As I said earlier, I may well minister to you from a couple more instances that we read about in the final chapters of this book, but essentially this is the end of our character studies - the title is: 'Samson, The Blind Visionary', or you could entitle it 'Samson's Last Stand'.
We'll read from verse 21 to the end of chapter 16: "But the Philistines took him", Samson, "and 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. Howbeit the hair of his head began to grow again after he was shaven. Then the lords of the Philistines gathered them together for to offer a great sacrifice unto Dagon their god, and to rejoice: for they said, Our god hath delivered Samson our enemy into our hand. And when the people saw him, they praised their god: for they said, Our god hath delivered into our hands our enemy, and the destroyer of our country, which slew many of us. And it came to pass, when their hearts were merry, that they said, Call for Samson, that he may make us sport. And they called for Samson out of the prison house; and he made them sport: and they set him between the pillars. And Samson said unto the lad that held him by the hand, Suffer me that I may feel the pillars whereupon the house standeth, that I may lean upon them. Now the house was full of men and women; and all the lords of the Philistines were there; and there were upon the roof about three thousand men and women, that beheld while Samson made sport. And Samson called unto the LORD, and said, O Lord God, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes. And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left. And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and 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. Then his brethren and all the house of his father came down, and took him, and brought him up, and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the buryingplace of Manoah his father. And he judged Israel twenty years".
'Samson, The Blind Visionary' - we have followed this man in his life and we have seen that, because of his sin, the light increasingly was being blotted out. A man whose name actually means 'Sun' or 'Little Sun', is now known for darkness - because of the lust of his eyes, his eyes have been put out. What we need to see this morning is that the loss of his eyes, the loss of his ministry and the loss of his witness, have driven him into a place where he is now going to rediscover the grace of God. If you like, through his loss, he is going to gain.
Isn't that what the Lord Jesus said in Matthew 10? 'He that loses his life for my sake shall find it'. In the blindness and in the prison, Samson is going to see things that he never saw with all of his lifetime of light and sight. He's going to see how he failed God, he's going to see the consequences of his unholy life, he's going to see what his life should have been in sanctified holiness and consecration unto the Lord. He's going to see on the one hand what his life of ungodliness has cost him and cost the nation, and the antithesis: what would have been and could have been, if he had been faithful unto God's call upon his life, and he had been obedient to His commands. With his blindness he will see with greater spiritual sight and focus than he ever did. In this prison he will have more freedom than he ever had in the days when he strode unafraid upon Philistine territory.
What is the lesson? It is simply this: at times God must abase us before He can exalt us. Many ask the question why that must be, and I don't claim to have all the answers - but I imagine, certainly from the lesson that we have before us, that one of the reasons that God must abase us before He can exalt us is that we will not willingly, of our own volition, humble ourselves in the sight of Almighty God. Because we won't do it, God cannot use us the way He wants to use us, so He has to do it. When God humbles a man or a woman, He does a good job of it.
What did he see in his blindness? Well, first of all I want to draw your attention to the fact that he saw the disastrous consequences of his compromise. Those disastrous consequences of compromise I have put into two sub-points which are these: he saw his humiliation, and then secondly he saw his capitulation. Proverbs 13 verse 15 says: 'The way of transgressors is hard'. Samson was finding out that for many years he thought he had gotten away with his sin, but all of a sudden in the end what he had sown all those years, he was now reaping - and what a whirlwind he had reaped. His transgressions had brought hardship, and this was how God was humbling him. The compromising of his consecration to God led, first of all, to humiliation.
It's very graphically outlined for us in the passage. We find that he was blinded. Blinding is often the way that our compromise humiliates us - his name meant 'Sun', yet he has no light at all any more; and that is a consequence, spiritually, of what happens to us when we compromise on our consecration to God, when we're not the holy Christian that we ought to be. Let me put it like this: if we are dabbling with sin, and like Samson we are stepping into enemy territory that God has forbidden, we'll not be able to appreciate spiritual things the way we should. We'll not be able to perceive, to focus as we ought on spiritual realities and truths. That's why, let me say to the church here, we should never ever pander and make decisions for people who are carnal and unspiritual, because they don't appreciate spiritual things. Now I'm not claiming to be high and mighty above everybody else, far from it - but God's word is clear that the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God, they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned. I know we often apply that to the unconverted, but don't forget that Paul was also writing to many carnal Christians who were fleshly, just like Samson.
Samson had become blind to the effects of sin and compromise in his life - and my friend, the same will happen to you and to me if we compromise upon our consecration. Not only is there blinding, there is a binding effect when we compromise. You see, Samson reasoned in his heart and mind that he was choosing freedom rather than the binding restrictions of God's law and vows, isn't that right? That's often the way we think today. When we usurp ourselves against the authority of God, and decide to transgress His laws and choose our own way, we feel that we are choosing the way of freedom, the way of self-expression, the way of liberty. But the fact of the matter is, we see that the truth is the opposite - that is the lie of the devil. He has come to steal, to kill and destroy - Christ came that we should have life. Young person dabbling in sin, don't believe the lie of the devil that you are free, that you're enjoying liberty and satisfaction.
The problem came to Samson that the ropes that he once snapped like burning threads, became a bondage upon him that had overcome him. Years ago he could have broke away from them, but now not only was he blinded, he was bound. The blinding and the binding effects of sin and compromise in the life! It will happen to you - I know you think you've got your sin and compromise under control, you're controlling it; but my friend, it will not be long until it's controlling you and everything will be out of control.
Then there was not only blinding and binding, but there was grinding. We find that he was a slave grinding in the prison house - verse 21 - what does that tell us? Well, Samson's will was no longer his own, he was serving the enemy. That is what happens when we compromise with sin, even as Christians. We begin to serve the devil rather than serving God, and we need to realise that as Christians, even, we are not free agents. 'Ye are not your own', the Bible says, 'Ye are bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body'. If you're not a slave to sin, you're a servant of God. If you're a servant of God who is wanting to throw off the yoke of God's authority and Lordship in your life, you're in danger of becoming a slave of the enemy - grinding as one of his clowns.
He did become a clown of the enemy, because there was blinding and binding and grinding, and then there was scorning. They poked fun in their drunken orgy. They said: 'Get Samson out, and we'll have a good laugh! Let's have some fun!'. The word for 'sport' is just an old word for 'entertain'. 'Let's ridicule him and scorn him!', who knows what they did to this once giant and conqueror of God. Compromise with sin had made him the clown of the enemy that the world would laugh at. The Psalmist said something similar when he said in Psalm 31: 'My strength faileth because of mine iniquity, and my bones are consumed. I was a reproach among all mine enemies, but especially among my neighbours'. This is what can happen, even when a child of God compromises with sin - the world can ridicule and laugh and scorn at us!
Maybe you're sitting there thinking: 'But I don't understand, why would God allow one of His children, one of His prestigious servants, to go through all this humiliation?'. I wonder am I speaking to someone in our gathering, and you're experiencing just this? You're a Christian who is compromising your consecration, and you're finding the way hard. Do you know why you're finding it hard? Because God is making it hard for you! Let me read you some words from Hebrews 12: 'Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?'. If you're having a hard time when you're compromising, the reason it's hard is because God is making it hard - and He'll make it more hard, because He loves you if you're truly His son. The writer goes on to say how fathers in the flesh do the same for us, they rebuke and discipline and chasten us after their own pleasure. They do it for our profit - how much more profit does God do it for in our lives, to bring forth righteousness? He ends this passage by saying in verse 12: 'Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees'. Realise that the weakness that God, perhaps, is allowing in your life, is because He loves you and because He wants to bring you out of that compromise to a place of victory.
He saw the disastrous consequences of compromise in humiliation and then capitulation - what does that mean? How often have you heard it said by non-Christians - I hear it more than enough - 'When I sin, I'm not harming anybody, only myself'? That is another lie of the devil. Paul said, in a different context somewhat: 'For none of us liveth unto himself'. We live unto God, but we also have responsibilities to those around us - as John Donne, the poet, said: 'No man is an island'. Our sin often affects others, even when we think it's just affecting ourselves. We see it in Samson's life: his sin affected his parents, his disobedience in marriage. His anger affected his wife and his father-in-law - they were both burnt by the Philistines. His sin affected the whole nation, he would only begin to deliver the nation from the Philistines, he wouldn't leave them with a finished work.
What we often fail to appreciate is how our compromise inhibits the cause of Christ. It is effectively capitulation with the enemy against the cause of the Gospel - it advances the enemy's cause! Now I want you to think about this for a moment: you remember the scissors that were used by the Philistines to cut off Samson's hair as he was resting on the lap of a compromised situation in Delilah's house. Did you ever ask yourself the question, why they didn't just slit his throat with the scissors? Why didn't they just finish him off? What if he was lying again, as it were, and misleading her, and it wasn't through his hair that his strength came? Do you know what that tells me? The devil sometimes has more use for a backslider than he has for a dead Christian. What possible use could he have for a backslider? Capitulation - to bring God's cause into disrepute, to inhibit the cause of Christ, and to advance his own.
This was seen in verse 23, his compromise was used as ammunition for the enemy. They said: 'Let's have a party and praise our god, Dagon, for he has delivered us from the hand of Samson'. They gave praise to their god - and I think of all the pains Samson had to endure, none was so hard to bear as the blasphemy of his own God, Jehovah, and the realisation that it was his compromise that caused it. Our compromise causes capitulation in giving ammunition to our enemy.
Then secondly, in verse 24, we found out that the capitulation, in a similar light, gives vindication to their claims - what do I mean? Well, Proverbs 14 and verse 12 says: 'There is a way which seemeth right unto a man', and these Philistines believed that Dagon was their god, and that their god would answer their prayers. They have become entrenched in that belief by the compromise of a child of God. It gave, it would seem, vindication for their claim that their god Dagon was greater than Jehovah, the God of Israel. Do we entrench others in their godless lifestyles because of our backsliding? Oh my friends, I hear as often as the statements of the unsaved that I mentioned to you, this statement on their lips about the converted: 'If that is what a Christian is' - you listen now, because people say it about some of you - 'If this is what a Christian is, I want none of it'.
You see they're good people in a human sense, I know they're depraved and all the rest, but they're good people - they're upstanding in the community. They pay a hundred pence to the pound, and when the believer doesn't - and many of them don't - they can see through it! False Christians confirm these sinners in their false ways. As a preacher who I heard lately, asked the question: 'As Christians, are we selling ourselves for more than we're worth?'. What does that mean? We're making the claims, telling people all about this Christian life, we're selling it - but we're not worth what we're selling it for! Our lives don't measure up to it, and therefore they see that - they're not stupid - and they conclude that the whole thing is empty, and their way is superior, or at least equal to ours.
This is what happened: Samson's compromise gave vindication to their claims and their God. Now, praise God that God mercifully takes care of His wandering children to such an extent that He doesn't give us an easy time of it. It was as Samson saw his life from the perspective of this prison, when his sight, humanly and naturally speaking, was taken from him, he began to see spiritual truths that he had never seen before in all his carnal exploits for God. His life took a monumental turn, because finally he grasped the truth that is right throughout the whole of the book of the Judges, and specifically in these character studies - what is it? That God must give us His strength if we are to overcome the world and to overcome the enemy - the strength will not be your own, it must be God's. Samson the strongman never saw it before.
So I want you to see not only that he saw the disastrous consequences of his compromise, but he also saw the restorative influence of God's grace. There he is, sitting in that prison cell, and I'll tell you: if any man or woman in history could have felt justified in thinking that they were beyond redemption, they were beyond God's forgiveness and restoration in their life, it was Samson. He appeared to have fallen so far, disgraced himself so completely, that no possibility was there of redeeming service for the Lord. You remember, I told you in our last study, about his private indiscretions that disqualified him for the power of God being upon his life, and led to public disgrace that we're looking at this morning. We meet so many, and they describe and express the same thing from their heart, that they view with tearful nostalgia some past indiscretion, some sin, some iniquity, and they just feel that they'll never be able to rise again over it and do something for God.
Samson found that, praise the Lord, in that prison cell, after all that humiliation and stripping of worldly strength, that God Jehovah, the God of Israel, is the God of the failure. He was the God of David, wasn't He? David, who committed adultery, who murdered, who numbered people, and sinned in indulging his family at times. He was the God of Peter, who denied the Lord Jesus Christ with oaths and curses. He's the God of Samson, and He's your God, my friend! I'm not excusing any sin, but I wonder has God got you in a place like the prison that Samson was in, and He's blinded you for some reason, He has hemmed you into a corner. Oh that you would discover like the poet, when he said:
'The night can bring no darker thought
Than that within the failure wrought
Who wreathes of family, friend and name
With emblems of some public shame
Would cause to wonder if could be
One such could e'er forgiveness see.
Now hear the word direct and true:
I'm Saviour of the failure too!
Then quit the place of dark remorse
To find in Christ life's future course'.
First John 1 verse 9: 'If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness'. We go to Hebrews chapter 11, the hall of faith, and someone has said God's 'Hall of Faith' could equally well be entitled 'God's Hall of Reclaimed Failures'. There's hardly one mentioned who didn't have a serious blemish on their life! That is the great principle of God's grace: what is it? The spiritually successful is not the person who never fails, it's the person who learns to accept God's remedy for their failure - and that is the blood of Jesus.
I know we're to go away and sin no more, but praise God there is restoration - and Samson found it out. In his time of reflection in prison here is what he did, look at verse 22, it says: 'His hair began to grow' - do you know what that speaks to me of? Repentance. His hair began to grow - the verse is not concerned so much with what was happening naturally on Samson's head, rather it is focusing on what was going on supernaturally in his relationship with God. The hair was his crown of consecration, it was beginning to grow - and as Samson's repentance grew, his locks of hair grew. Old Spurgeon said on one occasion: 'The Philistines should have sent a barber into that prison cell everyday to keep him shorn'. After his penitence came God's omnipotence through his life.
Do you find yourself in one of the disastrous consequences, or all of them, of your compromise? Are you in that prison cell? Are you feeling that God could never ever do anything through you again? Well, what you need to do is repent like Samson, you need to agree with God concerning your sin, and you need to be willing to turn from it and forsake it for ever. You need to confess sin, if it is public, to others who you have sinned against. Put everything right as far as you possibly can on a human level, and your hair of consecration will grow again.
Then we read in verse 28 that Samson called upon the Lord. He saw the restorative influence of God's grace in repentance and now in fellowship. Samson called upon the Lord. You remember it was said of one in the New Testament: 'Behold, he prayeth!' - and the sign that his relationship had been restored with God was that he opens his mouth. Now he hadn't been praying very many days, and for a long time we saw he hadn't prayed at all. This was only the second time we find him praying at all in the narrative of his life, but the fact of the matter is: God heard and answered his prayer, and that was a sign, surely, that he was in fellowship with the Lord. Things had been put right! The Psalmist says in Psalm 66: 'If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me: But verily God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer'.
Do you see what his prayer was in verse 28? 'Only this once, Lord, strengthen me only this once' - someone has said: how many times did Samson say that when he was in a heated, tempting situation? 'Lord, I'll only commit this sin once' - but now he's been turned by God's grace to come to God and be willing to lay down his life, and die in self for God. How's your fellowship with the Lord? What is it? It is the realisation of the abiding presence of Christ in your life and experience, and it's a developing and a deepening of your love for Him and His love for you. I'll tell you this: that is the key to going on with God - fellowship. I'm not talking about fellowship with God's people, though that is important and you'll not go on with God without that. I'm talking about private communion with the Lord. It's not just separation from the world - people talk about consecration as not being worldly, and that's one half of it - but it's consecration to the Lord! Separated from the world, but separated to the Lord. If you're just separated from the world, Christian, you're a Pharisee. To be holy you must be separated unto the Lord, and that's fellowship.
Thirdly - there was repentance, fellowship - and the third thing he saw that was an influence of God's restorative grace is found in verse 28: 'Remember me, strengthen me', he prayed. It was a dependence on the Lord. He had got to the place of humility, where he had a sense of his inadequacy: true humility before the Lord. He was running around the Philistine territory thinking he was the man, he was the man for the hour, he was strong, he could defeat the enemy - and God had to bring him to a place where he's saying, 'Remember me, strengthen me'. He's ready to accept death, rather than live his days in defeat - and that, at this moment, is what makes him great. He's willing to squander his whole life for one moment where he knows that he's nothing without God!
Do you have dependence on God? This is the difference between Samson and so many modern-day Christians. He had repented of sin - you might think you just do that when you're saved, but you've got to do that every day, taking up your cross and following Christ. He had fellowship with the Lord, that's not something you do on a Sunday where you're sitting in your nice fancy suit, and with your hat on your head - that's something you do every day, every day. He had dependence on the Lord. My friend, listen: he knew that throughout his life he'd been depending on the flesh, and now he realised that if God was going to do something it was going to be all of God and nothing of him. Here's the difference between him and us: even at the end of a compromised and shameful existence, he was willing to do something about it!
Repentance led to fellowship, led to dependence, and then it lead to action. We read in verse 29 that Samson took hold, and then we read in verse 30 that he bowed himself with all his might. Those are action words, taking hold, bowing down with all his might! What was the remedy to Samson's compromised situation? It was resolution, action - after repentance, of course, and fellowship and dependence - it was doing something! Where are you this morning? Wait till I tell you something: if you think I'm talking to people who have gone out with guns and shot folk, or people who are presently stealing, or dabbling in immorality like Samson - you've got it all wrong. I'm talking to everybody, because all of us compromise in our mind and in our heart, and with our tongue and in all sorts of actions, every day of our lives. We all need to repent daily, and that is the conduit of God's blessing that comes via consecration - when we repent, and fellowship, and throw ourselves completely on God for dependence, and do the will of God.
If ever there was a day when we need to be doing God's will, it's today my friend! This series is called 'Men for the Hour', and we live in the same day where every man does that which is right in his own eyes. We live in a promiscuous society, a compromised spiritual group of God's people, and we need to get up and repent, and fellowship, and get dependent on our God again, and do something! So much inaction, so much apathy! In World War II Sir Winston Churchill was heard to say: 'This is your imperial hour, whatever you do, do it now!'. That's what Samson realised: 'If I am ever going to do anything for God again, I need to do it now. I need to seize the day!'. Maybe you're sitting here this morning, and you're at the end of a wasted life: wasted on material possessions, wasted on selfish ambition, wasted on fleshly lusts. Perhaps you're just resigned to that wasted life, you think: 'It's too late, I can't do anything about it'. My friend, Samson this morning tells you: 'No! It's not too late! Do something now with what you have left of your life!'. Redeem the time, Paul said. We sang:
'I would the precious time redeem,
And longer live for this alone,
To spend and to be spent for them
Who have not yet my Saviour known'.
Solomon said: 'The end of a matter is better than the beginning'. My friend, the end of your life could be left with the epitaph that you've done more, almost, at your death than you did throughout your life because of the restorative influence of the grace of God upon you - even in spite of your compromising. It is reputed that Napoleon was once asked: 'How did you have so many victories in your life?'. Listen to his answer, because there's a twofold truth in it. He said first of all: 'I never hesitated'. Then secondly, listen to this, he said: 'There was always time for a victory before the sun went down'.
Is your sun going down? I'm telling you there's time for a victory. There is time for a victory in your life, and whilst I know Samson's victory was a hollow one in terms of a holy life, at least he had victory at the end. Most of Samson's years were tragic, yet God seemingly chose to remember the moments of faith and penitence. If I had been writing his story, I would have written him off as a failure and an abject sinner - but God remembers him because of his faith in Hebrews 11:32. There are places throughout Philistia, and throughout God's land - Timnath, Ashkelon, Gaza, Hebron - and they're all known because of the exploits that Samson did for God. I know he had a sinful life, but is there any place in this province or in your years that are marked because of your spiritual exploits? This man was God's man for the hour, God's champion to such an extent that many believe that when the Philistines later on in their history presented Goliath before Israel, that it was their version, they were fielding their long sought answer to God's man Samson. He was great, and I know his life was a mess, but at least he had some great victories for the Lord! He had some - I'm asking you: have you got any? What have you done for God? What are you going to do for God in the time that's left?
Let me finish with this story: during the American Civil War, the news spread that General Grant had been drunk at the battle of Shiloh. About 11 o'clock one night, President Lincoln received his friend A.K. McClure, and McClure was on a mission - he was a spokesman for a number of the Republican army. He pressed his argument for almost two hours, on how unpopular Grant was with the men on the ground, and therefore Grant should be removed and dismissed so that Lincoln, the President, would retain the country's confidence and the confidence of the armies. Throughout McClure's tirade, Lincoln didn't say a word, he didn't interrupt. Then, as McClure himself reports it, and I quote to you: 'Lincoln remained silent for what seemed a very long time. Then he gathered himself up in the chair and said in a tone of earnestness that I shall never forget: 'I can't spare this man. He fights!''.
The only time Samson was really strong was when he was fighting for God, and God honoured him because, unlike the other Israelites, he didn't roll over and play dead in the warmth of the status quo. He allowed himself in whatever measure, and especially at the end, to become a man for the hour. The question this morning is: will you be that man? Will you be that woman?
Let's all bow our heads. One day in the 1800s, a minister by the name of Rev Moore, from the pulpit addressed the congregation and said: 'Do something more for God'. Four young men met together in a little cottage in Kells, and prayed down God's blessing in revival that came in 1859. Do something more for God!
Lord, help us to forget those things that are behind. We know that we'll be disqualified from certain things when we do certain things, and we can't undo the past, and there are ramifications as we've seen in Samson's life. He wouldn't have been there if it hadn't been for his sin. Yet in the end, Lord, You allowed him to go out with a measure of dignity, with the time that was left, redeeming it to the glory of God. Lord, hear us, grant us Spirit-wrought repentance, fellowship, dependence and action as we all seek to do something more for the Master. Help us to be men and women for the hour. 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 sixteenth recording in his 'Men For The Hour' series, entitled "Samson, The Blind Visionary" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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