Lemme braid yo' hair....

I remember being told as a child that I shouldn’t allow too many people to play in my hair. Even as an adult, I stick to this. Although I sometimes wear an Afro and people feel compelled to touch my hair, I just lean away from their reaching arm if I don’t know where their hands have been. Eh, sometimes even if I do know where their hands have been. Anyway, I got to thinking about this lesson and how Samson must not have received the same advice in his formative years.

You can read Samson’s Story in an earlier post or crack open your Bible and read Judges 13-16.

So what’s with his hair?

In Judges 13, an angel appears to Samson’s mom and tells her that no razor may be used on his head because he is to be set apart as a Nazirite. Then, in chapter 16, Samson tells Delilah that the secret of his strength is in his hair because no razor has ever been used on his head.

Because Samson identified himself as a Nazirite, I needed to learn more information about this title and what it implies.

Nazirites are Israelites consecrated/separated/dedicated to God for special service. Read Number 6:1-21 for a full description. The most famous Nazirites are Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist. The Apostle Paul took a Nazirite vow and it’s believed that Jesus himself was a Nazirite near the end of his documented ministry. They were to refrain from fermented drinks, grapes, and grape derivatives. Also, during the period of the vow of separation, no razor may be used on his or her head and they must not go near dead bodies, including animals. People took Nazirite vows for periods no less than 30 days. However, Samson was one at birth and, therefore, carried this title throughout his life.

After learning this, I still couldn’t understand how Samson’s strength came from his hair. It still didn’t make sense to me, so I did what I always do; I kept reading.

Every time Samson was able to defeat an enemy, the Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power (Judges 13:25, 14:6, 19, 15:14). But as far as Samson knew, the only constant factor was his hair. He’d broken the other vows of being a Nazirite, such as touching a dead body in 14:5-9 and having a “drinking party” in 14:10. However, he still had not cut his hair. To him, that was the source of his superhuman strength because in all his inconsistencies, that was the one constant.

Samson liked riddles. He liked tripping people up when he could. I imagine that people often judged him as being, for the lack of a better phrase, a big dufus, a jock. They knew of his strength, but probably deduced he didn’t think too much. So, in turn, I think he took the opportunities to show people that he was contemplative. And then he falls in love with a woman from the Valley of Sorek, Delilah.

Delilah was probably a bad chick. She knew that women possess the power of persuasion and she knew how to use her power. The rulers of the Philistines asked her to lure Samson into showing her the secret of his strength so they could overpower him. Her compensation for selling out her boo: eleven hundred shekels of silver from each ruler. She asked Samson twice the secret of his strength and twice, he lied to her. Then she pulls out the “if you really love me card” and he gives in and reveals to her what he felt was the secret to his strength. Then he does it; he lays his head in her lap and she strokes his hair until he falls asleep, only to wake up bald and miles away from the Spirit of the Lord.

Picture it: you’re this big burly guy with extremely long hair, possibly dreadlocks (I hate that term because of its origin, yet I digress). People probably think you’re stupid because of your size and strength so you find yourself compensating, always trying to prove your intellect. And then, you meet this fine woman who’s not trying to fight you. She’s not trying to challenge you. She only wants to know who you really are and what makes you unequivocally you. Then you do it, you let her braid your hair. Her hands work masterfully and you just lean back and let her do her thing. And even though you think your strength is in her hands, you fall asleep, feeling relaxed and not worried about a thing. …and the Spirit of the Lord lets you two hang out and chucks the deuces.

But see, the crazy thing is that his strength wasn’t really in her hands. Every time Samson defeated an enemy, the Spirit of the Lord came upon him. It wasn’t his hair or any of his own works. His strength, and ours, comes from the Lord. He is the source. However, sometimes we do things to cut off our supply. We lay our heads in foreign laps and trust those broad shoulders or coke-bottle shapes with our secrets. Then we look up and wonder why we can’t lift holy hands in service or why we just don’t feel God’s presence anymore. I used to think that maybe God was mad at me and was just not really feeling me. But then I realized that it’s not that God moves away from us, but sometimes, we move so far into darkness and fear that He can’t occupy that same space. …but as the old folks say, “Thank God for Jesus!” Jesus serves as the bridge over troubled waters. God is on one side and we’re on the other. The only thing that separates us from our strength supplier is sin, but all we have to do is cross the bridge….

So the next time you look up and your hair is jacked up because you let the wrong person braid it, remember that the bridge is open. Our hair can grow again and the Spirit of the Lord can dwell among us. It’s just up to us to cross the bridge.

Lessons from Samson

This is the first installment on a series of blogs examining Samson and his many issues in romantic relationships.

For those who aren’t familiar with Samson, let’s revisit his story. Samson was anointed even before conception (Judges 13). Although his mother had not been able to conceive children, an angel appeared to her and gave her instruction on how to care for herself while carrying the child she would raise. The son was to be a Nazirite, set apart to God from birth so he can begin the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Philistines.

Moving on to Judges 14, Samson marries a Philistine woman. Her name isn’t mentioned; she’s only referred to as a Philistine and as Samson’s wife. Long story short, he gives the Philistines a riddle they can’t answer so they ask Samson’s wife to get the answer for them. She cried for SEVEN DAYS, relenting until he finally revealed the answer. Of course, she told her kinsmen and they then attempted to appear wise before Samson with the answer. However, Samson knew what was up, called his wife a “heifer,” and then her father ended up arranging a different marriage for her. Samson gets angry and basically burns the whole town and even though the Philistines almost get him to exact their revenge, he breaks free and wrecks shop.

In Chapter 16, Samson meets Delilah. The chapter starts with him spending a night with a Philistine prostitute and yet again, God allows him to escape the hands of the Philistines. A few verses down, he meets and falls in love with Delilah. The rulers of the Philistines conspired with her to find the secret of Samson’s strength so they could capture him. Twice she asked him to share the secret of his strength and twice, he lied to her. She then pulled out the “If you love me” card and continued to nag him until he told her that his hair had never been cut and that if his head were shaven, he’d become as weak as any other man. After he revealed this, Delilah somehow knew that this was the truth and sent word to the rulers of the Philistines that they should come back and she’ll have Samson ready for them. She put him to sleep with his head on her lap and called someone to shave his head while he slept. When he awoke, he just thought he’d be able to shake himself free as he’d done the two times before, but he did not know that Lord left him. The Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes, and took him to Gaza. However, his hair did begin to grow.

After being captured, the Philistines celebrated their god Dagon since their enemy had been delivered into their hands. They then called out for Samson to come and perform for them. However, he prayed to God for strength so he could get revenge on the Philistines for his eyes and God granted him his desire. He then pushed down two pillars that supported the roof and killed thousands of people, including himself.

That’s the story in a nutshell. To get the details, read Judges 13-16 in various versions. NIV and The Message are my personal favorites, but whichever you choose, please read it for yourself. To me, it reads like a juicy novel or even a soap opera. Happy reading!

So, what’s the deal with Samson? And why does it seem that Samson can’t learn a lesson the first time it’s taught? I think it’s primarily the same reason why we keep walking around the same mountains in our lives. God delivers us, gives us the strength to fight our enemies, then we fall back into the same traps and repeat the same stupid behaviors. Over the next few weeks, we’ll look at different lessons we can learn from Samson’s mistakes so we don’t have to repeat them. Next up, we’ll examine why you shouldn’t let everyone play in your hair….