There are many things in this world that can become idols to us. Basically, an idol is anything that we put in place of God in our lives. Some things that are healthy and beneficial, such as exercise, working hard, studying, or feeling confident, can become more valuable to us than they should. So we put more time and significance on those things then they deserve and shift our focus from God to those things. In other situations we find harmful things gaining control over our hearts and minds, such as drugs, sexual immorality, and concepts like revenge or power. All of these things, whether they began as harmful or harmless, are not qualified to be our god and when we place them in that position we often find ourselves wrapped in a world of isolation and pain. It is important to learn how to recognize what things in our life have a tendency to act as false gods and then going one step further with how to remove and resist those idols and instead firmly placing God always at the head of our lives.
The Story of Samson begins in Judges 13 and from the start it is full of God’s purpose for Samson’s life and Samson’s own idea of how his life shall go. The common theme in the story seems to be “God wanted this for Samson” and “Samson did that.” He basically went through his whole life saying “I want that so I take that and if you don’t give it to me – HULK SMASH!!!” One time he, quite literally, killed a thousand men with the jawbone of a donkey; and another time he didn’t get what he wanted, he caught 300 foxes, tied torches to their tails, and loosed them across this guy’s entire land! So Samson obviously thought he was pretty invincible. He had never been bested and God gave him incredible strength; but, Samson kept the credit for all his deeds and never acknowledged until the end that his strength was a gift from the Lord. Clearly, his idol in life was himself (and his muscles) It wasn’t until the end, after years of placing his faith in himself alone, that Samson finally figured out the truth of the matter. Read about the last part of his life, when we find Samson alone in the company of people who do not value him, hated by others, and alienated from his nation by his refusal to serve the Lord.
I know I don’t always do the right thing and lots of time I use something else to make me feel better rather than spending time with you. Those things often “fix” the problem for right now but I know that they never really make anything change or go away. You are the only one with the power to do that. And I confess, I may even doubt that sometimes. I want to have faith in you. I want to believe that you are all I need and you will take care of me. Show me your power and peace, Father. Restore my heart and give me the strength and direction I need to carry on in this life. I trust that you are faithful to me at all times and I am so grateful that you, the Creator God, care about every detail of my life. Thank you for being there no matter what.
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 2 to 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 3 shall abstain from wine and beer. You shall not drink any kind of drink made from grapes or eat any grapes or raisins. 4 As long as you are a Nazirite, you shall not eat anything that comes from a grapevine, not even the seeds or skins of grapes.
5 As 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. 6-7 Your 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. 8 As 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!
Lord, you have been merciful to your land;
you have made Israel prosperous again.
2 You have forgiven your people's sins
and pardoned all their wrongs.
3 You stopped being angry with them
and held back your furious rage.
4 Bring us back, O God our savior,
and stop being displeased with us!
5 Will you be angry with us forever?
Will your anger never cease?
6 Make us strong again,
and we, your people, will praise you.
7 Show us your constant love, O Lord,
and give us your saving help.
8 I 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.
9 Surely he is ready to save those who honor him,
and his saving presence will remain in our land.
10 Love and faithfulness will meet;
righteousness and peace will embrace.
11 Human loyalty will reach up from the earth,
and God's righteousness will look down from heaven.
12 The Lord will make us prosperous,
and our land will produce rich harvests.
13 Righteousness 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.
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!
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.
After 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. 3 Early 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. 4 Early 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. (5 That 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 .
Here’s a video you may have seen. It’s a baracksdub of Obama singing I’m Sexy & I know it. The ego of politicians and celebrities mixed together seems wildly appropriate. Idolatry of self is definitely one of the biggest snares out there!