Not too long ago, I sat with three brothers to read through Proverbs 5-7, three chapters that are full of warnings against adultery. And it didn’t take long before our attention was fixed on the very hard statements and warnings found throughout the text. Here are some them:
‘He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray.’ (Proverbs 5:23)
‘He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself. He will get wounds and dishonor, and his disgrace will not be wiped away.’ (Proverbs 6:32-33)
‘All at once he follows her. . . he does not know that it will cost him his life.’ (Proverbs 7:22-23)
In light of these very hard words, we wondered if there was any kind of restoration for such a man. Is there any hope for the Christian man who finds himself entangled in a web of sexual sin? Can he enjoy the former communion he once cherished with the Lord? Is this kind of sin the unpardonable sin?
As we thought deeper about the matter, we were brought (or led, if you like) to consider Samson, a man who was able to furnish us with the answers we sought.
In Samson, we found a man whose life was filled with inconsistencies. Samson was devoted to God, but he was also driven by his lust. On the one hand, he hated the Philistines and had no reservations about killing them. On the other, he couldn’t keep his hands off Philistine women. The book of Judges tells us about three of these women. The first was a woman from Timnah, whom he married. The second was a harlot from Gaza. And the third was Delilah.
In his dealings with each of these women, Samson acted against the commands of the Lord. God forbade intermarriage with pagans (Exodus 33:12-16; Deuteronomy 7:2-3). Samson’s Nazirite vow also required sexual purity (Numbers 6:1-21). But Samson’s lust overpowered his desire to serve and please the Lord. Rather than obey God’s commands, Samson’s lust led him to sin again and again.
By God’s providence, the sins of Samson were used to deal heavy blows to the Philistines. But that was until Delilah came into his life. With Delilah, Samson met his end. He lost his sight, his freedom, and his strength. The mighty man was bound and subjected to the grinding of the mill in prison. The morally weak man was disciplined by the Lord. And this time, Samson bore the consequences of his sins.
How we interpret the end of Samson’s life from this point onwards matters. It has been argued by some that Samson’s fall was a fall from grace and that he lost his salvation. I’ve even heard it said that Samson’s end was a sign that the devil finally got him (after seeking him for so long!). But there are at least two reasons why this interpretation of the final events of his life ought to be rejected.
The first is obvious: Samson appears in the famous Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11. In that eleventh chapter of Hebrews, we find Samson ranked alongside Abraham, the father of faith (Hebrews 11:31, 32). Surely, the writer of Hebrews would have known better than to include an apostate in that list! The second reason why such an interpretation should be rejected is to be found in the very record of Samson’s life. We are told that “the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaved” (Judges 16:22).
This singular sentence tells us that Samson wasn’t abandoned by God, even after he had brought God’s name to disrepute. The Lord was yet with Samson. The Lord had allowed his weak servant to know the weight of his sinfulness and to have a taste of their consequence. And after the Lord had disciplined Samson, he caused Samson’s hair to grow again.
What’s more, his hair probably grew together with his repentance, though the text doesn’t say this explicitly. The fallen Samson reflected on his folly and renewed his Nazirite vow. His afflictions led him to repent of his sins and be devoted to his God once more.
Samson’s hair grew again. His strength slowly returned, and God would use Samson to accomplish another feat, one greater than his previous accomplishments combined—for we are told that “the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life” (Judges 16:30).
Samson’s hair grew again. He enjoyed communion with the Lord again. He could pray to God again—and his prayer was heard and answered. Samson was used by the Lord again. This obviously doesn’t mean that every man who falls into sexual sin would be restored to the same area of usefulness in which they previously served the Lord. But Samson’s story should remind the broken, repentant sinner that his broken vow can be renewed.
Proverbs 5-7 remind us that the sins of God’s people—and sexual sin in particular —have consequences. But the Bible as a whole doesn’t present sexual sin as the unpardonable sin. The repentant sinner will find that his hair will grow again.