“And Samson lay till midnight, and arose at midnight, and took the doors of the gate of the city, and the two posts, and went away with them, bar and all, and put them upon his shoulders, and carried them up to the top of the hill that faces Hebron.”
POOR Samson! We cannot say much about him as an example to Believers. We must hold him up in two lights–as a beacon and as a prodigy. He is a beacon to us all, for he shows us that no strength of body can suffice to deliver from weakness of mind. Here was a man whom no fellow man could overcome, but he lost his eyes through a woman–a man mighty enough to tear a lion like a kid, yet, in due time, though himself stronger than a lion, he was bound with fetters of brass. When I think of the infatuation of which Samson was the subject and remember that we are men of like passions with him, I can only, for myself, put up the prayer, “Lord, hold You me up, and I shall be safe,” and urge you to do likewise.
And Samson is also a prodigy. He is more a wonder as a Believer than he is even as a man. It is marvelous that a man could smite thousands of Philistines with no better weapon than the jawbone of a newly-killed ass, but it is still more marvelous that Samson should be a saint, ranked among those illustrious ones saved by faith, though such a sinner! The Apostle Paul has put him among the worthies in the 11 th Chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews and Paul wrote byInspiration–therefore there can be no mistake about the fact that Samson was saved. Indeed, when I see his childlike faith, and note the way in which he dashed against the Philistines and smote them, hip and thigh, with a great slaughter–the way in which he cast aside all reckonings and probabilities and, in simple confidence in his God achieved the most tremendous feats of valor–when I see this, I cannot but wonder and admire!
The Old Testament biographies were never written for our imitation, but they were written for our instruction. Upon this one matter, what a volume of force there is in such lessons! “See,” says God, “what faith can do? Here is a man, full of infirmities, a sorry fool, yet, through his childlike faith, he lives. ‘The just shall live by faith.’ He has many sad flaws and failings, but his heart is right towards his God. He does trust in the Lord and he does give himself up as a man consecrated to his Lord’s service and, therefore, he is saved.” I look upon Samson’s case as a great wonder, put in Scripture for the encouragement of great sinners. If such a man as Samson, nevertheless, prevails by faith to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, so shall you and I! Though our characters may have been disfigured by many vices and we may have committed a multitude of sins, if we can but trust Christ to save us, He will purge us with hyssop and we shall be clean! He will wash us and we shall be whiter than snow–and in our death we shall fall asleep in the arms of Sovereign Mercy to wake up in the likeness of Christ!
But now I am going to leave Samson alone, except as he may furnish us with a picture of our Lord Jesus Christ. Samson, like many other Old Testament heroes, was a type of our Lord. He is especially so in this case and I shall invite you to look at Christ rather than at Samson. First, come and behold our Champion at His work. let us go andsurvey the work when He has accomplished it. let us enquire what use we can make of the work which He has performed.
- Come with me, then, Brothers and Sisters, and LOOK AT OUR MIGHTY CHAMPION AT HIS WORK.
You remember when our Samson, our Lord Jesus, came down to the Gaza of this world, ‘twas love that brought Him. Love to a most unworthy object, for He loved the sinful church which had gone astray from Him many and many a time. Yet He came from Heaven and left the ease and delights of His Father’s palace to put Himself among the Philistines, the sons of sin and Satan here below!
It was rumored among men that the Lord of Glory was in the world and straightway they took counsel together how they should slay Him. Herod makes a clean sweep of all the children of two years old and under, that he may be sure to slay the newborn Prince. Afterwards, scribes and priests and lawyers hunt and hound Him. Satan tempts Him in the wilderness and provokes Him when in public. Death also pursues Him, for he has marked Him as his prey. At last, the time comes when the triple host of the Savior’s foes has fairly surrounded Him, and shut Him in. They have dragged Him before Pilate. They have scourged Him on the pavement. They drag Him to the place called Calvary, while His blood drips upon the stones of Jerusalem’s streets. They pierce His hands and His feet. They lift Him up, a spectacle of scorn and suffering and now, while dying in extreme pangs, and especially when He closes His eyes and cries out, “It is finished,” sin, Satan and death all feel that they have the Champion safe! There He lies silently in the tomb. He who is to bruise the old serpent’s head, is, Himself, bruised! O you who are the world’s great Deliverer–there You lie as dead as any stone! Surely Your foes have led You captive, O You mighty Samson!
He sleeps. But think not that He is unconscious of what is going on. He knows everything. He sleeps till the proper moment comes and then our Samson awakes–and what happens now? He is in the tomb and His foes have set a guard and a seal that they may keep Him there. Will any now help Him to escape out of their charge? Is there any man who will aid Him? No, there is none! If the Champion escapes, it must be by His own singlehanded valor! Will He make a clear way for Himself and come up from the midst of His foes? You know He will, my Brothers and Sisters, for the moment the third day comes, He touches the stone and it is rolled away! He has defeated death! He has pulled up the posts of the grave and taken away its gates and bars! As for sin, He treads that beneath His feet–He has utterly overthrown it! And Satan, too, lies broken beneath the heel that once was bruised! He has broken the old dragon’s head and cut His power in pieces forever! Solitary and alone, His own arm brings salvation unto Him and His righteousness sustains Him. I think I see Him now as He goes up that hill which is before Hebron–the hill of God. He bears upon His shoulders the uplifted gates of the grave–the tokens of His victory over death and Hell! Doors and posts and bar and all, He bears them up to Heaven. In sacred triumph He drags His enemies behind Him. Sing to Him! Angels, praise Him in your hymns! Exalt Him, cherubim and seraphim! Our mightier Samson has gotten to Himself the victory and cleared the road to Heaven and eternal life for all His people!
You know the story. I have told it poorly, but it is the most magnificent of all stories that ever were told! “Arms, and the man, I sing,” said one of the great classic poets of old, but I can say, ‘The Cross and the Christ, I sing.“ 'Tis my delight to tell of Him who espoused the cause of His people and, though for a while a captive, broke the green straps and fetters of brass and, having gained the victory for Himself, also liberated others, then goes, at the head of His emancipated people, along the way which He has opened–the new way which He leads to the right hand of God!
II. Let us go now, dear Brothers and Sisters, and calmly SURVEY THE WORK WHICH CHRIST HAS ACCOMPLISHED.
We will stand at the gates of old Gaza and see what the Champion has done. Those are ponderous hinges, and they must have held up huge doors. We will look at these doors, posts and this bar. Why, it is a mass of iron that ten men could hardly lift–and it might take 50 more to carry those huge doors! They were scarcely moved, even on their hinges, without the efforts of a dozen men–and yet this one man carried them all and I read not that his shoulders were bent, or that he grew weary. Seven miles, at least, Samson carried that tremendous load, uphill all the way, too! Still he bore it all without staggering, nor do I find that he was faint as he was aforetime at Ramath-Lehi.
I will not linger upon Samson’s exploits, rather would I lift up your thoughts to the great Captain of our salvation! See what Christ has carried away. I said that He had three enemies. The three beset Him and He has achieved a threefold victory over them!
There was death. My dear Friends, Christ, in being first overcome by death, made himself Conqueror over death andHe has also given us the victory, for, concerning death, we may truly say that Christ has not only opened the gates, but He has taken them away–and not the gates only, but the very posts, and the bar and all! Christ “has abolished death and has brought life and immortality to light.”
He has abolished it in this sense–in the first place, the curse of death is gone. Believers die, but they do not die for their sins. “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” We die, but it is not any longer as a punishment. It is the fruit of sin, but it is not the curse of sin that makes the Believer die. To other men, death is a curse–to the Believer, Imay almost put it among his Covenant blessings, for to sleep in Jesus Christ is one of the greatest mercies that the Lord can give to His believing people! The curse of death, then, being taken away, we may say that the posts are pulled up.
Christ has also taken away the after results of death, the soul’s exposure to the Second Death. Unless Christ had redeemed us, death, indeed, would have been terrible, for it would have been the shore of the great Lake of Fire. When the wicked die, their punishment begins at once–and when they rise again, at the general resurrection, it is but to receive in their bodies and in their souls the due reward of their sins! The sting of death is the Second Death–that whichis to come afterwards–
“To die–to sleep–
To sleep! Perhaps to dream. Yes, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come!”
said the world’s poet–no, not what “dreams” may come, but what substantial pains, whateverlasting sorrows will come! These are not for Christians. There is no Hell for you, Believer! Christ has taken away posts, and bar and all. Death is not to you any longer the gate of torment, but the gate of Paradise!
Moreover, Christ has not only taken away the curse and the after results of death, but from many of us He has taken away even the fear of death! He came on purpose to “deliver them, who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” There are not a few here who could conscientiously say that they do not dread death–no, but rather look forward to it with joyful expectation! We have become so accustomed to think of our last hours that we die daily–and when the last hour shall arrive, we shall only say, “Our marriage day has come.”–
“Welcome, sweet hour of full discharge!
That sets my longing soul at large.”
We shall joyfully hail the summons to mount beyond this land of woes, sighs and tears to be present with our God! The fear of death having been taken away, we may truly say that Christ has taken away posts, bar and all.
Besides, Beloved, there is a sense in which it may be said that Christians never die at all. Jesus said to Martha, “He that believes in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” Believers do not die, they do but–
“Sleep in Jesus and are blessed.”
But the main sense in which Christ has pulled up the posts of the gates of death is that He has brought in a glorious Resurrection. O Grave, you cannot hold your prisoners, for they must rise! O Death, your troops of worms may seem to devastate that fair land of human flesh and blood, but that body shall rise again blooming with more beauty than that with which it fell asleep! It shall rise from its bed of dust and silent clay to dwell in realms of everlasting day! Conceive the picture if you can! If you have imagination, let the scene now present itself before your eyes. Christ, the greater Samson, sleeping in the dominions of Death–death boasting and glorifying itself that now it has conquered the Prince of Life! Christ waking, striding to that gate, dashing it aside–taking it upon His shoulders, carrying it away and saying as He mounts to Heaven, “O Death, where is your sting? O Grave, where is your victory?”
Another host which Christ had to defeat was the army of sin. Christ had come among sinners and sins beset Him round. Your sins and my sins beleaguered the Savior till He became their captive. “In Him was no sin” yet sins “compassed Him about like bees.” Sin was imputed to Him–the sins of all His people stood in His way to keep Him, as well as them, out of Heaven. When Christ was on the Cross, my Brothers and Sisters, he was looked upon by God as a sinner, though He never had been a sinner. And when in the grave, He could not rise until He was justified. Christ must be justified as well as His people. He was justified not as we are, but by His own act. We are not justified by acts of our own as He was. All the sin of the elect was laid upon Christ–He suffered its full penalty and so was justified. The token of His Justification lay in His Resurrection. Christ was justified by rising from the dead and in Him all His people were justified too. I may say, therefore, that all our sins stood in the way of Christ’s Resurrection–they were the great iron gate and they were the bar of brass that shut him out from Heaven. Doubtless, we might have thought that Christ would be a prisoner forever under the troops of sin, but oh, see Him, my Brothers and Sisters! See how the mighty Conqueror, as He bears our sins “in His own body on the tree,” stands with unbroken bones beneath the enormous load, bearing–
“All that Incarnate God could bear,
With strength enough, but none to spare.”
See how He takes those sins of ours upon His shoulders and carries them right up from His tomb and hurls them away into the deep abyss of forgetfulness, where, if they are sought, they shall not be found any more forever! As for the sins of all God’s people, they are not partly taken away–they are as clean removed as ever the gates of Gaza were–posts, gates, bar and all! That is to say, every sin of God’s people is forgiven–
“There’s pardon for transgressions past,
It matters not how black their cast!
And, oh, my Soul, with wonder view,
For sins to come there’s pardon too!”
Every sin that all the elect ever did commit, are now committing, or ever shall commit was taken away by Christ–taken upon His shoulders in His great atoning Sacrifice and carried away! There is no sin in God’s book against any of His people! He sees no sin in Jacob, neither iniquity in Israel–they are justified in Christ forever.
Moreover, as the guilt of sin was taken away, the punishment of sin was consequently taken away, too. For the Christian there is no stroke from God’s angry hand. No, not so much as a single frown of punitive justice! The Believer may be chastised by a Father’s hand, but God, the Judge of all, has nothing to say to the Christian, except, “I haveabsolved you: you are acquitted.” For the Christian, there is no Hell, no penal death, much less any second death. He is completely freed from all the punishment as well as the guilt of sin–and the power of sin is removed too. It may stand in our way to keep us in perpetual warfare, but, oh, my Brethren, sin is to us a conquered foe! There is no sin which a Christian cannot overcome if he will only rely upon his God to enable him to do so. They who wear their white robes in Heaven overcame through the blood of the Lamb–and you and I may do the same. There is no lust too mighty, no besetting sin too strongly entrenched–we can drive these Canaanites out though they have cities walled unto Heaven–we can pull their cities down and overcome them through the power of Christ! Believe, Christian, that your sin is virtually a dead thing. It may kick and struggle–there is force enough in it for that, but it is a dead thing! God has written condemnation across its brow. Christ has crucified it, “nailing it to His Cross.” Go now and bury it forever, and the Lord help you to live to His praise! Oh, blessed be His name! Sin, with the guilt, the power, the shame, the fear, the terror of it, is gone! Christ has taken posts, and bar and all up to the top of the hill!
Then there was a third enemy and he, also, has been destroyed–that was Satan. Our Savior’s sufferings were notonly an Atonement for sin, but they were a conflict with Satan and a conquest over him. Satan is a defeated foe. The gates of Hell cannot prevail against the Church of Christ, but Christ has prevailed against the gates of Hell! As for Satan, the posts and bar and all have been plucked up from his citadel in this sense–that Satan has now no reigning power over Believers. He may bark at us like a dog and he may go about like a roaring lion, but to rend and to devour us are not in his power. There is a chain about the devil’s neck and he can only go as far as God likes, but no further. He could not tempt Job without first asking God’s permission and he cannot tempt you without first getting God’s permission. There is a permit needed before the devil dares so much as look on a Believer! And so, being under Divine permission, he will not be allowed to tempt us above what we are able to bear.
Moreover, the exceeding terror of Satan is also taken away. A Man has met Apollyon foot to foot and overcome him. That Man in death triumphed over Satan–so may you and I. The prestige of the old enemy is gone. The dragon’s head has been broken and you and I need not fear to fight with a broken-headed adversary! When I read John Bunyan’s description of Christian’s fight with Apollyon, I am struck with the beauty and truth of the description, but I cannot help thinking, “If Christian had but known how thoroughly Apollyon had been thrashed in days gone by, by his Master, he would have thrown that in his face and made short work of him.” Never encounter Satan without recollecting that great victory that Christ achieved on the tree! Do not be afraid, Christian, of Satan’s devices or threats. Be on your watch-tower against him. Strive against him, but fear him not. Resist him, being bold in the faith, for it is not in his power to keep the feeblest saint out of Heaven, for all the gates which he has put up to impede our march have been taken away, posts, bar and all–and our God, the Lord, has gotten to Himself the victory over all the hosts of Hell!
Surely there is some comfort here–comfort for you, dear Friend, over yonder. You have a desire to be saved. Godhas impressed you with a deep sense of sin. The very strongest wish of your soul is that you might have peace with God. But you think there are so many difficulties in the way–Satan, your sins, and I know not what. Beloved, let me tell you, in God’s name, there is no difficulty whatever in the way except in your own heart, for Christ has taken away the gates of Gaza–posts, bar and all! Mary Magdalene said to the other Mary, or the women said to one another, when they went to the sepulcher, “Who shall roll away the stone for us?” That is what you are saying. And when they came to the place, the stone was rolled away! That is your case, too, poor troubled conscience–the stone is rolled away! What? You cannot believe it? Here is God’s testimony for it–“Though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” You need an atonement for your sins, do you? “It is finished.” You need someone to speak for you. “He is able to save unto the uttermost, seeing He ever lives to make intercession for us.” Can you believe in the mercy of God in Christ and rest your poor guilty soul upon the merit of His doing and the virtue of His dying? If you can, God is reconciled to you! There may have been great mountains between you and God, but they are all gone. There may have been the Red Sea of your sins rolling between you and your Father. That Red Sea is dried up. I tell you, Soul, if you believes in Christ Jesus, not only is there a way of access between your soul and God, but there is a clear way! You remember, when Christ died, the veil of the Temple was torn in two. There was not a little slit for sinners to creep through, but it was ripped in two from the top to the bottom, so that big sinners might come in the same way as when Samson pulled up gates, posts, bar and all! There was a clear way out into the country for all who were locked up in the town. Prisoner, the prison doors are open! Captive, loose the bonds on your neck–be free! I sound the trumpet of jubilee! Bond-slaves, Christ has redeemed you! You who have sold–
“Your heritage for nought,
Shall have it back unbought,
The gift of Jesus' love!”
The Lord has anointed His Son Jesus “to preach deliverance to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.” Trust Him! May His mercy lead you to trust Him now, for there is really nothing to prevent your salvation if you rest in Him. Between your soul and God, I tell you, there is no dividing wall. “He is our peace, who has made both one…and came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were near.” May these precious words be treasured up by such as need them! Some of you need them. May the Spirit of God put them into your hearts and lay them up there, that you may find comfort in Christ!
But is there not something more here? Is there not here a ground of exhortation to Christians? Brothers and Sisters,have not some of you been tolerating some sin–some besetting sin which you think you cannot overcome? You would be more holy, but the thought that you are not able to overcome it makes your arm helpless against your own sin. So you think that Christ has left the posts, do you? I tell you, no! “Whoever is born of God does not commit sin.” He that is born of God sins not with allowance. He sins not with constancy and it is in his power, with the Holy Spirit’s aid, to overcome his sin! And it is his duty, as well as his privilege, to go to war against the stoutest of his corruptions till he shall tread them under foot. Now, will you believe, Brothers and Sisters, that in the blood of Christ and in the water that flowed with it from His side, there is a Sovereign virtue to kill your sins? There is nothing standing between you and the pardon of your sins but your unbelief–and if you will but shake that off, you shall march triumphantly through the gate of Glory!
Once more and I am through. Is not this an incentive for us, who profess to be servants of Christ, to go out and fightwith the world and overcome it for Christ? Brothers and Sisters, where Jesus leads us, it needs not much courage for us to follow. “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” Let us go and take it for Him! Nations that sit in darkness shall see a great light. Satan may have locked up the world with bigotry, with idolatry and with superstition, as with posts and bars, but the Kingdom is the Lord’s! And if we will but awaken ourselves to preach the Word, we shall find that the Breaker has gone up before us and broken and torn away the gates, posts, and bar and all–and we have nothing to do but to enjoy an early victory. God help us to do so!
And now, as we come to the Lord’s Table, let us have before us this vision of our glorious Samson achieving His mighty victory! And while we weep for sin, let us praise His superlative power and love that have worked such marvels for us. The Lord give us to enjoy His Presence at His table, and He shall have the praise! Amen.