April 24th, 1960 @ 8:15 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-24-60 8:15 a.m.
You who are listening on the radio are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. In following through the Book of Judges, chapters 13 through 16 tell the story of Samson.
One of John Milton’s epic poems is entitled “Samson Agonistes”—the agony of Samson. It is one of the great, great poems of all time. And that is where I got the title of the message this morning; Samson Agonistes, Judges 13 through 16. And if you wish to open your Bible, you can easily follow this sermon out of the Book. It starts off with that familiar pattern. “The children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord delivered them into the hand of the Philistines forty years” [Judges 13:1]. That is a long, long time to serve under the dominion of an iron heel and a mailed fist, forty years. And this is the way that the Lord began to deliver His people.
“And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife had no children, she could not bare” [Judges 13:2]. Then beginning at the third verse, you have a visitation from the Lord as He appeared to the wife of Manoah and said that she should have a child [Judges 13:3]. And then He gave specific instructions about that child; no razor shall come on his head, for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb [Judges 13:5]. Then in the seventh verse He says, “no wine nor strong drink, neither shall he eat any unclean thing: for the child shall be a Nazarite to God from the womb to the day of his death” [Judges 13:7]. The woman, the wife, went to her husband and told him of this unusual apparition from heaven.
And Manoah prayed to God that the vision, the visitation might be given unto him, and the Lord hearkened unto the prayer of Manoah, and the Angel of Jehovah came again, the second time [Judges 13:8-10]. And Manoah arose and came unto the Man; “And Manoah said to Him, Now, let Thy words come to pass. How shall we order the child, and how shall we do unto him? And the Angel of the Lord said unto Manoah” [Judges 13:11-13]; and then He repeats the same instructions and interdictions that He had given to the woman [Judges 13:13-14].
The child is to be holy and is to be separated unto God from his birth. He is to be a Nazarite. He is not to drink any strong drink. He is to obey all of the Mosaic injunctions of clean and unclean in his habits of eating, and diet, and life. And the sign of his dedication unto God is to be the growth of his hair [Judges 13:5]. Now this is not an unusual thing. All through the Scriptures there were Nazarites; all through the Scriptures. Samuel was a Nazarite [1 Samuel 1:11]. Others dedicated to God, separated to God were Nazarites. There was in the law of Moses, a section of the legislation that pertained to the life of the Nazarite [Numbers 6:1-21]. So this is not unusual. This is not strange. It is not peculiar. God just chose this life to be especially separated unto Him.
Now that Nazarite is a type, a symbol of the separation unto God of His people in this world. The word for church, ekklēsia means “the separated ones.” And as long as God has a separated people in the world, God seems to stay His hand of judgment. But when God’s separated people identify themselves with the world, judgment always falls, always.
In the Book of Genesis, it says, “That the children of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all whom they chose [Genesis 6:2]. And God said, ‘My Spirit shall not always strive with man, a hundred and twenty years’” [Genesis 6:3]. A hundred and twenty years, and then the awful devastating judgment fell, and the living flesh of the earth was destroyed by the flood, only saved by the righteousness of righteous Noah [Genesis 7:1-24].
You know, I do not know of anything more devastating than to see God’s people intermarry with the people of the world. You would think that the righteous would lift up the ungodly and that, by the intermarriage, the whole world would become godly. Such is the depravity of human nature; and such is the power of the world. Whenever you have an intermarriage like that, it does not lift up the ungodly, but the ungodly pull down the righteous.
There is no such a thing in this earth or in the history of this world as the intermarriage of godly and ungodly people lifting up this earth. This is a tragic thing when one of our girls marries a godless boy or when one of our godly boys marries a worldly girl. The Book says you are at liberty to marry only in the Lord [2 Corinthians 6:14-18]. A Christian is not to marry in the world. He is not to marry an unbeliever.
One of the most sorrowful things in this earth is to see young people go down to a bar and sit there and find a wife at the bar; a date he picks up somewhere on the street, or in a honky-tonk, or a jive joint, or a den or a dance hall. Those things lead to interminable heartache.
If we didn’t do anything down at the church but have young people societies—BYPU’s, Training Unions—where Christian young people could meet other Christian young people, the church would be well, well having a reason for existing. And if we didn’t do anything in those societies and unions except introduce Christian people to one another, they would well apologize, make a defense for themselves.
This boy, this Nazarite, was to be separated unto God, just like all of God’s people. He is a type of an ekklēsia, the separated ones. They belonged to God. And the tragedy, the agony of Samson is going to lie in his departure from the prayers and appeals of his parents, and of his people, and of his going down and out in the world to find his companion, his wife, his social life. It will end in a tragedy, as it always ends in sorrow and heartache unspeakable.
Now, isn’t this the brightest promise though, the most glorious, glorious vista that you could ever think for? Twice the unusual birth of the son is announced from heaven, and these parents wonderfully obey [Judges 13:2-14]. When we come down to the twenty-fourth verse, in the time allotted, “The woman bare a son, and called his name Samson” [Judges 13:24]. That is sunlight, it is built—his name is built upon the Hebrew word shemesh for “the sun.” “And the woman bare a son, and called his name “Sunlight,” Samson. And the child grew, and the Lord blessed him. And the Spirit of the Lord began to move him at times in the camp of Dan” [Judges 13:24-25].
I want to expatiate for a minute upon that little verse there. And the Spirit of the Lord began to move him at times in the camp of Dan. And throughout the story, every once in a while, you will find the little sentence, “And the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him” [Judges 14:6, 15:14].
That is a fine illustration of the difference between the days of the Old Testament and the days of the New Testament. In the days of the Old Testament, the Spirit of God came intermittently. The Spirit of the Lord would rest upon Saul [1 Samuel 11:6]. The Spirit of the Lord would come upon Jehu [2 Kings 9:6-10]. Elisha, when he was called upon at a certain strategic time in the life of his people, said, “Play instruments, that the Spirit of inspiration may fall upon me” [2 Kings 3:15]. So they played instruments as Elisha waited for the Spirit of the Lord to come upon him.
But in the prophecy of Joel, “It shall come to pass afterward, someday, that I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And upon My servants and upon My handmaidens in those days, will I pour out My Spirit” [Joel 2:28-29]. For, said the third chapter of John, “God giveth not unto Jesus, unto Him, the Spirit by measure” [John 3:34].
It is not intermittent and it is not just so much, but it is illimitable. It is as vast as the infinite reaches of Almighty God Himself. And the Lord said to His disciples, “You tarry, until that Promise from the Father of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit of God comes upon you” [Luke 24:49]. And on the day of Pentecost, the great new era and age and dispensation of the fullness of the Spirit began [Acts 2:1-42]. Any man, anytime, anywhere, any child, any youth, any boy, any girl, any preacher, anybody can have as much of the Holy Spirit of God as his heart will open to receive, and as he by faith will take; anybody, anywhere, anytime.
“Upon My slaves, upon My servants, upon even My handmaidens, will I pour out the Spirit of God” [Acts 2:18], says the Lord in that day. We can have as much of the Holy Spirit of God in this church as we are willing to receive. There is no limit. “For God giveth not of the Spirit by measure unto Him” [John 3:34].
In the fifth chapter of Ephesians, we are commanded to “be filled with the Holy Spirit of God” [Ephesians 5:18]. This is the new day, the new inspiration in which we live. But in that day, the Spirit of God was poured out, was given, was fachti intermittently. Today we can have God’s Spirit world without end, to the height and glory of the infinite itself.
Now, one other thing about this before we leave it. “And the woman bare a son, and called his name Samson. And the Spirit of the Lord began to move him at times in the camp of Dan” [Judges 13:24-25].
I want to make a comment about what God’s Spirit can do for a man. Wherein lay the strength of Samson? Was he a giant physically? He was not. I suppose that Samson was the size of an ordinary man. There is never an intimation in the Scriptures that he had an unusual size at all. He was not like an Og [Deuteronomy 3:11]. He was not like Sihon [Judges 11:19]. He was not like Goliath [1 Samuel 17:4]. For the Scriptures say that the Philistines could not understand wherein lay his strength. That is the reason they hired Delilah; to find out his secret, if Delilah could [Judges 16:4-5].
Now, had Samson been a giant, a tremendous Goliath, why, it would have been; you would not have had to seek why he was strong. Just look at him. He is seven and a half feet tall. He weighs four hundred pounds, and his arms are like beams, and his hands are like hams, and he has got the strength of forty men. You would have had no trouble finding out his secret at all had he been a giant, had he been a Goliath. But the secret of the strength of Samson was a mystery to the Philistines and they could not fathom it out [Judges 16:4-5].
I give you an illustration of that exactly. You take an ordinary wire and tie it to a big motor and see if that wire can turn that motor. But you put on the inside of that wire a secret something that the scientists have no idea what it is; you call it “electricity.” Nobody knows what electricity is. Electricity is a name for something nobody knows what it is. You put that wire to that motor and electrify it, and that wire will turn great wheels and industry and fill the whole world with strength and energy.
Now, that’s the way with the body and life of Samson. He was an ordinary man, but when the Spirit of God came upon him [Judges 15:14], there was power in him beyond anything that the world had ever seen, and it was an astonishing phenomenon to the Philistines. And that’s the Spirit of God in you and in us [Acts 1:8].
What God can do with just an ordinary man or woman or youth filled with a dynamic and the energizing power of the Spirit of God, is beyond anything a man could ever describe. Like Moody one time said, “It is yet to be seen what one man wholly given to God could do for the world.” Well, the secret of his power lay not in his physique. It lay in the Spirit of the Lord that was in him [Judges 15:14].
Now we come to the touch of earth. Isn’t this the tragedy of all sorrows, Samson. You know, Samson is like that vision that Nebuchadnezzar saw; that big idol and it stood upon feet that were part of iron and part of clay, the iron and the clay mixed together [Daniel 2:33-34]. That’s Samson; part of him the strength of God and part of him the weakness of clay.
Now the fourteenth chapter, “And Samson went down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines. And he came up, and he told his father and his mother, ‘I have seen a woman’” [Judges 14:1-2], down at the bar on the dance floor. She is a stripteaser and she pleases me.
“Then his father and his mother said unto him,” Son, “is there not a woman, among the daughters of the” First Baptist Church and among all of thy Christian kindred and people? Why is it that you go down to the honky-tonk, and the dance hall, and the beer bar, “to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” And Samson said unto his father . . . “she pleaseth me well” [Judges 14:3]. I like her act, never saw anybody that could undress like that.
I tell you to us to live in the little Christian circle like we live in, that seems preposterous but ninety-nine percent I suppose of this world is like that, is like that. Whether the girl is a Christian or not, whether the girl is saved or not, whether she is devout or not, whether she is godly or not, that doesn’t matter. What matters is, “I like her act. “She pleaseth me well” [Judges 14:3].
You know it doesn’t hurt if you have a Christian father and mother to listen to them. They may sound “old fogeys,” and they may look as if they belong to another age and another generation and they should have died forty years ago—that is the way young people so often look on their parents—but it sure doesn’t hurt if you have a godly father and mother to listen to them. Well, Samson wouldn’t do it.
Now I haven’t time to go through all that story of the wife at Timnath. It finally ended in the Philistines burned her up, and burned up her father’s house, and burned up her family, and burned up the place where they lived, and destroyed everything about them, everything about them [Judges 15:6]. Now that is the end of the story.
The Philistines did it. They did it to this woman at Timnath. They did it and, of course, when they did that to the wife of Samson, well, you can imagine what Samson did to them. On one occasion of hearing that story, he picks up the jawbone of a jackass and slays one thousand of them [Judges 15:15]. Why, the whole story is fraught with every ungodly angle and facet that you can imagine.
What would you expect in that kind of an environment, and that kind of a world, and that kind of a life? What do you expect? Ah, Samson, Samson!
Now in this little moment, we must go on. And it came to pass afterward when his first wife was burned up by the Philistines and her father and father’s house and all that they had, when the Philistines burned up everything about her; both her person, and her family, and their possessions, the Philistines burned them up; “It came to pass afterward, that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek whose name was Delilah” [Judges 16:4].
Now I want to comment first about Delilah. What was the matter with Delilah? You listen. Had Delilah been a fine wonderful girl, there would not have been anything wrong with Samson’s loving Delilah, nothing at all.
Rahab is an ancestress of the Lord Jesus [Matthew 1:5]. Ruth is an ancestress of the Lord Jesus [Matthew 1:5]. Both of them were heathen, pagan woman. But Rahab, by faith, gave her heart to Jesus, and Ruth, by faith, took Christ as her Savior. The Jehovah God, which is the only God, was Rahab’s God and she trusted Him [Hebrews 11:31], and was Ruth’s God: “Thy people shall be My people” [Ruth 1:16].
“Those folks at the First Baptist Church will be my folks” and the God they adore and love will be the God I adore and love. There was not anything wrong that Rahab is in that genealogy of our Christ and that Ruth is there [Matthew 1:5]. Had Delilah been like that, there would not have been anything the matter about Samson’s loving Delilah [Judges 16:4].
Well, what was the matter of Delilah? This is what was the matter with Delilah. She was for sale! “Give me eleven hundred”; this is Judges 16:5, “give me eleven hundred pieces of silver, and I will deliver him into your hands.” And in the eighteenth verse: “and the lords of the Philistines came upon her, came up to her, and brought money in their hands.” Here are the eleven hundred pieces of silver [Judges 16:18].
Now I don’t need to expatiate on this. There is not anything that is as vile and low as a woman selling for money what God has bestowed upon her and to use the rich endowments of God for money. “You give me money, and I will be in the dance show. I will strip. You give me money, and I will go to the stag party and put on the show.” Or, “You give me money, and I will sell you my very person. You give me money and I will betray to you; anybody who reposes love and confidence in me. Give me money. Give me money.” That’s Delilah. “You give me eleven hundred pieces of silver, and I will deliver him into your hands” [Judges 16:5]. That’s Delilah.
So, she enticed him [Judges 16:6], and he said, “You bind me with seven new bow strings,” you have it translated “withes,” green withes—”You bind me with seven bow strings that are still not dried,” and you would call it catgut. “You bind me with green catgut, seven strands, and I am just like any other man” [Judges 16:7]. And she bound him [Judges 16:8].
“Up, the Philistines are here.” And he broke them as though they were nothing. She says, “You mocked me. You mocked me. Tell me the secret of your strength” [Judges 16:9-10]. And he said—and, oh don’t you tremble in your soul as he begins to speak about the locks of his hair?—he said, “If thou weavest the seven locks of my hair with the web”; the loom, “I will be just like all other men” [Judges 16:13].
And so she got him asleep and they wove the locks of his hair in the loom. And, “Up, the Philistines are upon thee”; and he arose and with the hair of his head dragged around that entire loom as though it were nothing [Judges 16:14]. And she said, “You do not love me,” and she pressed him daily and vexed him to death [Judges 16:15-16]. Brother, what a nagging, nagging, unending soul of a female can finally do to the strongest constitution “and his soul was vexed unto death” [Judges 16:16].
Day and night, night and day, and in the middle and both ends and oh how she worked on him. And finally he told her his secret. “I have been separated [a Nazarite] unto God from my mother’s womb: if thou shave the locks of my hair, the sign of my dedication, I shall become weak, and be like any other man” [Judges 16:17].
And Delilah said, “Bring the money. Bring the money! I have found the secret.” And the lords of the Philistines came unto her and brought the money, and put it in her hand; put it in her hand, eleven hundred pieces of silver [Judges 16:18]. And she, when he was asleep, cut off the locks of his hair, and said, “Samson, the Philistines be upon thee” [Judges 16:19-20].
And he said, I will go out as in other times, and I will slay the enemies of God. And he shook himself to arise, “but he wist not that the Lord was departed from him. And the Philistines took him.” He was like any other man, “and they put out his eyes.” They gouged out his eyes. “And they bound him with fetters of brass”; and he ground, and ground, and ground in the prison house [Judges 16:21].
And in his humiliation, “The lords of the Philistines gathered themselves together” and said, let us make a great holiday “unto Dagon our god. He is stronger than Jehovah, the God of the Jews” [Judges 16:23].
So in a great amphitheater that was built somehow where in the center were two columns that held it up; then out on either side, those great, great beams stretched on those two columns in the center of that amphitheater. And the lords of the Philistines and all the great and mighty in the land of Philistia gathered in that amphitheater by the thousands. And they hollered, and cried, and yelled, and said, “Bring Samson who represents the God Jehovah, bring him out. And before Dagon our god let’s let him make sport” [Judges 16:24-25].
And Samson hears them as he is presented to them in humiliation. Samson hears them make fun of the God of his father, and the God of his mother, and the God of his people. When they made sport, Samson said to the boy who led him by the hand, “Would you put my hands that I may feel of it upon the pillars that hold up the house, that I may lean upon it?” [Judges 16:26].
So the boy took the blind Samson and put one of his hands on one of the pillars that he might feel of it; took the blind man’s hand on the other pillar that he might feel of it. And Samson prayed, “O God just this one time, remember me, O God. And he took hold of those two middle pillars upon which the house stood. And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might” [Judges 16:28-30].
Did you ever wonder why it is in Hebrews 11:32, he is numbered among the heroes of faith? By faith Samson, Abraham [Hebrews 11:17], Moses [Hebrews 11:24], Samson; why, bless your heart, let’s see you do that. Let’s see you do that. You grab a hold of one of those tremendous pillars that hold up a great building, and let’s see you bow against it in faith.
Why, you don’t have that faith. I never saw anybody that did, but Samson did. In his blindness and in his misery, in his agony and in his heartache, he put his arms on those pillars and believed in God [Judges 16:28-30]. And Samson was justified by faith [Hebrews 11:32]. And in his repentance, in his sorrow, in his humiliation, God heard his prayer and enrolled him among the heroes of faith [Hebrews 11:32].
While we stand and sing our hymn, somebody you give his heart to the Lord, somebody you to put his life with us in our church, while we make this appeal would you come and stand by me? “Pastor, here I am. I want to give my heart and life to Jesus. I want to come into the fellowship of the church by baptism.” How ever God shall say the word and lead the way, would you make it now? While we stand and while we sing.