“And Samson said unto her, If they bind me with seven green withes that were never dried, then shall I be weak, and be as another man” (Judges 16:7).
Samson knew that was a lie when he said it, but nevertheless, although he talked about the things that couldn’t tie him, there came something that did tie him. Coming one day across the Hudson River in a ferryboat, we passed by some of the great vessels belonging to another country. There they were, lying alongside of the dock, vessels that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. A vast amount of money tied up in a vessel, and the vessel tied up to the wharf, a little bit of smoke coming out of the chimneys from a little fire in the boilers—enough to keep the vessel warm for those who stayed on the inside—but the vessel was almost useless.
There were no great chains to hold her up against the wharf, the steam was not puffing on the outside, the propeller was not working, and there was not straining, pulling, pushing and snorting to get away. There wasn’t a motion to get away. There was nothing tied to the vessel that could hold it if it wanted to get away; but it was tied up, not by any of the little withes that had pulled its nose on one side up to the pier. It could have gotten away from the pier by one pull of its mighty engines, and would almost have pulled wharf and all along with it—it wasn’t held there because of fetters, but because a break had come between this government and another government. Something you could not see or touch had tied up those vessels, and they could not move out or up that river and sail out into the ocean’s deep, and perform the function for which they were made.
Now, there may be among you who hear this sermon, lots of lives that belong to Jesus Christ, that have been born again, and made clean in Him, and this morning there isn’t a single habit that ties them down. They could not look around and see one thing they could lay their finger on that is so powerful that they could not break away from it if they wanted to, and yet they are tied up as much as those vessels are. The very service for which He created them they are not performing, and they cannot go down the harbor and sail out into the deep. Where is their life of service, and sacrifice in the Gospel and leading somebody else to Christ? They haven’t any. Yet they can say, “I am still a vessel.” Yes, but they are not carrying any cargo today.
What Tied Them?
What tied them up? What tied Samson up? You could put the 13th verse of the first chapter of John’s Gospel over against Samson and then if you wanted to—“Which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” The minute you mention Samson you mention a miraculous birth. Samson was no ordinarily born man. He was not born of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man in the same way that that is stated of the new birth, for he knew nothing like that. But he was born as a type of a spirit born son, just as Isaac was a type: miraculously born—just the same as John, the Baptist, was a miraculously born son, so was Samson. Jesus said to Nicodemus “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
If you will read the history of Samson, you will find out how God began to deal with the father and mother, and how by His miraculous power they were able to bring this child into the world—how God sent an angel down to talk to them, and how they made a sacrifice, and realized that they had been talking face to face with an angel, and God had been dealing with them, and afterwards Samson came into the world.
You who are tied up could stand up beside Samson today, and say, “I am of a miraculous birth. I was born not of the will of man, but of the will of God, and I have a life this morning that is hid with Christ in God. I did not make it nor create it. No man could create it, but God gave me the life that I have through the precious blood of Jesus, and through the work of Jesus.” In other words, as you examine yourself you know you are heaven-born, blood-washed, that Jesus’ life is your life, and you have that blessed life within your bosom.
Samson could have said, in a physical sense what you state in a spiritual sense. He knew that in a peculiar and unique way he was born; and a little later he takes the vow of the Nazarite. I wonder if you have taken that vow. Unless you have you are not in the serving army of the Lord, in the sacrifice ranks. God never baptizes a man with the fullness of the Holy Spirit that isn’t separated—He never does. And to separate a man from the things of the world and of the flesh there must be a complete breaking time in his life. That crisis may have come in your life. If it hasn’t you are still tied up to the flesh and tied up with the things Samson was tied up with, and you need liberating from the life of the flesh.
God wants to separate every Christian from the life of the flesh and give him the fullness of the Holy Ghost, and let His power be upon him, so that everyone who sees him knows he is acting under the direct influence and power of Almighty God. He wants to show in separated lives that it is not from talent, smartness, brilliancy, culture or refinement that the power comes, but that it is the work of God directly in his heart. God is looking for men and women through whom He can reflect Himself and His power. God’s strength is made perfect in weakness. Humility shows God’s strength.
Samson was a dwarf—he was a “shrimp” in common ordinary parlance. If you had looked Samson over you would not have found a reason in the world why he was strong. The artists paint him with great muscles, but if he had all that, you would not have to hunt for his power. You bring a prize fighter in here, and let me stick a great big door on his back, and he will walk off with it, and you would say, “Sure, why wouldn’t he?” Bring a great big Goliath in here and you would expect him to do great things, and say, “That is according to his size,” but Samson wasn’t any giant. He was a little man, and they got out an investigating committee that could search with a fine-tooth comb and scratch him all over inside and out to find out how he did the things he did—and they couldn’t find out.
“It wasn’t muscle,” they said. “The idea of that little wart coming down here and doing the work he is doing! How can he do it?” That is the kind of folks the world can’t understand—the kind of men and women that don’t work by might nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord—and the Lord does it.
The great victories that God gave to the Jewish army, He did not give because of the power of their spears, nor of the soldiers who were of the king’s own; but God took them down to the river and gave them the test-out as to whether they would mind God, and gave them a little pitcher, with a light on the inside, and they were told to trust God and away they went. God made the armies to flee time, and time and time again through a weak army. God gave the victory, not by might, nor by power, but by His Spirit; and that great army that marched around Jericho with Joshua, never lifted a hammer or spear or sword to crush the walls, but lifted their faces toward God, and by faith, down came the walls of Jericho, and every man walked straight ahead of him.
I imagine that the college professors of other cities outside of Jericho, and the highbrows, looked on from the outside, and said, “I don’t see any cannon tracks, or big stones that they break the walls in with. How did they do it? How did they get the pressure of all the people together on the outside of the wall, and all at once it all fell down in a single minute?” We have lots of folks like that, who say, “We haven’t organization enough to do it—haven’t enough folks, haven’t enough money,” and keep looking to man; but God wants a united people that can trust God, and watch God work. He is looking all over the world for folks that are absolutely yielded, given up, folks that trust God, a little faith, a little, little, little faith—that trust a great big God. Don’t think of the task, or what it is He is calling you to say, “Lord, I want to trust you,” and I want to say to you, my friend, that the thing that can be wrought in prayer this morning is beyond any man’s dreams.
The man or woman of faith this morning doesn’t have to say, “I am not original, no organizer, don’t know how to do smart things.” Faith doesn’t look at talents, but looks at God, and believes God, and finds what God can make out of that yielded life of yours. God takes the things that are not to bring to naught the things that are, and when men call big things, God calls rottenness and apostasy. He says these self-sufficient ones are wells that haven’t any water in them, clouds blown by the wind; they vaunt themselves with great language, but they haven’t the power of God. They are like Balaam, who sought a reward. They are after something for themselves, and the world sees and knows it. The world, as it sits in the audience and congregation, looks to see whether God is exhibited or whether man is exhibited. Oh, turn from one’s self. By prayer and trusting God mighty things can be wrought today, right where you are in your daily life, your home circle, your business, and all about you. A little faith towards a big God will make a big difference.
To size Samson up, you would say there was nothing to him. They had to hunt for his strength; but the power of God began to move on him as he came into the camp. “Oh,” somebody would say, “I wonder what that emotion was that moved around over Samson?” There never was a man that felt the power. Peter, on the day of Pentecost, knew he was mighty happy, but never dreamed for a minute what the result was going to be. He never knew what the power of the Holy Ghost was. He was consciously filled with confidence in His resurrected Lord, but the rest were as drunk with the Spirit as he was. They were all happy, talking about the glorious resurrection of Jesus, and that He was in the Glory. They were speaking of Him and exalting Him, and while they were doing it, they didn’t even know they were preaching.
The Power of God
Here was a Parthian over here, and he was hearing in his own language, and over here a Persian hears the message in his tongue, and here a man from Cappadocia, and God talking to them all in their own language, and men from the uttermost parts of the earth standing roundabout heard them just exhorting away, and talking about Jesus Christ, and the Glory of the resurrection. God’s Almighty power took the very words and turned them flipflop, and when they hit that Persian he was hearing it in his own language, and the Mesopotamian heard it in his language. Conviction just went around the whole crowd, and some fellow, to ease his conscience, said, “They are drunk,” and old Peter, weak before, but now filled with holy confidence, said, “We are not drunk. No sir, this is that which God, through the Prophet Joel spoke, that in the last days the power of God would fall upon the handmaidens, and upon the brethren together, and we would speak forth the words of God. You took Jesus and hung Him to a tree, and He is alive again in the Glory.” And I can imagine the Holy Ghost taking those sinners and hitting their heads together around there. Their poor hearts began to quake within them, and they said, “We are bound for hell. We took this Christ, roiled Him, spit on Him, and put Him on the cross not many days ago, and now this man declares that He is the Son of God.”
Now, my brother, whenever the Holy Spirit begins to talk to you like that, you drop on your face. You won’t look at Peter, you will forget Peter. Peter wasn’t even conscious of his own power. He only knew the urge and the unction to get out the truth, and the Holy Ghost poured it out through him. They were only ordinary words, but the Holy Ghost takes them and shuts them into the hearers’ hearts, and when old Peter began to pull the net he had more than he had fish, when Jesus told him to cast the net on the other side of the boat that day on the sea.
I imagine that night when they went home from meeting, he said, “Do you remember when Jesus told me to cast the net on the other side? When I saw all those folks coming in today, I said, Praise the Lord, that’s the way He worked on fish and He has now made me, with the same power, a fisher of men. He separated these people to Himself by His command before He put His spirit upon them.”
God wants today a separated people, a people of faith in the mighty resurrected Jesus, who sits in the Glory now. Nothing else but separation to Him, and keeping your separation vow, will insure the mighty working of His spirit through your life.
Nothing but going back on the vow of separation can keep you from the power of God. Nothing else can tie you up. All the devils in the world cannot tie you up until you consent to break your vow that you made to God that you are going to be His and His alone. All the men on earth cannot take a man’s ministry from him, and all the devils out of the pit, until that man himself fails God. You cannot stop the working of God until you yourself voluntarily separate from God, and then you are tied up.
Whenever you break off negotiations, then you are in for it, and the devil don’t have to tie you down with ropes or chains, he has your mouth shut. There is a little bit of steam in your boilers, a little bit of smoke coming out, the evidence that you are a child of God, and that there is life still there, but your power is gone. The great church called Christian today, is absolutely powerless. Tied up, right up against the world. Tied up, why? They have gone and made love to a bunch of highbrows that don’t believe in that Book. They have given their money to a bunch of institutions that preach against that Book, they have sought position and power among men, and favor with the world, instead of power in their closets, and they have a “form of godliness, denying the power thereof.”
They preach and sing songs, and men come in to their meetings, and go out, just as they came in. No change in their lives, nobody saved, nobody with a hilarious testimony, nobody with a shout, and they say, “We have thousands of members, and great machinery.” So, has that great vessel tied up in New York harbor got great engines, but they don’t go anywhere.
The professing church of today has talent to burn, orators by the thousands, singers by the thousands, teachers by the thousands, organization—organization, machinery, machinery, machinery, but where are they going? We who know our Book, know exactly what God is talking about, when, in Revelation 2:4, He pictures the church-age which opens the Christian era, and says, “I have somewhat against you because you have left your first love.” Then He goes on describing the professing Church as it comes on down the years to our day. You see a little bit more coldness until you get down to the last church-age, where He says, literally, “I will spue you out of My mouth. Why? Because you are poor? No, you say you are rich. Because you are ignorant? No, you say you are smart, and say you have need of nothing.” And that is the church-age in which we live.
They are saying, “We have things in our possession.” Never has the world known such an organization as the professing rich church of our day; but they are counting God’s Spirit out and putting man’s spirit and power foremost. The cry is not to God, but to man. Man, in their scheme, is to bring the Millennium. They say, “We will make the Millennium ourselves in a few years. We will only have to make a few more turns, a few more victories, one or two more great moves, and we will move right in, and we will have it.” But God says, “You are poor and undone, and tied up, fettered to the world.”
Read the indictment of the power professing, but not possessing Church of our age—“And unto the angel of the Church of the Laodiceans write; these things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched and miserable and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous, therefore, and repent” (Revelation 3:14-19).
You would never have picked that one hundred and twenty on the day of Pentecost for looks; you wouldn’t have picked them for money. And God is talking seriously to some folks today, that have their eyes on something else than His Holy Ghost leading, separating and empowering. Is it you “Lord, is it I?” Let the question go around today, and say, “Lord, is it I?” “Would I sell you for what I want? Have I an ambition. Well, Lord it isn’t a very big ambition.” Judas sold Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, and your ambition is worth more than thirty pieces of silver; but what are you selling Him for this morning? What is it that has come between you and Jesus that has spoiled your separation vow?
You say, “Mr. Rader, I wouldn’t betray Jesus like Judas did.” Now hold on, and just ask yourself, “Is my heart today really His, my money, my ambition?” “Lord, if I ask myself a true question, what do I really want this morning? Do I want the will of God at any price, or have I some ambitions in another direction?”
I want you to examine yourselves today, and I want to examine myself, and ask God. Anything in this world that you have your heart set on outside of His will cuts off your life of power. You have told Him you were going to go all the way with Him, and let Him take your life, and yet it is not yielded wholly now. The devil is trying his best to tie you up, and the only way he can get you tied up is to get your consent to break the vow of separation with another ambition. God wants to exhibit Himself in you, but you have sort of side-tracked and have something else you want to exhibit. God picked Samson to show God’s power in a very dark time. He is seeking you in these last days to show Himself forth.
Samson, I believe, is the last man men would have picked as a strong man; but separated as he was unto God, from his mother’s womb, God gave him his strength. God knows how to pick His own men. The professing Church of our day doesn’t believe this. Thousands of men are doing nothing but trying to train men for God; millions of money are being spent in an effort to equip men for God’s work; but the reading of the history of the Church will certainly prove to men of candid mind, that God has His own peculiar way of picking men, and the very men He has used the most have always been objected to by those men who think they are God-appointed to pick men—a Spurgeon, a Moody, would not be man-picked.
Look at the record God puts down in His book of the theological students that were bothering Elisha. Elijah had been caught away by God, but little did these man-picked fellows look to God’s power, and they said unto Elisha, “Behold now, there be with thy servants fifty strong men; let them go, we pray thee, and seek thy master; let peradventure the Spirit of the Lord hath taken him up and cast him upon some mountain, or into some valley.”
Elisha was one of those God-wise men, so he said, “Let them go. Go ahead and hunt until you get tired.” And when they had urged him until he was ashamed, Elisha said, “Send.” They sent, therefore, fifty men, and they sought three days, but found him not. And when they came again to him, he said unto them, “Did I not say unto you, ‘Go not?’”
God picked Elijah, and God let Elijah take Elisha through some spiritual experiences, and then equipped him with Elijah’s mantle. I believe that the apostasy of our day is due entirely to these man-picked men. For instance, a group of so-called Christian people see some bright fellow who is a good speaker, and seems to have talents that would take in public, and right away they begin to talk to him about preaching the Gospel. Maybe they start in when he is sixteen or seventeen years of age. A fond mother and a fond father think that would be a splendid thing for their son to do, so he starts out to prepare himself (notice the emphasis on “prepare himself”) for the ministry. There is the one great trouble,—it is self preparation. Self is the center, and self is the source of their power. He is put through his course of training, hundreds and thousands of them never having been converted. And the very book they are to study frankly tells them that the carnal mind, “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God.”
How can men expect that such preachers and teachers as these will open up anything that is of God and of the Spirit? It is just such men as these today who are leading in the apostasy. It is just this leaven of man-made religion, man-made philosophies, man-made schemes that God wants us to separate ourselves from. It is, therefore, the plan of God to take the weak things of this world to confound the mighty, and things that are not to bring to naught the things that are.
I don’t believe that God is looking for perfect heads, though He would be glad to use one if He round it in connection with a perfect heart, but man looketh on the outward appearance, and on the talents, but God still is choosing His little David, and turning down the big brother, by saying to Samuel, “But God looketh on the heart.”
As long as a heart will keep its vow of separation and will wholly trust in the strength of the risen Christ, God’s work will not fail. God says Himself, “the eyes of the Lord go to and from on the whole earth, to show Himself strong in behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him.” Notice the emphasis that God puts on the perfect heart, and yet in our day we are putting the emphasis on the perfect head.
I have been surprised again and again, as I have read the story of Samson, that God did not utterly destroy him long before, because of his many failures; but it became a great source of joy to me, when I found out that God would not forsake him, but would still continue to give His power at every turn, so long as Samson had not broken the vow which his mother had taken upon herself, and which the youth had later taken for his own, this wonderful vow of separation, called the vow of the Nazarite.
One part of the vow was that he was to drink no wine, and this means to us who are looking toward God’s method of a separated people and a separated life, that we are to partake of no false stimulants. The joy and the glory of the presence of Jesus in our hearts is to be sufficient. The world-made substitutes for this joy we are to shun. What the world calls fun and pleasure and frolic are baubles and toys to us, “Prisons will palaces prove,” while Jesus dwells in the heart. “No joy like the joy of His presence; no rapture like this.”
“Content with beholding His face,
My all to His pleasure resign,
No changes of season or place
Could make any change in my mind.”
Thus speaks the heart that is thoroughly separated to Jesus. The Spirit’s joys are all-sufficient.
Today we are living in the presence of the apostate church, offering every sort of a false stimulant to a poor drunken, sin-cursed earth,—offering concerts instead of the Gospel, offering suppers instead of the Bread of Life, offering frivolity instead of the fat of the Word of God. They start this apostasy by stating that this is the bait, to finally let those who swallow this bait catch the hook of the Gospel; but little by little the hook disappears and the bait increases, until it is all bait and no hook; it becomes entirely a worldly affair, a lodge, a club, a group of people with a religious name, but functioning only as a worldly organization. As one man said, “they started in with the Gym, that later they might show Him, but now it is all Gym and no Him.”
How would the Church of our day behave if the preacher were thrown into jail for preaching the Gospel? Suppose the Church of Peter’s day had cried out, “Oh, God, they have stuck Peter in jail, and we don’t know the governor.” Then suppose they had said among themselves, “Now, can’t we get the governor’s son to join our Church, and then ask him to get his dad to go and help Peter out of jail? Can’t we work a little game like this? There is one fellow that we have who is a member of our Church, and he used to go to school with the governor. Let’s appoint him to go and see the governor.” No, thank God, they got down on their knees and prayed and prayed, and our God, our living God, sent an angel and opened the doors, and opened the gates before Peter and let him out.
Oh, poor, pitiful, weak Church of our day, how the heart of God must grieve for its lack of faith. If the vow of separation unto Him had been kept, thank God the power would still be present.
The next part of the Nazarite vow was that he was not allowed to shave the beard. Others might fix up, or as the world says, “doll up,” but the Nazarite could not. He must appear in his naturalness. There must be no putting on, no pretense, no swagger, no acting, no dramatics, none of this emotional temperamentalism of the actor. God’s separated ones are a rough and rugged, and (thank God) straight-laced crowd. They may not be much for looks, but they do show forth the mighty power of their God! They are not to strive to gain the approval of men by their looks, but by the inward separateness and shaving and trimming of their heart they are to be beautiful to God. The Church is not to make an outward show, but to have an inward power.
Poor old Peter, rough fisherman that he was—though he might not have been trimmed up on the outside, yet God trimmed him up on the inside, cut depression and weakness from his heart, and filled him with His power.
The apostate Church of our day is very particular about its painting, about its decorating. They try to make it look like heaven, and yet it may be, and in most cases is, as cold as an ice-house spiritually speaking; but our glorious God, who paints the sunset and the sunrise and every glorious flower, will go down in His grace, into a little mission where they have but little money, not enough to buy new carpets, and there He will save men, gloriously save men, and start them and send them forth and make this old world hear of His name, and of His power. The little oil lamps may be dripping their grease upon the worn carpet, and while that is happening the Holy Ghost is night by night taking out from among the down-and-outs or the chance passer-by a people for Himself by the power of the blood that cleanses.
Samson’s power left him because he wanted something else, so much that he was willing to break his Nazarite vow to get it. He wanted the favor of this woman. The Church has lost her power because she has wanted the favor of the world. You have lost your power, and are tied up, because you have wanted something else than the glorious will of God.
Finally, Samson, after he had tried to put off the woman’s pleadings, because of his desire for her, tells the secret, and breaks his vow. He said, “If you will shave my locks I will be as any other man.” His locks were shaven, the crisis came, and he arose and shook himself as at other times, but, oh, poor Samson, his power was gone, and he was as any other man!
How the wealthy apostate church of our day is shaking itself. It rises, it blusters, it pretends, it throws in the throttle, the whistles blow, but there is no power. A great “form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.” They have wanted to do the big earthly thing. They have used man-power because they wanted the respect and admiration of God. They have catered to men, and not to the Holy Ghost.
While I was in the east lately, I dropped into a certain convention. It was spectacular in the extreme. I looked upon some wonderfully shaped heads—upon faces of men who showed mighty man-power, and heard wonderfully talented speeches; saw the evidences of much sagacity as far as world-power and organization is concerned. I would not even dare to mention the name for fear you would think I am striking personally at some denomination. I only tell it because I want your eyes to be opened to the awful conditions of our day.
I heard their chiefest speaker stand and make his chiefest speech to those men, who, as representatives, were gathered from all parts of the country, and represented millions of dollars worth of property and mighty religious machinery. His oratory was mighty. He opened up the possibilities, showing the need of the world; and, then, after wonderfully and graphically picturing the need, he trotted forth the machinery of his Church, he curried it, he combed it, and he rubbed it down, while men applauded him. He told of its mighty deeds. Not once did he mention the name of God! Not once was the power of Jesus Christ either referred to, hinted at, or spoken of; but the great flag of “us” and “ours” and “our ability,” was waved back and to, and that great audience cheered. They even stood and cheered him, as he told what they were going to do, how they had the money, how they had the men, and how they had the organization.
Brethren, I left that house before the thing was all over, while they were still cheering and congratulating each other, and leaned up against the corner of the building in which the convention was held, and put my head against the cornerstone, and real tears dropped from my eyes. Oh, how it grieved my heart, this “we,” “us,” “we,” “us,” of our day. I could feel, by the Spirit’s power, a little trifle of what our blessed Lord must have felt when He wept over Jerusalem and said, “Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets and stonest them which are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, but ye would not!”
And now in these last days, He is saying to the great apostate Church, the great professional Church, “Oh Church, how oft would I have gathered you under My wings; how oft would I have baptized you with the Holy Ghost and power, but ye would not, and now I must spue, spue, spue you out of My mouth. Thou art man-centered, man-made; thou art looking to men for favor.” The heart of God is sick, and my heart is sick!
Poor old Samson, he shook himself. Poor old apostate Church, she is shaking herself, but she will have her eyes put out, and like Samson, grind in the mill.
And now you, individual man or woman within the sound of my voice, can you not hear Him say, “Come out from the flesh life and be ye separate. Keep your Nazarite vow. Abstain from the false stimulant of the flesh, the world and the devil. Abstain from the life that curries the favor of men and trims itself to suit the eye, the ear and the heart of men; but trim now thy heart by an entire separation unto God, and all the power and the fullness of the Holy Ghost shall be yours.” Oh, let me save you now from the awful Niagara of failure of the flesh running speedily in our time, sweeping through the religious avenues of our day. “And may our souls look up to Thee, the source of all our strength and life and power. May we look up steadfast, and our wills be lost in Thine.”
Let us refuse to be tied up. The Holy Ghost within us now tugs at our hearts. Oh, throw open the engines of your life, and bid His steam to come in. Pull away from the docks of the flesh, and sail out into the ocean of His mighty power. May He say to you as He said concerning Lazarus, “Loose him, and let him go.”