By Chuck Alley
Reading from Judges, 16:1-14
1 Once Samson went to Gaza, where he saw a prostitute and went in to her. 2The Gazites were told, “Samson has come here.” So they encircled the place and lay in wait for him all night at the city gate. They kept quiet all night, thinking, “Let us wait until the light of the morning; then we will kill him.” 3But Samson lay only until midnight. Then at midnight he rose up, took hold of the doors of the city gate and the two posts, pulled them up, bar and all, put them on his shoulders, and carried them to the top of the hill that is in front of Hebron.
4 After this he fell in love with a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. 5The lords of the Philistines came to her and said to her, “Coax him, and find out what makes his strength so great, and how we may overpower him, so that we may bind him in order to subdue him; and we will each give you eleven hundred pieces of silver.” 6So Delilah said to Samson, “Please tell me what makes your strength so great, and how you could be bound, so that one could subdue you.” 7Samson said to her, “If they bind me with seven fresh bowstrings that are not dried out, then I shall become weak, and be like anyone else.” 8Then the lords of the Philistines brought her seven fresh bowstrings that had not dried out, and she bound him with them. 9While men were lying in wait in an inner chamber, she said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” But he snapped the bowstrings, as a strand of fibre snaps when it touches the fire. So the secret of his strength was not known.
10 Then Delilah said to Samson, “You have mocked me and told me lies; please tell me how you could be bound.” 11He said to her, “If they bind me with new ropes that have not been used, then I shall become weak, and be like anyone else.” 12So Delilah took new ropes and bound him with them, and said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” (The men lying in wait were in an inner chamber.) But he snapped the ropes off his arms like a thread.
13 Then Delilah said to Samson, “Until now you have mocked me and told me lies; tell me how you could be bound.” He said to her, “If you weave the seven locks of my head with the web and make it tight with the pin, then I shall become weak, and be like anyone else.” 14So while he slept, Delilah took the seven locks of his head and wove them into the web, and made them tight with the pin. Then she said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” But he awoke from his sleep, and pulled away the pin, the loom, and the web.
The job of a judge is to act on behalf of God for the people, to represent and point to the just judgment of God. So far, Samson is judge over Israel more by acting like the nation in its relationship with God than by acting like God on behalf of his nation. Once again, Samson’s appetite and his arrogance lead him to do what he should not do and be where he should not be. He wanders proudly among the Philistines, alone, driven by lust, partaking of the favors of a Gentile prostitute. Instead of pointing Israel back to its true Judge, he is setting himself up to be the example of how the nation will be judged for its own willful wanderings, its own disregard of God’s statutes and promises.
As the Church, we need to take the warning of Samson seriously. God will accomplish his purpose whether we perform our role according to his will or ours. We can be his willing instruments and partners, presenting God’s plan in a positive manner through our faithful obedience to him. Or we will demonstrate his purposes by suffering the consequences of going against them, showing off God’s mercy in contrast to our willful disobedience. If we place the “freedom” to wander, the satisfaction of our fleshly appetite, or the protection of our pride first in our lives — individually or corporately — we put ourselves in a dangerous place. In short, we risk becoming salt that has lost its savor (Matt. 5:13).
Chuck Alley is a retired Episcopal priest and an adjunct associate professor of anatomy on the medical faculty of Virginia Commonwealth University. He and his wife, Scottie, have three children and nine grandchildren.
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