The Philistines: Type of Carnal Religion
"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." (Judges 13: 1-5.)
How to Overcome Carnal Religion
Who were these Philistines that held Israel in such bondage and brought them into such misery and poverty? And what do they represent? They sprang from Egypt, Gen. 10: 13, 14, but though they had left Egypt behind and got into the land which God had promised to His people, they had not taken His way into it; their way had been an easy and short cut by which they escaped the Red Sea and River Jordan. These things that prefigured deliverance and blessing by the death and resurrection of Christ had no place in their history. They were in the land of God's people, but they had not travelled into it by the God-ordained way, Exodus 13: 17. Really they had no right in the land at all, for God had apportioned it to Israel, Deut. 32: 8, 9. They are figurative of secularized Christianity, religion made acceptable to unregenerate men. Ritualism and Modernism are some of the Philistines of our day; they are really pagan superstitions and philosophies that have invaded the sphere of faith and made it like a great house of mixed vessels, 2 Tim. 2; and they are sorely oppressing the true Israel of God. They draw near to God with the lips, but are scornful of that heart exercise and spiritual life that have marked the revivals of former days. They claim to be children of God, but they have no title to that relationship, for they have not received God's only begotten Son by faith, and have not been born again, John 1: 12, 13. They have the form of godliness, but deny the power.
A remarkable feature.
One remarkable feature in the history of these Philistines was their anxiety to obtain and spoil the most sacred and precious possessions of God's people. I pass over the fact that both Abraham and Isaac were in danger of being robbed of their wives by them, Gen. 20: 26, for these incidents arose from their own cowardice and want of faith in God; but chapter 21 tells us that they violently took away one of Abraham's wells, and chapter 26 tells us that they filled up with earth the wells of water that Abraham digged. They did it because they envied Isaac; it was spiteful and wanton work. Then when Isaac digged other wells they claimed them and strove for them. These wells were essential to the life of the patriarchs and their households, and John 4 and 7 give us the right to interpret them as figuring the Holy Spirit which is given to us, and which is indispensable to the life of God's people now. But what place is there in the carnal religion of our day for the Holy Spirit? Where the superstitions of the ritualists, and the blasphemous criticism and scientific doubt of the modernists prevail, He is a grieved and a quenched Spirit, the wells are filled with earth; nor has the Spirit any place in dead formality, which while boasting in the correctness of its creed has neither faith nor fervour. They seized also the ark of the covenant, Sam. 5, and were in the land of promise as though it was their own, and Joel 3: 5 says of them, "Ye have taken my silver and gold, and have carried into your temples my goodly and pleasant things."
The counterpart of this is seen in our day in the fact that men who have not entered the kingdom of God by being born again, but are in it by profession only, are now accepted leaders and teachers in it, and have tacked on to their own philosophical fables the name of Christ, and taken the goodly and pleasant things of our holy faith and attached them to man as he is in his fallen nature, as though there was no necessity for regeneration and redemption, and a new creation in Christ Jesus.
The five lords of the Philistines.
The Philistines were ruled by five lords, Joshua 13: 3; Judges 3: 3; and this modern religion is ruled by five lords also, for it is governed by the five senses. Its devotees are controlled by what is natural, and all outside the range of the senses is more or less denied. It is nothing to them that the Scripture saith, "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned," 1 Cor. 2: 14. The natural man is all they are concerned about, for they know no other, and they fulfil this very word by rejecting all that is miraculous in the Word. The incarnation, sacrificial death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus are denied and ridiculed, and His miracles are explained away. Everything that would offend a world that has crucified the Lord of glory, or that the natural man cannot understand or see or feel, is rejected.
It is a remarkable thing that though these people only possessed a very small strip of the land of Canaan, it has taken its name from them, for Palestine means the land of the Philistines, but this name is only given to it in Scripture when the judgment of it is foretold, Ex. 15: 14; Isa. 14: 29, 31; Joel 3: 4. They came into prominence first in Gen. 21, where they violently robbed Abraham of a well of water, and they were Israel's most persistent foes throughout their history in the land; there is more about them in the Old Testament than any other nation but Israel, and the last mention of them in Scripture is, "I will cut off the pride of the Philistines," Zech. 9: 6. Of the condition of things that is the antitype of them in our day, the Lord has said, "I will spue thee out of My mouth." In the Laodicean Church we see the Philistines in full force.
Rationalism and Ritualism both make their appeal to the natural man who is glad to have his mind inflated and his feelings moved, and they both obscure Christ; indeed He has no place in either. Many a true-hearted disciple entangled in these things and seeing no door of deliverance from them, must be crying out like Mary by the empty sepulchre, "They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him." What can be done?
But is it possible for true Christians to be affected and influenced by that which is so evidently not of God? It is. Christians are often carried away by the plausibility of efforts and teachings which profess to have the uplifting of men in view, when fulcrum and lever of such upliftings are not of God but of men. It is also easy to mistake natural sentiment for true spiritual feeling, and there is the tendency with all to lean on our own understanding instead of the wisdom of God's Spirit. We need to be well grounded in the solemn truth that - "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them," 1 Cor. 2: 14. The gospel is not of, or from men, yet there is nothing else in heaven or earth that can bless them. It is only in the gospel of God's grace that the forgiveness of sins is offered to men. It is divine and from God. It is by the Spirit of God alone that its glories are known, and only those who have received the Spirit can appreciate them.
The Philistines were the most inveterate of all the foes of Israel and held them in bondage during a longer period than any other, and as Israel got weaker in faith their power became greater; nor were they finally overthrown until the supremacy of David - type of Christ in the victory of resurrection - was an established fact in the land.
In dealing with the deliverance from these people we find at the outset one very remarkable feature. The Israelites in this instance did not raise the cry for deliverance as on former occasions. They seem to have accepted the yoke and become contented with their lot. This became very evident when Samson began to deliver them, for they chided him, saying: "Knowest thou not that the Philistines are rulers over us? what is this that thou hast done unto us?" and they were so completely out of sympathy with all his efforts, that they bound him with cords and brought him to his foes.
Here we have a sad picture of what exists in the present day: the Church has bowed to the domination of these modem Philistines, and, alas! many who are really and truly God's people seem contented to have it so. We may be sure that this state of things does not satisfy our righteous Lord, nor will it satisfy those who are truly exercised in heart as to what is for His glory.
It is no small comfort to find, however, that if Israel were indifferent to their own condition the Lord was not, and He set about to deliver them in His own way. The angel of the Lord appeared unto the wife of Manoah, a Danite. She was not the one that men would have chosen. Even her name is not given, and she was a barren woman - a reproach amongst the people of Israel and despised in the eyes of the daughters. But this nameless and despised woman of the meanest of Israel's tribes was the vessel chosen of God, through whom He could work out His own will. Thus we see the great truth emphasized, that His ways are not the ways of men. "I am rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing," is the vaunting language of secularized Christianity, which walks in the fitful gleam of its own dim light. But "God hath chosen the foolish things of the world . . . and things which are despised hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are; that no flesh should glory in His presence," 1 Cor. 1: 27-29.
"Behold thou art barren and bearest not; but thou shalt conceive and bear a son," was the message from God to the woman, and this message she received in simple and unquestioning faith. Her weakness and reproach are made to stand out boldly, so that it might be manifest that this deliverance was to come from God, and not by the power of man. It was out of weakness, barrenness, and death that God was to bring strength and victory.
But if weakness and reproach marked the woman in the eyes of men, she had perfect and unquestioning faith in God's gracious intentions towards her, and this must have been most precious and acceptable in His sight. Then she was the wife of Manoah, whose name means "rest." Confidence in God and rest of heart are as one; they are securely wedded together, and cannot be divorced.
That confidence in God produces rest of heart was strikingly illustrated in the Apostle Paul. The form of godliness without the power existed in his day, and great havoc was being made by false teachers amongst those for whom he had laboured so zealously. And yet he was not dismayed or ashamed, for he knew whom he had believed; his trust was in the true David, even Jesus, who had been raised from the dead. So that, while he presents the departure of many from the truth, he is full of rest as to it all.
"Remember," he wrote to his son Timothy, "Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, raised from the dead according to my gospel."
If we put side by side his confidence of heart and the things that might have distracted him, as given in the second letter to Timothy, we shall see what resources and strength he had in Jesus Christ.
- Chapter 1
- "This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me."
- "Nevertheless I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed."
- Chapter 2
- "Their word will eat as doth a canker: who concerning the truth have erred; and overthrow the faith of some."
- "Nevertheless, the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His."
- Chapter 3.
- "Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived."
- "But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness."
- Chapter 4
- "At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me."
- "Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me."
The great essential.
The outstanding feature in the one who was to overthrow the power of the Philistine was Nazariteship. Twice over in the announcement to Manoah's wife the angel of the Lord stated: the child shall be a Nazarite unto God. Now a Nazarite had to be separate from certain things; but more important than all this was what he was separated to. He was to be "unto the Lord," a devoted vessel for the service of God.
He was marked by abstinence from the fruit of the vine, he had to be separate from that which would defile, and his hair had to remain unshorn. These three things we shall also find are made very prominent in Paul's second letter to Timothy.
- The fruit of the vine is typical, doubtless, of the joys of the natural life, and the Nazarite of to-day will pay heed to the exhortation: "Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please Him who hath chosen him to be a soldier," 2 Tim. 2: 3, 4.
- Separation from defilement is most needful, and the man of God is instructed thereto: "Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. . . . If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every good work. Flee also youthful lusts." Verses 19-22.
- The unshorn head was evidently a sign of dependence - of weakness clinging to strength. Long hair is the woman's glory; it is the mark of her dependence as the weaker vessel upon man. This is the place in which God has put her, and true glory is the perfect filling of the place in which one is set. But of the man it is said: "Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God." 1 Cor. 11: 7-15. The man's place was to lead; he was made lord of this creation; others were to depend upon him, but he was to rely only upon God. Alas! in the fall he sought to be independent of God; thence all the sorrow and woe and death.
- Nazariteship - Devotion to the Lord.
- The Rock - The knowledge of perfect stability of all God's purposes in Christ risen from the dead.
- The well of water - Dependence on the Spirit of God for refreshment of soul and power for service.
The hair of women is one of the characteristics of those terrible scorpions which will torment men during the period of judgment spoken of in Rev. 9: 7, 8. They are said to have on their heads crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men, and they had hair as the hair of women. Their first appearance is grand and imposing; they seem to be powerful and independent; but behind all this it is evident that they owe their strength to someone else: they were dependent upon Apollyon the Destroyer. Verse 11. The face of the true Nazarite had to be the face of a man: he had to be courageous and unflinching in the presence of the enemy, but he had also to wear the long hair, as the hair of women, for his whole power lay in dependence upon God. This had to be the most prominent of all the features that marked him, even though it became a shame to him in the eyes of others: and if this was lost he became as weak as other men. The Apostle Paul was a true Nazarite when he wrote: "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. . . . For when I am weak, then am I strong." He had learnt that complete dependence meant true power, for the Lord had said to him: "My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness." 2 Cor. 12: 9, 10. This is surely the spiritual teaching for us of the unshorn locks of the Nazarite.
This weakness clinging to the strength of the Lord is clearly seen in 2 Timothy: "Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." 2: 1. "Out of them all the Lord delivered me." 3: 11." The Lord stood with me." 4: 17.
The Lord Jesus our perfect example.
The Lord Jesus was the true Nazarite, wholly devoted to God. He was never hindered in His willing service by the comforts and joys which belong to this life. He had no shelter but a shed and no cradle but a manger when He came into the world. The foxes had their holes and the birds of the air their nests, but He had neither home nor resting place on earth. He always refused to be influenced by those who would have chosen for Him an easier, and in their eyes more natural path.
He walked spotless and undefiled through the world: sore temptations constantly beset Him, but He was never ensnared; the sinful things that attracted other men had no charm for Him. He was ever and wholly separate from sinners, and wholly consecrated to the will of God.
Then, lastly, He was ever the absolutely dependent One. His language was: "He wakeneth morning by morning: He wakeneth My ear to hear as the learner." In all He did and said He was instructed by His Father, whose will He came to do day by day. This will was accomplished; no more, no less. His meat was to do His Father's will. He had no motive for living except His Father's glory, and all through His earthly life He was completely and altogether dependent upon God, so that He could say: "I was cast upon Thee from the womb." There is in Him sufficient grace to enable us to walk in His steps, and as we do so the victorious life of Nazariteship will be ours.
Nazariteship was Samson's strength.
As long as he maintained this inviolate he was a suited vessel for the power of God, and in the first freshness and strength of this he is a faint foreshadowing of Christ and His work.
Bear in mind that Samson came into the world for the express purpose of overthrowing the Philistines and thus setting God's people free; and, seeing that this was his mission, it is not surprising that a young lion - typical of Satan's power - roared against him.
But Samson was more than a match for the lion, and rent it as one would rend a kid. In like manner all the powers of darkness gathered against the Lord Jesus Christ, for He came to expose all that was false and to establish all that was true. But, in death He gained the victory; by dying He overthrew the foe; and, just as the carcass of Samson's lion yielded meat and sweetness, so the death of Jesus yields life and nourishment for the soul, and true joy for the heart. We see the reality and faithfulness of divine love displayed in that great conflict and victory, and we owe our every blessing to it.
The honey was in his hand (verse 9).
The hand that smote the lion held the honey, and Samson shared it, the remarkable fruit of his victory, with his parents, as they walked in company with him.
The great anti-type of this should yield abundant joy to us. All blessing is held in the mighty hand that smote the power of death, and it is the delight of our Lord Jesus Christ to dispense to us of that which He holds so securely.
Some in the vanity of their imaginations would have us believe that salvation, and indeed every blessing, has been deposited in the Church for us, and that we can neither know nor realize these things apart from it. Alas, for us, if this were so; for the Church as a responsible vessel of testimony here has utterly failed, for it has joined hands with the world that refused the Lord. But Christ can never fail: He has risen up victoriously above all the ruin and wreck which sin and death have made, and all the promises of God are "yea and amen" in Him, and as we cleave to Him we shall have our hearts nourished and made glad by the sweet fruits of His death.
The Philistines who came to the wedding feast, and were only nominally attached to Samson, did not taste the honey from the lion's carcass, and the whole matter was nothing more than a riddle to them. These Philistines represent those to whom reference has already been made, who are professors without possession, who have accepted the form of Christianity without the power. To all such the truth of God is but so many doctrines to be discussed and riddles to be solved: for "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." 2 Cor. 2: 14. There is nothing in the death of Christ that appeals to such; they cannot understand blessing coming out of death; they cannot see how meat can come forth from the eater, or sweetness from the strong one. "Christ crucified, is unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness." 1 Cor. 1: 23.
But that which is a perfect enigma to unrenewed men, be they religious or wise, is to us who are saved the power and the wisdom of God. The mighty eater - death - has been made to yield us meat, and out of the strong one has come forth sweetness; for the full glory of God's all-conquering and unchanging love has shone forth in the death of Jesus. God's wisdom and power were there seen in all their greatness, and the souls of those who see these things are saved and satisfied. Too much emphasis cannot be laid upon this, for it is only as we are living in the reality of these things that we shall overcome the Philistines; there is always the danger, even with those who are truly converted, of occupation with doctrine only. We must have correct doctrine and hold fast the form of sound words, but we must know what is at the back of the words and what the realities are which the doctrines express. Many are wasting time in seeking to elucidate knotty questions and discussing dogmas, and all the while losing the sweet honey that may be enjoyed in company with the Lord. This riddle-solving is dry and unprofitable work; that we may feast upon the honey is the Lord's desire for us.
The Philistine's Intention.
The next important event in Samson's history was the attempt of the Philistines to make him a prisoner. They found that he would make no compromise with them. He was an open and determined foe, so they "went up, and pitched in Judah, and spread themselves in Lehi. And the men of Judah said, Why are ye come up against us? And they answered, To bind Samson are we come up." ch. 15: 9-10. To bind the Nazarite and thus render him helpless was their object. Satan works to-day upon similar lines; and the existing lifeless counterfeit of true Christianity shows only too plainly how successful he has been.
It is distressing to see that the men of Judah put themselves in league with the Philistines in this purpose: they had no desire to be free from their yoke: they looked upon Samson as a disturber of their peace and chided him, saying: "Knowest thou not that the Philistines are rulers over us. What is this that thou hast done unto us?" But is not this also the tendency of the day? If any man raises a voice of warning against the evil doctrines or worldly practices that abound, he is looked upon as a disturber, his mouth must be closed, he must be bound and curbed. He will be told that it is wrong to go to extremes; that moderation is the great desideratum. But, judged by that standard, a lukewarm temperature is justified, and fire stands condemned, for it is extremely hot. But what saith the Lord? "I know thy works, that thou are neither cold nor hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth." Rev. 3: 15, 16.
Christians, we need to awake to righteousness. We need to be stirred up and filled with a fervour of devotion to Christ, that will consume every new cord with which an indifferent profession would bind us, so that unfettered we may earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints, and so remain true to our Lord.
The place of power.
But Samson dwelt in the top of the rock Etam. It is true that he allowed his brethren to bind him for a time, but when the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, their fetters perished as flax in the fire, and with the jawbone of an ass he slew a thousand men. The top of the rock is evidently the place from whence to get the victory. It stands for stability and strength; that which is immovable, and upon which the storms must beat in vain. Our Lord has become a rock to us. He has laid a foundation broad and deep, and no assault or storm can shake that foundation. He who builds thereon is safe for ever. The rock is Himself. All the thoughts and intentions of God are secured in Him, as the One raised up from the dead who hath abolished death, and brought life and incorruptibility to light through the gospel.
If we would be victorious we must cleave closely to Him in this blessed character: and so shall we be preserved from depression and defeat. Moreover, it is only as we prove the reality of His power and grace that we are kept free of that which is but an empty counterfeit: and knowing whom we have believed are confident that the foundation of God standeth sure in spite of all attempts to overthrow it. Then shall we be able in meekness to instruct those who have fallen into this snare of the devil-religion without reality, and the result may be that they will acknowledge the truth. 2 Tim. 2: 25, 26.
It has often been remarked that the moment of victory is the moment of greatest weakness, and Samson felt this. He was sore athirst, and called on the Lord, and said: "Thou hast given this great deliverance into the hand of Thy servant: and now shall I die for thirst, and fall into the hand of the uncircumcised?" Judges 15: 18. This was his fear: to fall into the hands of the uncircumcised, to be in their power. Now the Philistines are constantly spoken of in this way. Circumcision, which speaks of the cutting off and setting aside of the flesh, had no place with them; and, this being the case, it was right that the Nazarite should fear coming under their power. Would that there were more of this fear to-day; it would make us more like Samson in his dependence upon God.
How the victorious life is maintained.
But God had a provision for His fainting but dependent servant: it was the well of water.
"But God clave an hollow place that was in the jaw [in Lehi], and there came water thereout; and when he had drunk, his spirit came again, and he revived: wherefore he called the name thereof En-hakkore," which means "the well of him that cried." This is not the first time in Scripture that the water and the rock are found together. Both are necessary for us, for it is by the water, which sets forth for us life in the power of the Spirit, that the life of the Nazarite is maintained in freshness and vigour.
"In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified." John 7: 37-39.
Here is the provision for maintenance of the life of the Nazarite; for it is by the Spirit of God that the soul is kept in touch with the things of Christ, the new life is maintained in its freshness and vigour, and the Nazarite is renewed day by day. Then by the same Spirit is given power to help others.
Samson judged Israel for twenty years. Though the Philistines were there, he maintained what was for God throughout that period.
Do we desire to contend boldly for the truth, to stand for Christ, keeping His Word and not denying His Name? Then three things are absolutely needful: -
The Loss of Nazariteship.
Now we turn from Samson's victories to his terrible defeat. The sad and shameful story is not hidden from us, for God would teach us not only how to tread the path of victory, but also make plain for our warning the terrible results of departure from Him, so that we may not trust in ourselves.
"Then went Samson to Gaza." Judges 16: 1.
Here is the commencement of that downward course. It is true that he survived at Gaza, though the Gazites were determined to slay him. He had not then surrendered his Nazariteship, and he still proved stronger than the Philistines' strength, which is the meaning of Gaza. He took the gate and pillars, with the bar, and bore them away to the top of the hill that is before Hebron.
But self-confidence seemed to mark him, and he must have forgotten that his strength was in dependence upon God. He heeded not the warning that his escape from Gaza ought to have been to Him, for it came to pass afterwards that he loved a woman in the valley or by the brook [marg.] - of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. Verse 4.
Sorek means "the vine," and it is most pitiful to see the victorious Nazarite, who had dwelt upon the rock and drank of the well there, now going down to drink of the brook which flowed through the valley of the vines. As the Nazarite he had refused the fruit of the vine, and at the commencement of his career he had slain a lion in the vineyards. There he overcame the strong one. Now in the valley of the vines he falls a victim to Delilah, whose name means weakness.
Here are the downward steps: -
- He loved a woman in the valley of Sorek. Verse 4.
- He told her all his heart. Verse 7.
- She made him sleep upon her knees. Verse 19.
- The seven locks of his head were shorn. Verse 19.
- The Lord departed from him. Verse 20.
- The Philistines took him. Verse 21.
- They put out his eyes, bound him with fetters of brass, and he did grind in the prison house. Verse 21.
This was the depth of degradation to which his departure from God brought him. The one whose name means "As the sun" is seen grinding for the enemies of the Lord in the blindness and darkness of his lost Nazariteship.
There is one mention of a prison in Scripture before this. Joseph was cast into it because he stood firm in his devotion to God and his determination not to sin against Him. That devotion meant much suffering, but it was the path of victory. Here is a woeful contrast. Joseph's prison meant victory - Samson's prison spelt utter defeat. What a host of Philistines and all their strength had failed to accomplish, his own unbridled desire had brought about. The one who had delivered his brethren from the Philistines was bound by them. God's Nazarite became the devil's slave. He who carried away the gates of Gaza is led back through those gates as a prisoner, and the one who had made his foes to quake and flee now makes laughter for them at the festival to their god. If we found encouragement in Samson's exploits, learning from them what an individual when in dependence upon God can accomplish, we are now warned against all self-confidence by seeing how low the strong man may fall.
If we would escape such defeat we must know wherein our strength lies; we must know the secret of En-hakkore, - "the well of him that called," - which secret is dependence upon God and the judgment of self.
Remember, it was not the strength of the Philistines which overcame Samson. He was drawn away from the path of devotion to God by their seductions. It was not fear of their anger that vanquished him. He was beguiled and ensnared by the smiles of Delilah; he was betrayed by their apparent friendship. The devil's desire is to beguile all who are true to the Lord, to ensnare them by that which is not of God. This is what Paul feared for God's people when he wrote: "I am jealous over you with godly jealousy, for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ." 2 Cor. 11: 3, 4. And this danger is greater than ever in these last days.
Yes, it is possible for the Nazarite to fall; it is possible for those who have lived the unfettered life of devotion to the Lord to become bound by the brazen chains of a lifeless and formal religion; it is even possible to find such grinding at the mills of a scornful and God-rejecting world. There are those who were once eminent for their true heart-separation from the friendship of the world who are now found associated with it - linked up with those who despise the Cross of Christ and deny its virtue - in the furtherance of schemes and policies in which God has no part. They build again that which they destroyed, and serve that against which they contended, and without question they make sport for that which they serve. "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." James 4: 4. These are scathing words for such, nor dare we tone them down. There they stand in all their trenchant power: our business is to pay heed to them.
The consequence of this spiritual adultery, this going down to compromise with the world, is loss of spiritual sight and power.
"Her Nazarites were purer than snow, they were whiter than milk, they were more ruddy in body than rubies, their polishing was of sapphire." But their purity is gone; they are defiled and polluted. "Their visage is blacker than a coal; they are not known in the streets: their skin cleaveth to their bones; it is withered, it is become like a stick." Lam. 4: 7, 8.
A great recovery.
But just as the child learns the character of fire by being burnt, and refuses to touch it henceforward, so the people of God often learn lessons of great value through their failure; and thus God triumphs and good comes out of evil.
It was so in Samson's case. In his captivity he felt the treachery of Delilah's friendship, and turned to the Lord. "His hair began to grow." He judged that which had blinded and enfeebled him, and took up a most uncompromising attitude towards it, with the result that he gained a greater victory than had been possible at any time during his brightest days. It meant death to himself; nevertheless the victory was great and real.
It is a great comfort to remember that the Lord changes not, and that He is ever ready to forgive and restore.
"Yet sweet 'tis to discover, If clouds have dimmed my sight, When passed, Eternal Lover, Towards me as e'er Thou'rt bright."
The grace of the Lord is greater than all the sin of His people. His quenchless love burns towards them in all its brightness, and cannot grow dim. He is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.
If we have been ensnared by the world into conformity with it - if we have been induced to step down from the highway of single-eyed devotion to the Lord and undivided dependence upon Him, to toy with the world, and have felt the bitterness of so doing, here is encouragement for us. He who was not deaf to the prayer of Samson will listen to our cry, and He will give deliverance and victory.
But the self within us that was ensnared by the world must be judged by us as well as the world that ensnared us. This surely is the lesson that the death of Samson would teach us.
To judge the world and self means to turn away from both completely to the Lord alone. This was the path that Paul trod. He had to withstand Peter, who left the place of the Nazarite to grind at the mill of a legal and fleshly religion. Gal. 2: 11-14. But for himself he says: "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." Gal. 6: 14.
There was the end of the religious world and the Paul who might be ensnared by it. The Cross of Christ had disclosed the true character of both, while the greatness of the love that the Cross revealed had made Paul a Nazarite for ever and, if a Nazarite, a triumphant and joyous man for the Nazarite is invincible as long as he maintains his Nazariteship. That path is open to all. It may mean persecution and rejection by the world; for those who take this path will surely be scoffed at as being bigoted and narrow, and they may even have to bear the marks of the Lord Jesus in their body, Gal. 6: 17; but the final triumph, the crown of righteousness, and the smile of the Lord are at the end of the conflict. He hath said, "To him that overcometh, will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." Rev. 3: 21, 22.