Kind of a strange title, I know. But it just seemed to me the best fit for what we’re reading today — the end of the story of Samson and the story of how Dan became a center of idolatry in Israel.
Samson, you’ll remember from yesterday, was born and raised as a Nazirite. The Nazirite vow was a sort of temporary, extra-holy period of living one could offer to God as a vow for a special favor. Occasionally, it was also made a condition of the granting of a special prayer — as in Samson’s case. But Samson lived anything but a holy or disciplined life. His weaknesses were women and hubris, and he is among the most eccentric heroes of the Bible (e,g,, big stakes gambling on a riddle, using foxes to burn down the Philistine’s crops, etc.). But his weaknesses, which he appeared to have no intention of curbing, became his ultimate downfall.
Although Samson is an extreme case, we can see others like him (men and women) very much like him — flawed and without any remorse: the Charlie Sheens and Lindsay Lohans of the world. But they don’t have to be as extreme as these infamous examples. In fact, we could probably find them much closer to home, perhaps wearing our own skin — doing what we want, without repentance, any attempt to do any better, and maybe wearing it proudly. People do it all the time — variously: revenge, violence, rebellion, drunkenness, sexual conquests, manipulation, cheating, stealing, homosexuality, hatefulness, oppression of others, and more. The road always ends with consequences we were “certain” we would avoid. How much differently would Samson’s life have concluded, if he curbed these weaknesses?
Samson’s consequences (capture, blindness, weakness, ridicule, and probably torture) led him, most fortunately, to a change of heart. Samson’s heart was not so proud now, and for the first time in the story we read that he actually called on the name of the Lord for help. Perhaps now he comprehended how his unchecked weakness had been his undoing. And notice what his repentance had led him to be willing to do whatever was needed, including the ending of his own life to make things right. So, the Lord allowed him to serve Israel in one last “blaze of glory” — bringing down the house of Dagon and 3000 of the Philistines’ leaders at one fell swoop. Will it take a hard fall to change our hearts, puncture or pride, determine to curb our weaknesses, or become what God wants?
The story of the Danites and the idols goes a long way toward helping us to understand God’s anger at Israel during the days of the judges and later. They just seemed to be unable to comprehend the idea of “no graven images”. Did you notice how the idolatry and the name of the Lord was being used in the same context? These images were being used to worship the Lord Himself — the One who said “no images”. In the academic study of religions, what we are seeing is called syncretism — the mixing, adapting, and morphing of religions. It was the very thing that God forbade, and why He used the word and the principle of “pattern” so often; His worship, teachings, laws, and patterns weren’t to be changed, mixed, morphed, or altered.
This syncretism reveals lack of Levitical teaching, reveals a lack of understanding of the seriousness of the principle of pattern, the strength of the culture around them, and the essential rebellion that Israel continued to display — “it’s really not that important.” Are any of these conditions among us today? You bet! And we remain just as vulnerable to them as Israel was. So next time you hear someone say, or next time you reason to yourself that this biblical teaching doesn’t matter or that God doesn’t really care about “X”, remember the story of the Danites and Israel’s sad descent into idolatry and immorality — and God’s sharp displeasure.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.