Judgesby Gary Inrig
Once again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and He delivers them into the hands of the Philistines for 40 years (Judges 13:1). The Philistines' two main weapons were trade and intermarriage. They were slowly choking the Israelites by compromise and assimilation. Israel was not being enslaved by military dominance but by spiritual and cultural seduction. Samson was the one person of his day who realised that a person or nation could not compromise and remain free to serve God.
Samson was a unique man for a unique time. He was to be a Nazirite, dedicated to God in a specific way (vv. 3-5; see Numbers 6:1-21). ″Nazir″ in Hebrew means ″to set apart″ or ″to separate″. He was sovereignly raised up by God for a definite purpose-delivering Israel from the Philistines (Judges 13:5).
We face a similar challenge today. Jesus also calls us to a specific purpose: to live in the world for His glory, as the salt of the earth and light of the world (see Matthew 5:13-14). He calls us to be ″holy″-which means ″set apart″ or ″distinct″. But how do we put those two essentials together-in the world but separated from it; involved in the world but not conforming to it? What does it mean for a Christ-follower to live a separated life? Samson's story offers us a lesson, carved in flesh, about some great truths on separation and holiness:
One, separation is meant to be a positive dedication to the Lord. Samson, however, saw his separation merely as legalistic, following a set of rules of dos and don'ts. In his heart, he was not dedicated to God. Some Christians understand holiness the same way, believing that it means living by a strict code of conduct. This can lead to isolationism or joyless asceticism. But that is not what God wants: separation is to be in a positive, joyful relationship with Jesus Christ.
Two, strength comes from separation. Not one Hebrew lifted a finger against the Philistines; they had been assimilated, compromised, and integrated. It is not easy to live in the world and avoid becoming like it, but that is exactly what God calls us to do. It was the separated Samson who had strength to fight.
Three, separation is always accompanied by enablement. God gave Samson the Holy Spirit to carry out His purpose. And He gives us His Spirit to enable us to live distinctively for Him in the world.
Four, Jesus gives us the model for separation. He spent time with and ministered to sinners, but did not do all that they did. He was separated from the world in His character, and never compromised, sinned, or accepted human values. To be separated from the world is to relate to it as Christ did (see John 17:5-17). We do not leave the world; we live in it for Him.
A separated Christian is a Bible-centred, Christ-controlled Christian, in whom God is reproducing His character by the Holy Spirit.
How might we be assimilated into the world if we are not careful?
How can being ″set apart″ bring joy and strength in our relationship with God? See Philippians 2:14-16; John 17:5-17.