Men get stupid around beautiful women.
Either we turn into bragging peacocks thinking that we need to give the best show, or we just turn into blithering idiots who struggle to string a coherent sentence together.
And in some cases, we just fall completely under the spell and allow ourselves to become completely vulnerable.
Now that last one, of course, in the presence of the right woman is not necessarily a bad thing. However, in the presence of the wrong one, well it can have disastrous effects.
Many people know that one TV show I enjoy watching is The Big Bang Theory – and there’s a tale in the backstory where Leonard was once dating this nice girl who was so interested in his work on a secret government project, and of course, he wanted to show it to her. Turned out she was a North Korean spy.
Men get stupid around beautiful women.
Samson, though, perhaps has to take the cake on stupidity. Here’s this guy, who’s been destroying the Philistines for years. Now clearly the guy had a weakness for Philistine women. First he married one, even against his parents’ best wishes and advice for him. Then at the beginning of this chapter he goes to Gaza and sees a Prostitute – presumably also a Philistine woman.
Then he meets Delilah.
Samson falls in love with this woman – and it sounds like it’s a pretty quick fall, too.
So he’s shacked up with Delilah, and after a while she asks him what the secret to his great strength is. Samson tells her a fib about how if he’s tied up with seven fresh thongs (that’s leather straps, people…) he’ll be no stronger than any other man.
That night, Delilah wakes him up saying the Philistines are here. He’s bound, conveniently, by seven fresh thongs – and snaps them without a problem. Samson escapes.
Now, you’d think there’d be a few bells going off in your head at this point – nothing, though, compared to when your girlfriend starts pouting about how you made a fool of her by lying to her. She asks him again.
Alarm bells, anyone?
Not for Samson. He goes ahead and tells her some other story – and again, it’s wrong. Again, Delilah complains that he lied to her and made a fool of her, and he tells her a third story only to have the same result.
Now at this point, it would be fair to assume that maybe Samson’s smarter than we’re giving him credit for. Perhaps he’s just playing with Delilah’s mind because he’s clicked on to what she’s up to, right?
Men get stupid around beautiful women.
A fourth time, Delilah asks Samson what the secret to his strength is.
Seriously, why couldn’t he just say a paleo diet and Crossfit six days a week?
No. Samson actually goes and tells this chick that the secret to his strength is his separation as a Nazirite. His hair has never been cut, and that’s why.
Men get stupid around beautiful women.
Now here, though, is my question. Why did God leave Samson? Why, when his hair was cut, did his strength fail him? Was it because his strength was actually in his hair?
Here’s what I think happened. Samson let go of God. He trusted Delilah with a part of himself that God was supposed to have.
Being a single guy, I will admit that sometimes it’s a real struggle to actually balance a relationship with God and the desire to have a girlfriend, get married, have a family. Of course they’re not mutually exclusive, but the thing is that you end up feeling like that hole in your heart where God should be could be filled by a partner instead. Then, you wonder if any partner will do.
I remember talking to a friend of mine about this stuff around a year or two ago, and about options and things like that. His wife, from the other room, suddenly yelled out, “She’s not an option if she doesn’t love Jesus!”
Of course, not all non-Christian girls are Philistines, or akin to Delilah, that’s not what I’m saying. However what I am saying is that a partner cannot, and should never, take the place of God in our lives. That was where, I believe, Samson fell. Not because his hair was cut, but because he replaced God with something less.
Samson really had an odd life, when you think about it.
After the weird sequence of events that led to his getting married, only to then be betrayed by his wife and take it out on the Philistines, he goes home and her father gave Samson’s wife to someone else to marry instead.
Some time later, Samson cooled off a bit and decided that it was time to go back. So he returns back to Timnah again, only for his father in law to inform him that because he was sure Samson hated her, he gave her to someone else instead – as a consolation, he has another daughter that Samson can have instead. She’s younger, more attractive, take her instead! So Samson snaps again, goes out, catches 300 foxes, ties them together in pairs along with a torch each and sets them off in the Philistine’s fields to burn up their grain.
To borrow a phrase from Ron Burgundy: “Wow. That escalated quickly.”
In turn, after they realize that he did this as vengeance for being betrayed by his father in law, the Philistines kill Samson’s wife and her father. Which – as you can imagine – just aggravates Samson further. He kills a few more of them and then goes off to a cave – probably to cool down again.
The Philistines come up against Israel, Israel – well, Judah – say that they don’t want any part of it, but they’ll go get Samson, which they do. He lets them tie him up and take him to the Philistines, only to then break the ropes when he gets there. Spotting a donkey’s jawbone, Samson once again goes a little berserk and kills a thousand men.
Then Samson said, “With a donkey’s jawbone I have made donkeys of them. With a donkey’s jawbone I have killed a thousand men.” ~ Judges 15:16
Afterwards, Samson’s thirsty and calls out to God wondering why he’s been able to be victorious, only to die of thirst so that he can be captured after all. No offence to Samson intended, but that does sound very like the Israelites in the desert, when you think about it.
Not that I can talk – or probably not that most of us can talk, I’d imagine. I know for me, no matter how much I’ve witnessed God do, I still struggle to have faith that he’s going to come through next time, or that he’s going to provide for me.
But here, God opens up the landscape and Samson’s able to grab a drink.
To continue looking at the story, though. Obviously Samson’s wife wasn’t that good for him in the long run. When your first week of marriage pretty much ends up with a massacre of thirty people, that’s probably not a good start to the life together. Regardless, though, Samson goes back to his wife.
Most of the time it doesn’t necessarily matter if something’s good for us or not – we end up walking back to it. Whether it’s a relationship, something health related, an addiction, who knows. The point is that it’s very hard to just stay away from something that you liked, enjoyed or even loved. Samson liked this girl, even if she wasn’t that great for him – and he went back. The thing is, though, that it ended badly – worse than it did the first time around.
And that’s what I”ve found, too – going back to something tends to end up worse the more times you keep returning.
Just to finish, though, I want to come back to the end of the chapter.
Because he was very thirsty, he cried out to the LORD, “You have given your servant this great victory. Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?” Then God opened up the hollow place in Lehi, and water came out of it. When Samson drank, his strength returned and he revived. So the spring was called En Hakkore, and it is still there in Lehi. ~ Judges 15:18-19
There’s actually a lot in these verses, but just briefly, three things:
- Because he was very thirsty, he cried out to the LORD. We all get thirsty, we all get drained, especially spiritually. It’s at these times we need to cry out to God.
- Then God opened up the hollow place in Lehi, and water came out of it. When we’re thirsty, God will provide us with what we need.
- His strength returned and he revived. Drinking of God’s spirit will restore strength and revive us.
“People from opposite sides often have good relationships. You know, Romeo and Juliet, Tony and Maria from West Side Story, what’s-his-name and the big blue chick in Avatar.”
…To quote Big Bang Theory again…
Let me ask you something, what is it about these types of stories that make them so famous? Is the whole forbidden love thing that enticing to people? Or perhaps – and more likely – it’s the concept of love conquering all bounds that manages to keep it all together.
Whatever it is, here’s another one: Samson and his wife.
Here’s this guy – Samson – before his birth, his parents have been told that he’s to be set apart from birth, a Nazirite, so that he can begin freeing Israel from the hands of the Philistines. Once he’s grown up, he goes fro a wander down to this town called Timnah, spots a Philistine girl and decides he wants to marry her. So he goes and tells his parents. Their reaction, of course, is to ask why he can’t just find a nice Israelite girl to marry? Samson’s stubborn. Nope, she’s the girl I want.
The heart wants what the heart wants, doesn’t it?
His parents did not know that this was from the LORD, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines; for at that time they were ruling over Israel.) ~ Judges 14:4
Now, I’m intrigued by the whole concept of this being “from the LORD,” in this verse. It only says that Samson’s parents didn’t know what was going on, so I’m curious as to whether God actually makes Samson fall in love with this woman, or he actually tells her that this is the woman he should marry.
Anyway, Samson and his parents go off to Timnah together, somewhere along the way Samson kills a lion – which isn’t seen by his parents and he doesn’t tell them what happened. Then he finally actually talks to this girl and decides that he likes her, so after a little while longer again he goes back to marry her. On the way, he stops by the lion carcass and there’s now a heap of bees hovering around it making honey – and Samson stops for a taste.
There’s a lot of back-and-forthing in this chapter actually, as Samson goes between Timnah and his parents’ house and back again. The short of it is, though, there’s a feast and he’s got thirty Philistines around him. Samson challenges them with a riddle wanting clothing from each of them if he wins, and if they win, he’ll give each of them an outfit.
Given that I just watched The Hobbit the other night, this week seems to have a theme of riddle games…
He replied, “Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet.”
For three days they could not give the answer. ~ Judges 14:14
Which is, of course, the lion and the honey. Now the companions can’t guess it, so they tell Samson’s wife to go and find out the answer for him. She manages to manipulate the answer from him and momentarily the companions come back and tell him the answer.
Sometimes I think that God may have given Samson a heap of strength, but he didn’t necessarily match that with brains…
So Samson has to owe these guys an outfit of clothing each – thirty in all.
Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon him in power. H?e went down to Ashkelon, struck down thirty of their men, stripped them of their belongings and gave their clothes to those who had explained the riddle. Burning with anger, he went up to his father’s house. ~ Judges 14:19
Now here’s what I take from this chapter. A couple of things actually. See, God had a plan here all along. Going back to verse 4, God was seeking an opportunity to confront the Philistines. The story doesn’t exactly pan out in a wonderful tale of romance and love between two people from opposing sides transcending their problems and bringing happiness ever after. In fact, she’s manipulated by her side and in turn manipulates Samson to give her the answer to the riddle. Samson’s hurt, and takes it out on the Philistines – which is pretty much what was planned in the first place.
Now, going back to the whole thing of destiny, I’m going to leave it open here as to whether the plan was always for Samson to end up killing thirty philistines, or whether it was more generic and just forcing a confrontation. However, there’s one last thing I’d like to bring out of this.
Sometimes we feel like we screw up. Sometimes we go out and do something stupid – maybe not necessarily marry a Philistine woman like Samson did, but we do something that in all honesty, probably isn’t the best idea for us. Sometimes, like here, it even seems like everything has just gotten the best of us. Sometimes, though, it’s all under control. I’m certainly not saying that we should go out and kill thirty Philistines, but what I am saying is that if you think you’ve backed yourself into a corner and you’re not sure how to get out – try fighting.
Chances are, the Spirit of the LORD will come upon you in power too, and you’ll find yourself free.
And what did Samson do after that? He went back home. Don’t forget your roots, because if you feel like you’ve lost your way, chances are that’s where you’ll find your footing again.
Samson’s really a guy who needs very little introduction. I think most of us have heard at least some tale of his life, but that’s coming over the next few chapters in Judges anyway.
This one’s just all about his birth, and the foretelling of his birth. Samson’s a bit different from the other Judges who have been called – each of them are already alive and kicking when they have their destiny thrown into their faces. Not to say that the plans for their lives weren’t already out there, but before Samson was born his parents were already being told that he had a destiny. The reason being that there were different rules for Samson. He was to live as a Nazirite – no alcohol, wine or otherwise, not even any grapes. He wasn’t to do anything unclean according to the law, and he wasn’t even allowed to cut his hair.
I’ve gone through a few stages of life where I had long hair. I don’t know if I still prefer it but I did at the time – maybe I could start growing it again and call myself a Nazirite.
Anyway, the important thing is that Manoah and his wife (who remains nameless in this story) have this angel come to them and tell them multiple times that they’re going to have a son in spite of the fact that she’s barren. He’s special, and is to be raised special, and therefore has to be raised special.
It’s an interesting word. I was actually having a conversation just last night with a few people about the whole concept of predestination and free will. I’m not going to go into that too deeply here, but this story sort of reiterates the kind of perspective that I have on the whole concept of destiny.
See, my personal view on the whole thing is that yes, God’s given me a destiny, but it’s still up to me to achieve it. I still have free will, which means that I can go and do what I want, and therefore not actually reach the destiny that God has for me.
There’s an onus on us – wow, I just realized the spelling of that – to actually walk into our destiny. In Samson’s case, there were very specific guidelines set out, I don’t know why, but they’re there. The point being here that Samson had a destiny, but he – and his parents – also had a responsibility to live in a certain way, to fulfil certain tasks, in order for him to actually achieve his destiny.
So here’s the question, because Samson was destined to be a Nazirite, and his mother was destined to be just that – his mother – then does that mean it was actually impossible for them to drink wine? It just couldn’t have happened? If this is the case, then why did an angel need to come and actually tell her that she wasn’t allowed to drink wine, and neither would Samson be able to either? The only reason to inform them was so that they would actually adjust their behaviour, and bring their son up in a certain behaviour, to ensure he could fulfil that destiny.
But I said that I wasn’t going to go into it too deeply.
The thing is that in order for us to fulfil our destiny, we actually have to walk in it. God’s got a plan for my life, and he has one for yours. The important thing to do is to ensure that we are following the right steps, living the right life and making the right choices to actually fulfil that destiny.
So, growing up in the Church, the book of Judges could have really just been the book of Gideon and Samson – they’re the two main occupiers of the children’s stories that I remember from Sunday School and the like.
Here’s the beginning of Gideon’s story, and it opens in a pretty familiar fashion.
Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites. ~ Judges 6:1
They were oppressed, troubled, abused – and after a few years of this, once again, they cried out to God. Sounds almost identical to how the story of Deborah got started.
So this time it’s a young guy called Gideon, he’s just going about his daily duties when an angel shows up.
When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.” ~ Judges 6:12
And Gideon’s first response is, ‘but’.
Gideon reminds me a bit of Moses, actually. When Moses was first called by God to go back to Egypt he had every argument under the sun ready – not bad, really, for a guy who claimed he wouldn’t be able to speak to Pharaoh. Now Gideon’s being called, and his immediate reaction is basically, “Wait, you’ve got the wrong guy.”
The interaction here is interesting, actually. Gideon shakes his head, saying that if God’s with them, then why are they suffering? He brought them out of Egypt, but he’s abandoned them.
The angel’s response is what I like.
The LORD turned to him and said, “Go out in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” ~ Judges 6:14
When it comes to Gideon asking the why question, when it comes to him saying they’ve been abandoned, the angel doesn’t say anything. Just get on with it – you’re being sent, aren’t you? Let’s go.
Gideon’s not convinced – he asks for a sign, and gets one. After that he cuts down the Baal altar and uses the Asherah pole for firewood, but then when he’s called to go after the Midianites, he’s wanting two more signs before he’ll go.
Now here’s the big thing I noted in this chapter – it’s not actually about the signs, it’s about the few verses in the middle. Gideon sneaks in at night, not wanting to get caught, and destroys the altar to Baal and the Asherah pole alongside it, and sends up a sacrifice to God.
We go off track, and we fall into these troughs in our lives. I know I do, a lot, so I’m glad God’s as patient with me as he was with the Israelites – coming to the rescue and looking after them despite their constant fluctuations between loving him and thinking he must hate them. This little part, though, between Gideon’s signs speaks something very important.
It starts at home. Gideon’s first task was to destroy the Baal altar and the Asherah pole. Why? Because they needed to make sure that they had cleaned up things internally before they could go out and deal with the Midianites.
How often, when things are going wrong in our lives, do we blame the outside influences? How often do we say that it’s all someone else’s fault?
Maybe it is, but the fact is that the place where we can make the most peace, the place where we can do the most restoration is right in our own hearts.
Please note: I’m not necessarily saying that if things aren’t going well for you in your life right now, then it’s because of something you’ve done wrong. However what I am saying is look closer to home. Instead of blaming someone else for things not going right, what can you change in yourself to make the situation better?
So Christmas is finally over.
I say finally, because Christmas with my family seemed to take a week this year. In actuality it could even be a month. Because we weren’t actually going to see my little sister and her family at Christmas, there were gifts (Coconut Ice – perfect) sent my way early December.
Still, as I’ve said, Christmas isn’t about the gifts. What was great was that it did take so long, from extended family, right through to some of my best friends, I count Christmas as being finished as of Tuesday night.
Now that Christmas is over, we start to look forward towards the new year. 2011′s only two more days away now. It’s time to start planning new years resolutions, and seeing how long we can make them last. I’m simply not going to actually tell anyone what mine are this year – that way if I don’t actually achieve them, then there’s no disappointment; and if I do, then I can jump up and down about it later.
The Nazirite is a ‘character’ of the bible who’s always fascinated me. It goes back to the obvious: Samson, from being a child. I didn’t really get the whole Delilah thing as a kid, all I did get was this super strong hero warrior who killed hundreds with his bare hands.
Samson was like Chuck Norris.
But I guess from there, my fascination with the idea of a Nazirite’s always been something that’s stuck in my head.
I do find it interesting that the ascetic lifestyle’s been one that I’ve slowly been drawn closer to over the past six months. I gave up smoking before I even came back to God; but it was most certainly still a part of the process. Then in September God told me quite clearly to stop drinking alcohol. At first I thought it was a temporary thing but as the months have gone by, most of the time I wonder whether it might be permanent – and occasionally I hope it isn’t; like when my brother-in-law offers me a whiff of the high-grade scotch whisky on his shelf.
Since going to Perth, I’ve been challenged to give away coffee. I’ve replaced the occasional hot beverage with chai or green tea, and still probably get at least a minor fix of caffeine through the green tea and other things each day. However, eventually I’m wondering whether I’ll just end up on water.
Which is okay – kind of. I still remember the taste of whisky or coffee, or the feeling of having a cigarette, and find myself wanting to partake and enjoy. However God’s will is God’s will, and I’m not about to bend from that if I can help it.
Not, though, that I’m saying I’m taking the vow of a Nazirite, either. Although I can’t help thinking that it would probably actually be a very powerful experience; dedicating and separating yourself to God for a period – imagine being solely dedicated to God for a whole year; following the law and vow of the Nazirite. It would be a pretty powerful experience.
That level of dedication is extreme, and I notice that the passage does clearly state that there’s an end to the vow of the Nazirite. I feel that speaks something to us, to remember that we are actually dedicated to God, but we are also expected to live this life that we’ve been given. If it was all just about being solely separated from the world and dedicated to God, then why live in the first place?
We have a mission and a plan to fulfil here in our lives, a plan that God has for us. It’s all well and good to try and get closer to God, but he has other things for us to do too. Eventually we need to shave our head, give up the dedication and go out into battle in the real world.