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23 March. Judges chapters 13-16
This is the story of Samson, probably one of the best known of the ‘judges’. It is a name still given to strong people and powerful machines, for Samson was miraculously given great strength by God. In fact, his birth itself was miraculous, like that of several other Bible heroes from Isaac to Jesus, and like theirs it was announced by an angel.
When God gives a special gift to someone or predestines them to greatness, their gifts are to be used for God’s purposes and the benefit of humanity. Samson, though, misused his gifts. He acted against the enemy Philistines in an increasing spiral of violence and revenge. He demonstrated his strength by killing thousands of men single-handed, as well as a lion.
But the best known of the stories is his relationship with Delilah – far from the first woman he had fallen in love with, and treated badly. Three times he lied to her and caused her to bind him up in various ways only to break free from the bonds (presumably what we would now call an S-M relationship). Eventually, a combination of his own pride, and her nagging, caused him to reveal his true secret, and she cut off his long hair which was part of the vow his mother had made before his birth. It was this breaking of a vow, as well as his misuse of his powers, that caused God to withdraw the gift of superhuman strength.
Throughout the Bible’s account of the dealings of God with people, there is a repeated motif of sin, punishment, repentance and restoration. So it is with Samson. God allows his strength to be exercised once more, this time destroying the building he was in (presumably the temple of Dagon, to demonstrate that he served the true God). Even if we have misused the gifts God gave us and mistreated other people, repentance and restoration are still possible.
Once again there is a connection with current events. Samson inevitably died with the people he crushed, crying “Let me die with the Philistines”, much as a suicide terrorist today might cry Allahu akhbar”. And sadly, London suffered another such terrorist attack only yesterday. There is a big difference between ‘true’ religion and ‘religiously inspired terrorism’ but people are all too easily led from one into the other.