A matter of the heart

The expression, he has a good heart is usually used to describe someone that is kind, thoughtful, and loving toward others. The heart is said to be the seat of emotions and it can be the source of motives, feelings, affections, and desires (3820). It is the heart that enables us to love, and hate, and develop a relationship with God When our heart is wounded, it affects our ability to connect with people and may cause us to turn away from God because we cannot related to him.

A characteristic that is connected to the heart is courage. In one sense, to be courageous means to be strong, whether in physical strength or something called fortitude which is the will to press forward or through with something. There are many accounts of people that have acted courageously and performed supernatural feats to rescue or protect someone that did not have the physical strength to do so.

I think most people assume Samson was a big, burly man that looked like a sumo wrestler or a professional weight lifter. The only thing recorded about Samson’s appearance is that he was a Nazarite from birth and therefore, he never cut his hair. The source of Samson’s strength was unknown to everyone except Samson and perhaps his parents. It is possible that Samson assumed his strength came from being a Nazarite, when in actuality, it was his relationship with God that enabled him to overpower the Philistines and perform mighty acts to defeat them.

To be a Nazarite means to be separated or consecrated to God. It is similar to the virginity of a woman in that virginity is a sign of purity and is intended to keep a woman separated or consecrated to her husband until they are married. In a way, you could say that a Nazarite’s heart belongs to God and he is not free to love anyone else but God during his time of consecration which in Samson’s case was his entire lifetime.

It says in Judges 16:4 that Samson “loved a woman, in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah.” Delilah was a Philistine and she agreed to find out the source of Samson’s strength so that the Philistines could bind him and afflict him. “And Delilah said unto Samson, Tell me, I pray thee, wherein thy great strength lieth, and wherewith thou mightest be bound to afflict thee” (Judges 16:6).

The word translated afflict, ‘ânâh (aw – naw´) means to be bowed down, be humbled. ‘Anah often expresses harsh and painful treatment” (6031). One of the ways the word ‘anah is used is to express the act of rape. “To take a woman sexually by force may be ‘to humble’ her” (6031) as was the case with Jacob’s daughter Dinah. It is believed that the Philistines sought revenge against Samson and intended to kill him after a prolonged period of torture. Delilah’s request to know the source of Samson’s strength so that he could be afflicted was a straight forward attempt to take advantage of his love for her and to determine if he was even willing to die for her.

Isaiah 53:3-4 says of the Messiah “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief…Yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” Jesus also told his followers that they would be delivered up “to be afflicted” and would be hated by everyone in the world because they identified themselves with his name.

Not many people would agree that if you are a Christian, you should expect to be afflicted, to receive harsh and painful treatment for no reason other than you are a follower of Jesus Christ. Perhaps you have taken a vow of chastity and are being tormented by your friends because you won’t do what everyone else is, having sex outside of marriage. The most common group of women to be targeted by sexual predators is young virgins who will experience rape as their first sexual encounter with a man.

When Samson’s soul was vexed unto death by Delilah’s daily pleading and nagging, he finally “told her all his heart” (Judges 16:17). Immediately, Delilah called the Philistine leaders and told them Samson’s weakness had been revealed.

After Samson is imprisoned by the Philistines, he seeks one last opportunity to gain strength so that he can be avenged. He prays that God will remember him and strengthen him. Samson’s two-fold request indicates that he is no longer relying on his Nazarite vow for power. The interesting thing about Samson’s prayer is that the LORD didn’t answer it. It is believed that Samson was able to topple the house where three thousand Philistines were gathered because his hair had begun to grow back while he was in prison. But, I think it is more likely that Samson’s courage returned because he sought to restore his relationship with the LORD.

The word used for strength in Samson’s prayer, châzaq (khaw – zak´) is the same word that was used when the LORD said he would harden Pharaoh’s heart so that he would not let his people go. Samson knew that he sinned by telling Delilah all that was in his heart. It says in Judges 16:20 that Samson thought he would be able to escape like he had at previous times, but “he wist not that the LORD was departed from him.” Samson was on his own when he suffered torture at the hands of the Philistines and his desire to be avenged had nothing to do with God’s plan to deliver the Israelites from Philistine rule. His heart was hardened after being afflicted and he thought the LORD had left him for good. He wanted to die because the sorrow and pain in his heart were too much for him to bare.

In the last moments of his life, Samson reached out to God and God was there, just not in the way Samson expected him to be. God didn’t harden Samson’s heart, he gave him courage. I think Samson believed he was forgiven and would be able to bring down the house with his bare hands. “And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein” (Judges 16:30).

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