16 And it came to pass, when she pestered him daily with her words and pressed him, so that his soul was vexed to death,
17 that he told her all his heart, and said to her, “No razor has ever come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If I am shaven, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man.”
I could really use a haircut. At 48, I still have a pretty full head of salt-and-pepper hair, and when it gets a little too long it starts showing its natural curls. It gets downright unruly, and so I visit the barber and get it trimmed just to keep from looking like some crazed street preacher. Sometimes, when I mention that I need a trim, my friends recommend I go to a stylist to get the latest hairdo, or that I use some sort of gel or such. Honestly, I could care less how “hip” I look so long as my hair looks neat and is easy to care for. So I visit the bargain hair cutters and give them specific directions: “Short back and sides. Number 4 clipper, tapered into the top.” It’s not the style that matters to me, just keeping things neat and tidy.
Now Samson must truly have had a head of hair. As a Nazirite–someone wholly set apart for God’s work–his hair had never been cut. (Numbers 6:5) God had ordained that Samson would “begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.” (Judges 13:5) Therefore, Samson was raised as a Nazirite, his life dedicated to God from infancy. He drank no wine, ate nothing unclean, and, of course, he never cut his hair. His strength was unmatched in all Israel, and his exploits in defeating the Philistines became legendary. And then he met Delilah.
If we were to watch the old Victor Mature movie about Samson and Delilah, we might think that theirs was a love story overshadowed by political powers–a kind of Biblical Romeo and Juliet. But that is NOT what we read in the Bible, in chapter 16 of the book of Judges. On the contrary, Delilah was scheming Samson’s downfall from the very beginning, and Samson himself was an over-confident, bragging fool who fell in love and couldn’t see what Delilah was plotting.
Delilah not-so-subtly kept asking what would weaken Samson, and three times he lied to her. But finally she made a classic plea: “How can you say ‘I love you’ when your heart is not with me?” (Judges 16:15) And Samson then told her that his strength lay in his unshorn hair. And we all know the rest of the story, don’t we? She got his hair cut, the Philistines put his eyes out and enslaved him for their own amusement, and then he pulled the temple down right on their heads. But there is one verse that really sticks out to me in the midst of all that:
However, the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaven.
That’s an interesting little tidbit, don’t you think?
Samson had told Delilah that if he let his hair get cut, then we would “become weak, and be like any other man.” (v.17) But was it his long hair that made Samson so different? No, it was his status as someone set apart for God, his life as a Nazirite, someone who didn’t live by the standards of the world but by God’s standards. As soon as Samson put his love for Delilah above his love for God, he was no longer holy. And so, as we well know, the Lord left Samson, making him indeed “like any other man.”
But also, like any other man, his hair began to grow. Samson realized his mistake in loving Delilah above God, and so in his captivity, his faith returned. And with his faith, Samson’s holiness before God also returned. And with his holiness, his strength returned. When he finally asked God to give him strength to pull down the Philistine temple and slay many with one blow, God would no longer refuse him. Samson had lost his eyes of faith and the strength of his holiness, but when he repented, God heard Samson’s prayer and gave him the power he needed.
So Samson’s story is really about faith and holiness, about setting oneself apart for God.
But know that the LORD has set apart for Himself him who is godly;
The LORD will hear when I call to Him.
In his body, Samson was like any other man–from the day of his birth to the day he pulled that temple down on the Philistines and himself. He lived and breathed, and he ate and slept, and he loved. And like you or me, he stumbled, putting something (or someone) of the world above his God.
Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
Samson let himself become a friend of the world, and so he allowed his faith to fail and his strength in the Lord to falter. But when he had been literally blinded, he yet saw with new eyes of faith. When he was in physical chains, he yet was free in his heart to return to God. When he was set to perform for the amusement of his captors, he sought instead to perform for the pleasure of his God. When all other strength had left him, he sought strength from the Lord God of his fathers, and so was able to overcome God’s enemies and find victory in his death.
It wasn’t Samson’s hair that mattered, it was his faith. When he allowed himself to be diverted from the things of God, that is when he became weak. But when, in his captivity, he turned himself toward repentance, his faith began to grow again. His long hair didn’t grow back over night, but his dedication to God surely did, and so he found strength even without his long hair.
You and I have our Samson moments, times when we let the things of earth become more important to us than keeping ourselves set apart for God. We forget that we are “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people.” (1 Peter 2:9) We lose sight of the fact that even before we were born, God chose us to do good works in His holy name. (Ephesians 2:10) We stumble and fall in the face of the temptations that are common to all men. (1 Corinthians 10:13) Yes, we are just like Samson in so many ways.
And we are also like Samson in this: we can repent and return to the Lord for holiness and strength. We can let our faith grow again even as we struggle to break free from the bonds of sin and shame. We can turn our lives back to the work of the Lord, seeking His will and His power, His Spirit and His glory, even as we breathe our last breath. We can set our eyes once again on Jesus, seeking the one true way, truth, and life that brings us to our God. We can once more set ourselves apart for God, sanctified by the blood of our Savior, and be no more like every other man, but be holy and strong just like Samson himself.
Almighty God, You spoke through the prophet Zechariah to remind us that what we accomplish in this life is not by might nor by power, but by Your Spirit. Give us the strength, Lord God, to be holy and sanctified to You, to be the royal priesthood You have called us to be. As the Psalmist wrote, “Direct my steps by Your word, And let no iniquity have dominion over me.” Let me be a Samson for You, O Lord! Amen.