Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE FATALITY OF DESIRE. A sudden, unreasoning, and unreasonable passion is scarcely the augury one would expect for the career of a promised deliverer. A crisis in his moral history, a pivot upon which his whole subsequent life must turn. Sexual attachments are amongst the determining factors of human character and life, and the bases of society. Yet there are no circumstances of our life so independent of mere reason, and the power of the subjects of them. Still as a rule the outward realisation of such attachments is within the control of the individual. Recognition should be made of God's share in producing them, and the matter should be laid before him. He has been blamed for "heavily loading the dice" in this matter for his own universal ends, and for wantonly subjecting the subject of passion to misery and disadvantage. Moral and intellectual progress are thus, it is said, indefinitely hindered. If it could be written, how full of light upon the moral and intellectual history of the race would be an account of the intermarriages of nations, the mesalliances of individuals! etc.
II. THE ENTANGLEMENT AND PERPLEXITY IT OCCASIONS. Here it meant connection with the idolatrous and sensual life of the Philistines. The relatives on both sides could not be cordial. A relaxation of moral principles must ensue. Children would bring a fresh discord. How could a man so related lift up his hand against the Philistines? An instance like this throws strong light upon the traditional objection of God's chosen people to intermarriage with neighbouring tribes and nations. It is not for nothing that it is written of Noah and of one and, another beside, "And he was perfect in his generation. The daughters of Heth" are ineligible in the eyes of the patriarch's wife for other than mere social reasons. There can be no doubt but that the same caution ought to characterise Christian parents in the alliances they encourage their children to make.
III. THE FURTHER AND HIGHER MINISTRY OF DESIRE. Behind and beyond all this sinister appearance was the Divine purpose, - "For he (Jehovah) sought an occasion from the Philistines. God's will is fulfilled in many ways, and by alternatives. When sin refuses to be put under then it can be utilised; and the end more completely served, albeit not to the immediate happiness or advantage of the guilty agent. How often by a way they knew not" have the sons of men been led by an unseen providence to gracious ends. An ill-assorted marriage is a great calamity, but it may be the determining cause of important spiritual results, and by arranging a new relationship and set of conditions, prepare for a higher and nobler, though less immediately happy, development, of inward character. Thus the whole question of the determining force of sexual desire, which has been a matter of grief and despair to the pessimist, is capable of another interpretation. The past history of our race shows that "where sin abounded, there did grace much more abound." Let us not therefore despair before these mysterious fatalities and complications, but commit the way of ourselves and children into the hands of him "who seeth the end from the beginning," and who makes "all things work together for good" to them that love him. - M.
I.. YOUTH IS OFTEN SUBJECTED TO GREAT AND SUDDEN TEMPTATIONS. Our streets, the social circle, sexual relations, etc., all abound with concealed perils. These threaten the destruction of the soul.
II. THESE ARE, FROM THEIR NATURE, GENERALLY ENCOUNTERED ALONE AND IN SECRET. Bulwer Lytton says somewhere, that boys learn many things at school of great value to them through life, that were never bargained for by their parents, or represented in the school-bill. The youthful sense of growing power, and assertion of independence, creates a little world of which guardians are but dimly conscious. There is, too, the inability of age to sympathise with youth; and the natural reticence concerning matters of affection, etc. Every youth is centre of a number of invisible but potent influences that may make or mar him for life; and he ought therefore to he frequently commended to the care of his heavenly Father, and to be treated with gentleness and consideration by those in authority.
III. THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD CAN RENDER TIMELY AND EFFECTUAL HELP. The phrase, "came suddenly upon him," expresses opportuneness. The fearlessness and modesty of the spiritual hero are here strikingly illustrated.
I. IF EARTHLY AFFECTION WILL MAKE MEN BRAVE GREAT DANGERS AND INCONVENIENCES, HOW MUCH MORE OUGHT THE LOVE OF GOD!
II. WITH THE SPIRIT OF GOD NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE, AND HE MAKES ALL THINGS EASY AND SIMPLE TO THEM THAT BELIEVE.
III. HUMILITY IS THE CHARACTERISTIC OF THE SPIRITUAL HERO. - M.
I. THE DANGER.
1. It came unsought. It is foolish for the bravest to court danger. We have only ground for meeting it bravely when we have not rashly provoked it.
2. It was unexpected. Had Samson expected to encounter the lion he would probably have chosen another path, or have armed himself against it. One of the worst features of the great dangers of life is that we can rarely foresee and provide against them.
3. It was when Samson was on a pleasurable journey. He went to seek a wife, and met a lion! The greatest trouble may spring upon us at the moment of highest elation. Earthly joy is no safeguard.
4. It was when Samson was acting in a questionable manner. He was seeking a wife among the Philistines. His parents disapproved of this course though their affection sought an excuse for it (ver. 3). His conduct was contrary to the law of God (Exodus 34:16). We may meet with trouble in the path of duty, but we must expect to meet with it in the way of transgression (Jonah 1:4).
II. THE TRIUMPH.
1. It was effected in the might of the Spirit of the Lord. Herein is the distinction between Samson and Hercules. The Jewish hero does not trust to his own muscular strength. Strong man as he is he can only do great things in God's strength. This is the redeeming feature of his character. It shows him as one, though amongst the lowest, of the heroes of faith. If Samson needed the strength of inspiration, how much more do we weaker men need to be clothed in the panoply of God's might before we can face the dangers of life!
2. The Spirit of God came upon Samson in especial force in his greatest need. God gives us strength according to our requirements. In our hour of weakness it seems impossible to face the future difficulty, but when this comes how wonderfully is the new strength bestowed to meet it (Deuteronomy 33:25). We must not, however, abuse this truth and neglect natural expedients. Samson would have been wrong in going unarmed if he had expected to meet the lion. We have only a right to believe that God will help us in sudden emergencies when we are not rashly and negligently increasing the danger of them.
3. The Spirit of God helped Samson by inspiring him to an extraording exercise of his natural powers. It was to Samson the strong, a spirit of strength. God works in us through our natural faculties and helps us differently according to our various gifts. Though the might is God's, the daring, the will, the effort must be ours. God gave him strength, yet Samson slew the lion with his own hands.
4. After victory, Samson modestly concealed his triumph. It is better to be more than we seem than to seem more than we are. If the source of our victory is God's strength we have no ground for boasting. - A.
I. THAT OUR CONFLICTS WITH SATAN MAY BE TRUE SPIRITUAL EXERCISES AND NOT MERELY OUTWARD TRIUMPHS.
II. THE INFLUX AND WITHDRAWAL OF THE HOLY SPIRIT LIMIT THE AUTHORITY AND SECURE THE HUMILITY OF THE AGENT. HOW helpless even a Samson but for the Spirit! Temptations of our own seeking may be left to our own resources. No enterprise ought to be undertaken without the aid of the Holy Spirit, and the Divine blessing. What God brings upon us he will help us to overcome.
III. THE FAITH OF THE CHRISTIAN SOLDIER AND WORKER MUST BE WHOLLY IN GOD. - M.
I. THE DUTY OF THANKFUL RECOLLECTION OF DIVINE INTERPOSITIONS.
II. THE SECRET AND UNSHARED COMMUNION OF THE SUBJECT OF GRACE WITH HIS SAVIOUR.
III. ITS ADVANTAGE AND BLESSING. - M.
I. THE PHENOMENA OF THE NATURAL WORLD LINK THEMSELVES WITH, AND BECOME SYMBOLS OF, SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE. Thus the deepest things of the spiritual universe may be uttered by those who are but dimly conscious of their meaning. And no man is wholly destitute of spiritual teaching. The teachings of revelation thus become indefinitely enriched and extended.
II. TO THE AWAKENED SPIRIT OF MAN THE DIVINE MEANINGS OF LIFE AND THE WORLD ARE ALONE IMPORTANT. How vast is the relationship of the truth thus generalised! For many days will such food sustain the soul. Trials may become the sources of spiritual consolation if overcome in God's strength. Death is the gate of Life.
III. TO THE UNBELIEVING IS THE TRUTH OF GOD SPOKEN IN PARABLES, THAT SEEING, THEY MAY NOT PERCEIVE, AND HEARING, THEY MAY NOT UNDERSTAND. This might be called the "gospel of the Philistines." It is a mighty revelation. How near were these heathen, if they had known it, to the wisdom and kingdom of God! So is it to-day with the preaching of the gospel to unbelievers. The moral character, and not the mere intellectual power, of men is tested in this way. What the Spirit of the Lord inspires the same Spirit can interpret. God will bestow illumination upon those who seek it. How often has God spoken through striking incidents to those who would not care to hear the preaching of his word, or to whom it has not been granted! Do not let any one hastily say, "I never heard." Do not let Christians despair of those who have not heard, and who will not hear the preaching of men. God has his own way to every heart. - M.
I. SOURCES OF LIFE MAY BE FOUND IN POWERS OF DESTRUCTION. Out of the destroyer came forth food.
1. The destroying agencies of nature prepare the way for fresh life. Geological catastrophes renew the face of the old earth with virgin fields of fertility. The products of decay are the food of new life; the rotting leaves of autumn nourishing the blooming flowers of spring.
2. National revolutions sometimes introduce a better order. Out of the corruption and disintegration of the Roman empire the separate nationalities of modern Europe sprang into being.
3. Religious destructive agencies prepare the way for new religious institutions. The work of the Hebrew prophets, of Christ and his apostles, - especially St. Paul, - of the leaders of the Reformation, was largely destructive, and only after a certain amount of ruthless breaking up of old revered habits and doctrines was it possible to introduce the good things they were ultimately destined to establish. We may be too fearful of needful but painful destroying agencies, and by joining the new cloth to the old garment may only increase the final rent.
4. Destructive influences in private life are overruled by God's providence to produce fruitful issues. Our cherished hope is dashed to the ground; for the moment we are in despair. But in time out of the grave of the past God makes a purer, nobler hope to spring.
5. The death of Christ is the source of the Christian's life. In his broken body we see our bread of life (1 Corinthians 11:24).
II. SOURCES OF QUIET BLESSEDNESS MAY BE FOUND IN MOVEMENTS OF VIOLENT STRENGTH. Out of the strong comes forth sweetness.
1. It is only in strength that we can find true gentleness. While gentleness makes us great, greatness is necessary to the perfection of gentleness. Soft weakness is not gentleness. Self-control, forbearance, quiet work in the midst of difficulty are signs of gentleness, and they all imply great, strength of soul. Christ's shadow shelters us because he is a great rock (Isaiah 32:2).
2. Violent exercises of strength are sometimes required to remove an unsettled, restless condition of things, to establish an equilibrium, and so secure more peace. Storms clear the air and bring about a more stable calm than that which preceded them. The troubles of life subdue our passions, rebuke our wilfulness, chasten our affections, and thus prepare us to receive the peace of God.
3. A healthy exercise of strength is the means of bringing happiness to others. Sentimental sympathy is of little use. If we wish to sweeten the lot of the most miserable classes of men, we must be prepared for active measures of improvement.
4. In proportion to the violence of earthly trials will be the sweetness of the heavenly rest. - A.
I. THERE ARE ILLEGITIMATE WAYS OF GETTING AT DIVINE TRUTH. False prophets. Unwilling prophets, as Balaam. Mercenary attempts at obtaining a peculiar knowledge, as of Simon Magus (cf. Acts 8:9-24; Acts 19:13; Colossians 2:17, 18).
II. THE ESSENTIAL MEANING OF THE TRUTH CANNOT BE THUS DISCOVERED. The Philistines only learnt the historic circumstance; they were still in outer darkness as to the evangelic significance of the parable or riddle. So it is with those who "intrude into those things which they have not seen or heard, vainly puffed up in their fleshly minds." God will deliver them over to strong delusion, and the belief of a lie.
III. THIS IS FULL OF DANGER, AND WILL BE PROMPTLY AVENGED. Partly in the apparent illumination, but real ignorance, of such men; and partly in the consequences attending an incomplete or garbled gospel. Here the vengeance was both spiritual and physical. How sorry the gain that involved their fellow-countrymen in such a death! - M.
I. So SATAN AND HIS SERVANTS BETRAY MEN THROUGH THEIR HABITUAL TEMPERAMENT OR BIAS - THE WEAKNESS PECULIAR TO THEM. The weak place in Samson was his sensuality. His enemies speedily discovered this, and were unscrupulous enough to take advantage of it.
II. SAINTS SHOULD BE DISTRUSTFUL OF UNHOLY CONFIDENCES, AND SHOULD LEAVE "NO UNGUARDED PLACE" IN THEIR SPIRITUAL CHARACTER OR RELATIONS. All habitual relations or companionships with worldly persons are dangerous. Our sin will find us out, to our confusion. Safety can alone be found in perfect consecration - putting on the whole armour of God. Relations in life which, when both parties are holy, are full of comfort and help, when they involve us in close fellowship with the wicked may be our destruction. - M.
I. THE CONFIDENCE WE PLACE IN THE WICKED WILL CERTAINLY BETRAY US.
II. GOD SEEKS BY STERN LESSONS TO SEPARATE HIS PEOPLE FROM THE WORLD.
III. NONE ARE SO OPPOSED TO THE CHARACTERS AND PRACTICES OF THE WICKED AS THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN BETRAYED BY THEM. - M.