Are you looking for love in all the wrong places?
I used to have such an easy time identifying my sin. But as I get older, my sin has become more hidden and buried deeper in my soul, like an old bullet wound that I conveniently pretended to forget.
Sometimes it is so close to me I can’t even see it. I don’t even realize that I am inching closer and closer to death, just like Samson in Judges 16.
The Samson story is certainly bizarre. When you hear it as a kid you think that Samson is some sort of super-hero who has barbers for kryptonite. You think his hair must be straight up magic, kind of like wonder woman’s lasso.
But if you read Judges as an adult, you will see Samson is just another tragic hero in a long line of tragic heroes. Like Achilles he shows us to be aware of our weakness. Samson's hair is not magic actually. It is a symbol of something more profound and real- his Covenant with God.
Samson’s strength came from the strength of his Covenant relationship with the LORD. His victories in battle spring directly from the integrity of his personal relationship with God. In the Hebrew Scriptures this kind of Covenant bond is the Hebrew word Hesed חֶסֶד It is often translated 'Loving kindness" or "mercy" So we read in Psalm 118 "O Give thanks to the LORD for he is good his love (Hesed) endures forever"As a sign of the love between Samson and the LORD he made a vow to never cut his hair.
So far so good. But then along comes Delilah. Samson is a fool and he will not honor his Father and Mother nor listen to their wisdom. The dark storm clouds of their future doom become even more ominous when she spends their date night manipulating him.
And pretty soon our hero, instead of taking comfort in the arms of the LORD, finds himself coming home, at the end of a long day's work, and falling into the arms of Delilah. Finding comfort in your spouse is not wrong. But Delilah was not his spouse. And he was allowing her to become a substitute for his Covenant with God.
Delilah is so warm and welcoming and it wears him down bit by bit. This is what sin does to us, wrapping us slowly but surely, like a python gliding gently around its victim.
It used to be that the sin that suffocated me was a frontal assault while I was awake. Samson was used to this type of battle.
You are just going through your day trying to stay on a budget and boom there is the new BMW motorcycle ad in your face. You want to live selflessly and not fall prey to materialism ...but just listen to that engine roar!
Some sin is like this - Assault >Temptation > Battle...and you know whether you won or lost.
But Delilah is different. She cooks you dinner. She rubs your back. She puts you to sleep while she plays with your hair. This does not feel like a battle, it feels like a spa.
But make no mistake, Delilah is the enemy. The comfort and peace she is offering is a false comfort and a false peace. It is not wholeness that she brings.
So how does this relate to you and me?
The Delilah story calls us to pay attention to the subtle ways in which we are looking for love in all the wrong places, turning away from God and finding our comfort and peace elsewhere. These things feel good because they are bringing us comfort, but in the end they only lead to bondage. In fact, once they bound Samson they gouged out his eyes as a symbol of the reality that he had been blind all along.
Imagine you are in a conversation where you realize how you have let someone down. You feel your heart beating faster, you feel your body tense up and a feeling of alarm comes over you. That is when it hits you. The opinions of others have been your Delilah.
When others tell us how well we did, or they express gratitude for something we have done that helped them, we are flying higher than a kite. We feel wanted and loved and that puts us to sleep with happiness. But when we let them down our kite comes crashing to the ground and we find ourselves anxious, worried and bound by their opinion of us.
Yes this is the age-old boa-constrictor of "people-pleasing"
Instead the gospel invites us to look for love in the cross of Jesus and the radical mercy (Hesed) of God.
What is your Delilah?
Is it people-pleasing? Or maybe it is being in control, having financial security, binge-watching your show, or something else. These things are not wrong in themselves but they can become our “go to” instead of Jesus. We can begin to worship these things and make them our ultimate source of happiness instead of God. This is idolatry and it is dangerous.
Author and speaker David Foster Wallace explained some of this in his commencement address at Kenyon College.
“In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshiping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship-...is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things-if they are where you tap real meaning in life-then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It's the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you... Worship power-you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart-you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. And so on.”
2019 is the year we get to stop looking for love in all the wrong places and start nestling in the everlasting arms of the LORD who loves us with an everlasting love. We have an opportunity to repent and turn away from finding comfort in the wrong things before it is too late. Repentance is a gift that God is offering to us right now, so that what happened to Samson does not happen to us...
she said, "The Philistines are upon you, Samson!" And he awoke from his sleep and said, "I will go out as at other times and shake myself free." But he did not know that the LORD had left him. - Judges 16:20