Wednesday, January 26, 2022

The Judges. Day 56, Samson And Delilah, Part Two

Three times Samson has told Delilah a false story about the secret of his strength. As we discussed yesterday, I don't believe he was aware she was trying to betray him to the Philistines. The Bible doesn't say he knew that men were hiding in Delilah's house ready to take him into custody if any of the strength-taming tricks actually worked. The Bible doesn't say the men ever revealed their presence. For most of my life I had the impression that each time Delilah bound him with various objects, he "escaped" from the grasp of the Philistines, but a closer examination of the story doesn't appear to back that theory up. 

In a way, it's a relief to me to realize he was never as foolish as I thought he was. Or at least, he wasn't foolish in the way I thought he was. I kept wondering, "Why does he return to Delilah's house time and time again, knowing she's working for the enemy?" But in my opinion, the text we examined yesterday indicates that Samson never knew she was working for the enemy. He likely thought that the repeated questions about the source of his strength, and Delilah's repeated efforts to tie him up, was a new but intriguing part of their physical relationship. He's so thoroughly infatuated with her that it never occurs to him that she isn't equally smitten with him. Even when her questions become a source of intense vexation to him, he can't stay away from her. His love for her has captivated him in a way that no ropes or chains ever have.

"Then she said to him, 'How can you say, 'I love you,' when you won't confide in me? This is the third time you have made a fool of me and haven't told me the secret of your great strength.' With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was sick of it." (Judges 16:15-16) She resorts to emotional blackmail. She says things like, "People who love each other are honest with each other. People who love each other share everything with each other. You keep saying you love me but I don't believe you. How can I when you won't tell me the truth? If you really loved me you wouldn't keep anything from me. You've made a fool of me, not only by telling me lies but by making me think you love me when you really don't." 

Delilah goes on like this "day after day", according to verse 16, and Samson has heard these questions until he's sick of them but still he can't make himself stay away from her. Worn down by the tears and emotional blackmail, he decides to put an end to the nagging by telling her about his Nazirite vow and the reason why he has never cut his hair. He thinks this will prove his love to her and restore peace to their relationship. He still does not suspect she intends to betray him. If he did, I can't imagine anything that would have been compelling enough to put himself in a helpless position in the presence of the Philistines. "So he told her everything. 'No razor has ever been used on my head,' he said, 'because I have been a Nazirite dedicated to God from my mother's womb. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.'" (Judges 16:17)

Delilah can tell Samson has reached the limits of his resistance. He's a defeated man, emotionally speaking, and she can see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice. She is overjoyed, I'm sure, at the thought that the large reward will soon be hers for helping the Philistines capture him. Samson probably sees the joy in her eyes and thinks all is now well between them: she will no longer doubt his love and the two of them can live happily ever after. She probably plays into this misconception, hugging and kissing him and thanking him for setting her mind at ease regarding his loyalty. 

It's interesting to note, in our next verse, that on this occasion there are no Philistines hiding in her house as they were on some of her earlier attempts. I don't know how long it took Delilah to wear Samson down but it was long enough that the Philistines had stopped believing she'd be able to do it. While still entertaining Samson at her house, perhaps with dinner and wine and romance, she sends a servant out with a message to the Philistines that she has accomplished the mission. "When Delilah saw that he had told her everything, she sent word to the rulers of the Philistines, 'Come back once more; he has told me everything.' So the rulers of the Philistines returned with the silver in their hands." (Judges 16:18)

The men wait while Delilah does the one thing that will rob Samson of his strength. "After putting him to sleep on her lap, she called for someone to shave off the seven braids of his hair, and so began to subdue him. And his strength left him." (Judges 16:19) What has put Samson into such a deep sleep that he doesn't feel a servant shaving his head? For one thing, I think that the days or weeks or months of conflict with the woman he loves caused him to be mentally and emotionally exhausted. For another thing, relief has a way of making a person sleepy. Have you ever been really worried about something and, when the situation works out or the good news comes, you find yourself barely able to keep your eyes open? When the adrenaline from the anxiety wears off, the body becomes aware of the strain it's been under. Samson may have fallen into a deep sleep for other reasons too, especially if Delilah served him a large heavy meal and especially if he indulged in any alcohol. (Alcohol was forbidden to a Nazirite, but we've already seen Samson breaking every Nazirite vow except the one about cutting his hair, which is about to be broken.) It's possible he also slept with Delilah on this visit to her house, so when you combine all these factors together, it's not that difficult to imagine he could fall asleep so soundly that he doesn't realize someone with a razor is busy chopping his braids off.

"Then she called, 'Samson, the Philistines are upon you!' He awoke from his sleep and thought, 'I'll go out as before and shake myself free.' But he did not know that the Lord had left him." (Judges 16:20) Was Samson's strength literally in his hair? No, because every time we find him performing amazing feats of strength, we are told that he was enabled to do them by the Spirit of the Lord. Samson's strength came from the Lord, not from his hair. But in telling Delilah about the reason for his hair having never been cut, he broke the last of his Nazirite vows. In doing so, he placed his relationship with this heathen woman above his relationship with the Lord. And although we never find Samson engaging in the worship of false gods, he has made Delilah an idol in his life. The Bible tells us "the Lord had left him" but if Samson is being honest he'd have to admit he left the Lord first. The Lord cannot bless sin and that is why He doesn't give Samson the strength needed to avoid capture by the Philistines. Samson has been compromising with sin for a long time, one by one trespassing against his vows to the Lord, and now he has finally broken the final rule a Nazirite must keep. 

The rules he agreed to live by should not be regarded as a form of legalism: an effort to obtain grace through works. The keeping of these rules were intended to reflect the condition of the person's heart. The outward consecration was to be evidence of the consecration of the heart. The keeping of the Nazirite vows were intended to display a heart that was devoted to God. This is grace by faith. 

Yesterday I quoted the lyrics of a secular song that I said reminded of Samson's obsession with Delilah. I didn't quote all the lyrics that reminded me of Samson. I saved one of the verses for today, because in the song called "When A Man Loves A Woman" we read that a man this deeply in love will "turn his back on his best friend if he puts her down". Samson has turned his back on his best friend---the Lord---because he's fallen madly and irresponsibly in love with an idolatrous woman. Delilah is not the type of woman a man of God should have anything to do with. She's not the type of woman a judge of Israel should have anything to do with. Samson was aware that neither the Lord nor his parents nor his fellow Israelites thought she was an acceptable mate for him. In spite of this, he thought he had to have her. I am sure the Holy Spirit must have pleaded with him time after time to let her go and give his heart fully to the Lord, but Samson must have hardened his heart against those pleas because of his obsession with Delilah. He turned his back on his best Friend for putting her down, as the song goes. And he will regret it for as long as he lives, which won't be that much longer.

But thanks be to our loving and merciful God, He hasn't forsaken Samson even though He won't give him the strength to evade his captors. Samson will repent of his mistakes and turn his heart fully to the Lord in his final days and the Lord will hear his cry for forgiveness and mercy. 

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