Where does our strength come from?
In the early books of the Old Testament, Israel had experienced years of strong leadership from Moses and then Joshua and they were a nation full of faith and trust in God. After the death of Joshua, Israel failed to continue teaching of God and failed to uphold the law. This meant that over generations the Israelites lost their way and had been corrupted to the point that some worshiped false idols and foreign gods.
The book of judges is a collection of examples of how, over generations, God raised up Judges to bring Israel back to a good place with him. One of the most famous judges is Samson, well known for his strength. But where did his strength come from? The story starts like this when an angel appears to Samson’s mother:
The angel of the Lord appeared to her and said, “You are barren and childless, but you are going to become pregnant and give birth to a son. Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean. You will become pregnant and have a son whose head is never to be touched by a razor because the boy is to be a Nazirite, dedicated to God from the womb. He will take the lead in delivering Israel from the hands of the Philistines.” Judges 13:3-5
Samson was a Jew who took a Nazarite vow, which was a specific vow of poverty and commitment to God (Numbers 6: 1-21). The vow involved abstaining from alcohol, not cutting one’s hair and avoiding corpses. The rejection of alcohol was a matter of staying in control. Growing one’s hair was a sign of holiness. Avoiding dead bodies signified keeping your mind on God’s pattern of life in the world, not Satan’s pattern of death. It also meant you were always prepared for worship, always and in all places.
Samson, because of his lifestyle was blessed by God and was able to do amazing things and was blessed with incredible strength. He fought lions, defeated many men and was able to rip through ropes binding him. His wife Delilah, after being bribed by her countrymen (the Philistines) managed to convince Samson to give her the secret to his strength. He told her that if his hair was cut, he would lose his strength (Judges 16:17).
In Sunday school as a child, I was told the story of Samson and how his hair was the secret to his strength. I always used to feel annoyed that he had given away the “secret”. However, looking now at the story, the source of his strength becomes clearer. Unlike many Marvel films where the heroes have powers as a result of an accident, an item of clothing or being bitten by a radioactive spider, I don’t think that Samson’s hair had any specific power giving ability!
When we see Samson perform acts of strength there’s a clear sign as to where his strength comes from. When a lion appeared on the road it says that the “Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power”, and he then tore the lion apart (Judges 14:5-6). When he struck down 30 men it says, “Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power” (Judges 14:19). He was tied up by the Pharisees in Judges 15:12 and taken away however it says again that “the Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power” and he broke free from his bindings.
All of his strength came from God, not from his hair. The fact that he lost his strength when his hair was cut was not because his hair was the source of the power, it was because he had broken his vow to God. He had stepped away from the path God had set out for him. However, God is good and is faithful and when Samson repents and returns to God asking for his strength one final time to help him defeat his enemies, God gave him his strength back and Samson brought down the temple upon himself and all those who mocked him and God.
The encouragement for us as Christians from this story is that the same God who gave Samson his strength wants to know us and wants to have a relationship with us! He can empower and strengthen us day to day and can help us be the best versions of ourselves as long as we are faithful to him.
• How do you motivate yourself day to day
• Do you give God credit for your strengths?
• What gifts do you have that come from God that you can say thank you for?
A song related to this theme:
Thank you for the gifts you have given us as a people and as individuals.
Help us to give you the glory when we’re tempted to praise ourselves for our achievements.
Help us to keep our eyes on you in all we do.
You are so generous in your love for us and we thank you for all that you have given us and all you continue to give us every day.
In your mighty name,
Written by Huw Ap Dewi