Lessons from Samson's Mother on Leading by Example

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Judges 13 is all about the announcement of the birth of Samson- best known for his rendezvous with Delilah, which ultimately led to his downfall. The first person to receive the announcement of his birth from the angel of the Lord was Samson's mother (although the angel did visit a second time to make the announcement to both her and her husband after that). Within both announcements Samson's mother was also given a set of instructions:

"Now therefore, please be careful not to drink wine or similar drink, and not to eat anything unclean. For behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. And no razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.” (Judges 13:4 & 13-14)

According to Numbers 6:2, a Nazirite was somebody who had "[consecrated] an offering to take the vow of the Nazirite, to separate [themselves] to the Lord". Nazirites could either be male or female and had to adhere to strict lifestyles guidelines, which included those outlined to Samson's mother (no wine, no eating anything "unclean" or cutting their hair) amongst other things (such as not touching or being around corpses).

By default of carrying Samson in her womb and receiving the angel's instructions, Samson's mother became a Nazirite. It wasn't enough that she was the vessel through which he entered the world to fulfill his purpose of "[delivering] Israel out of the hand of the Philistines". It also wouldn't have been enough for her to tell him what being a Nazirite involved. She had to show him by becoming one herself and leading by example.


Related: An Interview with Mercy on the Relevance of the Women of the Bible

Although I do not have any children of my own, I am blessed to have many children in my life to whom I am "Aunty Nina". It has always been extremely important to me to be both a positive influence and example to them, not just because I want them to do well in life, but because I know the pain of looking up to people- mentors of my faith even- and then witnessing them fall short of the very lifestyle guidelines that they set for others. 

When you've modeled yourself on another person for so long, the disappointment of seeing them not live up to the very standards that they set for you or would have for you is enough to cause you to question your own faith and the basis of your relationship with God. Hypocrisy is a knife that has cut me very deeply on several occasions and so, I have an understanding of why it can and has caused some people to leave church or the faith completely. This is because such behaviour brings God into disrepute, as the Prophet Nathan explained to David in 2nd Samuel 12:14 when he committed adultery with Bathsheba.

The Bible is clear on several occasions that we must beware that people are watching us- whether this be our own children (like Samson's mother) or somebody else's (like those in my life), a congregation or group that you lead within one, co-workers or employees who are less spiritually mature than you. It also makes it clear that we are to lead by example and not be the cause for people to lose faith or walk away from God. For example Ezekiel 34 is a chapter dedicated to this very topic and Luke 17:2 says that it would be better that a millstone was tied around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than that you should "offend one of [the] little ones" that see you as a role model.

So what about you, lovely? Who are you a role-model to? Did you think of the children around you, your team or congregation? Well, the truth is, it's much broader than that! 2nd Corinthians 5:20 says that we are "ambassadors for Christ". This means that we represent Him wherever we go and to whomever we come across.

What is interesting to note, is that despite Samson's mother's example to him, he did not always completely adhere to his Nazirite vow. For example, he defiled himself with dead bodies at least twice by killing the Philistines with the jaw bone of a donkey and eating honey made on the inside of a lion's carcass (via the bees that lived there). So, I am not saying that our example alone is enough to stop somebody else sinning or walking away from God. At the end of the day people have free-will and we cannot control them. The Bible also says that we are to "work out our own salvation with fear and trembling".

However, we do need to make sure that we do not have their blood on our hands if that is what they decide to do. We need to make sure that, like Samson's mother, we are an example of what we would want the people around us and under our care to be. We need to make sure that we cannot be named amongst the variables that caused someone else's faith to decline or them to walk out of the will of God. Like Samson's mother, we need to realise that lip service is not enough. We cannot have a "do as I say; not as I do mentality" because people are paying much closer attention to what we do than what we say. I certainly was.