The Sun

Adapted from a sermon by Ps Jeff O’Neil, preached at PCC worship Service on 20 May 2007

“And he did grind in the prison house. Howbeit the hair of his head began to grow” (Judges 16:21-22).

[Ed. Note: When the sermon was originally delivered in PCC, it was evidently accompanied by a demonstration of the power of the Spirit—through lives touched and visible emotional responses. Although we are under no illusion that this printed abstract of the sermon would accomplish the same, we trust that it would be used of the Lord for the edification of those who might not have had the opportunity to hear it in person. —JJ Lim]

I have entitled the sermon, ‘The Sun,’ because it is thought that the name ‘Samson’ means ‘The Sun.’ Some prefer it to mean ‘The Strong One.’ But we combine the two from (Psalm 19:5), “The sun cometh out of his chamber as a strong man to run the race.”

The story before us shows, The Sun Rising, The Sun Eclipsed, and The Sun Setting.

I recently had the privilege to hear a sermon from the past on Samson, by a teacher sent from God, and he divided the account of Samson into three phases, which also were descriptive of the whole of his life: (1) Samson with hair; (2) Samson without hair; and (3) Samson with hair again. He further developed it by stating: (1) Samson in strength; (2) Samson in weakness; and (3) Samson with renewed strength. But I would bring these thoughts to you: (1) Samson under a vow; (2) Samson under a broken vow; (3) Samson’s vow restored.

1. Samson Under a Vow

We are told in Judges 13:5, that “He was a Nazarite unto the Lord from the womb.” That is, separated, consecrated from the womb! There was no decision on his part, no discussion, no opportunity to state otherwise. But the sovereign, elective grace and love of God set him apart from the womb, until the day of his death. And that shows us that some children can be the subjects of God’s love and workings of His grace, as soon as they have life!

Now generally, a Nazarite was under a temporary vow, but Samson was under a lifetime vow, a lifetime of devotion. It was never to be lifted or disavowed.

What then was this vow? Well, the formula was, no drinking of strong drink, no eating of unclean thing, and no cutting of the hair. And so, from a child, this was observed for him by the parents, and then when Samson was of understanding he had to observe it himself! You will find in the story, that the wording of his birth is somewhat similar to that of the Lord Jesus Christ (Jdg 13:3). Manoah’s wife was told by the Angel (who was Christ), “Thou shalt conceive and bear a son.” And in (Isa 7:14), “A virgin shall conceive and bear a son.” And again, as the child Samson grew we are told (Jdg 13:24) just as it was somewhat similarly said of the child, the Lord Jesus, “And the child grew and the Lord blest him.”

So as a child, as a young person, as an adult, he lived under that vow, and his life was dedicated to God, and he was obedient to the principles of the vow. And consequently, we are told, “The Spirit of the Lord began to move him at times” (Jdg 13:25). And when confronted by a young lion, “The Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him and he rent the lion” (Jdg 14:6). And then in Ashkelon, “The Spirit of the Lord came upon him” (Jdg 14:19) and then again at Lehi, “The Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and he slew a thousand Philistines!” (Jdg 15:14). As a deliverer and judge over Israel for twenty years, he was given this special gift from God under the power of the Spirit, of seemingly super-human strength!

So here is a man under obedience to God, his life devoted to the service of God and His people. And I suggest to you that when the special circumstances are taken away, his life is not dissimilar to ours. For we, too, have been called with a high, holy and heavenly calling. And that from the moment of our new birth to our death, we also are under a vow to God – a vow of consecration and devotion to God, and under the obligation of willing and loving obedience to Him.

At our conversion, although it was an act of singular grace, yet we undertook before the Lord, certain vows. Probably we were not so conscious of it until a little while later, but we undertook to love and serve Him, to keep His commandments, and to be witnesses for Him: “To present our bodies a living sacrifice, which is our reasonable service”(Rom 12:1). We undertook to cherish and love His people and to raise our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. And we, with the Psalmist, must confess, “For thou, O God, hast heard my vows: thou has given me the heritage of those that fear thy name” (Ps.61:5). And there is a solemn reminder from the wise preacher, “When thou vowest a vow unto the Lord, defer not to pay it” (Ecc.5:4). Conversion placed us under the law of grace, and a requisite part of that grace is loving, willing obedience to Christ the Head of the Church. Which, when considered, puts us in the same experience as Samson.

Samson under obedience could do mighty things for God. He literally as “one man could chase a thousand,” with a jawbone of an ass! And similarly, when we honour our vows God will honour us – when we walk in the Spirit, God will walk with us.

Obedience is the oil that keeps the wheels of life running smoothly. And this is incumbent, not only for those we might consider super spiritual, but upon every born again child of God. We are under vows, and we meet our vows, deriving our strength to do so from our Lord Jesus. Doing so, not reluctantly, or legally, but evangelically, loving to do so. And the challenge is, are you keeping your vows? Are you living a life dedicated to Christ? Are you out and out for the only true and living God?

Young people, who have come to an age of understanding, are you fulfilling the vows that the sign of baptism has placed upon you? Vows that your parents accepted on your behalf, but now vows that you would gladly keep yourselves? But we have an example before us for our admonition, standing as a warning as to what can happen even to the strongest Christian.

2. Samson Under a Broken Vow

Now you may consider that Samson’s downfall was when Delilah tricked him into divulging his secret. Or some of you might be thinking, ‘Well, his Christian profession was not all that we might think it to be.’ And you would be right, because the betrayal by Delilah was but a culmination of a downward spiral that he was in. I would suggest that more often than not, serious backsliding begins in steps. Samson was not surprised into sin: it did not take him unawares, but there was a gradual relaxation of his vow. And that is the usual process of turning from God. Samson’s experience is the experience of us all, but it stands as a tragic warning of allowing sin to go too far. “The chains of bad habits are too weak to be felt, until they are too strong to be broken.” It is always best to nip sin in the bud, before it fully flowers.

What was his sin? — It was the lust of the eyes, and the lust of the flesh, that was his besetting sin. He could conquer men, but he could not conquer his passions! Like Alexander the Great, “who conquered the known world, but could not conquer the little world within him.”

First, he was taken with the beauty of the woman in Timnath, a Philistine, an enemy of God and of Israel. He married her, and reaped the consequences.

Then, “he went down to Gaza, and saw there an harlot and went in unto her” (Jdg 16:1), forgetting the principle found in Proverbs 7:27,—“The harlot’s house is the way to hell, down to the chambers of death, she hast cast down many wounded, yea, many strong men have been slain by her.”

Thirdly, “He loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah” (Jdg 16:4). A woman who had strong powers of enticement, so much so, that he told her the secret wherein his strength lay. This, again, was his besetting sin, consorting with the enemy and being one flesh with harlots.

But, you may say, ‘well, that is not my besetting sin.’ Oh friend, we all have a particular bias in one direction or another. It would be a revelation if each one of us had to disclose his or her besetting sin. And in one sense we cannot look down from superiority upon Samson, for “let him that standeth take heed lest he fall.” But he is here for our admonition and warning.

But what did his sin do? — What were the consequences arising from his sin? Well, it brought him to break his vow, to disobey God.

On the way to conclude an unholy alliance, he fought with a lion, and later returned to eat of the honey in the carcass. The Law prohibited eating or touching any dead carcass, but his vow prohibited eating any unclean thing. And he ate the honey which had been defiled, and he gave some also to his parents “But he told not his father and mother he had taken the honey out of the carcass of the lion” (Jdg 14:6). He made his godly parents share in his sin – he broke one of three strands of his vow.

Then he married the Philistine woman of Timnath. Now this marriage was preceded by a seven-day feast (Jdg 14:17). And it was not just meals, but the word ‘feast’ has connotations of a drinking party. The Philistines historically had a reputation of being hard drinkers. So there was this excessive carousing, festivities, “eat, drink and be merry.” Now this had the sanction of Samson. He was there all the time, and therefore had guilt by association, and I would not be surprised if he had guilt by participation or implication. So the second part of his vow was forfeited.

But the final denial of his vow, his third disavowal, (just as Peter denied his Lord three times), was divulging the secret of his strength. You would think that he would have learned from the woman of Timnath, plaguing him for the answer to his riddle, because Delilah uses the same tactics. But a darling sin has deaf ears, and a fixed mind cannot be turned. And so, for the love of this woman, his hair is cut — his strength is sapped — his vow vanishes. Samson could kill a thousand men, but not his prevailing sin. His carnal love superseded his love for his vow.

What did his sin trap him into?

He put his trust in the flesh, in the creature more than his Creator. He put his trust in a mere mortal more than the Immortal. He told the riddle, and also the final vow to those who did not have grace. He shared the “secrets of the Lord” with those who did not fear His Name. He put his dependence in the frailty and cunning of human, unregenerate nature — and that is a sure way to fall. “Put not your trust in the arm of flesh.”

He was trapped into losing the comforts of the presence of the Lord. When Delilah cut his locks, he awoke as at other times, and thought he could go “in the strength of the Lord and the power of His might.” But, “he knew not that the Lord had departed from him.” His strength was not in his hair, that was only the sign of his vow. There is no efficacy in the sign, but what it represents. His strength was in Divine influence, “The Holy Spirit that came mightily upon him.” Not only his concentration had gone, but also his consecration, he was just like another man. He had grieved the Holy Spirit, and not only lost his vow, but lost his eyes. If we will not obey God’s Word, then chastening will follow.

He was trapped into being taken captive at the will of the Philistines. He was imprisoned, and fast bound in the night upon his eyes. “Long my imprisoned spirit lay, fast bound in sin and nature’s night.” And when you backslide or betray your Christian vows, or betray God Himself, then you will find yourself imprisoned; lying in the weakness of strengthlessness; shackled by sin and the bands of disobedience; knowing blindness to spiritual things and estranged from God. Tortured in a miserable existence.

He was trapped into serving the enemy. “And he did grind in the prison house.” Humiliated, by having to grind grain for the enemy. Instead of delivering Israel, he delivered food and strength for the Philistines, working for the enemies of God. And that is what sin will do to a man of God, it gives the opposition cause to speak evil of the cause of Christ, and use our defection for their own ends. “He did grind in the prison house” – going round and round, serving, instead of an ox, the wishes of God’s enemies. And sin will send you round and round, grinding out a miserable existence, and feeding the foes of the Gospel.

But the serious step that he was trapped into was this: he was now being used to work for the god of this world. Understand that Dagon was not the fish god that some think he was, but Dagon means ‘grain,’ and he supposedly was the father of Baal. So the Philistines, by using Samson to grind the grain, were, in a figure, making him serve their god. And they were using Samson’s defeat to “rejoice, and say, Our god hath delivered Samson our enemy into our hand” (Jdg 16:23). By grinding out the grain, Samson was acknowledging the supremacy of their god over him, and over Jehovah. Oh friend, any betrayal of your calling gives the world a cause to rejoice, and to say, “where is now their God?” When we give way to our besetting sin, the world will see, and will demean the Christian faith. And will gloat and triumph over you, rejoicing that its power over you is greater than Christ’s – triumphing over you, and voicing, ‘so much for this God you worship, and this Jesus Christ who you said could save.’ You are just like one of us. So they turn on any Christian who gives them cause to besmirch the Christian faith. They will make sport of you, just as the Philistines did to Samson.

3. Samson with His
Vow Renewed

“Howbeit, the hair of his head began to grow again.” Oh, the grace and the loving kindness of God, in that He does not forsake His children, even though they, at times, forsake Him. Samson’s eyes would never grow again, but his hair could. Serious sin will always leave a mark on your life; we do not get off free from breaking our vows. But blessed be God, he does not abandon us.

Now although the Philistines could remove his hair, remove his strength, remove his eyes, and remove his testimony, there were two things they could not do: -

They could not remove the roots of his hair. “Howbeit the hair of his head began to grow again.” There is a Chinese proverb which says, “When you cut the grass, remove the roots.” There are unseen things that the wicked cannot touch: Grace, like roots of hair, can lie hidden and unnoticed, but will manifest itself eventually. Faith, though as a grain of mustard seed, will spring up into life again.

When you have the root of the matter in you, like the roots of hair, it must act according to its nature, and grow again.

Though the Philistines could take Samson’s strength away, they could not prevent the course of nature, nor the omnipotence of God.

The enemy can only go so far with God’s children; they can only have partial success. That is seen in the life of Job. “Howbeit, the hair of his head began to grow again.”

They could not prevent prayer. No doubt, when Samson “did grind in the prison house,” he thought on his broken vow, it went round and round in his head. He had no eyes to weep, but remorse no doubt tortured him. There is no account of him praying in the prison house, perhaps shame and unfitness prevented him.

But when the Philistines were gathered together at their great feast, there were three thousand on the roof alone. And they cried, “Call for Samson, that he may make us sport” (v.25). But Samson was not only given strength to pray (v.28), but also received strength according to his prayer, “O Lord God, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.” He prays in need, he prays in repentance, he prays from a restored vow. It is a prayer of recovery, a prayer of faith, a glorious, victorious prayer that reaches Heaven, and is answered by God.

And he prayed with all his might, and “he bowed himself with all his might” (v.30), and the pillars groaned and shifted, and down came the screaming thousands, so that “he slew more in his death than in his lifetime,” in a typical anticipation of the climax of the ministry of the Lord.


What shall we do with these things?

First of all, there is the prayer to pray. Just once more Lord, I will not break my vow again, I will not forsake the God I love. Renew my strength, renew my heart, renew my zeal for thee. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, and the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin (1 John 1:9). God can give the victory and act as He did with the Psalmist (Ps.12:5), “Now will I arise, saith the Lord, for the sighing of the needy.”

Secondly, if a man of God can come that close to falling away, and to know the judgment of God upon his life, what of you who have never vowed to follow and serve Christ. Seek His pardon as Samson did, seek strength to believe and cry, “Remember me, Lord.” So did the thief on the cross cry: “Remember me, Lord.” Or will you perish as the three thousand Philistines, who fell from the roof straight into the pit of hell?

Oh cry, “Remember me, Lord!” Amen. W