Then went Samson to Gaza, and saw there an harlot, and went in to her.…
(with Exodus 34:29): — The recurrence of the same phrase in two such opposite connections is very striking.
I. BEAUTY AND STRENGTH COME FROM COMMUNION WITH GOD. In both the cases with which we are dealing these were of a merely material sort. The light on Moses' face and the strength in Samson's arm were, at the highest, but types of something far higher and nobler than themselves. But still, the presence of the one and the departure of the other alike teach us the conditions on which we may possess both in nobler form, and the certainty of losing them if we lose hold of God. There have been in the past, and there are to-day, thousands of simple souls shut out by lowliness of position, and other circumstances from all the refining and ennobling influences which the world makes so much of, who yet in character and bearing, aye, and sometimes in the very look of their meek faces, are living witnesses how true and mighty is the power of loving gazing upon Jesus Christ to transform a nature. All of us who have had much to do with Christians of the humbler classes know that. There is no influence to refine and beautify men like that of living near Jesus Christ and walking in the light of that beauty which is the effulgence of the Divine glory and express image of His person. And in like manner as beauty, so strength comes from communion with God, and laying hold on Him. Samson's consecration, rude and external as that consecration was, both in itself and in its consequences, had passed away from him.
II. THE BEARER OF THE RADIANCE IS UNCONSCIOUS OF IT. "Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone." In all regions of life, the consummate apex and crowning charm of excellence is unconsciousness of excellence. Whenever a man begins to suspect that he is good, he begins to be bad; and you rob every virtue and beauty of character of some portion of its attractive fairness when the man who bears it knows, or fancies that he knows it. The charm of childhood is its perfect unconsciousness, and the man has to win back the child's heritage, and become as a little child, if he would enter into and dwell in the kingdom of heaven. And so in the loftiest region of all, that of the religious life, depend on it, the more a man is like Christ the less he knows it, and the better he is the less he suspects it.
III. THE STRONG MAN MADE WEAK IS UNCONSCIOUS OF HIS WEAKNESS. The very fact that you do not suppose the statement to have the least application to yourself is perhaps the very sign that it has. When the life blood is pouring out of a man he faints before he dies. The swoon of unconsciousness is the condition of some professing Christians. Frost-bitten limbs are quite comfortable, and only tingle when circulation is coming back. I remember a great elm-tree, the pride of an avenue in the South, that had spread its branches for more years than the oldest man could count, and stood, leafy and green. Not until a winter storm came one night and laid it low with a crash did anybody suspect what everybody saw in the morning — that the heart was eaten out of it, and nothing left but a shell of bark. Some Christian people are like that; they manage leaves, they manage fruit; when the storm comes they will go down, because the heart has been out of their religion for years. "Samson wist not that the Lord was departed from him." And so, because there are so many things that mask the ebbing away of a Christian life, and because our own self-love and habits come in to hide declension, let me earnestly exhort you and myself to watch our selves very narrowly. Again let me say, let us ask God to help us. "Search me, O God, and try me." We shall never rightly understand what we are unless we spread ourselves out before Him, and crave that Divine Spirit, which is the candle of the Lord, to be carried even in our hands into the secret recesses of our sinful hearts. And, last of all, let us keep near to Jesus Christ, near enough to Him to feel His touch, to hear His voice, to see His face, and to carry down with us into the valley some radiance on our countenances which may tell even the world that we have been up where the Light lives and reigns.
(A. Maclaren, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Then went Samson to Gaza, and saw there an harlot, and went in unto her.