Below are some additional interactions on the article: Isolating Idols. Read it first.
Did you know that Samson was born a Nazirite? Do you know what a Nazarite is? It’s outlined for us in Numbers 6:1–8:
The Lord commanded Moses 2to give the following instructions to the people of Israel. Any of you, male or female, who make a special vow to become a Nazirite and dedicate yourself to the Lord 3shall abstain from wine and beer. You shall not drink any kind of drink made from grapes or eat any grapes or raisins. 4As long as you are a Nazirite, you shall not eat anything that comes from a grapevine, not even the seeds or skins of grapes.
5As long as you are under the Nazirite vow, you must not cut your hair or shave. You are bound by the vow for the full time that you are dedicated to the Lord, and you shall let your hair grow. 6-7Your hair is the sign of your dedication to God, and so you must not defile yourself by going near a corpse, not even that of your father, mother, brother, or sister. 8As long as you are a Nazirite, you are consecrated to the Lord.”
In Judges 13, and angel comes to Samson’s mother and tells her that she will soon have a son and then gives these exact instructions from Numbers. It’s called the Nazirite Vow and Dr. Randy White wrote a short explanation about what that entails:
In Numbers 5–6, Moses is given directives about some who should be separated from the camp because they are defiled, and some who could be separated because they want to be dedicated to the Lord. One group—the defiled—is separated physically, the other—the Nazirite—is separated spiritually. Though most Christians are aware that there was such a thing as a Nazirite vow, few know any details.
When Jacob speaks a word of prophetic blessing on his children in Genesis 49, he says this about Joseph, “The blessings of your father have surpassed the blessings of my ancestors Up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills; May they be on the head of Joseph, And on the crown of the head of the one distinguished among his brothers” (Genesis 49:26, NASB95). The interesting phrase is “on the crown of the head of the one distinguished among his brothers.” You may know that one of the unique characteristics of someone under a Nazirite vow was that he did not cut his hair. Of more interest, is that “distinguished” is the Hebrew word nazir. Someone who was nazir was, of course, a nazir-ite. So, a Nazirite was literally one who was “distinguished.”
The word has another meaning into which it is often translated, and the meaning gives further understanding of the Nazirite. Leviticus 25:5 speaks of the Sabbatical year in which the land was to lay in rest, and says, “‘Your harvest’s after growth you shall not reap, and your grapes of untrimmed vines you shall not gather; the land shall have a sabbatical year.” Here, the word nazir is translated untrimmed. With the untrimmed hair and the distinguished service of the Nazirite, both meanings of the word are fulfilled in the Nazirite vow. In fact, Jacob prays that the blessings of his ancestors would be “on the crown of the head of the one untrimmed/distinguished among his brothers.”
The Crazy thing is that if you look at the entirety of Samson’s life, from the beginning in Judges 13 when the angel came to his mother, all the way through to his last days, you see how step by step Samson broke his vows and basically dissed God. He just lived the way he wanted to live, with no regard to how special he was to be set apart. In Judges 14 he killed a lion in a vineyard (What was he doing so close to grapes?!!??) and when he came back to check on the carcass (Why?) he found a honey comb inside (weird) and decided to break some off and eat it as he walked along (Again, why??!). Then shortly later he throws a huge party and drinks wine. He’s more than halfway through breaking his vows and it’s not as if these were the only instances when he broke them, or the only bad decisions Samson was making in life. So when he finally gets infatuated with Delilah and tells her about the value of his hair, is it any surprise that God removed his blessings from Samson’s life?
The one thing I find comforting in all of this is that, when I look at how blatantly rebellious and just plain disrespectful Samson was toward God, I also see how patient and loving the Lord was in return. He continued to try and teach Samson; and when Samson finally got it and finally became willing to accept the Lord’s forgiveness and be “distinguished” for God’s work, he became a devastating tool of destruction toward God’s and the nation of Israel’s enemies!
1Lord, you have been merciful to your land;
you have made Israel prosperous again.
2You have forgiven your people’s sins
and pardoned all their wrongs.
3You stopped being angry with them
and held back your furious rage.
4Bring us back, O God our savior,
and stop being displeased with us!
5Will you be angry with us forever?
Will your anger never cease?
6Make us strong again,
and we, your people, will praise you.
7Show us your constant love, O Lord,
and give us your saving help.
8I am listening to what the Lord God is saying;
he promises peace to us, his own people,
if we do not go back to our foolish ways.
9Surely he is ready to save those who honor him,
and his saving presence will remain in our land.
10Love and faithfulness will meet;
righteousness and peace will embrace.
11Human loyalty will reach up from the earth,
and God’s righteousness will look down from heaven.
12The Lord will make us prosperous,
and our land will produce rich harvests.
13Righteousness will go before the Lord
and prepare the path for him.
Consider the tone of this psalm. Would you call it nervous? Celebratory? Sad? Afraid? Joyous? This is a Psalm sung by the entire nation of Israel, and I am not exaggerating when I say that those people screwed up a lot. They literally followed other gods about a hundred times; and, yet, every single time they repented, God forgave them and brought them back into his light. He blessed them and gave them grace. Take a second and think over the idols in your life that have isolated you from his presence. If you are truly repentant of them, then I would encourage you to speak this Psalm out loud. It’s a powerful message of the light that waits to receive us on the other side.
Isaiah 64:4–9—A good reminder of who our God is and yet how forgiving he is to us no matter how often we turn from him.
Deuteronomy 8:11–20—The Lord loves you and cares for you. He will sustain you if you remain faithful to him.
Psalm 16—The title of this psalm says it all. We can be confident that our God has the power; unfortunately the same can’t be said for the idols we find on earth.
1 Corinthians 10:1–15—In this passage St. Paul is writing to the church in Corinth about the dangers of idolatry that sneak into our lives. He references Numbers 21 if you want to read the whole story.
Small group guide:
Here is a clip from a story full of examples about the corroding power of idolatry and the way they separate and isolate us from those that truly love us. It shows the curing of King Theoden, a good man who became too hungry for land and power and so began listening to bad council. As you watch, pay attention to how his appearance changes, but also notice where his affirmation comes from in the beginning, before he is cured, and at the end of the clip, after he has returned to his original self.
If there are things in your life that have a hold of your innards with great strength and you feel overpowered by them, don’t let them remain by doing nothing, or trying to combat them on your own. Talk to you parents, leaders, or chaplain, and seek the community of the Body of Christ. Don’t allow yourself to be drained and poisoned by false idols!
Large group guide:
- Look at your life in the past. What are different things that pulled you away from following God? How did you recognize that they were gaining too much importance? Are there some that you are still not acknowledging?
- Make a list of five things you think you have a tendency to idolize (whether or not you have made them idols or are simply in danger of doing so.) Now list at least one way each of them isolate you from God and his followers (the Body of Christ)
- Write down one verse that grabs you pertaining to idolatry and how it compares to the fulfillment of following God. If none of the ones listed here speak to you, search for one that speaks more acutely into your life. If you want to, write down a prayer, thoughts, or resolution regarding how that Scripture relates to your idol (or the top one you struggle with.)
- Think about when you get upset: angry, hurt, betrayed, or disappointed. What is your default reaction. What do you run to in times of trouble? Is it food? Or video games? Maybe going for a run or making out with your boy/girlfriend? Whether or not what you thought of is by the world’s standards bad or good, the hard truth is that if you are running to something (and it’s your default escape plan) then that is probably a pretty strong idol in your life; and, chances are, you turn to that rather than God most of the time. Take that verse you wrote down earlier and keep it close. When something happens that pushes you into default mode, take a second and pull that out and talk to God for a bit. Tell him your troubles and longings and don’t forget to take some time to listen to what he has to say back. God longs to be your default and he’s the only one who’s going to make you truly feel better.
When the Israelites where once again fighting the Philistines, two priests who were not truly following God, brought the Ark of the Covenant to the battlefield as a good luck charm. (See 1 Samuel 4:1–11.) They forgot about the power of God and instead gave power to the manmade item. Abandoning their faith in the Lord and trying to use it as a lucky charm did not go so well for them. The precious Ark of the Covenant was taken from them by the opposing Philistines. But God uses all things for his glory. Look what happened to the Philistines.
1After the Philistines captured the Covenant Box, they carried it from Ebenezer to their city of Ashdod, 2 took it into the temple of their god Dagon, and set it up beside his statue. 3Early the next morning the people of Ashdod saw that the statue of Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground in front of the Lord’s Covenant Box. So they lifted it up and put it back in its place. 4Early the following morning they saw that the statue had again fallen down in front of the Covenant Box. This time its head and both its arms were broken off and were lying in the doorway; only the body was left. (5That is why even today the priests of Dagon and all his worshipers in Ashdod step over that place and do not walk on it.)
1 Samuel 5:1–5
Take a moment to reflect on your own life and the various situations you may have found yourself in sometimes because you elevated something higher than it deserved. God forgives all but that does not mean our actions don’t bring pain and suffering into our lives. The Philistines’ false god was brought low and they were eventually compelled to acknowledge the power of the Lord. Sometimes God does the same in our lives in order to remind us that all earthly things will fail us and pass away but the power of the Lord remains forever.
The story of the return of the Ark of the Covenant is a long one full of people who failed to respect the authority and sovereignty of God, both Israelite and Philistine. If you’d like to read more look at the rest of 1 Samuel 5–7:1 and also at 2 Samuel 6.