Lesson Forty Three
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Memory Verse: Proverbs 5:22
Further Study: Judges 13-16; Patriarch and Prophets pp. 560-568; The Bible Story, vol. 3, pp. 130-136
I remember scrolling through Instagram one day and seeing a photo someone posted of their “perfectly” decorated dining room. I will admit, it was gorgeous. The picture led you to believe that this home was right out of a magazine. But if you looked carefully, there was a mirror on the wall of the dining room. What the poster didn’t realize is that the mirror revealed a not-so-perfect-out-of-date-in-need-of-remodeling kitchen. Their home wasn’t perfect! But the person would lead you to believe it was.
Their home wasn’t perfect! But the person would lead you to believe it was.
Samson was another sort of poser. He was a Nazarite—set apart for God. This meant he was to stay away from vineyard products—grapes, raisins, or wine; drink no intoxicating drink; never cut his hair, and avoid contact with a dead body. All of these were visible demonstrations of his devotion to God. I call him a poser because he lived his life a bit like the Instagram poster, at least where his hair was concerned. While he wasn’t very good at keeping his vow, he didn’t cut his hair. So, to all those looking at him, Samson was devoted to God. His amazing strength would suggest the same.
Yet when his hair was cut, it was a bit like looking into that mirror of the “perfect” dining room picture. Samson lost his strength, not because of his hair, but because of his heart. What seemed like a man devoted to God on the outside, was really an empty vessel in need of true conversion.
What seemed like a man devoted to God on the outside, was really an empty vessel in need of true conversion.
In captivity, Samson had the time to review his life, legacy, and loyalty. His choices, seen in the light of his circumstances, were not what they should have been. The once mighty man of strength had nowhere to turn except to the God he had treated thoughtlessly. Samson’s heart changed. When his hair grew back, it now represented what was “real” on the outside and the inside. This time the sign of devotion was accompanied by a changed heart.
It is tempting to let people see only the beautiful parts of our lives, the perfect images that suggest we are something we may not always be. What is more important is our connection to God as well as how others see Him in us. Those are the moments to capture. Those are the moments to share. It’s in complete devotion to Him that we find we are renewed. (Make sure you read Digging Deeper for a completely different perspective on Samson.)
My study of Samson was interesting and what I discovered is that there are at least two different opinions about him. You read the first in the devotional above, which interestingly was what I was inspired to write as I prayed and studied his life. It was only afterward with further study, mostly to be sure I wasn’t misleading anyone, that I discovered other commentators, including potentially Ellen White, didn’t agree. So, allow me to present another alternative.
What sways people toward the redemptive view of Samson is what is found in Hebrews 11. There he is catalogued into one of the most important groups listed in the Bible. This is the “Hall of Faith”—a list of those in the Old Testament who kept or demonstrated their faith in such a way that they are considered remarkable followers of Jesus. It would be easy to conclude that Samson since he is included in this list must have turned his life around at the end. But not so fast.
Mrs. White does not comment specifically other than to say a life that was afforded from conception such amazing gifts from God as Samson, was lived about as poorly as possible. She goes on to say that this life ended under ignominious circumstances, although Samson did accomplish in death what he was commissioned to do in his life.
Another commentator (NIV Application Commentary) makes two points. First, if you look at Samson’s life, one will discover he was completely self-centered including his last recorded prayer. The prayer starts well but ends focused on avenging the Philistines for what they did to him—not to Israel, not to God, but all for Samson.
Second, if you study Hebrews 11:32, Samson is mentioned, but not to the extent of others in the list. The last six individuals are in couplets, meaning they are paired. First, Gideon and Barak, both with similar life events/choices; then Samson and Jephthah, both similar in their foolishness; and then David and Samuel, who lead, for the most part, exemplary lives for God. It could be concluded from this that the preacher in Hebrews wasn’t citing Samson as an amazing person who turned his life around but simply throwing him into the sermon without unpacking why he did so. To speculate about Samson’s change of heart simply because he’s listed would be to ignore all that is known of his life. Thus, the commentator concludes that Samson is really only thinking of revenge as he trudged round and round grinding grain, not that he recognized how much he failed God.
Study Samson’s life. Read it carefully. And then remember that God alone is the judge. We do not know the ultimate fate of Samson, but we do know that we must live our lives for God alone, making wise choices that please Him using the gifts He gives.
Making it Real
We shouldn’t overlook Samson’s parents, who eagerly desired to know how to care for this amazing gift from God. The instructions given to his mother would be some of the earliest known neonatal counsel. It is a reminder to us of the great responsibility we have for our children. The question asked by Manoah, “What will be the boy’s rule of life?” or “How shall we train them so they may fulfill their divine destiny?” is one all parents should ask.
- If you are a parent, think of the kind of things you are doing to grow your child spiritually. Are there things you could improve? Could you be more consistent? Pray that God will show you the way.
- If you are a parent of grown children, continue to pray for them. While you may not have the ability to affect their choices, continue to place them before God. Be available. Be ready when they ask for help. Demonstrate Jesus to them.
- If you are not a parent, you’re not off the hook! You are a mother (or father) in Israel. Pray for the children’s programming at church. Engage your nieces or nephews if you have them. Find ways to be kind to neighborhood children. Remember you may be the only way they see Jesus.
Respond & Share
Samson scorned his gift. What gifts has God given you? Are you using them effectively for Him? Share with us in the comments below!
Merle Poirier writes from Silver Spring, Maryland, where she works as the operation manager for Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines as well as the designer for KidsView, a magazine for 8-12-year-olds. She enjoys spending time with her family including being the grandmother of two active little boys, who greatly enjoy Starting With Jesus.
So powerful and fresh. Thank you so much Merle for helping me see Samson in a whole new light and for always pointing us to Jesus.