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Feb 10, 2015

90 Day Challenge – Day 41

Sarah Christmyer

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Bible Time Period: Conquest and Judges

You led Israel triumphantly into the Promised Land.  They failed to teach their children, and instead did what was right in their own eyes: Help me to keep my eyes on you and teach others what is truly right.

Reflection

Today you will read about someone who may be familiar:  Samson.  The lone hero is a picture of Israel during the time of the Judges: consecrated to God, given a unique role and God-given strength, yet flirting with (and even marrying!) the enemy.  Blindness and slavery are the result.

“Nazirite” means “separated” or “dedicated.”  Those who made a vow of separation to God as a Nazirite abstained from alcohol and left their hair uncut as a sign of their vow.  Their consecration was one of total devotion to God and sometimes lasted a lifetime.

Today’s Reading

Judges 13-16

Today’s Question

What was the ultimate source of Samson’s strength? What lessons can you learn from his story, that apply to your own life?

Join the discussion below!

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  • God is the source of Samson’s strength. Indirectly his hair is the source in that it represents his dedication to God. When he breaks his dedication to God, he loses his strength – I don’t know why being with a harlot wouldn’t have broken these vows earlier. This shows me that I am weak and helpless before sin. God, however, gives me the strength to overcome sinful habits as long as I stay loyal and trust in Him.

  • The source of Samson’s strength was the vow of dedication to the Lord, his parents and then himself to the Lord. As long as he was true to God, God stayed true to him. His downfall was when he married an outsider, and in turn slipped even farther away from his vow when he was smitten by his love for Delilah, also not an Israelite. His redemption came when he turned to Lord at the time of his death. What I can learn is: keep my vows to the Lord; do not turn away from them as they could be disastrous to me; and that when I realize the errors of my ways, and return to the Lord, he will relent and again provide me with the graces he had blessed me with earlier…just as he did with Samson. The lesson I have learned is to stay alert, watch for signs of trouble; repent my sins; and return to the Lord always. God is faithful, we are not always so…we must always be alert and aware that our actions can turn from what God truths.

    • As I reread what I and others said a year ago, I noticed something that I would like to correct…God stays true to Samson and us always…what happens was that Samson, as it also happens with us, turns away from God and his vow to God…the farther we walk away from God the blurrier our vision and Samson’s became…it is only when Samson decided to turn BACK to God that things are corrected. The same is true for us….when we turn back toward God, and reconcile with our Maker we can then bask in his glory and in His blessings. Look at it this way….When we are outside in the sunshine and are facing the sun, we are warmed…we are basking in the rays of the sun…when we turn our backs to the sun, we no longer are warmed (in the front) by the sun’s rays…in order to regain that warmth, we need to realign ourselves with the sun and that means making a choice on our part…God stays the same now and always; but the change has come when we choose to realign ourselves with the One who made us.

      • I love your sun analogy! I use the sun when describing sin to my religious education students. When we are sinless, we feel and see God’s love for us with the bright, warm sun we see and feel. When we sin, we begin to lose the fullness of God’s love as we are turning our backs to God. We still feel the warmth but the brightness is gone. God always loves us so we can feel him but oh, he is not necessarily happy with us so we no longer get to share in the fullness of His love.

        • This is also how our parents love us…they love us always…they are not always happy with our choices, but they always love us…God is the best parent of all…His love never changes…the change is within us…and we are also, the ones who must return to Him. I, also have used this analogy with R.E. students. love it a lot.

  • Samson’s source of strength was his covenant with God. Through his cavorting ways, God was patient with him and abandoned Samson only when he decided to choose unwisely and really didn’t need God’s laws and covenant.
    I have been there. I somehow think that I am smarter than God; that I possess phenomenal intellectual prowess and can walk the straight and narrow by myself without any guidance. When reading about Samson, I realized that his anger was direct and revengeful. It also distracted him from God and his commandments. I related to that and am quite excited that I made a breakthrough with this reading. My goal is to deal with my anger and try not to let the anger distract me from my one source of spiritual strength, that is, our Almighty God, Our Father.

    • My spiritual director says when the student is ready the teacher will come..meaning when we are ready for our next lesson God enters in and teaches us what we need to learn next. May God bless this grace-filled moment for you…

    • Isn’t pride the worst? I battle it every single day, which is why I am in a self-imposed desert right now! I want to choose God’s will and wait patiently (sort of) for discernment.

      • I am now where you were a year ago. Pride IS the worst, and God recently showed me a source of my pride that I’m appalled at! This Lent I want to tackle this issue, and am praying that God will show me how to go about it. I, like you, need to patiently wait (sort of … I’m not a very patient person either) for discernment.

  • I have been inspired by the comments I’ve read during the past 41 days. I have a difficult time understanding the readings as they pertain to me. I thank all of you for explaining these readings.

    • Ray I feel the same way. I don’t always get the deeper meanings in the verses…reading your replies is very- very helpful to me

      • Thanks for responding. I’m glad not to be the only one who feels that way. I think with prayer and listening to what God is trying to tell us, we will be able to better understand scripture.

  • I just love this verse: “But the hair of his head began to grow as soon as it was shaved.” If that does not give you chills,… The power of Samson was directly correlated to the hair on his head. Think about it. Hair provides us with protection, with warmth. The hair on our head, to some, gives a sense of great confidence. The hair in other places of our body serves to keep particles out and keep us healthy. Hair is powerful to keep us warm, clean, and safe. God is powerful to keep us warm, spiritually clean, and safe. These chapters provide us with such a beautiful illustration of God’s love, power, and commitment to us if only we commit ourselves to him. I pray that we all realize the great power of our “hair”, letting it symbolically grow long and strong into our relationship with our God.

  • Samson’s strength was the Lord God and his relationship with Him. Just so, we have a relationship with the Lord and through prayer, trust and dependence we can grow closer to the Lord.

  • The ultimate source of Samson’s strength was from God throught the nazirite vow made by his parents. When the vow was broken . Samson lost his strength and he was BLINDED. At Baptism we (through our godparents) make a vow of loyalty to God. We renew this vow every Easter. Every time we sin we become weaker and our spiritual sight becomes blurry. We get our strength back through Reconciliation. I feel my Spiritual strength and sight return during Lent if I have a good Lent then I am ready to renew my Baptismal Vows at Easter.

  • Samson’s strength was his faithful covenant with God, broken when he was worn down by Delilah’s persistence. I am struck by Samson’s creativity and passion. I also wonder if maybe his parents weren’t a little awestruck by him and spoiled him to the point of never having to bear responsibility or atone for his actions, right up to the final tearing of his relationship with God.
    Even more telling is how Samson is a reflection of Israel – set aside by God as His Chosen to lead the people of the world into faithfulness; constantly doubting God’s providence; pushing the envelope by succumbing to temptations, which ultimately leads to idolatry, slavery and death. Yet in the end it is clear, God remains faithful and merciful.

  • The source of Samson’s strength was God. He was to live by the rules of the Nazarites and from day one he flirted with the rules – his pagan wife, going near the lion corpse, and even with his hair, he taunts Delilah. During his time, he killed Philistines, but it isn’t until after he fully commits to God that He does the most work. He is blinded by the Philistines, (sort of like spiritual blindness), but that led him to seek God and obey God. In our lives, I think we test the limits, and when we fall, God is there to pick us back up. Sadly, we miss many good opportunities to serve God when we are disobedient. Imagine how much more Samson could have done had he followed God completely from day one.

  • Samson’s strength was his persistent prayer to our Lord God. You learn about human persistency when we want something from someone. Delilah
    constantly persisted asking Samson for the secret of his strength. Human beings can be very persistent too when we need something from someone. Children with their parents etc. We want that gift or toy or that favor.

    My question is why we can’t be persistent with God our Father. Why do we give up so easily when our request is not answered? I have been
    there myself and what I can take from Samson’s prayer to God is to help me keep on praying and having that faith of a ‘mustard seed’ that he will grant me the desires of my heart in time.

    Samson made mistakes just like all of us but God was merciful and still listened to him plead his request and gave him his strength back.

  • I realize that God had a plan for Samson. Thinking from only a humanistic view, why on earth would Samson ever trust Delilah when she gave away his “secret” 3 times? Unless even Samson didn’t realize that when she cut his hair his covenant with God was broken until it grew back again?

  • God was certainly with Samson, he was chosen before he was born. He was God’s nazarite.
    (Why didn’t he resist the charms of the evil Delilah).We can all relate to these struggles of temptation Samson faced. The lesson here for us all is: to avoid the near occasion of sin, (The Act of Contrition) Temptation is something we all fall prey to. Because we “think” that we are strong – and we can resist. Jesus was tempted by the devil (Matt 4) Adam and Eve was tempted in the Garden of Eden (Gen: 3). Today, we pray the Lord’s prayer daily ‘and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil’ and St Paul writes the things that I want to do I do not do – but do the things I hate to do, I do… he goes on to say that I have the desire to do what is good but I cannot carry it out… (Rom 7:15-20). It shows that we cannot escape temptation. Let us always put on the full Armour of God to fight the evil one. We are sinful, but God is always loving and faithful and he is full of mercy. All we have to do is follow Samson’s example of repentance, recognise of our faults and beg for God’s mercy and he will give us his grace.

  • God was the source of Samson’s strength & maybe since he was chosen before he was born & always had his strength that he took it for granted & fell for many temptations. I relate this to my life in that I take my many blessings for granted too often & forget to thank He who provides those blessings! As several of the post already say, his hair was the physical trigger but the spiritual message is that God does forgive & answers our pleas for help when we trust Him!

  • Sampson was a deeply flawed man gifted with great physical strength. God was able to use his physical strength when Samson put himself totally at God’s service, even to the point of sacrificing his own life. I need to see how God is able to use my gifts and grow in awareness of my sinfulness so that these do not prevent me from being of use to God.

    • Agree. Part of me would like to know my gifts so I can use them for God but another part of me is afraid that I would allow Self to get in the way e.g. pride, comparing myself to others or neglecting other things.

  • Even though Sampson’s hair was a symbol of his strength, his faith in God was his power.
    I honestly think that the earthly desires I seem to need is like “cutting off” a lock of hair and my faith dwindles every time I achieve these desires. I also wonder if having true repentance and using the sacrament of Reconciliation helps to restore the “hair loss”.
    So the lesson I learned today is to ask myself do I really need these self absorbing desires to live a good life? Also If I succumb to these desires, I pray that with the Act of Reconciliation I will learn from my mistakes and grow stronger in my faith.

  • I agree with Beverly, that his strength was with his vow and his vow was compromised and he became weak. The sign of his vow was his hair and that he now drink strong drink. Samson was not alert to temptation and compromised himself not only with Delilah but seeking women outside the Israelites.

  • God and Loyalty to Him was Samson’s Strength. We see The Goodness of God again here because God chose Samson before his birth, and therefore without any merit on his part, gifted him with many graces, especially that of superhuman strength, in order that by him the enemies of Israel might be punished and humbled. This God did when Israel had not repented and was still persisting in idolatry. With preventing care He showed the Israelites by the call of Samson, that though they were unfaithful to Him, He had not forsaken them, but could and would free them from their degradation if only they would turn to Him. The lessons I learn here are that the Mercy of God is shown by this, that God forgave Samson his sin when he repented of it in captivity and misery, and restored to him the gift of supernatural strength, which he had lost by his own fault. God not only forgives the repentant sinner his sin, but restores to him the lost grace of justification, and revives all his merits. During all his life Samson practised self-denial, for he abstained from wine and all intoxicating drinks. But one irregular desire brought the hero Samson to his fall. This should warn us to suppress promptly every sinful movement. St. Ambrose says: “The strong and powerful Samson strangled a lion, but he could not strangle his own passions. He broke the bonds of his captors, but he could not break the bonds of his own lusts.” If such a strong hero could be so weak, how great care ought we to take not to allow our passions to obtain a mastery over us. Our Lord Himself warns us: “Watch ye and pray, that ye enter not into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak”.

    • The Bible doesn’t tell us how long Samson’s mother followed the Nazirite Law. Maybe it was through her sacrifice and prayer that the Lord forgave Samson or at least overlooked his failings. Truly, it was the sin of lust that got him into severe trouble. He was seduced under the pressures of the deceitful Delilah….and revealed the secret of his strength…his seven long locks of hair being a sign of his Consecration to God through the Nazirite Law. She wouldn’t let up and he weakened and gave in. Not realizing that with the cutting of his hair, the Lord’s strength left him. He was easily captured by the Philistines and blinded by their gouging out his eyes. I love that his hair began to grow as soon as it was shaved off! I would imagine his faith and the Lord’s strength gradually returned while he was confined in prison. He must have been aware of it. Why else would be play the “buffoon” when the Philistines brought him out to amuse themselves. Unknowingly, they placed him in a perfect spot between two middle columns. After he cried out to the Lord….he pushed hard at the columns and the temple fell, killing more than he had killed during his lifetime. The life of Samson has taught me, as a parent, to never give up hope when an adult child has fallen out of God’s grace. God is able to use every situation for His good. Samson’s mother taught me to listen to God, follow His directions and live in prayer.
      I like the quote of St Ambrose that you shared! So true.

      • I too focused on Samson’s parents. How they tried to be perfect parents. They even consulted with the angel. Then he completed ignored their wishes. However the Bible notes that he “he judged over Israel for 20 years” He must have done some good deeds.

  • Delilah most likely was Samson’s addiction. Similar to those of us who have suffered addictions, from the slightest such as food or chocolate knowing it’s not good for us but, eventually give in, to the most deadly addictions that cause harm to our bodies or harm to others. Samson experienced more than once she was not to be trusted, but couldn’t help having the faith in his heart, just one more time she would prove her love to him and not turn to the Philistines. At the same time maybe he thought God wouldn’t abandon him. Finally, when he learned by succumbing to his addiction he lost all that he loved the most, Delilah and the love of God, he also lost his eye sight and his strength. It is after the realization of what causes our losses, of health or someone we love, that we beg God for one more chance of forgiveness, and it is because God loves us more than anything, our faith is restored and we are given another chance.

  • The source of Samson’s strength was the nazirite vow made by his parents. I was very impressed that his parents called upon the angel to instruct them in the upbringing of their son, His mother and father faithfully followed the instructions. But when Samson wants to marry they try to dissuade him from making this very dubious marriage but are unable to do so. This leads to the ultimate tragic relationship. In the end Samson sacrifices his life. I cannot help but think about how they must have felt. Like so many parents they tried to raise their child right but at points it seems that they failed. Yet this was God’s plan.

  • On the surface, it appears that Samson’s uncut hair is the source of his strength. But the length of his hair is a result of his consecration to the Lord. As long as his hair remained uncut, it was the testimony of his dedication to God. By “flirting” with the Phillistine women, his dedication was weakened and his hair, the proof of his dedication to God, was cut off. By going after things of the world, he distanced himself from God, lost his God-given strength and was taken prisoner. Once he repented and his dedication to God was renewed (and consequently, his hair grew), he regained his strength from God to take down the Phillistines.
    This tells me that when we take our eyes off of God and put them on worldly passions, we distance ourselves from God, making it hard to receive God’s blessings, graces and strength. When we’re dedicated to obeying and trusting in the Lord, He gladly gives us all we need. He is the source of our strength, not anything the world has to offer.

    • This makes me think, what you said so well, of St. John of the Cross, Master Teacher who more than any of the saints put the teachings of contemplation and union with God from Scripture for us to understand. He speaks of attachments like Samson had and all those Israelites who took their focus off of God. St. John of the Cross says that there are attachments or “clingings” to pleasures that are fruitless like the book “50 Shades of Gray’ which now is a movie, called pornographic by EWTN. It is quite different than the true pleasures of family and true married life with sincere and honest love, the Love of God, and the movie that will come out soon “Old Fashioned” around St. Valentine’s day. Love and romance of God leads to life with another in God.

      https://www.facebook.com/ewtnonline/posts/10152530227502582

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_QTxtvFjzM
      St. John of the Cross says that feeling for an attraction for something can be an idol if it is overdone. Mere attraction is fine. Thirdly, too much food or time watching television can be an attraction but using things is not an attraction. St. John of the Cross is saying that something can become an idol when there is an extreme clinging for something or someone that God is left as secondary. God wants our whole heart, mind, and soul. Samson left this out when he clung to Delilah and forgot God. Idols are gods that are not the True God which stand in the way of our total love of God. St. John of the Cross is speaking of the “Great Exchange” where we replace our clingings with the true worship of God. St. Francis of Assisi knew this when he found God–“My God and my All,” St. Paul knew this when he said–“Eye has not seen or ear has not heard what God has prepared for those who love Him.” “Shades of Gray” has millions of hits whereas “Old Fashioned” on You tube has thousands. Many are called but few are chosen as in the Old Testament. Where one’s values are there is his/her heart. Where one’s treasure is, there is his/her heart. St. Augustine who wandered in promiscuity for many years while his devoted mother prayed for him, just like the wandering Israelites in the desert, St. Augustine one day finally found that his heart was restless until it rested in God. “O beauty of Ancient days, you were here with me all of the time, and I did not know you…I searched in all the wrong places but I did not find you, but you were within…..” The wayward son of the 4th and 5th centuries, St. Augustine became a Doctor of the Church and a great saint. St. Augustine “exchanged” his wayward pursuits with God at the center of his life.
      St. John of the Cross says that something is an attachment when there is a sign that it is something that is done selfishly such as the lies of the “50 Shades of Grey.” Speech and media are used to portray a lie about love and human behavior rather than the Truth of Love which comes from God. Speech and media show us what is good when for example sexuality is portrayed as God meant it to be in the unselfish love and man and woman in marriage. We have to watch idle chatter too. Another sign of attachment to something or someone is an excess of too much such as food or alcohol. Too much of a good thing. Timothy 2:12 speaks about giving up everything that does not lead to Him, and we should strive tohelp others to be led to God, to give good example to others from one’s life first and foremost being lived according to the Gospel. Just like the Israelites not being perfect, we are called too to be perfect, to have a perfect union with God, so as not to miss the mark and sin as Jeff Cavins would say. We have to be purified of anything that is foreign to the All Goodness, All Perfect God. St. John of the Cross says “perfect purity in all things.”
      St. John of the Cross says that attachments can cause us a dimming of the supernatural vision. He says that many practices are good but to be overly meticulous with them can be a burden rather than a concentration upon being transformed in Christ and renunciation of desires. We lose our true focus if we forget God.
      He says that sometimes attachments can be mortal sins. We have to rid ourselves of selfish clingings which beget other clingings such as laziness, idle gossip, rash judgment, vanity, fearing useless things of how we look to others in impressing them which is slavery, having things we do not really need when others in the world are suffering and poor and without food or the basics of life. We need to share what we have with others, our time, talents, our treasures. We need to put on the armor of God and delve deep into the Holy Eucharist and be warriors of prayer. Attachment to things is an obstacle to prayer life. Attachments, he states, are due to our clingings to other things. Attachments are an affront to God. If a husband prefers so much sports that he neglects his wife and family, he is an affront to God and the family. So, too, with the wife to the husband as examples. Thomas Dubay, now deceased and spoke on EWTN (you can still listen to many of his series on EWTN by googling), was a spiritual teacher of contemplation and St. Theresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross who went around the world telling people these insights. Momentary gratifications in lust, vanities, and so forth can hinder us from the true joy of God. The Israelites thought that their worship of the Golden Calf would bring them happiness, but in the end it brought them sadness for they had forsaken their first love. The saints before they were saints coming to Christ would talk about their inner emptiness and disillusionment, their boredom, their alienation, their conflicts and so forth. Living of the Gospel they say brings supreme joy. Attachments will destroy inner freedom such as worrying about what others think of them, and one can be a slave to anything that leads us not to God but to unhappiness. St. John of the Cross says that quarrels, harshness, and so forth are nothing other than clingings, selfish desires.
      He says that we get rid of our attachments by focusing on the Lord who is perfection in the flesh, imitating Christ. Christ was poor and born in a stable and had no place to lay his head. Christ wanted to be frugal. He lived a hidden life for 30 years. He died on the cross desolate. St. John of the Cross said that “to reach delight in everything, desire to possess nothing” “To come to possess everything, desire the possession of nothing.” Then one will have everything. “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all the rest will be given unto to you.” “To arrive at being all, desire to be nothing.” Titus 2:12 states that giving up everything that does not lead to God, one will find fulfillment.

  • As each of us have said, the true strength of Samson was his dedication to and love of God. Losing the priorities of our love lead us to weakness and susceptibility to sin. Our first love is always God and our second is mother, father, and spouse. The family comes after our love of God as He is first and foremost the Father of us all as he is the Creator; however, family (mother and father) are next in importance as the family is the bridge between God (the first commandment) and man (the fourth commandment). Unfortunately, a spouse should be in line with the believe in God and the God-fearing family’s belief is all is good. Samson, chose poorly when he attached himself to a Philistine woman and put her needs and desires before that of God and his family. Thus his downfall.
    The application to my own life is recognizing and obeying the true priorities in my life – God first, my family, those around me, those who need me, and then my work, activities and so on.

  • As The Book of Judges comes to an end the last few chapters continue ongoing cycle of sin just as in today’s world. Samson, who sought his own needs (temptation) chose to put God last whenever his mind took over in search of these women. God when putting Samson down to rest did help him kill more Phillistines at that moment than he’d done during his entire lifetime.

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