Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. GREAT WRONGS ARE COMMITTED UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF FEAR.
II. THE ATONEMENTS AND EXCUSES OF THE UNRIGHTEOUS BUT ENHANCE THEIR GUILT.
III. THE CONSEQUENCES OF EVIL ACTIONS CANNOT BE FORESEEN OR ADEQUATELY WARDED OFF BY THE OFFENDER (vide ver. 6).
IV. PRIVATE WRONG MAY BE PUNISHED BY NATIONAL DISASTER. - M.
I. GOD'S SERVANTS ARE FREQUENTLY HAMPERED BY THEIR OWN IMPRUDENCES AND FOLLIES.
II. THE PURPOSE OF THE DISCIPLINE OF LIFE IS TO REMOVE THESE ENTANGLEMENTS AND TURN THEM INTO A STRONGER INCENTIVE TOWARDS HIS SERVICE. Entanglement and re-entanglement, deliverance beyond deliverance, is the history of Samson's career. - M.
I. THE INGENUITY OF INSPIRED VENGEANCE.
II. LITTLE CAUSES OF MISCHIEF AND GREAT CONSEQUENCES.
III. THE MISCHIEF GOD'S ENEMIES ENTAIL UPON THEMSELVES. It is unexpected, overwhelming, and vital. The year's produce, upon which the life of the people depended, was swept away at a single stroke. No one knows how to punish the rebel against his kingdom as God himself does. - M.
I. INGENUITY IS OFTEN AS EFFECTIVE AS STRENGTH. Samson is not merely the hero of brute force; he shows wit, intelligence, inventiveness. We constantly see how effective these faculties are in business, in war, in politics. The Christian needs the wisdom of the serpent (Matthew 10:16). In many of our Christian enterprises the requisite for greater success is not more money, more workers, nor even more zeal, but wiser methods. Samson's ingenuity was wholly on the side of destruction. Would that the soldiers of Christ's army of salvation showed as much intelligence and wisdom ill conducting the campaigns of the Church militant for the saving of men as the soldiers of the armies of ambitious monarchs display in their warfare, which brings little else than death and misery! Ingenuity is quickened by interest. If we had a more practical sense of the end of the Christian battle with the evil of the world, more earnest desire to effect real results, more heart in the whole work, we should be more wise and thoughtful. It is the half-hearted who are dull and sleepy soldiers of Christ.
II. ORIGINALITY OF METHOD IS OFTEN ONE GROUND OF SUCCESS. Samson showed great originality; consequently his enemies were not provided against the novel attack he made upon their land and its produce. Mere novelty is little recommendation. But we are all too much wedded to old habits of life. Novel methods in the work of the Church are sometimes advisable,
(1) because the old may be effete,
(2) because the old may have lost their interest or be well provided against by opponents,
(3) because there is room for variety of work even when the oldways of working are successful,
(4) because, though the old style may be good, we should always be seeking for improvements till we attain to perfection, and
(5) because new circumstances require new treatment. We need no new gospel, no new Christ; but we do need fresh applications of the gospel, new adaptations to the wants of the times. There is room for the richest originality in those who have the most loyal attachment to the ancient truths of Christianity. - A.
I. WICKED MEN ARE OFTEN WISER THAN THEIR ACTIONS WOULD INDICATE. It was well to inquire, "Who hath done this?" but when the agent was discovered, they were too afraid of him to punish him, so they wreaked their vengeance upon those who could not defend themselves. Greater care is shown by men in removing occasions of evil than in curing the source of it.
II. HUMAN INJUSTICE MAY UNCONSCIOUSLY EFFECT THE ENDS OF DIVINE JUSTICE. The father-in-law and wife of Samson deserved punishment, but hardly from those through dread of whom they had done Samson wrong.
III. BY ACTING AS THEY DID THE PHILISTINES ONLY BROUGHT UPON THEMSELVES GREATER DISASTERS.
IV. ONE WRONG LEADS TO ANOTHER. - M.
I. THOSE WHO HAVE RECEIVED THE GREATEST BENEFITS OFTEN BETRAY THEIR BENEFACTORS. Wallace was betrayed by a Scotchman; Christ by Judas, and rejected by the Jews. This arises partly from failure to comprehend the work done by great men; partly from ignoble nature, that fails to attain the level of heroic action.
II. A MAGNANIMOUS MIND WILL RATHER SURFER EVIL THAN BE THE OCCASION OF IT TO OTHERS.
III. MEN INJURE THEMSELVES WHEN THEY EVADE DUTY IN COMPROMISE. These 3000 men of Judah might have driven the Philistines before them, and delivered their land, had they been inspired by a heroic spirit. They afterwards discover that the work is done in spite of them which might have been done by them, and thus lose the credit and blessing that might have been theirs. Samson is thus completely detached from the nation he was raised up to deliver. So Christ stalls alone as the Saviour of the world.
IV. GOD MAY OVERRULE MEN'S MISDOINGS TO THEIR ULTIMATE ADVANTAGE. Grace can extract a blessing even from sin. But atonement has been made, and the spirit purged from its mean and unholy disposition. The crucifixion of Christ, the work of men, is the means of the salvation of men.
V. EXTERNAL BONDS CANNOT EFFECTUALLY BIND THE SERVANT OF GOD.
"Stone walls do not a prison make,
I. IN THE CONFLICTS OF TRUTH IT IS OF CHIEF CONSEQUENCE THAT WE BE ON THE SIDE OF TRUTH, AND ANIMATED BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD.
II. THROUGH GOD'S BLESSING THE GRANDEST RESULTS HAVE BEEN PRODUCED BY THE RUDEST AND SIMPLEST MEANS. The preaching of the gospel by unlettered fishermen. "The solitary monk that shook the world" with the disused weapon in God's armoury. The "simple gospel" and the evils of our age.
III. NOTWITHSTANDING OUTWARD ADVANTAGES, THE ENEMIES OF GOD ARE CERTAIN IN THE END TO BE DISCOMFITED.
IV. THE ABSOLUTENESS AND SPLENDOUR OF SPIRITUAL ACHIEVEMENTS. Pentecost; missionary triumphs; the song of Moses and of the Lamb. - M.
I. IT WAS A NOVEL WEAPON. Samson again shows his inventiveness and originality (see ver. 4). To succeed in sudden emergencies we must have presence of mind to choose and act rapidly and freshly. The slave of routine is helpless in every critical moment of life.
II. IT WAS THE MOST CONVENIENT WEAPON AVAILABLE. If Samson could have laid his hand on a sword he would not have picked up the bone. It would be foolish, rash, and presumptuous to reject the better means in order to make a display of strength or originality in the use of inferior means. But when the only thing available is a comparatively poor expedient, it is better to use this than nothing. While we are waiting for the perfect weapons to be forged the opportunity for victory passes. Thus inferior men and inferior methods must often be used for want of better ones. It is wrong for us to refuse to do any work for Christ because we have not the best possible natural powers or cultivation. It is better to serve as we are than not at all.
III. IT WAS A SIMPLE WEAPON. Many would have despaired with such a prospect as Samson's. But difficulty is the inspiration of genius. In spiritual warfare God sometimes blesses the poorest means when faith and zeal are making the best use of them. God's strength is thus most perfect in our weakness, because then we most reed it, are most likely to seek it trustfully, and will be most inclined to use it obediently.
IV. IT WAS A RIDICULOUS WEAPON. The hero would seem to be humiliated as he condescended to use such a weapon. But he was great enough to despise ridicule. It is weak and wrong to decline to use the only available means of rendering God good service because we fear they are undignified. True dignity is found not in pedantry and pomp, but in simple, brave independence. Great needs conquer foolish vanity. When the Philistines are on us we are in no mood to ask or to care whether our conduct will excite the laughter of the idle. If Christians realised more fully the awful depth of the world's sin and misery, they would be less sensitive to the trivial ridicule with which men may regard their work. How many promising lives have been poisoned by the narcotic of a false respectability!
V. IT WAS A SUCCESSFUL WEAPON. This is the one matter of consequence. Success refutes all objections. Ridicule is now turned into admiration, The very simplicity and folly of the means increases the glory of the result. So the great question in the Christian warfare against evil is that this is effective. If so, all the world's foolish criticism will be drowned in the triumph of victory. - A.
I. IN MOMENTS OF GREATEST EXALTATION AND POWER THE SAINT IS REMINDED OF HIS WEAKNESS AND DEPENDENCE UPON GOD. Paul and the "thorn in the flesh." The great deed and heroic uplifting of soul accompanying it are a Divine gift - a treasure in an earthen vessel. "By the grace of God I am what I am."
II. THE TRUE SAINT WILL FRANKLY ACKNOWLEDGE THIS, AND BETAKE HIMSELF TO PRAYER FOR DIVINE HELP. The faith that made Samson irresistible in battle now makes him prevail with God. A sense of spiritual fitness forbids the notion that God will suffer such an anti-climax. The victories that spring from acknowledged weakness are more glorious than those which proceed upon our fancied independence and self-sufficiency. "When I am weak, then am I strong."
III. THE CONDITIONS OF AN EFFECTUAL PRAYER.
1. Sincerity and faith. God had helped him already; be is convinced, therefore, that he will still help.
2. Because of wants and. hardships necessitated by Divine service. He is immediately answered, and in the very scene of it. No earthly hand is suffered to help.
3. Zeal for the glory of God. The idea of neutralising his triumph by yielding through physical distress is obnoxious to him. He asks God to preserve the splendour of the exploit which brought such glory to his name. - M.
I. ONE GREAT DELIVERANCE IS NO SECURITY AGAINST ALL FUTURE TROUBLE. Samson is surprised and vexed that a new trouble should fall upon him after his great victory. There is a danger lest we should rest contented with past triumphs. The Christian warfare can only end with the final victory over death. Till then we are in the enemy's land, and must expect that one battle will only be succeeded by another. Though we may have a season of calm, an oasis in the desert, a quiet resting-place, "this is not our rest." Let us beware of the confident self-elation which often follows the conquest of a temptation; it may be an introduction to a new and more dangerous one.
II. SLIGHT EVILS MAY PROVE MORE DANGEROUS THAN GREAT ONES. Samson feels it humiliating to be in danger of dying of thirst after his victory over a much more imposing enemy; but he had means to meet the greater foe, and none with which to face the smaller one. Evils are injurious not so much in proportion to their simple magnitude as in proportion to our susceptibility to them. The force of a particular temptation depends on a man's special disposition and peculiarity of character, not simply on its inherent alarming or alluring qualities. It should humble us to learn that after escaping the greatest dangers by the help of God we may succumb to very small dangers if left to ourselves.
III. SEASONS OF TRIUMPH ARE OFTEN FOLLOWED BY SEASONS OF DEPRESSION. Samson is despondent and querulous after his victory. So was Elijah (1 Kings 19:4). No doubt this common experience is partly the result of nervous reaction. Excitable people oscillate between the extremes of ecstasy and despair. It has also moral grounds. We grow over-confident, we expect too much, we forget that life cannot always be pitched in the heroic mood. The career of the loftiest souls is not one unbroken epic; even this has its seamy side, its stale and unprofitable moments. There is a Divine purpose of discipline in this painful experience to keep us humble and in trustful submission.
IV. GOD HELPS US IN OUR DEPRESSION AS WELL AS IN OUR ELATION. God came to the rescue of Samson. Though he murmured, God had compassion on him. God understands our weakness, and, understanding, pities it. He does not treat his servants as heroes, but as children (Psalm 103:13). The depression of feeling which destroys our consciousness of assurance does not destroy God's grace. It is important to observe that the faith which is the condition of God's help is not our confidence in our own salvation, but the simple trusting of ourselves to God's care, so that when we least expect his help this may come upon us and surprise us, if only we thus cast ourselves upon his mercy. - A.