilled. It was the part of his vow that he associated with his devotion to God, and despite all his flaws Samson believed in God. But without his hair, he had no other connection to God. There was nothing on the inside.
So here’s the part of the story you may not have thought about. They shaved off Samson’s hair. It wasn’t cut or trimmed. The word for shaved is the same word for bald, so it’s clear that they removed every bit of his hair. The Philistines weren’t taking any chances. But they didn’t know the Mosaic law. If they had known it, they would have realized that shaving off the hair not only ended the Nazirite vow, but also renewed it.
But the hair on his head began to grow again after it had been shaved. Judges 16:22
Don’t you love second chances? God is the LORD of second chances, and Samson gets a do-over. His captors unknowingly renew his Nazirite vow and through his captivity provide all the discipline he could never invoke on his own. Samson becomes more devoted in prison than when he was free. He was never more a Nazirite, never closer to God, never stronger than on the day when he toppled the Philistine temple.
Samson’s name means “like the sun.” He certainly blazed, but his light was so unfocused. Yet God’s grace provided for him in spite of all his sin. If Samson got a do-over, think what God will do for you. It’s never too late to rededicate yourself to God.
Image by Natmandu on Flickr, CC by-nc-sa 2.0