<< Judges 14: Samson's Riddle >>
1And Samson went down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines. 2And he came up, and told his father and his mother, and said, I have seen a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife. 3Then his father and his mother said unto him, Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines? And Samson said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well. 4But his father and his mother knew not that it was of the LORD, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel. 5Then went Samson down, and his father and his mother, to Timnath, and came to the vineyards of Timnath: and, behold, a young lion roared against him. 6And the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and he rent him as he would have rent a kid, and he had nothing in his hand: but he told not his father or his mother what he had done. 7And he went down, and talked with the woman; and she pleased Samson well. 8And after a time he returned to take her, and he turned aside to see the carcase of the lion: and, behold, there was a swarm of bees and honey in the carcase of the lion. 9And he took thereof in his hands, and went on eating, and came to his father and mother, and he gave them, and they did eat: but he told not them that he had taken the honey out of the carcase of the lion. 10So his father went down unto the woman: and Samson made there a feast; for so used the young men to do. 11And it came to pass, when they saw him, that they brought thirty companions to be with him. 12And Samson said unto them, I will now put forth a riddle unto you: if ye can certainly declare it me within the seven days of the feast, and find it out, then I will give you thirty sheets and thirty change of garments: 13But if ye cannot declare it me, then shall ye give me thirty sheets and thirty change of garments. And they said unto him, Put forth thy riddle, that we may hear it. 14And he said unto them, Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness. And they could not in three days expound the riddle. JUDGES XIV
“The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy''. — Rev. xix.10. This truth should be ever borne in mind. It gives the account of the prophets, priests and kings, of Israelitish history an interest for us of supreme worth, to consider them as shadows of the varied characters and attributes of the Saviour God,
" Kings and leaders, prophetic seers.
Penmen of the Sacred Word ;
Each to Jesus witness bears.
As the only God and Lord."
Abraham, the father of the faithful, represented the Lord as the everlasting Father of all Christians; Moses typified Him as the leader of the spiritual Israel by the law of love in the New Testament; Joshua, as the conqueror of the tribes in Canaan, represented the Lord Jesus as the subduer of the inner evils of the heart and Samson, whose strength was astonishing, and who constantly displayed it against the Philistines, was a type attribute of His character upon earth, in which He denounced and condemned all Pharisaic pretence and all mock religion. Regarded thus, we shall find the life of Samson more interesting to the Christian than it was to the Jew : and it will be interesting for ever.
To obtain the proper ground-work for the divine lessons connected with the history of Samson, we must remember that he was the strong opponent of the Philistines, and we must consider the character and representation of that people. They occupy a prominent position in the history of the Jewish nation. They were constantly at strife with Israel, and if Israel represented the Church of God, the enemies of Israel must represent the enemies of the Church of God: and the champion and defender of the Church.
First let us glance at Philistia and the Philistines. The present ordinary name for the whole country in which the Israelites dwelt, Palestine, is derived from the Philistines. They dwelt on the south side of the country, all along the Mediterranean Sea, from Joppa, now called Jaffa, to the borders of Egypt. They were a powerful people, with flourishing cities, and much commerce. The greatness of these cities was owing chiefly to the extensive trade between Europe and Asia, which was carried on mainly by them. The religion of the Philistines was very singular. They worshipped Dagon, a god, whose image had the body of a fish, with the head and hands of a man. Tradition had told them that an extraordinary being of this form had come out of the sea, and taught them the use of letters, arts, religion, law, and agriculture. The word dag is the Hebrew word for fish, and the name Dagon will therefore signify the fish-god.
We have here probably all the elements for perceiving the correspondence of the Philistines, and the reason of their incessant warfare with Israel. They dwelt in the land of Canaan, were immediate neighbours of the Israelites, yet did not worship the same God. They hated Jehovah, and worshipped the fish-deity. They were powerful by their traffic on the sea, and they despised the more peaceful cultivation to which the sons of Israel were confined.
To be Philistines, and yet to dwell in the same land as Israel, is spiritually to be acquainted with the doctrines and knowledge of religion, to have the Word, and thus externally to be with the church. But not to worship and obey the Lord, and instead to set up an idol of our own, means in spiritual language to refuse the heart, and internally to worship an intellectual idol. The sea, or mass of waters, is the symbol of truth in general ; of knowledge in the mass. Fish correspond to those who have a scientific turn of mind, who delight in exploring the domains of knowledge, the waters of truth ; but merely from the love of knowing. To dwell on the sea-coast, spiritually means to abide in a state of knowing merely without applying that knowledge to the cultivation of the heart and life. Some people are ever at the sea-side, ever gazing on the waters, and curiously investigating their depths, but never making the effort to requisite to obtain that much higher blessing involved in those words of the Lord, " If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.”
As the correspondence of the sea will throw light upon the character of the Philistines of the present day, we will dwell a little upon the subject, and upon its use in the Word. The sea is the great highway of nations, and it is the grand reservoir of all our supplies of water, for the varied purposes of life and fertility. The whole mass of the accumulated knowledge of all ages is like the great sea, by means of which we mentally communicate with our fellows, and from which we each extract so much truth as is needful for our spiritual thirst and spiritual growth. The earth is said to be founded upon the seas, and established upon the floods (Ps. xxiv. 2). Not because the outer world is so founded, but because the Church is erected upon the knowledge which is stored in the memory, and which forms the outer ground-work of all our progress. In Isaiah it is expressly said, “The knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea (xi. 9).
This correspondence of knowledge, in its mass, to the sea, is the key to many edifying lessons in the Scriptures, as well as to many instructive meditations, while we survey the mighty movements of the deep. Let the seas praise Him (Ps. lxix. 34), is not an unmeaning expression, but intimates that all knowledge should be used for the glory of God, and the well-being of man. The sea in a storm is like the mind lashed by passion into terrible vigour and energy, and using all it knows to dash itself against all opposers and overwhelm them with its billows. "The wicked are like a troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, for the wicked."— Isa. lvii. 20, 21.
When we witness the tempestuous ocean, lashing itself into foam under the wild howl of the furious storm, while the opposing waves dash frantically against each other, and then resume their mad impetuosity, like an army of furies, we have a terrible illustration of minds in an uproar and rushing madly on. Mental storms exist when the soul is thus assailed. Such assaults, in temptation from evil spirits, are felt as tempests on the sea, and as terrible floods. These are the waters of which it is said, " Save me, God ; for the waters are come in upon my soul. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing : I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink : let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters. Let not the water-flood overflow me, neither let the deep swallow me up, and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me."— Ps. lxix. 1, 2, 14, 15.
Knowledges misapplied, tossed about by wild frenzy, make false principles, terrible in proportion to the energy with which they are enforced ; and when secretly impelled from the powers of darkness, making a storm which can be hushed only by the voice of Him who, on the Sea of Galilee, said to the awful billows which threatened the little bark of the disciples with ruin, " Peace, be still :" and there was a calm.
" When billows swell, and winds are high.
And clouds o'ercast my wintry sky;
Out of the depths to thee I'll call,
And make thy name of love my all.
" Then, Lord, the pilot's part perform.
And guide and guard me through the storm ;
Defend me from each threat'ning ill,
Control the waves! say, ' Peace, be still.' "
The sea in a calm state is an emblem of the mind stored with knowledge, ruled by order, and enjoying peace. It is a grand sight to behold on a sunny day,---its surface, like an immeasurable mirror reflecting the sun, the bright and gorgeous clouds, and the calm blue depths of the sky. An invisible power moves the immense field of silvery waves with gentle regular swell, but it obeys no other force. Such is the well-stored good man's mind. It reflects the beauty of the Almighty and of heaven. It enjoys an unutterable calm, and moves only to the dictates of the inward law of love. Such are the minds of angels. Hence the Apostle John says, " And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire : and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God." — Rev. xv. 2.
Happy is the man whose stores of knowledge are transparent : who sees in all things earthly something heavenly : whose memory, filled with information from the Divine Word, perceives spiritual light and loveliness shining through it. He stands on the sea of glass. And if his soul is tuned as it ought to be, by love to praise, he will truly have a harp of God.
The sea, then, in its various moods, corresponds to knowledges accumulated in the mind, sometimes agitated by passion, at others ruled by peace. The fishes which swim in these waters are the definite scientific principles with which we penetrate the domains of knowledge and enjoy them. Clear scientific conceptions of religion are the fish of the waters of the sanctuary. And when we enjoy our researches into divine knowledge, when we have a living earnestness in it, coming again and again to the waters of divine truth, and delighting in them, our fish will multiply. “Everything that liveth and moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither : for they shall be healed ; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh." — Ezek. xlvii. 9. To have even his scientific thoughts made alive by the waters of the Gospel is the privilege of the true Christian. May it be ours, Philistines dwelt constantly by the sea, and they made a fish god. They were opposed to Israel, and strove from time to time to injure them. And are there not Philistines now? not multitudes who are nominally in the Church, but are strangers to its inner spirit? They busy themselves with the knowledge and science of religion, but never with its humility, its sacrifice of self, its love of goodness, purity and virtue. Such persons cannot unite with others if there is any difference off opinion. They live upon hair splitting. They will sacrifice all the sweetness of heavenly love, and all the uses of life if to convict any one of a mistake in doctrine or in science. The science of religion is their god, and they form themselves into its image. They have a fish-god, and they become fish men. They will fight for an idea, or a creed, until all charity and good-will towards others are completely sacrificed, and they breathe only persecution, revenge, and war. These are Philistines at the present day. They dwell only at the seaside of knowledge, and worship a fish. They become themselves, at last like a creed embodied, ready to do battle with all who do not bow down to their idol. Religion to them is a war-cry. They seek not to agree with others, but are diligent to discover a disagreement, that they may at once proceed to show their prowess, an defeat the unorthodox professor who has not ranged himself under their standard. These are the bitter adherents of faith only: the Philistines of modern Christendom. No matter that a Christian may worship Christ supremely ; may forego his own will to Christ's love ; may strive to subdue his entire soul and life to the power and law of Christ, they ask only is he of the settled way with reference to some creed, or even crotchet which they have determined to be indispensable to salvation? if not, down him ; no quarter for him ; no association with him : perpetual war. It is in this state of mind that sects and divisions originate.
True religion is a law of love and life, and faith is only saving so far as it leads to amendment and sanctification of heart, and purity of conduct. But the Philistines deny this, They declare that unless a person takes their particular dogma or interpretation, there is not the slightest hope of salvation for him. Speak to them of loving God above all things, and they immediately suspect you are unsound ; but if you proceed to intimate that our blessed Lord declared that " whatsoever ; would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them :for this is the law and the prophets " (Matt. Vii. 12), they at once exclaim, it is "meriting heaven by good works,” and that is complete blasphemy. Believe or perish is their one note. And, they do not mean believing in loving God above all things, and showing we believe by keeping His commandments, as St. John says (v. 2), They do not mean believing in loving our neighbour as ourselves, and showing we believe that by working him no harm, but doing him all the good we can, for love worketh no ill to his neighbour, but love fulfilleth the law (Rom. Xiii. 10). Not in believing anything of this does the faith of Philistines consist, but in believing some fancies of theirs about Adam's sin being imputed to us, and all mankind being condemned in Adam, and Christ's righteousness being imputed to us the moment we believe it, and God accounting us white as snow, because Christ's purity is reckoned to our credit. These things, say they, make saving faith which gives everlasting life in a moment. The belief in these things will save you, making you acceptable to God. It will create in you love to God, good works, grace, and every blessing. Such are the principles of the Philistines of the spirit, and wild waste indeed has been made by them in the Church of God. There is a plausibility to the natural man who holds back from the real work of regenerate life, who clings to his inward evils, and wishes to gain heaven at the least possible expense, which makes the Philistines a worse than common foe. There is a power of bending the Scriptures to seem to favour this delusive dream of man being lost and saved by imputation, which makes the professors of it, Goliath-like, presume upon their strength, and defy the armies of the living God. Yet nothing is more baseless than their whole system. And when it rears itself, giant as it looks, to oppose the real power of real religion, one smooth stone from the brook of God's Word is competent to strike the giant to the earth. " If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.”— John xiii. 17.
Having thus endeavoured to describe the Philistines of the present day, we will now proceed to consider Samson as their opposer. He is the type of the Lord Jesus as a practical Saviour. He came as the opponent of absolute and present sin, not to propound any strange and theoretic schemes, but to conquer hell then, to put down sin then, and to do this really and fully, and thus to be the spring of new power to all His people in the coming time; the Everlasting Father of the new age.
Samson was a Nazarite from birth, not partaking of wine or anything from the vine. He also, according to angelic direction, preserved his hair from being cut. Both these particulars indicate the practical feature in the Saviour's character. Abstinence from the vine and its product, is representative of abstinence in practical life of all help from faith : He acted from good itself. He did good, because He loved good ; not for the sake of distant rewards which faith proposes, but for the sake of the present excellence inherent in goodness. He borrowed nothing from the vine. His uncut hair was the emblem in Samson of truth in the lowest externals of life. Truth in word and work is symbolized by hair, hence the hair of the risen Saviour is described as white like wool, as white as snow. When the prophet is derided as merely helpless and unable to be of any service is addressed with the opprobrious expressions, '' Go up, thou bald head : go up, thou bald head." Truth to be powerful must be truth seen clearly even in the letter; not mere mental truth. And to represent this in Samson, his hair was not to be cut.
Of the fallen Jewish Church it is said. Instead of well-set hair there should be baldness, indicative of the want of external truth and truthfulness among them. The prophets wore hairy clothes as an indication of the truth which they were to utter, even to the lowest apprehensions of men. Elijah is called a hairy man (2 Kings i. 18). Esau is especially mentioned as a hairy man; and, to obtain the fall benefit of his brother's birth-right, Jacob covered his hands and neck so as to make them hairy. This, like the history of Abraham, was an allegory. These two men represent the two principles of the mind, the will and the intellect. The will, slow to be regenerated, and heedless of its immortal birthright for heaven; the intellect, capable of being led by faith, winning the inheritance, and leading his external life into order from duty, until the heart, renewed resumes its proper government at last, and Esau regains his birthright, and breaks his brother's yoke from off his neck (Gen. Xxvii. 40). Samson's strength lay in his hair. The strength of truth is always in its ultimates, when seen in harmony with its spirit. When a person sees a principle interiorly, and then can impress it with a '' Thus saith the Lord," he is invincible. When the true thoughts of a Christian are expressed in true and simple words, they are felt to be powerful. They are in fact, sure to triumph in the end. Truth goes furthest. Truth lasts longest. Truth is great and will prevail. These are proverbs furnished by the experience of mankind; and to represent the power of truth in word and work, Samson's strength was in his hair. The whole cunning of falsehood is applied to prevent persons seeing the truth, conscious that, if seen, it will prevail. Let it come out so as to manifest the spirit's hair, and it will certainly prevail.
Samson resolved to take a wife of the daughters of the Philistines, which much pained his father and mother, who knew not that it was of the Lord, and that an occasion was sought against the Philistines. The Son, the Divine Samson, took into His human nature the imperfections and tendencies to evil of the whole human race. " The Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all." — Isa. liii. 6. The affection for a spurious religion, which is one part of the iniquity of us all, is represented by a woman of the daughters of the Philistines. How contrary to His Divine Love and Wisdom it was that He should associate His self to our fallen states is intimated by the complaint of Samson's father and mother : ''Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines?" —Ver. 3. But Samson persisted. He saw that the result would be the overthrow of the Philistines. The Lord condescended to cloth Himself in our unsanctified and imperfect nature, and at what an expense to His infinite purity we can but faintly conceive. “He humbleth Himself to behold the things that are in heaven “— Psalm cxiii. 6. " The heavens are not clean in His sights.” Job xv. 15. To take, then, not our nature purified as the angels have it, but as men had it, even the seed of Abraham (Heb. ii. 16). This is persistence for the sake of love. This was condescension. To take on Him our infirmities, that He might have a feeling of our infirmities (Heb. iv. 15). To receive into His humanity our infirmities, that He might be " tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin” — Heb. iv. 15. To come into the region where men were, and even where infernals were, that He might triumph over the latter, and save the former: this was the wondrous mercy of the Most High in assuming our nature, and this was indicated by Samson's connections with the Philistines. What Samson did literally, of course, only ocurred mentally in the temptations of the Lord.
When Samson went down to Timnath in Philistia, and came to the vineyards, behold, a young lion roared against him. And the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and he rent him as he would have rent a kid.
Samson's going down to take his betrothed, and prepare her to become a wife, will represent the Lord's exploration of His human nature, and the preparation for its glorification and full union with Himself. In doing this, the lion roared at Samson, to represent the opposition to the Lord's redemption of our nature and of this world, made by the powers of darkness here effigied by this lion. The lion is the symbol of courage — the courage of those who are bold for the truth in a good sense— of those bold for falsehood, when, as here, the evil are described. In saving men, the Lord had first to put down the power of infernal spirits. The lion roared on Samson when he was at the vineyards, and before he got to the house of the woman he desired. So was it with the Lord. Before He could begin to save men from their sins, it was essential that He should overthrow that terrible power which held them inwardly in bondage. This is the lion prefigured in the one before us, and referred to in many more places in the sacred Scriptures. Peter says, " Your adversary, Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour." Peter v. 8. By the devil is not meant any one great evil spirit, but the concentrated force of a multitude is personified and represented in one. Jesus said to the evil power infesting the poor man among the tombs, What is THY name? And he answered, saying, My name is legion: for we are many."— Mark v. 9.
In the Book of Psalms, where the Lord is represented by David, and His sorrows and struggles with the powers of evil are often portrayed in a most vivid and touching manner, the lion is often referred to as the type of the infernal powers. In the twenty-second Psalm, which is applied to the Lord's sufferings by His own use of the commencing words on the cross, it is said, “They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening a roaring lion." — Ver. 13. '' Save me from the lion's mouth, for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns." — Ver. 21. "My soul is among lions, and I lie even among them that are set on fire ; the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword." — Psalm lvii. 4. " Thou shalt tread upon the lion and the adder ; the young lion and the dragon thou shalt trample under foot." — Psalm xci. 13. In these, and many more passages, it is evident that by lion and young lion are meant those terrible powers from which the Lord came to redeem man, and with whom He fought. They assailed him. The young lion roared. But not now having a feeble man to contend with, but a Divine man, the power which overthrew the hells is represented by Samson's tearing the lion as he would a kid. The omnipotence wielded by the Lord Jesus effected the overthrow of the infernal Societies in the world of spirits, which had held the minds of men in bondage. Thus was the lion slain. This work of conquering hell in the invisible world is often passed by unnoticed by those who read the Psalms and the Gospels, where they are frequently adverted to, and strikingly announced, because there is now but little known of the world of spirits and its dose connection with this. Yet the Lord is there manifestly described as effecting a judgment of the world at the time when He was among men. There is the striking instance in Luke : “And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. And He said unto them, I beheld Satan like lightning fall from heaven. Behold I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you." — Chap. x. 17-19. Here manifestly the subjugation of infernal spirits is declared, and the result, to be the conveyance of new power to man on earth. All societies in this world should be regarded as associated with spirits in the world of mind, with such as are mentally nearest like themselves. And when the world has been long pursuing a certain system or dispensation, those who quit this world with that system interwoven with all their affections, sentiments, and habits, they go to strengthen the sphere and the power of such as favour that system ; and hence its influence in this world on the minds of men becomes more rooted and riveted, and so it continues until the Lord judges it, and thus provides for a change.
This condition of the spirit-world, as a leading element in the condition of this, is commonly overlooked; yet in the economy and arrangements of the Divine government it cannot be, and is not, disregarded. All the great movements of the outer world have their roots in the inner one; and the only way to improve society on earth is, first, to clear the spirit-world of those from whom old and corrupt influences have come. When the Lord was upon earth. He announced, " Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me." — John xii. 31, 32. Men could not be drawn to the Lord, so long as an awful inner world of corrupt spirits, the accumulations of ages were interposed as ruling influencing powers between mankind and Himself. When the prince of this world was cast out, then men could really in spirit be drawn to their Lord. To put down the powers of darkness, then, was to lay the axe to the root of the upas-tree of falsehood and sin, and the branches would wither and die, making room for the mustard seed of true religion to be sown, which would in turn become a great tree, and protect all who seekto grow in the love to God and one another. This meeting of the powers of good evil in the spirit-world, and, at the end of an age or dispensation, the descent of the Lord into that world to judgment, should ever be borne in mind by every one who will understand those cycles in which the great progressions of society move. For hundreds of years mankind go on in the same beaten track, only opening and widening the extent. No effort to change the march of events does anything but crash the daring protester against, it may be, some preposterous, popular superstitions. He testifies against the Juggernaut of the age, but he sinks beneath its wheel. The time for judgment and changes has not come. At length there is a consummation of folly and iniquity brought about. A false system has fully worked itself out. There is a ripening in rottenness. A prophet comes and speaks heroic soul-elevating truths. Men feel their souls at the same time unwontedly free and buoyant. They loathe the old tyranny. They feel the light and the new air of heaven playing around their souls, and they gather round the new standard. A new dispensation has begun.
Such is the ground work and rationale of all those epidemic movements by which the face of society is changed. A judgment and clearance are effected in the mind-world, and the result of the spiritual heavy clouds being dispersed is the freshness, the light, and the beauty, of a mental spring for this world. All thoughtful persons look for judgment at the end of a dispensation of things, but they look for it to happen in the wrong world. It is appointed for men once to die, after death the judgment. All great judgments upon ages, like individual judgments upon persons, take place after death. Unless the corrupt adherents of an old dead age are removed from the world, where they can still influence this, and bar the road to progress, no new start can be made. They are sensible of this. They resist their removal. They war against the Divine Samson, but in vain. He tears them as if they were a kid, though there is nothing in His hand. Divine omnipotence, through the humanity of the great Saviour, broke down the power of the infernals, and thus effected the deliverance of the human race. Expressed in the language of the prophet, “He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was intercessor : therefore His arm brought salvation unto Him, and His righteousness it sustained Him." — Isa. lix. 16. No power but that of God Himself could have effected man's redemption; but His love is as great as His power, and therefore He became our Saviour, " I have trodden the winepress alone, and of the people there was none with me; for I will tread them in Mine anger, and trample them in my fury, and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment" — Isa. lxiii. 3. The lion roared at Samson when he was at the vineyards. The Lord is said to have trodden the winepress alone. The vineyards signify the Church. There, spiritually either the good or the bad vines grow. When society has gone wrong, it is the Church which has first gone wrong.
" When nations are to perish in their sins,
'Tis in the Church the leprosy begins :
The priest, whose office is with zeal sincere
To watch the fountain and to keep it clear.
Carelessly nods, and sleeps upon the brink.
While others poison what the flock should drink ;
Or waking at the call of lust alone,
Infuses lies and errors of his own :
His unsuspecting sheep believe it pure.
And, tainted by the very means of cure,
Catch from each other a contagious spot,
The foul forerunner of a general rot."
Every judgment, therefore, begins at the church. The spirits connected with a false church, are the lion which roars, at the vineyards. The Divine Redeemer and Judge explores the inward motive of all opposers. He brings the most secret disposition to light. This is called treading the winepress. By this means as the juice is separated from the husk, so is the inward essence of the soul separated from its outward seeming. The books of men's souls are opened. The self-seeker, the power-seeker, are unmasked, and multitudes who have kept up a semblance of piety are unveiled, and shown in the light of heaven to be only fit for the abodes of the perseveringly wicked. In the world of spirits are gathered multitudes of covered hypocrites who, when unveiled, are shown to be monsters of iniquity; there are also great numbers who have been deluded by such sanctimonious impostors, who cannot be entirely freed from their influence after death, until the time of judgment and exposure comes. These are inwardly good persons, who have been taught the general prevalent errors, and have regulated their lives and motives even by them. They are watched over, and cared for by the Lord, but cannot be fully delivered until the time of judgment. These were they whom Peter says the Lord visited when he was dead as to the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: by which also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who sometime were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah (1 Pet iii. 18—20). These were the captivity whom the Lord led captive when the everlasting doors were opened to receive Him Eph. iv. 8. These were the prey which were taken from the mighty, the lawful captives which were delivered when Jehovah became our Saviour and Redeemer (Isa. xlix. 24, 25. They were taken, as it were, from the very jaws of the lion, and saved with an everlasting salvation. Although these truths were well known in the early days of Christianity, they have become almost forgotten amongst the so-called Christians at the present day, who suppose that the whole of redemption consisted in the death of the Lord, to satisfy the demands of another Divine Being. They know little anything of His struggle with and overthrow of infernal spirits, and the deliverance of myriads of the good who had been held in bondage. They know little, indeed, of His destroying, by His death, him that had the power of death, even the devil (Heb. ii. 14) : of His being manifested to destroy the works of the devil (1 John iii. 8). The victories which made heaven ring again with holy and triumphant exultation are almost ignored among men, because the Church has so sunk into ignorance of spiritual things and the spiritual world, that the Scriptures on such subjects have become unintelligible. Let them, however, be faithfully consulted, and we shall then learn redemption was not effected by the pain inflicted on one Divine Person, to appease the wrath or justice of another, but that it was the work of the one Divine Person, besides whom is no other to bring the universe once more into order, by by vanquishing the powers of hell, in both the invisible and the invisible worlds. And He did it. And the heavens rejoiced over their glorious companies were increased by countless multitudes. Hence it is written, " I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins : return unto Me; for I have redeemed thee. Sing, O ye heavens ; for the Lord hath done it : shout, ye lower parts of the earth : break into singing, ye mountains, forest, and every tree therein : for the Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel."— Isaiah xliv. 22, 23.
In its most extensive signification, we can now see what is involved in this Divine Riddle : " Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness." — Judges xiv. 14. For the eater or devourer is a most appropriate term to express the terrible character of those infernals who, being fall of self-love, seek only to devour, or to reduce to their, own selfish ends, the property , the power, and the comforts of all others. They are strong from the false principles with which they envelop themselves. But where the devourers and the strong had raged and reigned, there the Lord had triumphed and constituted His new heaven of redeemed ones. Their joys are signified by the honey, formed in the carcass of the dead lion. Samson partook of this honey to intimate that the Lord rejoiced with His people. It is meat and drink to Him when man is happy. It was to represent the divine sympathy and joy with His people after redemption, that He said, on His appearance to His disciples, when they were fishing, after His resurrection " Have ye here any meat ? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and a honeycomb, and he did eat before them."— Luke xxiv. 41 — 43. The broiled fish and honeycomb were not only real but symbolic. They signified the true thoughts and sweet delights which His people could now enjoy ; and His Divine joy with them and in them. What is meat to them is meat to Him. His joy is in them, and their joy is full. When this lion was slain, a swarm of bees formed in his carcase, and Samson ate of the honey, and gave his father and his mother some. When hell was conquered, and the redeemed were constituted into a new heaven, like a swarm of happy bees ministering to each other's happiness, the Lord rejoiced with them ; His Divine love, His Father, was satisfied, and heaven and the Church as a grand mother rejoiced also. He ate, and gave His Father and His Mother some.
But let us now make a more individual application of this Divine Riddle. Every man must follow the Lord in the regeneration, or he cannot enter into His joys. No cross, no crown; no labour, no triumph; is the law both of nature and of grace. We become strong not from our own strength, but as the Apostle said, I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me. Though ourselves the veriest weakness, through the Saviour's help we become real Samsons, " mighty to the pulling down of strongholds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." — 2 Cor. x. 4, 5. But this power is given from the Lord in proportion as we are thoroughly dedicated to God, and thoroughly trained to be virtuous and truthful in all our matters. Our inward convictions should be suffered to come out in words and works. We should let our spiritual hair grow. Or in other words, not shape our outer life to the passing fashions of a hypocritical world, but speak the truth and do the truth.
Let us heed no reasonings that would slacken our efforts for self-conquest — for imitation of our Saviour — for devotion to His laws. By His might we shall conquer, and we shall enter into His laws. By His might we shall conquer, and we shall enter into His joy. The lion roars. God's law is a terrible thing. It is a flood to drown you. It is a park of artillery, every gun double-shotted. It is a fire to destroy you. It is a judge to condemn you. It is awful to think of the law. But the Samson-like soul looks up at this wild rage, at the merciful rules of the God of love and hears, as if from a seraph's silver voice, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul : the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart : the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is dean, enduring for ever ; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold : sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb." — Psalm xix. 7 — 10. The young soul gather courage ; he determines to gird himself for the holy war with what is evil in him, to follow the Lord Jesus his Saviour, to live the life of heaven upon earth, to be a real Christian, and to begin by putting down in himself all the opposing reasonings against the law of love and mercy, and the evil in which they originate. He sees it now as a lion that is greedy of his prey, and as it were a young lion lurking in secret places.'' His salvation depends upon crushing him. He looks to his Divine Saviour and prays: "Arise, Lord, disappoint him, cast him down : deliver my soul from the wicked, thy sword " — Psalm xvii. 12, 13. He sets his love upon the Lord, and he treads upon the lion and the adder in his soul, and goes on his way rejoicing.
Now it is that, having resisted and conquered evil, he begins to feel the sweets of heavenly goodness. In grace, as in nature, there is no vacuum. When darkness is expelled, light enters ; when evil with its misery is overcome, goodness with its joy is present; when hell with its attendant demons is driven from us, heaven with its angels encompasses us with songs of deliverance. The joy of conquered sin, the feeling that we have begun to live for heaven, and have already conquered many obstacles, is beyond all description. It is the hidden manna which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it. Man eats angel's food, the meat of heavenly goodness is partaken of,the sweetness of heavenly truth is experienced. We rejoice in ourselves, we rejoice with the Lord, we rejoice with the Church in heaven and on earth. We eat the honey, and give our Father and our Mother some. Our life is gilded with a new glory, never felt before. The world seems radiating with heaven. Old things have passed away, all things have become new. All our thoughts, like busy bees, are full of projects for the good of all around us, and each one brings its sweetness, each makes its honey. We find that in doing the commandments there is great reward. “Great peace have they that love thy law.” Conquered evil has given us meat: conquered falsehood has given us sweetness.
Oh, if men would only learn the blessedness of conquering themselves, what rapture would be experienced even here, if the ambitious man would conquer his ambition — that restless, craving, insatiable monster, which cares neither for slaughtered millions nor ruined nations, so that its vain dreams may be carried out — what peace he would have within. How great would be his felicity, while he felt himself firm on the truthful Rock of Ages ; abiding in the protection of the holy and true One. His soul shining with the pearls of imperishable beauty ; clothed with the garments of salvation ; feeling his heart burn within him while his Saviour talks with him by the way, and having around him countless opportunities of strengthening himself in angelic graces from day to day. And then before him glitters his everlasting home. There dwells the King in all his beauty. There are the hosts of the happy. There are all his present joys immensely increased, and there are also new joys and glories yet undreamt of. All things that delight the pure heart, all that can charm the pure thought, all that can bless every heightened sense, is there ; and these will increase in beauty and blessing for ever.
Such are the fruits of sin overcome. Out of the eater indeed comes forth meat: out of the strong indeed comes forth sweetness.
"When life's tempestuous storms are o'er.
How calm he meets the friendly shore.
Who lived averse from sin !
Such peace on virtue's path attends,
That where the sinner's pleasure ends,
The Christian's Joys begin.
" See smiling patience smooth his brow!
See kindred angels downward bow,
To lift his soul on high ;
While eager for the blest abode,
He joins with them to praise his God,
Who taught him how to die !"
Author: JONATHAN BAYLEY --From The Divine Word Opened (1887)