Nothing is more certain than that Satan will use every art and device he can command against a Nazarite. If the people of God fall in with the ways of the world through forgetfulness of their heavenly calling, Satan will leave them very much alone, for in that condition, as he well knows, they are worthless for God's service and testimony. But if, under the quickening influences of the Holy Spirit, they are awakened to the absoluteness of God's claims, and walk in the Spirit as well as live in the Spirit, they will soon discover that they have to encounter the snares of the enemy on every hand. It is on this account that the history of Samson is so doubly instructive, teaching us in one aspect, as seen in a former paper, that all the power of God is with the one who is separated unto Him; and then, in another aspect, showing us the character of the temptations to which he succumbed. It cannot, therefore, but be profitable to consider these, that we may be forewarned of the "sunken rocks" that lie in the Nazarite's course.
At the very outset of Samson's career we are told the story of his Philistine wife of Timnath. It is quite true that "it was of the Lord, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines"; but it was none the less the fact, that this alliance with a woman of the world - "the world within the enclosure of God's people" - was manifest departure from the path of separation, and flagrant disobedience to the word of God. What was it, then, that seduced him into this act of sin? Twice it is said that the Philistine woman pleased Samson well (chap. 14:7); and indeed this was the answer he made to the remonstrance of his father and mother on the subject. It would seem, therefore, that two things led him astray - the lust of the eyes, and the gratification of his affections. This woman answered to the desires of his heart, and he proceeded, without seeking counsel from God, to obtain the coveted object. The question was never asked if she pleased God; it was enough that she pleased Samson. One of old said, "Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee," but Samson, under the sway of his natural feelings, ignored and completely set aside this lamp for his feet. "All that is in the world," says John ". . . . the lust of the eye . . . . is not of the Father, but is of the world." Now the strength of the Nazarite can only be maintained by walking in communion with God, and in obedience to His word; and Samson lost both of these conditions through allowing himself to be governed by the sight of his eyes and his own affections.
Remark this also, that when, in self-pleasing, we attain the object of our pursuit, we are sure to fall under its power, and thus be led further astray. It is the striking remark of another, that when the Christian allies himself with the world, the approximation is all on one side. The believer can draw near to the world because he has the flesh in him, that which responds to what the world enjoys; but the world cannot draw near to the Christian, inasmuch as it has not one single thing in common with him, but is under the sway of the adversary of Christ. Samson, there, abandoned his own place when he married; and he lowered himself to the level of his wife. The consequence was that she, when the controversy arose respecting her husband's riddle, united herself with the children of her people. Moreover, she gained her point by enticing him through those very feelings which, as we have seen, led him astray. It is ever so that what we enjoy apart from God, that is, not in communion with Him, becomes our master. Alas! how often have many of us experienced this to our lasting sorrow. Let us, then, beware of the temptations addressed to the natural heart, lest we have to learn practically that he that trusteth his own heart is a fool.
The next fall of Samson shows him in a still lower place. When we have once lost our Nazariteship, unless it is followed by a full recognition of the fact, a thorough self-judgment and restoration of communion, we never recover our former condition. Hence it was that in "the law of the Nazarite" (Numbers 6) it was prescribed, that if a Nazarite contracted defilement, "the days that were before shall be lost, because his separation was defiled." Samson, as explained, was a Nazarite of another kind; but he, as much as the other, needed to confess his failure and sin. But of this there is no trace; and this will account for the sad record at the commencement of chapter 16. He had evidently lost all perception of what was suited to his divine call and mission. Satan, therefore, became bolder with his allurements, and consequently now appeals, not to the natural affections, as before, but to fleshly lusts. Samson's eyes were his constant snare: he "saw a woman in Timnath," and because she pleased him he would seek her in marriage; and here he "saw an harlot," and at once fell before the temptation. This was alliance with the world in a grosser form, according to the teaching of Jezebel (who had derived her doctrine from Balaam), who seduced the Lord's servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. (Rev. 2)
But it may be rejoined that Samson's strength still remained. Two things may be urged in answer to the objection: first, the use he made of his strength, and, secondly, the fact that he was still God's servant, whatever his condition. While Samson was in Gaza, his enemies "compassed him in," and made sure of their prey. But though Samson was wallowing in the mire, his enemies were God's enemies, and God would not yet allow them to triumph over His fallen servant. Samson was thus allowed to deliver himself by his great strength - but this was all. He obtained no victory over the Philistines, and brought no glory to God. He simply escaped from the hands of his foes. And let the reader remark, that the name of God does not appear in the incident. What a contrast to the close of the previous chapter. There Samson called on the Lord, and, owning His hand in the deliverance he had just received, besought Him for still further succour; and God heard His servant's cry. Here he seems to act in self-confidence, and to use what had been divinely bestowed for his own ends - a further proof of his lamentable state of soul.
The following incident contains his final temptation, and the details of his downward course until he reached the bottom of the incline, down which he had been so rapidly rushing. One word, which the Spirit of God uses, gives the key to the character of this last snare. It says that "it came to pass afterward, that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah." This word "loved" plainly shows that Satan, having now discovered Samson's special weakness, combined the two former temptations in one, and attracted Samson to Delilah, at one and the same time, through his natural affections and through his fleshly desires. And the fact that the object of his desire was again a Philistine, reveals that he was still out of communion with the mind of God, and in disobedience to His word. The moment, indeed, our hearts are set on anything on which the Lord's heart is not set, we are out of communion; and once out of communion we soon become the sport of every passing snare and temptation. Oh! how we need to be constantly in the presence of God, and to cry with the Psalmist, "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
Samson's weakness had now become so apparent that even the lords of the Philistines (Satan's instruments) had found out the readiest way to entrap their enemy. "Entice him," they say to Delilah, "and see wherein his great strength lieth, and by what means we may prevail against him"; and, offering her a large bribe, she became their willing servant. Attention should be given to the word "entice"; it is the same word used by Samson's "companions" at the marriage feast. It unfolds the secret of Satan's method of procedure. He will terrify where possible; but, failing this, he ever resorts to enticements. And many a servant of the Lord, who has been in the forefront of the battle, and who, by God's grace, never quailed in the presence of Satan's hottest assaults, has afterwards fallen an easy victim to this more subtle mode of temptation. Even David is an illustration in point, for he was also God's chosen champion in Israel's conflicts with the Philistines, and again and again he smote them with great slaughter; and yet he fell into the abyss of sin and shame before the "attractions" of a Bath-sheba. Well might we remember in this connection the Lord's warning to Peter, "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."
Delilah became a ready tool in the hands of the Philistine lords, and proceeded at once to "entice" Samson's secret out of his bosom. She made no concealment of her object, or of the purpose of his enemies: "Tell me, I pray thee, wherein thy great strength lieth, and wherewith thou mightest be bound to afflict thee." There was no excuse, therefore, for Samson in yielding himself to the blandishments of Delilah. But she had ensnared him in her toils, or he would have recoiled with horror from her request. "The secret of God, the possession of His confidence, is the highest of all privileges. To betray it to a stranger, be he who he may, is to despise the precious position in which His grace has placed us: it is to lose it." Samson indeed was not willing to reveal it, for, unable to surrender his gratifications, he adopted subterfuge after subterfuge to retain it. His fatal mistake was that he dallied with, instead of resisting, the temptress; and the issue was that he was hunted out again and again from his refuge of lies, until at last the avenue to his strong citadel was discovered; and then, without a struggle, he fell into the hands of the Philistines.
What a lesson, and what warnings are conveyed to us all by this sadly instructive history. As long as he retained his Nazariteship he was invincible, for the power of God wrought mightily through His servant. But, losing this, he was weak, and as another man. And not only so, but "he wist not that the Lord was departed from him." The surest sign of backsliding is ignorance of one's own condition, for the backslider becomes gradually habituated to the loss of the enjoyment of the Lord's presence. Finally, he was helpless in the hands of his enemies, who proceeded to put out his eyes and to bind him with fetters of brass. He had long since lost his spiritual vision, and his bodily condition did but proclaim it. As we gaze upon the picture, we can understand the lament of the prophet: "Her Nazarites were purer than snow"; "but now their visage is blacker than a coal." The Lord keep us near to Himself, in the secret of His own presence, and make us ever watchful against the least departure from the way of holiness, that in the constant practice of self-judgment, we may abide uninterruptedly in communion with Him, and in obedience to His word.