"You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons." ~ 1 Corinthians 10:21
If you remember the Sunday School children's lesson of Samson, you probably think of him as being the strong man of the Old Testament, who lost his strength after an unfortunate haircut. Talk about a bad hair day.
But the story of Samson provides us with a host of Biblical truths and real-world life lessons. Samson's mother could not conceive, then the angel of the Lord visited her, and told her that indeed, she would conceive a child, but with an important addendum: from the time of his birth to his death, he was to be set apart as a Nazirite for God.
Being a Nazirite meant that he was not to eat any fermented drink, touch dead things, eat anything that was ceremonially unclean, and he was to never cut his hair. He was to be set apart for God. Yet, although Samson knew this about himself (Judges 16:17), he repeatedly disobeyed, except for the hair. He killed a lion with his bare hands, then touched it later after he saw a bee nest in the carcass and scooped the honey out of it. He picked up a donkey's jawbone (which was dead) and killed a thousand men with it. He feasted on wine, walked through grape fields that were to be made into wine, slept with prostitutes, married a Philistine woman -- basically, Samson did everything God (and his parents) instructed him not to do except for cutting his hair.
God, in His grace, continued to bless Samson through all these things. God never left Samson -- until the last act of obedience. This is important. We can sin and sin and continue to sin yet God's love for us remains. God is faithful even when we are not. The straw that broke the strongman's back, though, was divulging his secret to deceitful Delilah, who arranged the hair appointment. Samson subsequently became weak after the spirit of the Lord left him, his eyes were gouged out, and he was made a slave. Yet, this is important: He called upon the name of the Lord, Who came upon him, reviving his strength. Samson pushed the pagan temple down, killing all under it, including himself.
Samson had every opportunity to turn back to God. He could have repented at any time and gone back to the Nazirite lifestyle, to be set apart from God. But when he laid his head down on the lap of the enemy, and slept through his hair being shorn, he unknowingly committed the final act of disobedience.
When a Christian turns away from God, for whatever reason, they have every opportunity to turn back to God. God, just like the Father of the prodigal son, will run with open and glad arms to hug up the wayward child and celebrate. Here's the thing: it's a lot better to never stray, to never hurdle over the fence into territory we have no business in.
It's even worse to straddle the fence, though. Samson was a classic fence-rider. He tiptoed around vineyards and danced openly around unclean, dead animals. Even though he never put a razor to his own head, he compromised on every other promise he -- and his parents -- made to God. When someone accepts Christ as Savior, they must leave the old, sinful nature behind and never look back.
A person can come into contact and knowledge of Christ by being reared in the church, participating in services, Sunday School, read the Bible -- and still don't know Christ as their Savior. This person in essence knows of the one and only rescue plan from a burning building but chooses to pour gasoline on themselves. A person can also not be reared in the church but choose to follow Christ later in life, then, for some reason, go back to the sinful lifestyle they embraced before knowing Christ. This is fence-riding -- having one foot on this side of the fence and the other foot on the other side. It's leaving the green fertile pastures of one side of the fence for the parched desert on the other side.
The apostle Peter wrote about such people in his second letter:
"If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.” [2 Peter 2:20-22].
It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness! Have mercy!
So what do we do? Let's look back at Samson. Judges 16:31a talks about what happened after Samson's death: "Then his brothers and his father’s whole family went down to get him..." They buried him back home. The thing is, if they knew how to go down and get his dead body, they must have known -- or could have found out -- where he was living. Yet, they did nothing. For twenty years Samson ruled Israel as a judge, yet his parents (who were also given Nazirite instructions for Samson's sake) did nothing to rebuke him, did nothing to point out the error of his ways.
The Bible is clear that when Christians stray, we are to gently, lovingly, point out their straying from the path and bring them back to the fold. Paul wrote, "And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will." [2 Timothy 2:24-26, emphasis added].
The problem is, when people stray, they will find all sorts of reasons and excuses to do so. Perhaps they started attending church, never actually accepted Christ as Savior, and because the Holy Spirit was not residing within, they did not understand what was taught in Sunday School or in the sermons -- and finding the Christian path difficult, uncomfortable, or just didn't understand it, they went back to the more comfortable, yet sinful life.
It cannot be assumed that every pew-warmer is a follower of Christ.
What can we do? We can instruct, we can disciple, we can steer people to Christ. Teaching and instructing people in the way of Christ has eternal consequences. Paul wrote, "Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage —with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths." [2 Timothy 4:2-4].
Samson compromised on everything except one part, but by placing his head on Delilah's lap, it was too late: he had gone from riding the fence to falling headlong over it. He compromised until his Nazirite vow was a thing of the past. Compromise led to the death of his testimony, the murder of Samson's witness.
Compromise should never be an adjective used to describe a surrendered follower of Christ.
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