The Fainting Hero
“He was very thirsty, and called on the LORD, and said, You have given this great deliverance into the hand of Your servant: and now shall I die of thirst, and fall into the hand of the uncircumcised?”
YOU will remember the occasion on which these words were spoken. Samson had been brought down from the top of the rock Etam, bound with cords by his own brothers, and given up as a captive into the hands of the Philistines. But no sooner did he reach the Philistines than the supernatural force of God’s Spirit came upon him and he snapped the cords as though they had been but hemp and, seeing the jawbone of a newly-slaughtered donkey lying near at hand, he grasped that strange weapon and fell with all his might upon the hosts of the Philistines! And though, no doubt, they took to speedy flight, yet the one man, smiting them hip and thigh, left no less than a thousand persons dead upon the ground! And as he piled up the heaps of the slain, he looked with grim satisfaction upon the slaughter which he had worked, crying, “With the jawbone of a donkey, heaps upon heaps, with the jaw of a donkey have I slain a thousand men.” There was, perhaps, a little of vaunting and vain-glorying in his conduct, but in a moment, a sudden faintness came over him. He had been exerting himself most marvelously, straining every nerve and muscle, and now, being very thirsty, he looked round him for a stream of water, but there was none–and he felt as if, for lack of water, he would die and then the Philistines would rejoice over him! With that simple-minded faith which was so characteristic of Samson, who was nothing but a big child, he turned his eyes to his heavenly Father, and cried, “O Jehovah, You have given me this great deliverance, and now shall I die of thirst? After all that You have done for me, shall the uncircumcised rejoice over me because I die for lack of a drink of water?” Such confidence had he that God would interpose on his behalf.
Now, my drift is the comforting of God’s saints, especially in coming to the Table of their Lord. I have thought there may be many of you who are feeling in an unhappy and a distressed frame of mind and that by referring you to what God has already done for you, I might lead you to see a lighter estimate upon your present trouble and enable you to argue that He who has worked great deliverances for you in the past will not allow you to lack in the future!
- YOU HAVE ALREADY, MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS, EXPERIENCED GREAT DELIVERANCES.
Happy is it for you that you have not had the grim task of slaying a thousand men, but there are “heaps upon heaps” of another sort upon which you may look with quite as much satisfaction as Samson and, perhaps, with less mingled emotions than his when he gazed on the slaughtered Philistines.
See there, Beloved, the great heaps of your sins–all of them giants–and any one of them sufficient to drag youdown to the lowest Hell! But they are all slain! There is not a single sin that speaks a word against you. “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” Another arm than yours has done it, but the victory is quite complete. Christ has returned with dyed garments from Bozrah. He has trodden the winepress of God’s wrath and I may almost say that the blood which stains His apparel is the blood of your sins which He has utterly destroyed forever. Look at their number. Take all the years of your life and make each year a heap. Divide them, if you will, into groups and classes–put them under the heads of the Ten Commandments and there they lie, in ten great heaps, but every one of them destroyed!
Think, too, of the heaps of your doubts and fears. Do you not remember when you thought God would never havemercy upon you? Let me remind you of the deep dungeon where there was no water when the iron entered into your soul. Some of us can never forget the time when we were under conviction of sin. Moses tied us up to the Halberts and took the ten-thronged whip of the Law of God and laid it upon our backs most terribly–and then seemed to wash us with brine as conscience reminded us of all the aggravations which had attended our sins! But though we feared we should have been in Hell. Though we thought that surely the pit would shut its mouth upon us, yet here we are living to praise God, as we do this day, and all our fears are gone! We rejoice in Christ Jesus. God “has not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.” “Heaps upon heaps” of fears have we had–bigger heaps than our sins–but there they lie, troops of doubters. There are their bones and their skulls, as Bunyan pictured them outside the town of Mansoul, but they are all dead, God having worked for us deliverance from them!
Another set of foes that God has slain includes our temptations. Some of us have been tempted from every quarter ofthe world, from every point of the compass. Sometimes it has been pride. At another time, despair. Sometimes it has been too much of the world and at other times it has been too little. Sometimes we have been too strong and puffed up. At other times we have been too weak and cast down. There has sometimes been a lack of faith and at other times our fervency may have been inflamed by the flesh. The best of men are shot at with the devil’s worst darts. You have been tempted by Satan. You have been tempted by the world. Your nearest and dearest friends have, perhaps, been your worst tempters, for “a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” There has not been a bush behind which an enemy has not lurked. There has been no inch of the road to Canaan which has not been overgrown with thorns!
Now look back upon your temptations and where are they? Your soul has escaped like a bird out of the snare of the fowler and this night you can say, “They compassed me about like bees. Yes, like bees they compassed me about, but in the name of God have I destroyed them! I have passed safely where others have been ruined. I have walked along the walls of salvation when others have been lying at the foot, dashed in pieces by their presumption and their self-confidence–‘heaps upon heaps’ of my temptations have been slain and You, O God, have worked for me a great deliverance!”
So let me say, in the next place, has it been with most of your sorrows. You sons and daughters of tribulation havesometimes sat down and said, “All these things are against us.” You have lost children, friends have died, business has departed, wealth has melted–almost every comfort has had a blight upon it. Like Job’s messengers, evil tidings have followed one another and you have been brought very low. But, Beloved in Christ Jesus, you have been delivered! “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” It has been so in your case. Whatever form the affliction has taken, Mercy has taken a suitable form to meet it. When the arrow flew, God was your Shield. When the darkness gathered, He was your Sun. When you had to fight, He was your Sword. When you needed to be supported, He was your Rod and your Staff–
“Thus far we’ve proved that promise good
Which Jesus ratified with blood.
Still is He gracious, wise, and just
And still in Him let Israel trust.”
I will let no man or woman in this congregation take a place before me in obligation to the Most High! Brothers and Sisters, we are all debtors, but I count myself most of all a debtor! I boast that I have nothing to boast of! I would desire to lie the lowest and to take the meanest place, for I owe most of all to the Grace of God! When I look back to my parentage, when I see from where the Lord has brought me and what He has done for me and by me, I can only say, “You have given to Your servant this great deliverance.” And I suppose if all the people of God could meet here, one by one, they would each claim that there is something peculiar in their every case. Each one would say, “There is something in the deliverance God has worked for me that demands of me a special song”–therefore let the whole of us together, who have known and “tasted that the Lord is gracious,” look back upon the past with thankfulness and praise to the Lord!
II. YET FRESH TROUBLES WILL ATTACK YOU AND EXCITE YOUR ALARM.
Thus, after his fight with the Philistines, Samson was thirsty. This was a new kind of trouble to him–he was so thirsty that he was afraid that he would die! The difficulty was totally different from any that Samson had met before. Shake those Samsonian locks in which your strength lies, but they cannot distil a single drop of dew to moisten your mouth! The strongest man is as much amenable to thirst as the weakest–and that arm which could slay a thousand Philistines, cannot open a fountain in the earth, or draw down a shower from the skies, or yield to thirst a single draught of water! He is in a new plight. Of course it seems to you to be a far simpler trial than he had known before, and so it was. Merely to get thirst relieved is not anything like so great a thing as to be delivered from a thousand Philistines! But I daresay, when the thirst was upon him and oppressed him, Samson felt that little present difficulty more weighty and severe than the great past difficulty out of which he had so recently been delivered!
Now I think, Beloved, there may be some of you who have been forgiven, saved, delivered and yet you do not feel happy tonight. “God has done great things for you, whereof you are glad,” yet you cannot rejoice. The song of your thanksgiving is hushed. A little inconvenience in getting into your pews, a hasty word spoken by somebody outside the gate, the thought of a child at home–something which is very little and insignificant compared with all that God has worked for you will sometimes take away the present joy and comfort of the great–the unspeakably great gifts which you have received! You may be sure of your standing in Christ and yet some little trouble keeps buzzing about your ears and may be distracting you even now. Let me say two or three words to you.
It is very usual for God’s people, when they have had some great deliverance, to have some little trouble that is too much for them. Samson slays a thousand Philistines and piles them up in heaps–and then he must die for need of a little water! Look at Jacob–he wrestles with God at Peniel and overcomes Omnipotence itself–and yet he goes limping on his thigh! Strange, is it not, that there must be a touching of the sinew whenever you and I win the day? It seems as if God must teach us our littleness, our
nothingness, in order to keep us within bounds! Samson seems to have crowed right
lustily when he said, “With the jaw of a donkey have I slain a thousand men.” Ah, Samson, it is time your throat became hoarse when you can boast so loudly! The mighty man has to go down on his knees and cry, “O God, this thirst will overcome Your hero! Send me, I pray You, a draught of water.” God has ways of touching His people so that their energy soon vanishes. “In my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved…You did hide Your face and I was troubled.” Now, dear child of God, if this is your case, I say it is not an unusual one. There is a reaction which generally follows any strong excitement. No doubt the excitement of having slain the Philistines would naturally be followed by depression of spirits in Samson. When David had mounted the throne of Judah, there came a reaction and he said, “I am this day weak, though anointed king.” You must expect to feel weakest just when you are enjoying your greatest triumph!
I have already said that the use of all this is to make a man feel his weakness. I hope it makes you feel yours. Whatfools we are, Brothers and Sisters and yet, if someone else were to call us fools, we would not like it–though I do not doubt but that we are very well named, whoever may give us the title–for the whole of Heaven cannot make us rejoice if we have a pain in our head and all the harps of angels and our knowledge of our interest in “the Glory that shall be revealed,” cannot make us happy if some little thing happens to go contrary to our minds! Somebody trod on the corns of your pride as you were coming in here–and if an angel had preached to you, you would not have enjoyed it because of your mind being discomposed. Oh, simpletons that we are! The table is daintily spread and the manna of Heaven lies close to our hands, but because there is a little tear in the garment, or a small thorn in the finger, we sit down and cry as though the worst of ills had happened to us! Heaven is your own and yet you cry because your little room is scantily furnished! God is your Father and Christ your Brother–and yet you weep because a baby has been taken from you to the skies! Your sins all forgiven and yet you mourn because your clothes are poor! You are a child of God, an heir of Heaven–and yet you sorrow as though you would break your heart because a fool has called you ill names! Strange is it and foolish–but such is man–strangely foolish and only wise as God shall make him so!
III. If, my Brothers and Sisters, you are now feeling any present trouble pressing so sorely that it takes away from you all power to rejoice in your deliverance, I want you to remember that you ARE STILL SECURE! God will as certainly bring you out of this present little trouble as He has brought you out of all the great troubles in the past.
He will do this for two reasons, both of which are found in the text. The first is because if He does not deliver you,your enemy will rejoice over you. “What?” said Samson, “Shall I die of thirst, and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised? Faint, weary, thirsty, shall I become their victim?–I who was once their terror and made the damsels of Gath and of Askelon to weep instead of to dance? Shall I be slain?” And what do you say? But hush your gloomyforebodings! If you perish, the honor of Christ will be tarnished and the laughter of Hell will be excited. Bought with Jesus' blood and yet in Hell–what merriment there would be in the Pit! Justified by the righteousness of Christ and yet lost–what a theme of scorn for fiends! Sanctified by the Spirit of God and yet damned–oh what yells of triumph would go up from the abode of Apollyon and his angels! What? A child of God forsaken of his Father? A jewel plucked from Jesus' crown? A member rent from Jesus' body? Never, never, never! God will never permit the power of darkness to triumph over the power of light. His great name He always has in respect and the ruin of the meanest Believer would be the cause of dishonor and disrespect to God–therefore you are safe! Oh it is such a blessed thing when you can run behind your God for shelter! Some youngster out in the street has been offending his fellow and is likely to receive a blow–but here comes his father–and he runs behind him and feels that there is no fear for him now! So let us shelter ourselves behind our God. Better than bronze walls, or castles, or high towers shall Jehovah be to us! And we may then look at all our enemies and say, as the Lord did to Sennacherib, “The virgin, the daughter of Zion, has despised you and laughed you to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem has shaken her head at you.” The uncircumcised shall not rejoice! The daughters of Philistia shall not triumph! We are our God’s and He will keep His own until the day when He shall display them as His jewels.
That is one reason for confidence, but another reason is to be found in the fact that God has already delivered you. Iasked you just now to walk over the battlefield of your life and observe the heaps of slaughtered sins, fears, cares, temptations and troubles. Do you think He would have done all that He has done for you if He had intended to leave you? The God who has so graciously delivered you up to now has not changed! He is still the same as He ever was. I have no doubt about the sun rising tomorrow morning–he always has done so since I have been able to see him. Why should I doubt my God, for He is more certain than the sun? The Nile ceases not to make Egypt laugh with plenty–men trust it. And why should not I trust my God who is a river full of water overflowing with loving kindness? If we never doubt God till we have cause to do so, distrust will be banished from our hearts forever! Of men, we speak as we find them–let us do the same with God. Was He ever a wilderness to you? When did He forsake you? When did your cries to Him return without an answer? Has He ever said, “I have blotted you out of My Book and I will remember you no more?” You have doubted Him wickedly and wantonly, but never have you had any cause for suspicion or mistrust! Now, since He is “the same yesterday, and today, and forever,” the God who delivered you out of the jaws of the lion and out of the paws of the bear will yet deliver you out of your present difficulty!
Do you think, dear Friend,
if He does not do so, He will lose all that He has done for you! When I see a potter
making a vessel, if he is using some delicate clay upon which he has spent much preliminary labor to bring it to its proper fineness–if I see him again, and again, and again molding the vessel–if I see, moreover, that the pattern is coming out–if I know that he has put it in the oven and that the colors are beginning to display themselves–I think were it common everyday ware I could understand his breaking up what he had done, because it would be but worth little. But since it is a piece of rich and rare porcelain upon which months of labor have been spent, I could not understand his saying, “I will not go on with it,” because he would lose so much that he had already spent! Look at some of those rich vessels by Bernard de Palissy which are worth their weight in gold, and you can hardly imagine Bernard stopping when he had almost finished and saying, “I have been six months on this, but I shall never take the pains to complete it.” Now God has spent the blood of His own dear Son to save you! He has spent the power of the Holy Spirit to makeyou what He would have you be and He will never stay His mighty hand till His work is done! Has He said and shall He not do it? Has He begun and shall He not complete it? God will have no unfinished works! When Jehovah’s banner is furled and His sword is sheathed, then shall He cry–
For the kingdoms of this world
Are the kingdoms of My Son.”
In that day, every vessel that He prepared for Glory shall be in Glory, having been made perfectly meet for it. Do not, then, despair because of your present trouble!
Doubtless some of you who are saying that I am speaking as one who does not know the occasion or the bitterness of your peculiar distress. My dear Friends, I do not care to know it. It is enough for me to know that if God has worked for His servants so great a deliverance as He has done, the present difficulty is only like Samson’s thirst and I am sure He will not let you die of faintness, nor suffer the daughter of the uncircumcised to triumph over you. “Ah,” says one, “it is all very well talking, but mine is a very, very, very peculiar case!” Well, then, dear Brother, there is a special reason why God should deliver you because if Satan could overcome you in that peculiar case, he would then say that he could have overcome all the saints if he could have got them into the same corner! And he would loudly boast just as though the whole had perished! But I do not think that your case is so very peculiar–it is only the way in which you look at it. Theroad to sorrow has been well trodden–it is the regular sheep path to Heaven–and all the flock of God have had to pass along it. So I pray you, cheer up your heart with Samson’s words and rest assured that God will deliver you soon!
And now, while I have been talking thus, the thought has again occurred to me that many people listen to me who are not Christians. My Friends, my great wonder is what some of you do without God! I can hardly understand how the rich man can have any comfort without God, for he must suffer from bereavement and bodily pain as well as the poor. Those silly butterflies of fashion who spend all their time in flitting about from flower to flower are so heartless and thoughtless that I can, to some extent, comprehend how they can do without God. With empty heads and silly hearts, men and women can make gods of anything! Their own pretty persons can be quite a sufficient object for their idiotic worship. But a man who stands right straight up, a sensible thinking man–a working-man, if you will–I do not mind whether he works with the dry heat of his brain or with the damp sweat of his face–I cannot understand how a man like this, with organs of thought and a reasoning soul, can go on without God! There must be pinches with some of you when you need a God. I would have been in a madhouse a dozen times if it had not been for my God. My feet would have altogether gone into the chambers of despair and I would have ended this life if it had not been for the faithful promises of the God who keeps and preserves His people! My life has not been a miserable, but a happy one! And yet I tell you that there have been innumerable times in it when I could not have done without my God. I do not understand what some of you who are always so pinched, do without God. There are many such here. You are poor. You are not often without sickness. You were born inheritors of maladies that make your life wretched. Your children are sickly about you. It is as much as you can do by Saturday night to make ends meet–you are frequently in debt–you are constantly in trouble. Oh, I cannot tell what you do without God! Why, you have nothing here, and no hope of anything hereafter! Poor Souls, I could weep for you to think that you are without God!
And you will have to die soon. When the death-thirst is in your throat, what do you think you will do without God? To die in God’s Presence is simply to let life blossom into something better than life–but to die without God must be horrible! You will not want your companions then! Strong drink will not pacify you then! Music will have no charms for you then! The love of a tender and gentle wife can yield you but sorry comfort then! You may lay your moneybags at your side, but they will not calm your palpitating heart then! You will hear the booming of the waves of the great sea of eternity! You will feel your feet slipping into the dreadful quicksand! You will clutch about you for help, but there will be none! Instead, invisible hands shall begin to pull you down and down through the dark sea! And you will descend to those darker depths where dread despair will be your everlasting heritage!
But there is hope yet! Whoever believes in the Lord Jesus Christ shall be saved! Turn your eyes to Christ, poor Sinner, as He hangs there suffering in man’s place, taking human guilt on Himself and being punished for it as though it were His own! Trust Him, Sinner–and resting in Jesus you shall be saved!