Now let us turn in our Bibles to the book of Judges again - chapter 13 this morning. If you're a newcomer, a visitor with us today, we have been studying the book of Judges, or at least the characters of the judges in the book of Judges over the last eleven weeks. This is our twelfth week, and we have looked at them as individuals, and spent a number of weeks on some of them - Gideon, for instance, we spent I think five or six weeks on him. We're starting another character, indeed probably the one who will be the last character in the series, and he will take a couple of weeks as well - that is Samson. This morning we're looking in chapter 13 verses 1 to 23, and our title is 'Samson, The Promising Start'.
We begin our reading at verse 1: "And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD delivered them into the hand of the Philistines forty years. And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren, and bare not. And the angel of the LORD appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son. Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing: For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines. Then the woman came and told her husband, saying, A man of God came unto me, and his countenance was like the countenance of an angel of God, very terrible: but I asked him not whence he was, neither told he me his name: But he said unto me, Behold, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and now drink no wine nor strong drink, neither eat any unclean thing: for the child shall be a Nazarite to God from the womb to the day of his death. Then Manoah intreated the LORD, and said, O my Lord, let the man of God which thou didst send come again unto us, and teach us what we shall do unto the child that shall be born. And God hearkened to the voice of Manoah; and the angel of God came again unto the woman as she sat in the field: but Manoah her husband was not with her. And the woman made haste, and ran, and showed her husband, and said unto him, Behold, the man hath appeared unto me, that came unto me the other day. And Manoah arose, and went after his wife, and came to the man, and said unto him, Art thou the man that spakest unto the woman? And he said, I am. And Manoah said, 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, Of all that I said unto the woman let her beware. She may not eat of any thing that cometh of the vine, neither let her drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing: all that I commanded her let her observe. And Manoah said unto the angel of the LORD, I pray thee, let us detain thee, until we shall have made ready a kid for thee. And the angel of the LORD said unto Manoah, Though thou detain me, I will not eat of thy bread: and if thou wilt offer a burnt offering, thou must offer it unto the LORD. For Manoah knew not that he was an angel", or 'the angel', "of the LORD. And Manoah said unto the angel of the LORD, What is thy name, that when thy sayings come to pass we may do thee honor? And the angel of the LORD said unto him, Why askest thou thus after my name, seeing it is secret? So Manoah took a kid with a meat offering, and offered it upon a rock unto the LORD: and the angel did wonderously; and Manoah and his wife looked on. For it came to pass, when the flame went up toward heaven from off the altar, that the angel of the LORD ascended in the flame of the altar. And Manoah and his wife looked on it, and fell on their faces to the ground. But the angel of the LORD did no more appear to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was an angel of the LORD. And Manoah said unto his wife, We shall surely die, because we have seen God. But his wife said unto him, If the LORD were pleased to kill us, he would not have received a burnt offering and a meat offering at our hands, neither would he have showed us all these things, nor would as at this time have told us such things as these". We'll read verses 24 and 25 as well: "And the woman bare a son, and called his name 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 between Zorah and Eshtaol".
'Samson, The Promising Start'. I think few stories are more tragic in the Scriptures than Samson's. There are many fallen heroes that we have even encountered over the last number of weeks, and right throughout from Genesis to Revelation that we could cite, but it seems that there is none greater than Samson. I used to play a bit of rugby - I wasn't good at it by any stretch of the imagination - but I always remember our coaches telling us that the bigger they are, the harder they fall. It's the same regarding the heroes of God that have fallen in the past. Samson was a great man, a great man of faith, a great man of God, chosen of God, yet he had a great fall. We shall see over these next weeks, specifically this morning, how Samson started out with great promise. We'll see a little bit in verses 24 and 25, but in subsequent weeks it will become more clear how God's power was uniquely imparted and displayed through him. We will see that the outcome of that power was that he proved himself in the service of Jehovah, he did many great exploits for his God.
This week we're seeing him as the child of promise, and all the potential and the prospects that are unlimited to him because God chose him from before his birth. Not only did God choose him, but God promised to fit him to overcome the enemy that held the Israelites in an iron grip, that is the Philistines. Yet this great hero, Samson, became the fallen hero. How the mighty have fallen - because the very enemy that God chose him, raised him and fitted him to defeat and overcome, overcame him!
Someone has said he was 'a He-man with a she-weakness' - bold before men, Samson was weak before women, and couldn't resist telling them his secrets. Empowered by the Spirit of God, he yielded his body to the appetites of the flesh. Samson means 'sunny', or 'sun-like', or 'little sun' - and isn't it a tragedy to think that one who was born with God's blessed sun rays of honour upon him, dies in complete darkness having his eyes put out by his enemy, blinded by the enemy. The enemy that he was raised up to conquer ends up conquering him, and launching the son of light into darkness.
Let me say, before I go on any further, I want you to understand completely how I'm going to apply the character of Samson, and indeed the promising start that he had in his birth. I believe Samson's history is an illustration of Paul's warning that we find in 1 Corinthians 9:27 that reads: 'But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway'. Samson was a castaway as Paul has cited it. Now I know that in Hebrews 11 and verse 32 the writer tells us that Samson was a great man of faith. He had faith in God's word, but apart from that reference to him there's very little else can be said to his credit right throughout the word of God. What I'm saying to you this morning is this: you could have your faith in God, as Samson did, and many people today do. They profess faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, they have trusted in God for their salvation, but their life doesn't go anywhere after that. They receive from God all His provision, they are blessed with everything in the Lord Jesus Christ, but they neglect their spiritual lives and the enemy overcomes them.
We as Christians, once we come to faith in the Lord Jesus, have great potential. There are great prospects ahead of us, and yet the question I'm asking us today in the light of this life of Samson is: what have you done with your potential in Christ? I know you have faith in God, but what are you doing with the resources that God has given to you? What are you doing with the prospects that God has set ahead of you as His divine sovereign will, if you would only obey and follow Him? Paul says: 'Whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning', and this is a great lesson to us - the promising start of Samson, and we need to look at it in great detail, and take heed if we think we stand, lest we fall.
Now these first three verses we find the seventh time in the book of Judges, we read that again the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord. They kept going in this cycle of sin, and this is now the seventh time they find themselves in this merry-go-round that is not so merry. We find also that the Philistines enslaved Israel for forty years. Now let me just say this: if you count up all the years that Israel were oppressed by other nations, you will find that the Philistines oppressed them the longest. So first of all, this is the seventh mention, the seventh cycle of when the children of Israel were in bondage. We find it is the longest cycle, for forty years, and then we find added to this that the deliverer isn't even born! The one that God has raised up hasn't been born yet! Then we find, a little bit different to all the other accounts of the oppression of Israel's enemies and God raising up a deliverer, that on this occasion there is no evidence in the text whatsoever that Israel cried out to God for deliverance. All the other times they did, whilst it was superficial and the repentance was very shallow at times, we find that they never even called to God on this particular instance.
Now that tells us many things, but one thing I believe it tells us is this: there was something peculiarly binding about Philistine bondage. The Philistines really had them, they had them for forty years to such an extent that they didn't even feel the need to cry out to God. There was no deliverer raised up in the nation that was alive, God had to send a new one into the barren womb of Manoah's wife. Now we see this in the apathy of the people, if you turn to chapter 15 and verse 11 we read that the Israelites addressed Samson: 'Three thousand men of Judah went to the top of the rock Etam, and said to Samson, Knowest thou not that the Philistines are rulers over us? what is this that thou hast done unto us? And he said unto them, As they did unto me, so have I done unto them'. Those who should have had gratitude for being delivered from the Philistines, they were quite happy to be oppressed by them!
Now what is the reason for this? Let me just say, before we give you a reason, it is very frightening for me to consider, as we look at this thought, how quickly we as Christians can become accustomed with our status quo. We can begin to accept what we are as Christians: we believe in Christ, we have faith in the Lord Jesus, and yet all the blessings of God are at our disposal - but we're just content to sit and be stuck for the rest of our Christian existence. What then made the Philistines especially dangerous? I believe it was the method that they used. The Philistines were great in military strength, the reason being they had learned to smelt iron. Because of that they could overrun all armies with direct attack because of the great advanced weapons that they had, and that's the way the other nations tried to overcome Israel - didn't they? They tried to conquer them by their military might - but that is not how the Philistines come. We find that the two main weapons that the Philistines used were: one, trade; and secondly, intermarriage. I could put it like this: business and pleasure, and they mixed the two.
Now let me illustrate this for you: if the Israelites wanted an axe or a plough, they had to go to the Philistines to get it, they had to go to their oppressors. If you want evidence for that, you find it in 1 Samuel 13. If they wanted to marry the sons or the daughters of the Philistines, the Philistines had no objection to them doing it, indeed they encouraged it because in it they saw that they were getting a stranglehold over God's people. Slowly, through business and pleasure, through trade and intermarriage, they were choking them to death - and it was through compromise and assimilation with the Philistines that God's people were being overcome. Now please note this: it was not military might and dominance that conquered God's people here, but it was both spiritual and cultural seduction. Not the sword!
What was it that caused God's people not even to feel the need to cry out to God for deliverance, and look for a saviour? It was materialism, and it was sensuality! Spiritual and cultural seduction, assimilating with the background of the world, compromising in its principles. The two results that we find from that were spiritual apathy - they didn't even see their need, they didn't see themselves as God saw them, and even when Samson tried to deliver them they were trying to hold him back! 'Samson, don't rock the boat, we're quite happy the way we are!'. Spiritual apathy and loss of distinction - they were assimilating, blending in, you wouldn't see the difference any longer between God's people and the Philistines, because they were intermarrying and they were related to one another.
Now let's see, with that backdrop of Philistine oppression, the deliverer that God sent - Samson and his promising start. First of all I want you to see that he was a child of promise. He was a child of promise: God's people needed a deliverer, and God sent them a child of promise. We've read about that, first of all he was a child of promise in his miraculous birth. Now how often do we read the Scriptures, and we find that when God needs to send a deliverer, He sends an angel to visit a couple, and usually the woman is barren and cannot bear children, and God's angel promises them a baby. When He wanted a nation, He came to Abraham and Sarah and He gave them Isaac. When He wanted a deliverer from Egyptian bondage, He came to Amram and Jochebed, and gave them baby Moses. Later when Israel needed a revival, He sent the baby Samuel to Hannah. Praise God, when we come to the New Testament, we read in Galatians that when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth a Son, made under the law and born of a woman. God sent baby Jesus to Mary.
Now, babies are very fragile things, but have we not learn as we've gone through the book of Judges thus far that if it tells us anything, it tells us that the things that are weak in the eyes of the world are the things that God can show His might through, and confound the strong things in our world. Like Sarah, and Hannah, and Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist, Manoah's wife was barren, she was infertile. To her sterility the Bible adds obscurity, for it doesn't even give us her name - she is Manoah's wife, and then she becomes Samson's mother. God is using, effectively, a woman who, in biblical terms, is a nobody.
Now let me bring this all together for you: we are God's people, we have faith in God, and we are children of promise in the fact that we have had a miraculous birth. We are nobodies, we are not a people and God has made us a people, and we have been born again not of corruptible seed but of incorruptible by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. We are children of promise, we have had a miraculous birth, the new birth - John chapter 3. Samson had it too - not only was he a child of promise in his miraculous birth, but also in his many blessings. In verse 5, if you look at it, the angel said 'You will conceive', and at the end it says, 'he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines'. In verse 24, at the end of the verse it says, 'and the LORD blessed him'. How could he not be blessed? He was born miraculously, but he also had the promises of God given to him. The potential, the prospect of this young man is unlimited because God is with him. Let me say this: he had the best spiritual start in life that anyone could wish for!
Have we not had that best start also? It was read for us in the Breaking of Bread, Ephesians 1 and verse 3: 'Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places'. Corinthians tells us that 'all the blessings of God are Yes and Amen in Christ'. We have everything because we have the Lord Jesus. We have a miraculous birth in the new birth, regeneration. We have many blessings in Christ, but the great question that begs this morning is: what have we done with our spiritual birth and our spiritual blessings that God has given to us? There are many untapped resources in the lives of ordinary Christians today. I just wonder, when we get to heaven, will God show us a whole load of unopened parcels that would have been ours when we were on the earth, but we neglected our salvation to such an extent that we have to wait till heaven to get them, if we get them at all.
He was a child of promise, as we, in his birth and his blessings. But what I want you to see secondly is that he had godly parents. John Wilmot, who was the Earl of Rochester, said: 'Before I was married I had three theories about raising children, now I have three children and no theories'. It's a hard thing to raise children in a day like Samson's day or our day. Here we see a helpful guideline for any parents in the meeting this morning in the parent's example of Samson's mother and father. Verse 8 tells us that they prayed for him: 'Then Manoah intreated the LORD, and said, O my Lord, let the man of God which thou didst send come again unto us, and teach us what we shall do unto the child that shall be born'. Now many believe that Manoah's wife prayed, like Hannah and like Mary, that God would send a deliverer to take them from under the oppression of the enemy. Now it doesn't say that in the text, but I'm sure that that is the case - but they prayed for him in another way, because we find out at the beginning of verse 8 that Manoah asked God that he would be shown how to teach and bring up the child. Then in verse 12 we read the same: 'Manoah said, Now let thy words come to pass. How shall we order the child, and how shall we do unto him?'.
They not only prayed for him, and I would say to you that they prayed for the child before it was born - but secondly, they sought divine guidance for the upbringing of this child. They wanted God to teach them how to prepare Samson for the divine purpose in his life. Now God revealed to them that this was going to be a mighty man of God, and now they're coming and saying: 'Lord, how can we raise this young child for Your glory? How can we prepare him for the glorious honour that You have upon him by using him?'. They wanted to honour God in raising their child for His use.
Can I ask you: what are you preparing your children for? Education is good and ought not to be neglected, and a career is advisable to keep body and soul together, but the bottom line is: many, in favouring those first two options, have neglected the spiritual welfare of their children and of their home. Manoah did not. They sought divine guidance, he and his wife, in the upbringing of Samson before he was even born.
Then thirdly we find in verse 15 that they also cherished the presence of God, specifically the presence of Christ in their home. Verse 15 reads: 'Manoah said unto the angel of the LORD, I pray thee, let us detain thee, until we shall have made ready a kid for thee'. Of course it was his wife who saw the Angel on the first two occasions, and then she brings Manoah to see Him, and Manoah cherishes the Angel of the Lord's presence so much that he wants Him to stay, and he wants to make a meal for Him. Now we have every reason to believe that the Angel of the Lord here is a pre-incarnate form of our Lord Jesus, a Christophany. It was the Lord Jesus who is visiting the home here, the Lord Jesus is the expression of God often in the Old Testament, but in verse 22 - if you want proof of it - Manoah actually says: 'We have seen God'. He thought he was going to die, and in verse 18 he asks for a name of this Angel, and the Angel says: 'Why do you ask, seeing it is secret?'. But if you look at the margin of your Bible, you will see that it says: 'Seeing it is wonderful', and many believe, including myself, that this is actually a classification of the name of this Angel, 'Wonderful'. Isaiah 9 and verse 6 says: 'His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace' - this was Christ! Samson's parents cherished His presence, they wanted this Angel of the Lord to stay. Do you cherish the presence of Christ in your home?
Then fourthly, they had brought offerings and made sacrifices for the Lord, verses 16 and 19. The Lord Jesus wasn't going to sit at the same level, as it were, of these human beings in an ordinary human meal, but He encouraged them to make an offering to Jehovah - that's the only thing that He could receive. So they did it, they offered up sacrifices - can I ask you: do you, in your home, with your children, offer up spiritual sacrifices unto God? It used to be called the family altar, it probably presently doesn't exist - and I know it's hard.
Then fifthly we find out that they feared the Lord, verse 22. They had prayed for him, they sought divine guidance in his upbringing, they cherished Christ's presence in their home, they brought offerings and made sacrifices for the Lord, and they feared the Lord. 'We shall surely die', Manoah said, 'because we have seen God'. I don't know whether you agree with me or not, but I think perhaps the woman - Manoah's wife who is unnamed - perhaps was more spiritual than Manoah himself, because the Angel revealed Himself twice to her. Then when he thinks that the Lord is going to kill them in verse 22, she exclaims: 'Well, the Lord wouldn't receive a burnt offering and a meat offering at our hands, neither would he have showed us all these things, if He was going to kill us'. She was a wise woman, and often that's sadly the case in many Christian homes today - that it's the woman that has to keep the Christian testimony.
We must move on. I want to ask you, in the light of Samson having not only the best spiritual start he could have in life, he had the best family start, the best family background that anybody could want - but the question is: what did he do with it? Children, you're here this morning: what have you done with your home life? The family heritage, the parental example that you have been given through God's Spirit in your parent's life - what have you done with it? Even if you don't literally have Christian parents, I'm sure that there is some godly example that has been in your life: how have you reacted and related to it? Those that have prayed for you, sacrificed for you, tried to instruct you? Parents, have you done your best, with God's help? Now I know that many of you have, and many of your children are wayward today - but can I just say to you that the devil can use this as a great instrument of punishment in your mind and heart, by telling you that you must have done something wrong if your children are not following the Lord today. Can I say this: you could do everything that Samson's parents did, and more, and your children will still not necessarily follow the Lord. Do you hear that? It does not mean that they will go the right way, even if you do right by them.
Often we hear quoted Proverbs 22:6: 'Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it'. Can I tell you that the book of Proverbs is not a book of promises - it is not a book of promises! Now it's still God's word, it is a book of wisdom and a book of advice, that's why you sometimes get contradiction in it in the sense that on one occasion it tells you to answer a fool, and on another occasion it tells you not to - because different circumstances dictate different wisdom and different behaviour. What that proverb is saying is that you try and do your best for a child, and it will not forget it, but it doesn't necessarily mean that everything that you have taught them they will obey. My friend, in Ezekiel 18 - that's a good chapter for you to study if you're hammered by the devil regarding this - it says that 'the soul that sinneth, it shall die, and the father will not be punished for the sins of his son, nor the son for the father'. We go through the whole word of God and we find that good men had bad sons, and bad men had good sons. Sure the disciples, didn't they come to the Lord Jesus in John 9, and say about the blind man: 'Did this man sin or his parents, that he was born blind?' - and the Lord said: 'Listen, neither!'. Don't let the devil hammer you with that thing.
Now, I know that some people hammer their children with the Bible - and that's why their children are wayward, and I'm not espousing that. But what I am saying is: you're not responsible if you have done your best, and let me share a verse with you - and we have to be careful how we use a verse such as this. This is for both those who have wayward children and those who point the finger at those who have wayward children, Isaiah chapter 1 and verse 2 - note it down - listen: 'Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me'. God's children rebelled against Him!
What have we done with the family and the blessings that God has given to us? He was a child of promise in his miraculous birth and his many blessings, he had godly parents who prayed for him and sought guidance for him, who coveted God's presence in the home for him, and sacrificed for him - but then, I want you to see thirdly, he was set apart as holy. What a promising start he had, verses 4 to 7 tell us that he would be a Nazarite from his birth. Now 'Nazar' in Hebrew means 'to separate', and it simply means he would be a separated one, a holy one for God's special uses. Another word that we use in the New Testament for 'holy and separated' is 'sanctified'.
Now there were two types of Nazarites, there was the temporary Nazarite who put himself under this particular Nazarite vow, that I'll explain in a moment, just for a protracted period of time. Then there is a perpetual Nazarite, and there's only three of them in scripture, people who were Nazarites all their life. There is Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist in the New Testament. Now let me say that Jesus was not a Nazarite, people often think He was, He was a Nazarene - that designated where He came from, not a vow that He was under.
But this was a vow, the vow of a Nazarite, that you took upon yourself - but if you were a perpetual Nazarite, someone from birth to death, it was something that was by divine appointment, God had chosen it for you - and that's the case for Samson. The rules of the Nazarite were: one, his hair was to go uncut - that was a sign of the crown of divine royalty upon him. He was chosen of God, it was his outward testimony, that people would know what he was. Secondly he was to refrain from the fruit of the vine, no strong drink, and it wasn't just that he wasn't to get drunk - he wasn't to touch wine or grapes or raisins, and all of that signified luxury, for wine is the fruit of affluence, the best that this world can offer. It was to signify that he was not to live for the pleasures of the world, but the pleasures of God. Thirdly, he was not to contact with dead, forbidden things; dead bodies, and death in general he wasn't to touch. We know from the Old Testament that to touch a dead thing made you unfit for Tabernacle service, which was fellowship with God. That signified that this man, because he wasn't to go near dead things or touch them, he was to be in constant fellowship with the Lord. This was to be an extra special consecration, so much so that the Angel tells his mother that she is to obey these rules until the child is born.
Now what do these vows of Nazariteship mean? It means that this man was dedicated and consecrated completely to God. God's mark was on him. Separation to God also involves separation from something else, and that separation from something is sin. Now let me say it was perfectly acceptable, indeed advisable, for men to cut their hair in that day. It was perfectly OK for them to drink wine in that day, it was perfectly OK for them to touch even their own dead relatives, but to this man things that were acceptable for others became inappropriate for him, because he was God's man, he was a Nazarite. Now let me say this to you: Paul spoke to the Corinthians, and he called them saints, called saints by God; and he told them that they had to be separate, they had to be the temples of God's Holy Spirit, they were not their own, they were bought with a price - and, in fact, he says to them: 'All things are lawful to you, but not all things are helpful'. It all depends how high you want to go with God. You're not your own, Christian, you're set apart as holy, just like the Nazarite - though the rules are very, very different.
The fact of the matter is: here is where Samson's downfall came, he came as close to these forbidden things as he possibly could. We'll find this out as we go through our lessons each Sunday morning, but one instance was that he took the honey out of the carcass, another is that he wielded the jawbone of an ass, he even visited vineyards even though he never got drunk. He was continually sailing close to the wind. His weakness was: the vows he was under as the calling of the saint of God, he tried to throw the bondage from off his shoulders. He despised his heritage of birth, he was like Esau who sold his birthright.
Now here's the principle, please don't miss it, friends, this morning: Samson's setting apart as a Nazarite teaches us that strength comes from separation from the world. If you want spiritual strength - do you see it? Because when he lost his separation, and the sign of his separation was his long hair, and when it was shorn he lost his strength. Here's a thought that has been given to me over recent days: the last vow to go of the Nazarite vows in Samson's life, was that of his hair - that is the outward appearance. If he was walking down the street with his long hair, he could have been breaking the other two laws, drinking wine, touching dead things, and no one would have known - and they would point the finger and say: 'There's a Nazarite', but he was anything but! But then when his head was shorn, everybody could see that his consecration and his testimony was gone. What's your testimony like this morning? Are you in cahoots with the Philistines, with sensuality, with materialism, with the enemy? Paul says in Romans 13: 'Put away all those filthy works of the flesh, put them off, and put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ'.
He was set apart as holy, but fourthly and finally I want you to see that he had experienced the power of God's Holy Spirit. What a promising start he had: a child of promise, godly parents, and set apart as holy - and then he experiences God Spirit, verses 24 and 25: 'The woman bare a son, and called his name 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'. It's stated that four times the Spirit of God came upon Samson, that's more than any of the other Judges. While other Judges were said at times to be clothed with the Spirit of God, it's only said of Samson that 'the LORD blessed him'. Now that means that the hand of God was upon Samson in a special way, and the Lord demonstrated to his parents, as the Angel wondrously went up into heaven in that flame of fire upon the altar, they were showed by God in verse 19 the deep, deep power of God that would be coursing through the body of this servant of God, Samson.
Let me say this to you: we're not told that Samson was a giant, and we're not told that he had bulging biceps. In fact, I'm inclined to believe that he was just an ordinary 5'8", maybe even six-foot man - but he was no different than the rest of the crowd, except he was set apart for God, and that was the secret of his power. The secret of Samson's great strength was his Nazarite vow, and that Nazarite vow was symbolised by his unshorn hair - but the source of his strength was the Holy Spirit of God. But what I want you to see: such a promising start, a child of promise from birth and in the blessings, with godly parents and a godly upbringing, set apart from birth with these vows upon his life, come upon by the Holy Spirit on occasions, but when he lost his consecration he lost his power!
We saw in the life of Gideon at the very end, and wasn't the title something like - at least if it wasn't the title, the introduction was: 'It's not how you start, it's how you finish that matters'. We saw that it came to the end of Gideon's reign as Judge, and what did he do? We found that there was a great gulf between his public pronouncements and his private life. He had lost his power. I don't know how you feel at the end of a study like this morning's, but the way I feel is: I look into the face of Samson, the corpse, with his hair shorn, then grown again, and his eyes plucked out - and I say, 'Oh, Samson, oh Samson, what could have been!'.
Friends this morning, what would he have been if he had held his consecration? What would he have been if he continued in the place God had placed him and blessed him in? The other judges had military victory, Samson would not have. Samson would not overthrow completely the Philistines, he would not prevent complete defeat - he would accomplish a partial victory, he would begin to deliver the people. But he wasn't, at the end of his life, even though he killed more in his death than he did in his life, he couldn't look up like Paul the apostle to heaven and say: 'I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith'. Friends, it is a fact and an awful reality that many Christians, as they stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ, will stand there with the dismal prospect of being at home with the Lord's business unfinished on earth. For we shall all stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ, that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according that he hath done, either good or bad - and the two great predominant thoughts there are reward or regret.
What will it be for you, my friend? Such a promising start, all the blessings of God, maybe a godly upbringing, maybe you've set yourself aside for God as holy, to be used of Him. Maybe you've had great experiences of the Holy Spirit's usefulness in your life - but where are you now? I never ever fail to think of this poem when I talk about the Judgment Seat:
'He would have me rich, but I stand there poor,
Stripped of all but His grace.
And memory will run like a haunted thing
Down the years that I cannot retrace.
My penitent heart will well nigh break,
With tears that I cannot shed,
And I'll cover my face with my empty hands,
And bow my uncrowned head'.
Some of you have had a very promising start, some of you young people here today - but on that day of judgment, will we be left standing with uncrowned heads, with empty hands, heard to say to ourselves: 'Oh David, Oh David, what might have been?'.
Our Father, none of us are as we should be, or even what we could be - but Lord, we want, as we expressed in our hymn earlier, to be nearer, and we want that our consecration will be more definite, and more obvious, and that our separation would be greater...not isolation, but a holiness that in the midst of the world shows forth God's glory to those who are dark in sin and nature's night. That others would look upon us and see that we are set apart for God, but that the power would be manifest in our lives that attributes our separation unto God. Lord, if there are those who are sailing close to the wind, Lord we pray that You will make them aware of their great negligence and of their great loss on that awful day when the wood, the hay, and the stubble go up in smoke. Let none of us say: 'Oh, what could have been!', but let us use the promising start of our birth and our blessings, and the instruction we have been given wherever, and our sanctification in Christ, and the Holy Ghost who has been given to us as Your gift - may we use it all, that we may be able to say, 'I have fought a good fight'. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the twelfth recording in his 'Men For The Hour' series, entitled "Samson, The Promising Start" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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