Samson and the Seduction of Culture
Our word “seduction” comes from the Latin word “seducere” which literally means “to lead away.” The word has a negative connotation, that is, it implies that one is led away from something that is good and upright to something that is base and vile. In other words, it not only means to be led away but to be led astray.
We can’t think long about someone being seduced without Samson coming to mind. He is the great “seducee” of all times. To appreciate what a tragic figure Samson is and what a terrible thing his seduction was we have to begin with what he was led away from.
The fact is Samson was called to be a special instrument of God at a time when the people of God as a whole had been seduced by Philistine culture. During the period of the judges, the nation of Israel found herself oppressed by her wicked, cruel neighbors on several occasions. But in each of those instances we are told that the people of Israel “cried unto the Lord” (Jud. 3:9, 15; 4:3; 6:6-7; 10:10). When we come to that period of time in which the Philistines had supremacy over Israel we read nothing of the people crying out to God. R.C. Sproul says: “Unlike previous invaders, the Philistines were cultured and not terribly oppressive; thus, Israel relaxed under their domination and did not cry out to the Lord.”
This, then, was the situation into which God called Samson. The people of Israel had settled down into a peaceful co-existence with the Philistines, and Samson was to be God’s instrument for stirring up His people and calling them away from their infatuation with Philistine culture. To this end, God commanded Samson’s parents that he was to be a Nazarite. He was not to have his hair shaved (Jud. 13:5), and he was not to drink any wine or eat anything unclean (Jud. 13:7).
Endowed with superhuman strength, Samson was for a long time a powerful and effective instrument in the hands of God. As we read the account of his life, we find the refrain: “the Spirit of the Lord came upon him mightily” (Jud. 14:6, 19; 15:14). This tells us where the real strength of Samson lay. His hair was the outer symbol of his consecration to God and his strength, but the source of that strength was the Spirit of God. James B. Jordan writes: “There was no magical tie between Samson’s strength and his hair, but there was a spiritual connection in that God gives strength to those who are dedicated to Him, and in Samson’s case, his dedicated head was the sign of his separation to God.”
After years of being used of God in a mighty and wonderful way, we might expect Samson to be unconquerable. He had seen God achieve great victories through him time after time, and he would seem to be as strong in faith as he was in physical strength. The very last thing we would expect to learn is that Samson would flirt with losing the strength that God had given and used.
Enter Delilah. Most think she was a Philistine herself. Others think she was an apostate Israelite. The Bible doesn’t say. One thing is clear, she was a Philistine in her heart, and she so identified with the Philistines that she must be counted as one.
Delilah must have been stunningly beautiful, and the Philistine lords knew Samson had a weakness for beautiful women. So they enlisted her in their cause. She would, for a tidy sum, find out the source of Samson’s strength, and the Philistine lords would lurk in another room. At the proper moment they would step in and overpower Samson. When will children of God ever learn that there are always enemies lurking nearby waiting for a moment of weakness so they can move in and destroy?
Three times Delilah asked Samson to reveal the source of his strength. Three times Samson gave her a false answer. Three times the Philistines rushed in to take him only to be overpowered themselves, but there is no mention in any of these encounters about the Spirit of God coming mightily upon Samson. Because of Samson’s mad flirtation with sin, the Lord had already departed from him.
Finally, Delilah pestered Samson beyond his ability to endure and he revealed the true source of his strength. When he fell asleep, she cut the long locks of his hair, the Philistines moved in, overpowered him, and led him away.
Does this story seem to be too far fetched to be believed? Why, after it was obvious what Delilah was up to, did Samson continue even to see her let alone talk to her about the source of his strength? Why would he take such a terrible risk? Here we see the dreadful weakness of human nature. This was not just true of Samson; it is true of all of us. We flirt with things that we know will destroy us. Tell me how many times you have been burned by sin and gone right back to it, and I will tell you why Samson kept going back to Delilah.
Samson paid a dreadful price for his folly. The Philistines gouged his eyes out and put him to grinding in a mill. This was their way of showing that their god, Dagon, the god of grain, had won the victory over the God of Israel. Likewise, when a child of God falls, the unbelieving world is always quick to gloat over him and attribute his failure to an inherent flaw in Christianity.
Their victory was short-lived. While Samson was grinding in the mill, his hair grew and his repentance with it. When the Philistines brought him into one of their drunken festivals, Samson’s strength had returned to the point that he was able to pull the pillars of the building down to kill himself and the Philistines.
How did Samson get into such a mess? How did he lose his strength? Taking things for granted? Yes. Not walking in obedience to God? Yes. Seeing how close he could get to the fire without being burned? Yes. All of these things and more came into play, but the final answer is that he himself became so enamored with the Philistine culture as embodied in and expressed by Delilah that he was blind to everything else.
I do not know what epitaph his relatives put on this tombstone after they dragged his body out of the rubble of the Philistine temple, but I know what they could have written: SEDUCED BY THE CULTURE HE WAS CALLED TO INFLUENCE FOR GOD.
Samson is a very fitting and appropriate picture of the church today. We, like him, have been called to influence our culture for Christ. We are called to be salt to slow the moral decay of the kingdom of man and light to show the way to God’s kingdom.
But the culture we are trying to influence is not passive. It has its own doctrine, its own agenda, and its own preachers, and, it is militantly and aggressively dedicated to resisting our message and spreading its own.
Most of us do quite well for a while in being faithful to God and in standing against the agenda of the world. But the continual, seductive wooing of Delilah begins to wear down our defenses, and before we know what happened we are thinking and talking like cultured Philistines and advocating positions that are contrary to the Word of God.
The power of Christianity is in that Word, and when we allow ourselves to be seductively carried away from it, we, like Samson, will find ourselves robbed of power and humiliated before a taunting world. Samson stands as a lasting reminder that even the strongest will fall if he goes whoring after pagan culture. Such whoring always leads to powerlessness, blindness, and death. Is this not the explanation for the feebleness that keeps the church from seeing mighty movings of the Sprit of God? Is this not the explanation for the blindness that keeps the church from being able to discern what is true and what is false? Is this not the explanation for the deadness that keeps the church from rejoicing in the reality of spiritual things?
The picture of Samson is as pathetic as any could be, but there is also great hope and consolation to be found in his story. In the final analysis, the Philistines did not overpower Samson because they were stronger but because he was faithless. Christians sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that the godless culture which surrounds them is their greatest enemy. Godless culture is, of course, an enemy, but only in a secondary sense. Our greatest enemy is ourselves. If we are oppressed today, it is not because the baby boomer beliefs and lifestyle are stronger than we, but because we have been faithless to the God who makes us strong. How we need to take this home to our hearts! Our calling is to be faithful to God! But what about that child of God who has already been unfaithful? What about that Christian who has been seduced by mistaken dogmas of a godless culture? Thank God, there is another consolation from the life of Samson for such a case! Spiritual hair grows back! The child of God may be seduced by his pagan culture, but he will ultimately come back to the Lord, and be renewed. And, as Samson was finally vindicated, so each child of God is going to be ultimately vindicated. There is coming a blessed day when we will be taken out of the culture that despises the things of God, we will shine as the stars of the firmament forever, and the whole universe will know that we were right to walk with God.