Samson And Delilah

Notes of an address by J.S. Blackburn

Quote: "Samson's, not only tragic, but fatal weakness lay in the fact that he trifled. If he happened to meet a few Philistines he carelessly knocked their heads together and went on singing, and if he met a Philistine woman who pleased him he abandoned himself to the gratifications of his lusts and forgot entirely his purpose - he was a trifler..."

A Human Tragedy

The story of Samson and Delilah is the very heart and soul of dramatic tragedy. The bright promise of Samson's early life, the carefree slipping into temptation, the deepening tragedy, the wiles of Delilah and the gigantic climax have always stirred the imagination of even those who have scant regard for the Bible as the word of God.

Perhaps the most important thing about the story is a conversation that Samson never heard and was never aware of, and that was when the five lords of the Philistines came to Delilah and said, "Entice him, and see wherein his great strength lies" (Jud.16:5). This is very like the time when Satan asked permission of the Lord that he might deal with Job and try him and afflict him, and as far as we can see from the beginning to the end of the story Job never knew what lay behind his terrible suffering.

Above all there comes to mind the heartfelt appeal of the apostle Paul to the believers in Corinth when he said, "I am jealous over you with godly jealousy...... but I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from simplicity that is in Christ" (2 Cor.11:2-3).

The Purpose of Samson's Life

This is a very human tragedy, but it is a great deal more, and I would like to begin by explaining in a few words why it has tremendous meaning for us who are believers in the Lord Jesus, and those whose lives have been called to be devoted entirely to Him, to His use, to His service and to His glory, because there are the closest parallels between certain things about the story of Samson and the Christian life.

Samson's life had a divinely ordained purpose, to destroy the Philistines and to deliver Israel, this being clearly stated before his birth (13:5), and Samson was provided with a divine power in order to enable him to fulfil that purpose. From his earliest years the Spirit of the Lord began to come upon him and to move him at times. This was his power for the delivery of Israel from the Philistines (13:25). There was adequate power in Samson to deliver Israel from the Philistines in the presence of the Spirit of the Lord moving him when the occasion arose.

Oh how sadly the story went wrong, and the way it went wrong and the lessons and warnings for us whereby we can avoid and can be saved from going wrong are the interests of the story for us. The purpose of Samson's life was to deliver Israel from the Philistines and I would imagine that there are very few of us here of any age who could not give a pretty good explanation of what the purpose of the Christian life is ordained to be by God.

Perhaps one's mind runs first of all to the conversion of the Thessalonian believers, of whom it says they "turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; and to wait for his Son from heaven" (1 Thess.1:9-10). This was the new purpose for their new lives, to serve the living and true God and to wait for His Son from heaven.

In Ephesians we read that God has created His people "unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (2:10), this is from before the creation of the world. The good works of the saints were prepared and it is a statement of the purpose of the Christian life that in that life God should be glorified by good works.

Above all things the purpose of the Christian life is to do the will of God in the service of the Lord Jesus Christ that we should in life find motive in the constraining power of the love of Christ to live not unto ourselves but unto Him who died for us and rose again. The purpose of the Christian life is easily stated but oh how we pray for each other that it might be written in our hearts by the Holy Spirit afresh in the measure in which we know it already.

The Secret of Samson's Strength : 1.   The Holy Spirit

Another instruction for us is the divinely given strength for the purpose to which his life was to be devoted.

His strength manifested itself as being adequate for the work that he had to do. In childhood it is recorded "the child grew, and the Lord blessed him. And the Spirit of the Lord began to move him at times" (13:24-25).

When he was a young man he went down to Timnath and a young lion roared against him "and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and he rent him as he would have rent a kid, and he had nothing in his hand" (14:5-6).

Later when his countrymen bound him with new cords and delivered him to the Philistines they "shouted against him; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and the cords that were upon his arms became as flax that was burnt with fire, and his bands loosed from off his hands. And he found a new jawbone of an ass, and put forth his hand, and took it, and slew a thousand men with it" (15:14-15). There is the plainest possible proof that there was power with Samson because the Spirit of the Lord came upon him.

Now in speaking further about this story I am most anxious not to be misunderstood upon an important point. I am particularly anxious that I should not be misunderstood in respect of how this applies individually. This story is not a warning against any close link of a man with a woman or a woman with a man, when such links are in the Lord they can purify and enrich our lives beyond measure under His hand. But Scripture warns us against the attractions of a believer to a man or a woman who is not a believer. It warns us all, young and old alike, against the power of something immensely attractive to nature but designed by Satan to turn us away from our separation from the Lord and to rob us of the power of the Holy Spirit.

There is a very important difference between the endowment of Samson by the Spirit of God and our endowment or the fulfilment of God's purpose in our lives. It is a wonderful thing for us to read these stories of the immense bodily strength of Samson and to see it attributed to the presence with him at times of the Spirit of the Lord and to understand that it is the same Spirit of God who dwells in us that He might be our power in spiritual things, our power for the fulfilment of the true purpose of our lives. But we notice very plainly this Spirit of God came upon Samson "at times". The Spirit of God did not remain permanently with Samson. Now so far as you and I are concerned, as the children of God, believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we must once again be absolutely clear about the fact that we have received the Holy Spirit. The Lord said, "I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever" (John 14:16). The Lord Jesus, when risen from among the dead, said to the disciples, "Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high" (Luke 24:49), and we read later that "when the day of Pentecost was fully come, [the disciples] were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind...... and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance" (Acts 2:1-4).

Now how do you and I become partakers of this immeasurably great endowment, the endowment of the Spirit of God? I have been from time to time disturbed by this question. Is it really true that every believer receives the baptism of the Holy Spirit, or is it some special attainment by means of a second blessing that comes to us?

Time and again I have read the biographies of Christian men and women for whom I have the greatest possible admiration and for their response to the Lord, but they claim to have a 'second blessing' and their faces suddenly became radiant, their heads were above water for good and they felt they had 'arrived'. It is all so impressive as a story, but I could only do one thing about this, I went back to the Scriptures for myself, and time and time again I did this and I came away with an ever deepening certainty that it is true that the believer is baptised with the Holy Ghost the moment he believes and the Holy Ghost never leaves him.

The verse which in the end was my principal conviction was Ephesians 1:13, "In whom also after ye believed ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise" who is with us until the day of redemption (v.14). There you have the plain indication that every believer the moment they believe on the Lord Jesus Christ is sealed. This is a transaction that can never be reversed. God has sealed us by the gift of the Holy Spirit, He dwells within us and He is the seal and the earnest. There becomes available to you and me for our comfort and our strength, every time we go back to it, the promise of the Lord Jesus Christ, "I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever" (John 14:16).

Nevertheless, when we think of the power that is available for the fulfilment of our life's purpose under the hand of the Lord, we have to reckon with the terrible danger of grieving the Holy Spirit (Eph.4:30) so that we do not see His mighty works. The Holy Spirit is with us and will never leave us, He came to us the moment we believed, He is a seal, the mark of a transaction that God will never go back on, but we are exhorted not to grieve the Holy Spirit because it is so sadly true in Scripture, and in our experience, that by the manner of our lives we often do.

When the Lord Jesus Christ was here upon earth there were certain who grieved Him. "He looked round on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts" (Mark 3:5), and later "he could there do not many mighty work...... because of their unbelief" (Mark 6:5-6). If the Holy Spirit of God is dwelling in us it is absolutely right that you or I should say, 'If He is there where are His mighty works? We want to see those mighty works. We have not the slightest doubt that those mighty works should follow!' Oh, how sad it is when we have to come to the conclusion it is because we have grieved Him that He can not do many mighty works.

The way the Scriptures bring these things before us makes it plain that it is ever the desire of God that we might not grieve or quench (1 Thess.5:19) the Holy Spirit but rather that we might walk in the Spirit, then His mighty works will become manifest in our lives. When we speak about the purpose of our lives, the work perhaps that we are to do for the Lord, we must always remember that we ought always in thought and prayer to give priority to what God desires to do in us before we can adequately give consideration to what God will do by us. And what is God ready to do in us? He will purge us from envy and falsehood and pride and bring the beauty of the Lord out in our lives. That is what our endowment is for the work that lies to our hands.

The Secret of Samson's Strength : 2.   The Nazarite's vow

Now we understand that there was this great purpose for Samson's life and there is a parallel purpose for our lives, we understand that the great power for that purpose was the fact that the Holy Spirit came upon him, but there is another very prominent feature in the story relative to the power that was resident in Samson and that was that from his birth he was to be a Nazarite.

We read of the Nazarite's vow in Numbers 6 and this had two parts, there was first of all the overriding thought that his vow meant that he was to be separated to the Lord, but there was also another part to the vow that he was to be separated from certain things which in a figurative way would go against his being separated to the Lord. The three things in the book of Numbers were that he was not to touch a dead body, he was not to eat or drink any part of the fruit of the vine and he had not ever to have his hair cut.

In the story as we have it before us, the Spirit of God lays the emphasis for Samson's strength entirely upon his Nazariteship with particular reference to the fact that his hair was not to be cut. There is in Christianity no separate class who are under a vow of this kind. We are all called to be separated unto the Lord and to be separated from all evil, this is a great privilege. The Lord Jesus Christ wants our hearts and our lives.

The text which has been one of the most powerful in my life is 2 Cor. 5 which says, "he [the Lord Jesus] died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again" (v.15). These words make clear what is the desire of the Lord Jesus for us. From the moment He reached down and rescued us from sin and misery and made us His own, we live not unto ourselves, but unto Him who died for us and rose again, and where is to be found the power for such a life? It lies in the previous verse, "the love of Christ constraineth us" (v.14). What that verse in fact says is that the love of Christ controls the way we think of things if it rightly exercises its power over us, because it continues, "because we thus judge...... that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again".

There are two Scriptures which seem to make plain the Nazarite's vow with particular reference to cutting the hair. 1 Cor.11:14 says "Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame to him?" and Hebrews 12:2 states that the Lord Jesus Christ "endured the cross, despising the shame". These teach that the long hair of the Nazarite symbolised and spoke beforehand of the cross and its place in the Christian life. All I can do about it this evening is to remind you of the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, "Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (Mark 8:34). The cross is the appointed means in the Christian life whereby we deal with sin, it is the sword by which we cut off those things that are offensive to God and harmful to ourselves. So the Nazarite's vow in the case of Samson, with particular reference to the length of his hair, speaks to us of that means whereby we are separated from evil in our lives so that we might be wholly separated unto the Lord.

Samson's strength was in his Nazariteship. It was because he allowed his Nazariteship to lapse under the wiles of the woman who had won his heart that Samson the strong became weak. Barnabas exhorted the new believers at Antioch "that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord" (Acts 11:23). The very thing that should have marked Samson's life in an outstanding way was the purpose God gave him. Now Samson's, not only tragic, but fatal weakness lay in the fact that he trifled. If he happened to meet a few Philistines he carelessly knocked their heads together and went on singing, and if he met a Philistine woman who pleased him he abandoned himself to the gratifications of his lusts and forgot entirely his purpose - he was a trifler.

There was an absence of serious purpose in his heart corresponding to the purpose that God had given for his life and oh, that there might be in our hearts and minds what the word of God tells us God has done with us and for us, and that with purpose of heart we should cleave to the Lord. One might well ask whether Samson attained the happiness that he sought. If for one moment we contemplate Samson, his eyes gone, grinding in the Philistine prison then we will see what comes from trifling with the serious issues of life and forgetting the divine purpose for our lives and the divine power and the love of Christ that lies behind it all as a motive for us.

But there was at the end of Samson's life a gleam of encouragement. Perhaps he was the person whom the writer, by the Spirit of God, had in mind when he said that "by faith...... out of weakness were made strong" (Heb.11:34). We read of the deep groaning of prayer with which Samson called to the Lord to restore him his strength that he might at the end fulfil his purpose. When the blind slave leaned on the pillars of the vast hall the house fell upon the Lords and upon all the people that were therein. "So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life" (Jud.16:30).

Let us therefore watch and pray and the Lord will keep us faithful to himself. Remember that interview which he never heard or knew about, "Entice him, and see wherein his great strength lies" (Jud.16:5). Our unseen foes are ever ready to entice, taking occasion by our unguarded hours. Charlotte Elliott's hymn may well close our meditation on Samson whose unguarded hours were so tragically fruitful of failure:

"Principalities and powers
Mustering their unseen array
Wait for thine unguarded hours,
Watch and pray."

"Watch as if on that alone
Hung the issue of the day
Pray that help may be sent down
Watch and pray."

Charlotte Elliott knew very well when she wrote "Watch as if on that alone" that it did not depend on this alone, for she was the woman who wrote

"Just as I am without one plea
but that thy blood was shed for me
and that thou biddest me come to Thee,
Oh Lamb of God I come."

she knew that in the end it depends upon the love of God and the precious blood of Christ, and so what she wrote was "Watch as if on that alone".

"Now unto him who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen"   (Jude 24-25)

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