Judges 13 - 16.

Samson is an example of the class of Nazarites who were such from the day of their birth. As we read, "No razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb." In Numbers 6 it is a vow of a separation unto the Lord for a particular time and purpose; and when the time was completed, the Nazarite, after complying with the prescribed rites, returned to the ordinary life of one of God's people. He, therefore, will represent one who is called out for some special service, one who, in the power of the Holy Ghost, rises above the claims and enjoyments of nature, and surrenders his name and place amongst men, that undistracted and disentangled, he may, in the path of holiness, be unreservedly at the Lord's disposal. Samson indeed was designated for a particular mission; but inasmuch as this was before his birth, he exemplifies rather Christians in general, who are set apart to God from the very outset, whatever the position they may finally have to occupy. Paul speaks of this aspect, when he tells us that he was separated to God from his mother's womb.

Two things marked the time of Samson's advent. There was increasing corruption amongst God's people; and, "at that time, the Philistines had dominion over Israel." (Chap. 14:4.) It is the sad characteristic of the Book of Judges that, notwithstanding the constant interventions of God in grace, for the succour and deliverance of His people through His chosen vessels, they became increasingly corrupt and disobedient. Relieved from the hand of their oppressors, they for the moment rejoiced and turned to the Lord, but, the pressure gone, they almost immediately fell again under the sway of the lusts of their own evil hearts. And to be under the dominion of the Philistines marked the worst possible state and condition; for the Philistines, to borrow words, were not a scourge, a chastisement sent from without: they dwelt in Israel's own territory, in the land of promise. To accept their rule, therefore, was to surrender their own title to the land, which, by God's favour, they had possessed as their inalienable inheritance. To make peace with the enemies of God and of His people is a sorrowful shame and disgrace; to allow them to be masters within the sphere of the promised land indicates a still lower stage of humiliation.

One of the main lessons of Samson's career is gathered from the two facts just mentioned. It is this  - that when God's people have lost the truth of their calling, and have submitted themselves, through unfaithfulness to God, to the rule of the enemy, Nazariteship  - entire separation to God - is the only way of power. It is so at all times, but it is especially illustrated in seasons of apostasy, and in conflicts with God's enemies. This may be strikingly seen, for example, in the contrast between Saul and David. The former could never prevail over the Philistines, even though he was at times successful against foes from without; and, finally, he perished, together with his sons, when in conflict with them on Mount Gilboa. The most splendid victories of David, on the other hand, were gained over the Philistines. This fact gives the key to the history of Samson. Raised up to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines, his mission could only be fulfilled by his being separated unto God from his birth, and by his being apart from the joys of human life as such, and from all the defilements of the world, and by his maintenance of complete subjection to God's authority, and of dependence upon His strength. (13:7.)

But Samson's history is one of failure; and yet, in proportion as he realized his place and calling, he was successful against the oppressors of his people. It is remarkable, indeed, that with his constant stumblings, he was so used. However recovered, the moment he returned in any measure to his Nazariteship, the power of God was with him. Two or three instances of this may be cited. First, however, we may call attention to what happened to him, when, with his father and mother, he was on his way to Timnath to seek a wife from amongst the Philistines. In heart he had already declined from his calling, or he could not have thought of such a thing. (See chap. 14:2.) But when the young lion roared against him, "the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and he rent him as he would have rent a kid." This was surely God's voice to His servant, reminding him that he would be superior to all the enemy's power, as long as he walked in accordance with his call and mission. "The lion," as another has said, "has no strength against one who belongs to Christ. Christ has destroyed the strength of him that had the power of death. By the might of the Spirit our warfare is victory, and honey flows therefrom. But this is carried on in the secret of communion with the Lord."

Samson, however, was deaf to the divine instruction; for he was bent upon his purpose, to marry his Philistine wife. But God rescued His servant from the alliance which he had contracted, not indeed by any active interposition, but by permitting the weakness of Samson and the unfaithfulness of his wife to stir up strife and enmity between Samson and his uncircumcised friends. Thus freed from his entangling yoke, God could again be with him, and use even His servant's folly to chastise the enemies of His people. The world may succeed in alluring the servants of God from their steadfastness, but, whenever it does so, it brings itself under God's just judgment. In this case, the Philistines were constrained to acknowledge the justice of Samson's complaint against the father of his wife, and they themselves inflicted summary punishment upon them. But Samson, no longer under the blinding influences of his natural affections, saw now the real character of the Philistines; and hence he said, "Though ye have done this, yet will I be avenged of you, and after that I will cease. And he smote them hip and thigh with a great slaughter."

This manifestation of power in the enemy's territory called forth determined enmity; and the Philistines went up and pitched in Judah, and spread themselves in Lehi. Samson must be captured at all cost, that they might do to him as he had done to them. But Samson was now in the midst of the chosen people, and surely he might count upon their assistance and succour. So far from it, they, accepting the rule of their enemies in forgetfulness of their true position, regarded the Nazarite as a disturber of their peace, and they agreed to deliver him into the hands of the Philistines (15:12). When God's people become worldly and corrupt, they cannot endure those who are really separate. What they want, when in this condition, is ease and prosperity; and for this, conflict must be avoided, and peace, at any price, must be purchased. The Samsons, therefore, must be sacrificed to procure the good will of the enemy, as a means to their end. This is seen in its fullest exemplification, when the Jews urged Pilate on to pronounce the condemnation of our blessed Lord and Saviour.

But the men of Judah were as ignorant of the source of Samson's power as the Philistines. No, they said, we will not ourselves kill thee, but we will bind thee fast, and deliver thee into the hand of the Philistines, and accordingly they bound him with two new cords and brought him up from the rock. What a spectacle! God's chosen vessel a captive apparently in the hands of the men of Judah! Well might the Philistines congratulate themselves and shout against him; for now, with no danger to themselves, they might conclude, their enemy was at their mercy. And what could Samson do, with three thousand of the men of Judah against him, as well as the army of the Philistines? By himself nothing, but the conflict was not his, but the Lord's; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him. It was thus no longer a question of one man against thousands; it was the LORD against His enemies. If the Lord is our light and our salvation, it will be as David describes: "Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear." So was it with Samson, for as soon as the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, his cords became as flax that was burnt with fire, and his bands loosed from his hands. Then finding a new jawbone of an ass ready to his hand, he slew therewith a thousand men. Wearied with his victory, and "sore athirst," he might still have fallen into the hands of the uncircumcised, but he turned in his need to the only source of his strength, and, calling on the Lord, he received succour through the water of life which flowed out of the place of death. "En-hakkore" ("of him that calleth") marked both the place and the secret of his deliverance.

The next chapter descends to a much lower level. The last verse of chapter 15 shows that Samson's career, as the Spirit of God would have it remembered, was brought to a close. Failure follows in every particular; for once yield to the solicitations of the flesh, the path to defeat and disaster is sure and inevitable. Passing by this, on this occasion, we only refer to it now to touch, for a moment, on the revival of Samson's power at the end of his life. Carried away once again by his natural desires, he yielded at last, notwithstanding repeated proofs of her object, to Delilah's allurements, and betrayed to her the secret of his strength. The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him, and it should ever be an inviolable one between Him and their souls. Together with the loss of his secret, and the consequences, the Lord departed from him, though he wist it not. This is the saddest symptom of all, when a soul has forfeited the Lord's presence, and does not even suspect it. Thereupon he fell an easy prey to his enemies, who "put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he did grind in the prison house." Thus God's Nazarite became, through his own folly, a desolate and abject prisoner. But the Philistines, not knowing God, ascribed their victory to Dagon, and they came together in festal assembly to magnify their god, and to get sport out of their once-dreaded enemy. But Samson's hair had begun to grow again; and in his sorrow he turned to the Lord. It is true he did but desire to avenge himself; but, inasmuch as the Philistines were the enemies of His people, God heard his cry; so that "the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life." The power of God was again with him, but he himself perished with his enemies. God was magnified in judgment, for which He could use His servant, though He could not spare him to continue in His service. It was a solemn close to the life of a Nazarite.

We always need immediate strength from Christ when acting on the part of Christ - abiding strength; for without Him we can do nothing.