The Big Sandy Mountaineer -

Patching Cracks

 

July 12, 2017



Last week, I started studying the life of Samson for the sermon series I’m currently working through. Samson is an interesting figure because he is basically an action hero. His story is a collection of crazy adventures, battles, and love affairs. Strangely, most folks miss the point of his story. Generally, the misunderstanding begins with his hair. Most people identify Samson’s hair as the reason he was so tough. However, this isn’t accurate. Samson was commanded by God to live according to a strict set of religious rules. These rules were known to the ancient Jewish people as taking a ‘Nazirite vow’. Not to be confused with the town of Nazareth or its inhabitants, the Nazarenes, a Nazirite vow was taken on by a person who wanted to live their life ‘set apart for God’ for a period of time. Nazirites would make the vow to follow God’s purposes and follow 3 rules: stop eating any unclean foods (pork, road kill, carrion birds, etc.), abstain from drinking any alcohol, and not cutting their hair. Samson was supposed to follow these rules and serve as the deliverer of God’s people, who were living under the oppression of a foreign nation. I suspect the reason we forget everything but his hair is that he forgot everything but his hair. Samson broke all of the other rules and didn’t bother chasing the enemy nation out of Israel. Every time Samson fought with the enemy, he did it as an act of revenge or to get something he wanted. He got drunk often and did not follow the Jewish dietary rules. The only part of God’s directions that he followed was the one about not cutting his hair. His might in battle had nothing to do with anything he was or did, it was all based on God’s willingness to aid him in his exploits. It was a situation somewhat like going around with a really tough body guard who helps you in fights. The famous story of Delilah cutting his hair and robbing him of his strength is actually about him finally breaking the last part of the oath he was supposed to live by. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that last part of the oath was the only one that everyone could see him obeying. He was wicked in private, but maintained his vows in public. There’s a bit of a parallel in the lives of many modern believers. It’s difficult to follow Jesus’ teachings. Forgiving and praying for enemies is hard. Serving the poor is hard. Loving God and your neighbor is hard. However, there are more visible elements of the Christian faith that we can follow and still be recognized by others as a Christian. Showing up to church, not associating with the ‘wrong people’, supporting the right causes, and saying the right words can easily become the only things that mark a person as a follower of Jesus, in the same way that uncut hair was the only element of the Nazirite vows that Samson maintained. The trick is that Samson wasn’t a proper Nazirine and folks who only show piety outside are Christian in name only, because God is not as easily fooled by outward appearances. What God wanted from Samson isn’t all that different from what he wants from us. God desires that we love Him. We are to love him so much that living according to his ways is just a natural byproduct. Jesus once said that living an outwardly religious lifestyle, while ignoring our inner lives, is like decorating a tomb. It looks good outside, but inside, it’s dead. Real spiritual life begins inside and radiates outward, not vise versa.

 
 

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