So had Samson, in his carnality, played into the hands of the enemy, who finally succeeded in getting himinto their power through the treachery of a woman. With him asleep on her knees, she caused the seven locks of his head to be shaven off; and she began to afflict him and his strength went from him. At the sound of her cry, “the Philistines be upon thee Samson,” he awoke out of his sleep. Still feeling secure in his strength, he said, “I will go out as at other times before and shake myself. But he wist not that the Lord was departed from him.” And the Philistines took him and bound him with fetters of brass.”
The statement, “and he wist not that the Lord was departed from him”, calls for closer study. The statement is significant. It forms the clue to a right understanding of Samson’s achievements as the deliverer of Israel. The Lord had departed from him. It implies that hitherto the Lord was with him as his helper. Having determined, in the light of the Scriptures, wherein this help consisted, we will know what it means that the Lord departed from him in the moment of his defilement. This help consisted firstly in the Lord’s endowing Samson with great physical strength. How wonderfully strong he was. With no effort to speak of, he rendered asunder the jaws of a lion that roared against him on the way to Timnah. He vanquished, in battle, as a lone hero, an army of Philistines whose number may have run into thousands. He bore away on his shoulders the doors of the gates of Gaza, the doors and their two posts. When they thought him impotent in bonds, he broke the chords from his arms like thread. And when they finally had him in their power, he pulled down over himself and them the temple of their god where they were congregated, and his soul died with the Philistines. Indeed, Samson was wonderfully strong.
Yet, it would be a serious error to ascribe his victories over the adversary in battle to his prodigious strength. Ordinary warfare is a pitting of power against power and, speaking now of modern warfare, the greater power—the side that can boast of the larger and better equipped army, better trained soldiers and generals of surpassing military skill, can boast of the larger number of formidable battle wagons in the air, on sea and on land—wins the war, and this according to the law that, in ordinary warfare, the victory goes to the strong. Therefore the nations of the world strive to overreach one another in military might. Such might is the arm of flesh in which they put their trust. Hence, there is nothing miraculous about the military achievements of the nations of the world on the field of battle. The weaker of two opposing forces must yield ground from the nature of matters. God so wills. We deal here with a divine working. For all power is His. The superior military power of the conquering nation is his. Hence, it is He who gives victory, not in love, but in His hatred of man’s world—the world that lieth in darkness—and in punishment of the unrighteousness of man’s world. The strength of a big brute of a man who murders a defenseless child is God’s. In this case too, God gives victory (if the word victory is in place here), but not in love of the murderer and in answer to prayer. God does all things in love of His people whom He knows and chose in Christ.
As to Samson, his combined victories present to us a case of one man chasing a thousand. Therefore his war with the Philistines was not ordinary warfare. It was not human might pitted against human might with the superior might the victor as in ordinary warfare. The explanation of Samson’s victories was not his strength. For, however remarkable his strength, he had but one pair of hands wherewith to fight. His great strength alone cannot account for the dead lying about him in heaps after his encounter with the Philistines at Lehi. And they were all his victims, slain by his own hand. That was truly astounding. Yet things similar to this had taken place before in Israel’s wars with the heathen. In these wars Israel was the few, comparatively speaking and the heathen the many, Israel the weak, from the point of view of nature, and the heathen the strong, thus the few against the many, the weak against the strong, with the few, the weak, always the victor, when the people of Israel kept covenant fidelity. The complaint of the spies, reporting to Joshua, was true. The people of Israel were no match for the Canaanites. From the point of view of nature, the proposed warfare was doomed to failure. For the Canaanites were the stronger and their cities were walled and very great and the children of Anak were men of giant stature. For this very reason, all Israel’s wars with the heathen were foolhardy undertakings, humanly speaking. In these conflicts, it was always the weak against the strong, the few against the many. What brings this out is the language used to describe the military might of the heathen. The combined armies that went forth to do battle with Joshua were “much people, even as the sand that is upon the sea shore in multitude, with horses and chariots very many.”. The Lord drew unto Barak and Deborah to the river Kishon “Sisera, the captain of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and multitude. . . . Against this “multitude” Barak was instructed to oppose but ten thousand men. Of the Midianites it is reported that “they came up with their cattle and their tents. . . . as grasshoppers for multitude,” and that “they and their camels were without number.” . But they were overcome by Gideon’s band of three hundred. Samson slays a thousand Philistines with the jaw bone of an ass. Some twenty years thereafter “the Philistines gathered themselves together to fight with Israel, thirty thousands chariots, and six thousands horsemen, and people as the sand which is on the sea shore in multitude.” . What worsened the situation is that the Philistines had so completely disarmed the Israelites that “there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people that were with Saul and Jonathan.” . The above-cited cases of the surpassing might of Israel’s adversaries are but few of the many reported to us in the Old Testament Scriptures. Humanly speaking, the Hebrews in Canaan were doomed to extinction at all times. In battle they were always outnumbered, and their war equipment included nothing more formidable than the bow, the sword and the spear. The use of the horse and the chariot was forbidden them. Always were they the few against the many, the weak against the strong, the smaller military might. In Gideon’s band this might was reduced to a paltry three hundred and in Samson to a lone individual. Yet it was to this band, to the few and the weak, that the victory went. This was the miraculous element in Israel’s warfare with the heathen. And it had been foretold, promised. Spake the Lord to Israel by the mouth of Moses, “And ye shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword. And five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight: and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword.” . At it is said even that “one man of you shall chase a thousand.” Samson was not the only hero in Israelitish history in whom this promise was fulfilled. It was fulfilled also in the mighty men whom David had. There was Adino, the Taehmonite, of whom it is related that he lifted up his spear against eight hundred, whom he slew at one time. There was Eleazar the son of Dodo, who arose “and smote the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his hand clave unto the sword: and the Lord wrought a great victory that day. . . .” Mention is made of Shammath, the son of Agee. “He stood in the midst of the ground, and defended it, and slew the Philistines: and the Lord wrought a great victory.” “Three mighty men (of David) brake through the host of the Philistines, and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem, that was by the gate. . . .” “Abishai, the brother of Joab, lifted up his spear against three hundred, and slew them.” .
So, then, in Israel’s warfare, the victory went to the few in combat with the many, even to the one in combat with a thousand. And the one and the few were God’s people. What now is the explanation of the victory of the one and of the few. Not, certainly, the strength of the one and the few but the fact that “the Lord your God, He it is that fighteth for you, as He hath promised you.”. The reason that is here given for the victory going to the few or the one calls for closest attention. In the Old Testament dispensation there was but one nation under heaven of whom it could be said that the Lord fought for it. That nation was Israel. And, so, too, now in this dispensation there is but one nation under heaven of whom it can be said that the Lord fights for it. That nation is still not the Jews and: neither the American, British and Chinese nations for that matter, but the true Israel, the Church, that people to whom the apostle had reference when he said, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.” . It is thoroughly unscriptural and thus foolish and untrue to say that Germany was destroyed because God fought for the Allies and this even in answer to the fervent prayers of those praying preachers among the Allies. God fights for His chosen people, whom He chose and knows in Christ. And therefore they have the victory—the victory that overcometh the world. And their victory is their faith, the working of their faith in prayer—the fervent prayer of righteous men. Yet, to be sure, the surpassing military might of the allies was and is God’s, the victory that was achieved was efficaciously willed by Him, and it came forth out of the womb of the sovereign providence of the Most High. Yet, for all this, it is amiss to say that God fought for the Allies and this in answer to prayer.
What, then, was that doing of God, according to which He fought for His people, for the few, the one? First, it was a work of love, a manifestation of grace, an indication of a gracious attitude. The Lord loved His people Israel, they being His chosen people; as moved by the pity of love He fought for them in their distress and thus saved them from the power of the greater, the overwhelming, military might for His name’s sake, in order that He might be feared. Thus His fighting for His people was a gesture of love, a revelation of her mercy upon such as feared Him and kept His covenant. Secondly, through that doing of God according to which He fought for His people, for the few or the one, the victory always went to His people, to the few. Lastly, the doing of God with which we here deal was a special divine working, a wonder of Israel’s God that, in combination with the diminished military might of His people, plainly brought out that the victory was the Lord’s and not His people’s. There is then this question finally. Just what was that wonderful work of God? Wherein did it consist? Scripture makes this very plain. Turning to, we read, “Marvelous things did he in the sight of the fathers in the land of Egypt,” and at verse 43, “(How) he had wrought his signs in Egypt, and his wonders in the field of Zoan.” Recalling these signs, the psalmist continues, “He turned their rivers into blood; and their floods, that they could not drink. He sent divers sorts of flies among them; which devoured them; and frogs, which destroyed them. He gave also their increase unto the caterpillar, and their labor unto the locust. He destroyed their vines with hail, and their sycamore trees with frost. He gave up their cattle also to hail, and their flocks to hot thunderbolts. He cast upon them the fierceness of his anger, wrath, and indignation, and trouble, by sending evil angels among them. He made a way to his anger, he spared not their soul from death, but gave their life over to the pestilence; and smote all their firstborn in Egypt; the chief of their strength in the tabernacle of Ham,” Through the centuries the Lord continued to do marvelous things in Israel,—things, wonders, by which he gave victory to the few, to his people, saved them from the arm of flesh of the adversary. However, these wonders worked salvation only because they were accompanied by another working of God in the minds and heart of the adversary. What was known of God through these wonders, namely, His power and Godhead, God also revealed in them, the adversaries of His people. In the words of the sacred narrator, he laid His plagues upon Pharaoh’s heart ( ); He looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud ( ). He put the speech that went forth from these signs in the heart of the enemies and thereby filled them with the terror of God, so that they said, as said the Egyptians, “Let us flee from the face of Israel, for the Lord fighteth for them against the Egyptians, “and they confessed, as did Pharaoh, “the Lord is righteous and I and my people are sinful. And so did the Lord, through the speech of his signs continue to terrorize the adversary in every conflict with His people Israel. Their will to fight was broken down; and with the terror of the almighty in their soul they fled in four directions. In the words of the psalmist, God arose, He scattered His enemies, and they that hated Him fled before Him. As smoke is driven away, so God drove them away, as wax melteth before the fire, so the heathen that went forth to do battle against Israel, perished at the presence of God. . It is this doing of the Lord about which the psalmist sings over and over. So in , “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness. Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great king. God is known in her palaces for a refuge. For, lo, the kings were assembled, they passed by together. They saw it, and they marveled; and they were troubled and hasted away. Fear took hold upon them there, and pain, as of a woman in travail.” When Israel walked in the way of God’s covenant, the terror of God was in the heart of the heathen in their conflicts with His people. Therefore they could not stand before the few even before the one. Said Rahab to the spies, “I know that the Lord hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when ye came out of Egypt; and what he did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed. And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the Lord your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.” . The Lord did very actually fight for His people through His terrorizing the enemy by laying all his wonders upon their heart. Therefore the victory went to the few, even to the one. And therefore there victories, without exception, were prophetic of the victory of the church over the world in the last judgment. Then, too, the victory will go to the few, because Christ will fight for His people. For in that day, too, God will do wonders. There will be a great earthquake; the sun will become black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon will become as blood; and the star 3 of heaven will fall unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken by a mighty wind. And the heavens shall depart as a scroll when it is rolled together: and every mountain and island will be moved out of their places. And God will lay these wonders upon the hearts of the wicked. And, in the language of the apostle, the kings of the earth and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, will hide themselves in the dens and the rocks of the mountains; and will say to the mountains and the rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the lamb; for the great day of wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand.” . In the Old Dispensation, God terrorized the heathen on the battlefield; and all their opposition to Him and His people ceased; and therefore, in the words of Joshua, the enemy was bread for Israel; their defense was departed from them. God in Christ will again terrorize the wicked in the judgment by His presence; and their opposition to God and His Church will cease everlastingly. And the victory will go to the few. That will be the final wonder of His grace.
In the light of the above observation the essential difference between Israel’s victories- over the heathen and the military achievements of the nations on the battle fields of the world is plain. Not the latter but the former only are wonders of God’s grace bespeaking His mercy upon His chosen people. In the light of the above observation, we can also explain Samson, his victories over the Philistines. In his prodigious strength he was a sign, a wonder of God. As such he also spoke to the Philistines; for the Lord put the speech of his amazing strength in their hearts. And that speech was that Jehovah is the God and that He is mighty and willing to avenge the wrongs done His people. This speech was so applied to the hearts of the Philistines that, at the sight of Samson, their souls were seized by the terror of God and their defense departed from them and they became bread for Samson. So did the Lord fight for him. Thus his victory was not his strength; his victory was his God, his faith in God, and his holding sacred, under the constraint of that faith, the consecration of his person to God. But he allowed him: elf to be destroyed as the walking altar of God. We now see what it means that, on this account, the Lord departed from him. He means that the Lord took from him his strength—“and his strength departed from him”—and with his strength went his courage. Thus he ceased to be a sign, a wonder of God. Hence he ceased to speak to the Philistines for he had destroyed himself as a sign, thus had silenced the speech that went out from him as the wonder of God, the speech by which the Lord had terrorized the Philistines. Hence, with his seven locks shaven off, their fear of him was gone. For the Lord had ceased to fight for him, had ceased to put His terror in their hearts, had thus very actually departed from him which also means that He now made the Philistines bold so that they drew near to Samson and laid violent hands on him. It was all the Lord’s doing. Thus, the word of God “one man shall chase a thousand” ceased to apply to him. For he had broken the covenant of his God. The Lord departed from him and he knew it not, until it was demonstrated unto him. Then he knew. But he could have known even before then; for he must have been aware that his seven locks had been shaven off. But perhaps he did not think that the Lord would take so serious what had been done to him. But the Lord did take it serious, for Samson had allowed himself to be destroyed as the wonder of God.