Dr. Frank Lake, an English psychiatrist who was known for his eclectic approach to psychiatry, combined the Bible with unorthodox treatments. He was once asked, “Have you ever met someone who was not neurotic?” He replied, “No, but I have heard that there was one once.” Everyone is neurotic. What are we neurotic about? Our weakness.
Our neurosis over weakness generates a struggle for power. We struggle for the power to be a good mom. We struggle for the power to change, to make a difference, to feel close to God, to be used by God, to not hurt, to keep harm away, to know what to do, to help those we love, to be beautiful, to feel secure, to be successful, even to live the Christian life.
The third installment of the Samson trilogy in Judges 16 explores the drama of strength in a world that craves it. We learn three things from this story.
First: What seduces you takes your strength away. Samson and Delilah have a weird relationship. They blatantly use each other and basically say, “My commitment to you ends when you are no longer useful to me or when someone more useful comes along.” Delilah covets strength that comes from material security, power, influence and being somebody — possibly a national hero. Samson needs sex, sex and more sex! They are perfect for each other.
A quick read of the story elicits this penetrating question: How can Samson be so stupid? If armed ambushers jump out of your girlfriend’s closet to attack you, then it’s time for a DTR (a “define the relationship” talk). But Samson is so addicted to Delilah’s sexual favors and adoration that he is in denial about her leading him to ruin.
Once Samson’s hair is cut, it’s too late — what seduces you takes your strength away.
The second lesson is this: Strength is never our own, automatic or connected to us. Why does Samson tell Delilah the secret of his Nazirite hair and risk losing everything? The answer is he does not believe cutting his hair will take his strength away. Samson’s thought process probably went something like this: “Why would cutting my hair be any different? My strength is automatic.” Samson assumes his strength is his own, that it is automatic, self-generated, connected to himself.
Third, we learn that strength runs downhill to the weak. After his hair is cut, for the first time in his life Samson is weak. Weakness is the soil of faith. Weakness looks outside itself for strength. Weakness wins. For only the second time in his life, Samson prays in verse 28, asking God to strengthen him. Hebrews 11:33 tells us why Samson (and every other Biblical hero) is in the hall of faith: They “were made strong out of weakness.”
With his new-found strength from God, Samson finally fulfills his life’s mission to deliver Israel, as described in Judges 16:30: “So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life.” The most important moment of Samson’s life was his death. Samson did not deliver Israel during his life — he delivered Israel in his death.
Samson teaches us about a better death, a stronger death, an epic death that releases the power of salvation for the weak. On the cross, Jesus became weak to become strong. Jesus’ weakness on the cross killed all our archenemies, most importantly sin, death and Satan. No one is strong enough to deal with these enemies on their own. We need a savior. To release the power of life and forgiveness of sins, we need to connect to Jesus’ winning death, his winning defeat, the strength of the cross. May Samson’s prayer in Judges 16:28 become our own: “Oh LORD God, please remember me and please strengthen me.”