From a talk given By Norman Grubb in the mid 1970s.
God has His original plans for every life. It is a dangerous habit to think that only certain men are special, for God has some unique expression and operation of Himself that He is moving out from each of us. This should be the standard for anyone who is a member of the body of Christ and therefore an expression of the Head. These Biblical characters are merely illustrations of how the Holy Spirit comes in His unusual ways to fulfill some purposes of that time. Size and location are of no importance in His ministry to people.
In the case of Samson, God’s purpose was to give Israel a period of deliverance from forty years of Philistine oppression by a man who would be His agent. The history that we are looking into centers entirely around the man himself and how God used him to deliver them, rather than upon the people or kings. This was the day of judges, which preceded the kings. We are to see how God worked in bringing into being this man who worked by him.
The Israelites had been under the thumb of the Philistines for forty years. This is one of these special places where, not unlike what happened at Jesus’ birth, God appeared to a godly woman by His angel and told her that she was to bear a very special child. He was to have a public sign of total separation unto God, the Nazarite sign. Nazirites did not drink liquor and did not cut their hair. John the Baptist, Samuel, and possibly Elijah were also Nazirites. This was a symbolic age when God could only speak to the inner heart through outer forms. Only a few people could catch the inner meaning.
This woman had never had a child and in simple faith she accepted the word and told her husband of it. He, too, was responsive to God, but with a more cautions, rational outlook. It may be that God speaks quickly and intuitively to women and then men come along and need to have a more rational understanding. It is not that they are not going to believe but often they need a more tangible basis for their faith.
Manoah was not like Zechariah, who went dumb for a time because he did not believe. Manoah wanted to believe but he wanted to be sure. To meet Manoah’s need, the Lord appeared a second time to the wife and she called her husband. The husband spoke to the angel and said to him that he was not doubting the birth, which would be miraculous because she had been barren, but he was questioning how the child should be brought up. That was a fair question. He wanted a better understanding of the purpose of the child’s coming. All the angel told him was that he was to be a Nazarite from his mother’s womb, meaning that he was to drink no alcohol and let his hair grow as evidence of his separation to the Lord.
Manoah had an inquiring mind and asked the angel his name, but the angel would not give it because it was secret and not to be revealed. This reflects the age they were living in. That was why Moses had to put a veil over his face, because he had seen right through to the ultimate of the true tabernacle in Christ and the glory of it shone on his face. But he could not tell the people because they had not come to that place of understanding and could not take the something that was glowing out of him. It was the same with Jacob. He was not given a name by the angel because, you see, God has named us. The everlasting is beyond name. That is why we read, as we move into the intercessory level of fatherhood, that “You know Him which is from the beginning” (I John 2:13). The universal person we call God, Father, and other helpful titles, is beyond name.
We can only know the universal by one of His particular forms or expressions. We are part of the universal, expressions of the only one in the universe. Expressions. The angel would not give him His name because it is the Lord’s secret which is now revealed to those who know Jesus, who can see. That is what Paul means when he speaks of an open “mystery, which is Christ in you.” Even so, it has to be a realized mystery.
When the angel just disappeared in the flame of the offering he had made, Manoah realized that this was a supernatural being. His wife had moved on farther into what we would understand as knowing the true relationship between ourselves and God. Manoah’s reaction to the realization of who the angel was was, “We shall surely die for we have seen God” (Judges 13:22). Her reaction was: “If the Lord were pleased to kill us He would not have received the burnt offering from us, which went up in flame. Neither would He have shewed us all these things” (Judges 13:24). She had moved into knowing that we are the expression of the God of love, purpose, power and blessing.
That is all we are told about the birth of Samson. We may assume that he knew about his birth because from his early days he was conscious of the Spirit of God operating by him in strangely physical strength. In those days God acted on the physical dimension. Later on the Israelites were shaken up when the Philistines produced their big champion, Goliath, because, if Goliath could be slain the people would be subject to you, but if Goliath could slay your challenger, it was the other way around. One man like this could control and subdue and terrify a nation. Samson was somewhat like God’s Goliath.
Somehow Samson began to understand that he was a man imbued by the Spirit, symbolized by this Nazarite vow. Today our symbols are in Christ. Symbols are outer forms. Within the outer form the Spirit of God moved and Samson began to find that he was different from other men. God sometimes has very strange ways and what God used to destroy the Philistines was Samson’s partiality to women, the very thing that we might think was a thing of the flesh. God’s vision is much greater than ours.
Although he was not an appointed judge for another twenty years, Samson knew full well that Israel, God’s people, should not be under the control of the heathen Philistines. It had come about because they had given up their allegiance to God and He wanted to show them what happened to them when they were apart from Him.
Samson knew that, although they were also their bosses, the Philistines were their enemies. In spite of that he suddenly began to like a Philistine woman and wished to marry her. His godly parents saw that that was against God’s laws and, like Jacob, he was to find a wife from among his own people. They were to keep the line pure and not mix with the Gentiles or anyone outside the holy nation. Samson was going to do it anyway.
Yet we must not judge. We must see God operating in His own way for His own purposes. Sometimes they are very strange ways. One thing we can learn from this story is not to judge but to say: “If God means a person to go through that, let God take him through. If a person is doing wrong with it, let God take him through. Watch God turn it into a new revelation of his grace and liberation and blessings.
Although Samson had a human liking, he always saw more. He understood that he was God’s agent, but he was a woman-liker. We can see now that history can use that but there was more to it than that. He was a man of the Spirit and we can see all the way through this that he was guided by the Spirit because he knew the Spirit would release Israel from the Philistines through him. Knowing that, he went in to prepare for this marriage.
The custom in those days was for the families of the betrothed couple to visit, so his parents went with him to visit her. We do not know how far the Philistines recognized this unusual young man who had already performed many physical exploits. It was probably a shock to them that this man had chosen one of their daughters.
Samson’s mind was always set on contending with, confusing and making the Philistines want to fight so that he could get at them. Once, on the way to visit her, he again had the manifestation of this unusual power when he met a lion and tore it apart. David did that once, too, though David did it more by the power of God and faith. He was not a man of muscle like Samson. Samson tore the lion apart, left the carcass there, and went on with his visit. Then on another visit, as he went along he saw a hive of bees in the carcass and there was honey in it. Apparently he was not allergic to stings so he just got the honey and went on his way eating. He gave his parents some of it but did not tell them where he got it. He was learning to walk as God’s man.
When the time came for the marriage, they went down and made the marriage feast. Their custom was to have seven days of feasts with the marriage at the beginning. After the marriage, his wife began to entice him to go in to her, but when thirty young men showed up, he began to suspect something. Undoubtedly they were angry about Samson coming in and taking one of the daughters of their people.
Samson had clever sayings sometimes and so he backed them into a corner with a riddle which they could not get. He really angered them by telling them that if they could solve it he would give each of them a change of clothing, but if they could not, they would each give him a change of clothing. Because of the rivalry they did not want to give Samson thirty changes of clothing! But they could not get the riddle which was “Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness.” Who on earth could solve that? He had cleverly put forth something they could never solve unless they got help. But they did get help, and we see the beginning of Samson’s weakness which in the end God used for His final glorious purposes. They threatened his wife by saying that if she did not help them they would burn her and her father’s home.
They would even burn their own people! So he gave in, caught up by his love for this woman. Perhaps he began to love her more that he should have, and that should have been a warning to him.
Once again the Spirit of the Lord came upon him and he said, “Bind me with cords and hand me over to them.” Three thousand Israelites went up to do this. They bound him with two new cords. Then the Philistines came and shouted against him and “the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon Him and the cords were like grass, grass that was burnt with fire and the hands were loose” (Judges 15:14). Then he moved in on them. The strange agency God used was the jawbone of an ass. God uses the foolish things to confound the flesh. The only buildup we need is the buildup in the Spirit. Once he used three hundred foxes; now He uses the jawbone of an ass to slay one thousand men. He was a formidable man when the Spirit of God was upon him.
Then there was a little tender touch, almost the only touch of the tenderness of God at that time. He was thirsty and apparently there was no water there. He cried to God and God in some way made a receptacle out of the jawbone of an ass and there was water in it. It was an outstanding touch to Samson because Samson gave the place the name, “Enhakkore,” which means “the well of him that called.” The well that God supplied.
Probably at this point he got out of the will of God for he visited a harlot in Gaza, one of the cities of the Philistines. On this occasion he never said that the Spirit of God was on him. When the Philistines saw him they surrounded the town and the house he was in. When he came out, he just walked off with the whole gate and gatepost and took it up the hill with him. It does not say that the Lord was in that. It may have been that he had the power because he knew the secret of power, the Nazarite vow. It may be that he could utilize it in ways that he should not have used. Of course, in some sense morals were different from ours in those days but, still, this was different.
When you are not in the union position with God, there is always a weak spot. If it is you and God, then you have a weak spot. You will get caught up by your weakness unless you know the life where it is not you but He, and then He moves over the weakness. At the crucial moment He will carry you through because the real you is He. The question we have been talking about these days is the weakness of the false sense of separation between a redeemed person and God.
When you are in the Romans 7 identity you try to work it out, but you cannot do it. This was the beginning sign of Samson’s weakness. He knew the Lord’s Spirit was upon him but he did not know that he was actually God’s expression. He did not know the depth behind God’s Spirit being upon him. So it was the independent Samson being operated by God and he gave the secret away. Therefore, they got the riddle.
Now, again, you get these strange ways. Remember, he was there to tear up the Philistine nation. So, when they had the secret and he had to give them the garments, he said, “All right then, if I have to get them the garments, I’ll get them from their own people.” He went and killed thirty Philistines and took their garments and gave them to the men. He was so angry with his wife who had sold him out that, after he had given them the garments, he went home to his parents.
Later, he went back to his wife and found that she had been taken from him and given to another man. He was enraged. He rose up and said, “This time I shall be blameless in regard to the Philistines when I do this thing.” I do not know how on earth he did it, but he got three hundred foxes and tied their tails together, stuck torches on their tails, and sent them flying off into the ripe corn. It burned up the Philistines’ annual harvest. You never can tell what ways the Lord might tell a man to use. The feat was in catching the foxes. The Philistines were furious and now the war had started. They even came and burned his Philistine wife and her father, their own people.
Samson retaliated by moving in and, all alone, slaying them in a great slaughter. The day when one man could do this is certainly a different day from this. Today we put a bullet to people but, of course, they did not do that in those days. Afterwards, he went and sat on top of a large rock to isolate himself.
He surely had to deal with weak people, his own people. He was appalled by their loss of God, their giving way to idolatry and the ways of the flesh. They gave him no aid in response to the Philistines who now had their armies out and had pitched camp in Judah. They were spread over into Lehi. The Israelites were appalled and frightened: men who should stand if they had the faith of God – frightened!
“What have you come for?” they asked the Philistines.
“We’ve come to bind Samson. Where is he?”
“On top of that rock.” Then these palsied people came up and said to Samson, “Don’t you know that these are our rulers? You’ll get us into trouble instead of helping us.”
Where was the man of faith among them?
We come now to the famous crisis of his life when he was to learn once and for all that redeemed man is no good unless he has found the union basis, which is what we also call sanctification. We learn that it is not we but God and that God can take us through the crisis moments because it is He operating. We know God. We have our weaknesses, but God can take us through them.
Samson did not know that. He loved a woman named Delilah, the famous Delilah. I do not think he was married to her but he had a real passion for her. The five lords of the Philistines made her one of their agents by offering her eleven thousand pieces of silver to get the secret of his strength. Remember, those were external days and they did not know the secret we have within us today. Thank God, it is a universal secret today and we are all Samsons in our way.
Apparently she had a great hold on him because he visited her again and again. A woman has great power when a man is grabbed by a passion for her. Time and time again she said, “Now, tell me wherein your strength lies.” He pretended it was a game. He did not know there were men lying in wait to grab him when they found the secret. Three times he played his tricks with her. She got hotter and hotter and put pressure on him. Finally she said to him, “I won’t love you if you don’t tell me your secret. I don’t call it love when you act like this.” She cut him right to the bone. Thinking he might lose her, he told his secret.
He sold out his central allegiance to God for the love of that woman. However, that was not his basis. We will prove later that it was his soul, not his spirit. He was God’s man and he never ceased to be God’s man; but he almost sold out his very birthright. Not quite, for he was not like Esau who sold his spirit. The point is that flesh cannot exist by itself. That is why we must not judge people for going to the flesh. Unless God is in you, you cannot resist. It is only in Christ, in the power of His death and resurrection, that we can walk and be delivered. We can have confidence in that deliverance and be kept in that deliverance. Samson did not have the confidence that he could be kept by God so he played too far in his weakness for women. He did not have the controlling power of God to keep him. He did to a certain extent, for God used him. There was a purpose in his going too far, for he must be broken. If God’s ultimate power was going to come through, he would have to ultimately be a broken man, a God-filled man to the death. We all have to go through that and this was Samson’s time.
The world mocks and makes up plays about Delilah but a wonderful thing was happening here. This was God. He was using the sex drive in the man for His own purposes. We must not say that Samson sold himself totally for he only sold his flesh. He got to a point where he was beyond resisting, but if he had walked with God, God would have kept him from going beyond resistance. He would have stopped where he should have stopped long before. God would have held him. What he did did not come from his center but he sold his center out. For twenty years he had been accepted by Israel as a judge and now he had sold his commission, his nation, his reputation, himself. It is possible to go pretty far but much less possible if you have moved in, because there is something in God that will not let you. God has you and He will keep you. There is nothing that says you will not have whatever your special tendencies or weaknesses may be, as anybody else does, but you will not be held by them. You only know that if you have settled into knowing you are not you but He, that He is the only One living. You are not safe out of union.
Samson was not safe because, although he was God’s man and the Spirit of God came upon him, he did not know God in that inner relationship which men like David, Elijah, Moses, and Joshua came to know. So he had to go through this and, therefore, in that sense, he could not help it. This was God’s purpose because God was going to strike His final blow at the Philistines by the weakness of Samson. That very weakness problem made strength, perfected in that very weakness. This thing we could call sin was the very thing God used. The sin was not the sex; the sin was selling out his faith. In those days sex did not matter as much. Those were different days. This thing was used by the flesh in him to cause him to practically deny his faith, which was the real sin.
Choosing to keep her love rather than keep his faith was his sin. It is equivalent to our setting out in a ministry and then destroying our ministry by being involved in something of the flesh. That is much less likely to happen if we have moved into this union life. We can never say it cannot happen for Paul says, “For it is a mighty force that I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection lest that by any means, when I have ministered to others I, myself should become a castaway” (I Cor. 9:27). Castaway does not mean thrown out. It means disapproved. It does not mean the loss of salvation. It is the same idea as the branch burned with the vine. It is men who cast you out. Samson was no good to men, to Israel. We can be cast out of our ministry but we have not lost our salvation. We may lose our ways so that men have no use for us, but we have not lost our salvation. We have no word for them, no message. They will not come. We lose out on that level. That is the level that Samson lost out on but he did not lose his inner relationship, his inner knowing.
This is how God moved, and so he had to go to the bottom. He had to become a helpless, weak person, put in prison, blinded, and made to sweat away at grinding corn at a mill. He became a normal, physical body, a laboring slave.
Then came this remarkable way of God. God is with his people, even these early people. There Samson was, and he knew God. He knew that he had lost his way. All he had really lost was his way; he had not lost God. His hair began to grow again and it began to dawn on him that he was getting back to being a Nazarite again. He was still in grace, God’s man. He had made a mess but the Philistines did not know that his symbol would grow again. He was conscious of coming back to the place where the power of God could come through him.
Not long after Samson had this growing realization, a great occasion arose. The Philistines wanted to rejoice because Samson, Israel’s Goliath, had been destroyed. This Samson was a slave now and they wanted to have a great celebration. It symbolized to them that the whole nation was back under their control. They planned a great feast in a building so remarkable that they had three thousand on the roof. They certainly built in those days! In some strange way, the building was held up by two great pillars. The Lord was moving now, and they wanted to make sport of him. The pillars were centered in this building which had this great crown, including the lords of the Philistines in it. They had a little boy lead him in by the hand in between those pillars. I suppose this was a way to laugh at him best. They conveyed to him that these were the pillars that held the building up. Then Samson said to the lad, “Suffer me that I may feel the pillars whereupon the house standeth, that I may lean upon them.”
Suddenly he saw it! My symbol is back with me; God is with me. Then he prayed. This was new. This was his real relationship now, because he had not thought of praying before. “Remember me, O Lord, I pray thee, strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once. I’ll give my life for this.” Now he becomes an intercessor. “My life doesn’t matter; I’ll give my life for my two eyes.” He had been God’s man and this is the way he looked at it. Obviously this was the way of the Israelites’ deliverance from the Philistines if they would take it. Then he took hold of those pillars upon which the house was borne, one with his right hand and the other with his left. That is it! He would die that in the end God’s work would be glorified. He knew he had come back again to be anointed of God. He would die with the Philistines.
And it says, “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” (Judges 16:30). Then they took his body and buried it.
So that is the story of Samson. There are some great revelations of the way God works by people who have to come to the same way in the end. You have to come out of the idea of “If I’m equipped in some separate way I can do it.” No! I have to come back into the center where the “I” has disappeared and God is the One and all is God. What happens to me is not the point. God will now operate by me. That is the history of Samson as presented to us.