Mary Mallon immigrated to the United States from Ireland in 1884 and began working as a cook. Several years later, Mallon was identified as the first healthy carrier of typhoid fever and the source of several severe outbreaks. But she did not believe health officials and resisted arrest. “Typhoid Mary” was eventually forcibly quarantined for the last twenty-three years of her life.
Quarantine, the act of separating the sick from the healthy, is a protective health measure to prevent the spread of disease. Similarly, a Nazarite vow was a kind of religious quarantine. But notice Samson’s failure of separation. He did not heed God’s command to separate from the inhabitants of the land. Instead, he wanted to marry a Philistine woman—against, of course, the wishes of his parents (vv. 1–3). Moreover, he did not separate himself from the contaminant of dead bodies but put his hand in its proverbial mouth.
The body of the lion he had killed with miraculous strength now hosted a swarm of honeybees, and Samson would let nothing prevent him from enjoying the delicious treat.
It would be easy to say that Samson is just one more example of the morally complicated people God uses to save Israel. But the book of Judges forces us to confront a difficult tension in verse 4: “This was from the LORD, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines.”
What are we to make of this? It is not biblically consistent to say that God forced Samson to disobey, or even that He tempted him to disobedience (see James 1:13, 14). But we can say that God uses human agents, even sinful ones, to accomplish His purposes. And here, God is using sinful, impetuous, sensual Samson to make good on His promise to save His people.
Apply the Word
Our human reason can’t always understand God’s intentions in our circumstances. But we can develop an attitude of willingness to trust God’s good and redemptive purposes, even in difficult times. If He can use Samson as a deliverer to bless His people, He can use our challenges and trials in a way that will bless us.