Jehovah Makes Full Might Abound
“Those who are hoping in Jehovah will regain power. They will mount up with wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not tire out.”—Isa. 40:31.
1. What drama is here discussed, and where is it accurately recorded?
Among many powerful dramas recorded in Jehovah’s Word is that concerning Samson. Down through the ages, the thrilling events of Samson’s action-packed life have gripped the attention of young and old. The affair of Samson and Delilah has become one of the great “love stories” of history, and has been told and retold in song and play, with varying accuracy. However, it is in the Bible book of Judges, chapters 13 to 16, that we read in faithful detail the real-life story of the strongest man of human history. And as we read this stirring record, we may ask ourselves: What was the source of Samson’s great strength? How do we benefit by this life story today?
2. Why was the drama written down, and what lesson does it convey?
2 Speaking of historic events in ancient Israel, Romans 15:4 assures us: “For all the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction, that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope.” And having hope in God, we will come to realize, as did Samson, that the secret of real strength is to be found in Jehovah alone. “He is giving to the tired one power; and to the one without dynamic energy he makes full might abound.”—Isa. 40:29.
3. How are the meanings of Samson’s name appropriate?
3 The name Samson is generally translated to mean “Sunny; Sun-like; Sun-man,” but others give it the meaning “Desolator; Destroyer.” Both meanings are most appropriate. During Samson’s twenty-year judgeship in Israel, probably shortly before the beginning of Saul’s reign in 1117 B.C.E., he showed exclusive devotion to Jehovah, both as a “sun-like” savior in Israel and as a devastating desolator of the oppressing Philistines. (Judg. 13:5; 16:30) His was an irenic work, in that it brought refreshing deliverance to Israel, and a polemic work, in its execution of God’s judgments on his enemies.
4. What pattern is seen in Jesus’ earthly ministry?
4 This pattern of an irenic and a polemic work is to be seen also in the devoted ministry of Jesus Christ while on earth. To the meek, Jesus declared: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you.” And that he did! But to the wicked religious oppressors of the people he cried out: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you resemble whitewashed graves, which outwardly indeed appear beautiful but inside are full of dead men’s bones and of every sort of uncleanness. In that way you also, outwardly indeed, appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. . . . Serpents, offspring of vipers, how are you to flee from the judgment of Gehenna?”—Matt. 11:28; 23:27-33.
5. What group did Jesus organize on earth, and for what purpose?
5 The Lord Jesus Christ set in motion a powerful work of Kingdom witnessing. For this very purpose he organized the Christian congregation on earth as a “faithful and discreet slave,” made up of devoted, anointed witnesses, and it serves to this day as the Master’s appointee in giving “his domestics . . . [spiritual] food at the proper time.” (Matt. 24:45) This “slave” organization of true, devoted Christians, particularly the remnant thereof in modern times, was well typified by Samson of old. How so?
6, 7. (a) What instruction did Jehovah give to Samson’s mother, and what did this involve? (b) What similar requirement has Jehovah laid upon true Christians, and in what environment have these grown up?
6 Jehovah instructed Samson’s mother, even before this divinely arranged pregnancy, that the child to be born must be devoted as a Nazirite from birth, and “until the day of his death.” (Judg. 13:2-7) This required that Samson practice abstinence, that he wear his hair long and that he refrain from defiling himself by touching a dead body. (Num. 6:1-21) Similarly, when Jehovah’s long-barren “woman”—his heavenly, universal organization—at last brought forth spiritual sons, exclusive devotion was required of this “slave” class.
7 The Master, Jesus Christ, stated that at “the conclusion of the system of things” he would appoint this devoted “slave” over “all his belongings,” his Kingdom interests on earth. (Matt. 24:47) But he spoke also of a counterfeit organization of apostate Christians—“weeds”—sown by the Devil, and said that it would try to choke out true, wheatlike Christians. Just such a growth is seen in the development of the Catholic and Protestant religious systems of Christendom, which have substituted the pagan philosophies of ancient Babylon, Greece and Rome for Christ’s Bible teachings. This system has invaded the realm of God’s pure worship in the same way that the Philistines invaded the realm of God’s people in Samson’s day.—Matt. 13:24-30.
8. What is pictured in Jehovah’s spirit being with Samson?
8 But “wheat” Christians of the “faithful and discreet slave” class were also growing up through the centuries. These were like the young Samson, of whom the record says, “Jehovah continued to bless him.” Then, as Samson reached adulthood, “Jehovah’s spirit started to impel him.” (Judg. 13:24, 25) Likewise, in modern times, Jehovah began to regather and organize “wheat” Christians under their Master, Christ Jesus, as the “faithful and discreet slave” for getting his will done on earth at the “time of the end.” After he tested these Christians as to their loyalty to fundamental Bible truth, he set his spirit upon them, impelling them to do a work of witnessing that has involved Samson-like spiritual warfare against the wicked Philistine-like organization of false Christians.
9. What time was approaching, and what lay ahead for the “Samson” class?
9 The time was fast approaching when the “Son of man,” Jesus Christ, would gather all lawless ones out of his kingdom, for their destruction, and when the righteous ones would come to “shine as brightly as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” (Matt. 13:36-43) In preparation for this, the “Samson” class had a work to do!
“AGAINST THE PHILISTINES”
10. (a) Why did Samson show interest in the Timnite woman? (b) How did this have modern-day fulfillment?
10 Samson’s first exploits were performed in connection with “a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines.” When he asked for her as wife, his parents rightly protested. What! Marry a Canaanite—a woman under God’s curse of destruction? But it was not really marriage that Samson had in mind. Rather, “that was from Jehovah, that he was looking for an opportunity against the Philistines.” (Judg. 14:1-4; Deut. 7:3, 4) And it appears to have been “from Jehovah” that, in the years from 1879 to 1919, “wheat” Christians mingled freely in the paganistic church systems of Christendom, with a view to finding and releasing sincere persons entrapped therein. It was like Elijah going among the Baal worshipers of his day, in order to find an occasion for vindicating Jehovah’s name. (1 Ki. 18:17-40) The Watch Tower of 1894, pages 140-141, advocated doing this. And just as Samson’s parents finally went along with him to Timnah, so Jehovah and his holy angels appear to have given support to the modern-day “faithful and discreet slave” in such witness work.
11. What is pictured by the “maned young lion,” and how?
11 What followed? “When [Samson] got as far as the vineyards of Timnah, why, look! a maned young lion roaring upon meeting him.” (Judg. 14:5) In Bible symbolism, the lion is used to represent justice, as well as courage. (Ezek. 1:10; Rev. 4:6, 7; 5:5) Here the “young lion” appears to picture Protestantism, which in its beginnings came out boldly against some of the abuses perpetrated by Catholicism in the name of Christianity. For example, there were the ninety-five theses that Luther nailed to the church door of Wittenberg in 1517 C.E., described by The Encyclopædia Britannica* as “ninety-five sledge-hammer blows directed against the most flagrant ecclesiastical abuse of the age . . . the sale of indulgences.” However, Protestantism failed to clean house doctrinally, continuing to hold fast to many false Babylonish teachings that had been adopted into apostate Christianity by Catholicism. It kept lurking in vineyards of its own liking, far down in “Philistine” territory.
12, 13. What modern-day parallel is there to Samson’s contest with the lion? Give an example.
12 From the time that the Watch Tower magazine began to be published in 1879, the spirit-impelled “faithful and discreet slave” showed itself forthright in its support of Bible truth. This proved too much for the clergy of Protestantism, who summoned enough courage to pounce out from their “hideouts” of false doctrine and roar lustily against Jehovah’s witnesses, even to advocating the burning of their Bible literature. But how did this Protestant “lion” fare? “Jehovah’s spirit became operative upon [Samson], so that he tore it in two, just as someone tears a male kid in two, and there was nothing at all in his hand.” (Judg. 14:6) Prior to World War I, the triumph of Jehovah’s “slave” over Protestantism was just as decisive. It was by God’s spirit.
13 A forceful example of this was the series of debates held in 1903 between the Watch Tower president of that time, C. T. Russell, and a Pittsburgh clergyman, Dr. E. L. Eaton. As a result, not only did many of Dr. Eaton’s congregation leave him to become Jehovah’s witnesses, but a number of clergymen acknowledged the correctness of The Watch Tower’s stand on fundamental issues. After the last debate, during which Brother Russell clearly showed that “eternal torment” is unscriptural, one of these clergymen told him: “I am glad to see you turn the hose on hell and put out the fire.”
14. How was Samson refreshed, and how was this fulfilled today?
14 Spiritual warfare on behalf of God’s truth and righteousness has always brought great joy to the modern-day Samson class. Doing God’s will is food to them, and especially their sharing in the vindication of Jehovah’s name against his enemies. (John 4:34) Samson, on returning past the lair of the lion, “turned aside to look at the carcass of the lion, and there there was a swarm of bees in the lion’s corpse, and honey. So he scraped it out into his palms and walked on, eating as he walked.” (Judg. 14:8, 9) Down to this day, the Samson class find sweet sustenance as they reflect on Jehovah’s use of them in theocratic warfare, even to exposing and slaying the Protestant “lion” with his Word of truth.—Eph. 6:17; Ps. 77:11, 12.
15, 16. (a) What happened in connection with Samson’s riddle? (b) What did this foreshadow?
15 This very ‘sweetness’ became the focal point of Samson’s first test of strength with the Philistines. It came about through Samson’s propounding the riddle: “Out of the eater something to eat came forth, and out of the strong something sweet came forth.” Unable to find the answer in the prescribed time, the Philistines surreptitiously wheedled it out through Samson’s betrothed. So, they answered him correctly: “What is sweeter than honey, and what is stronger than a lion?” Samson paid his debt over this riddle in the kind that the Philistines deserved, by slaying thirty of their number and handing over their garments to “the tellers of the riddle.”—Judg. 14:10-20.
16 During the years 1879-1919, religionists of Christendom were unable to fathom the secret of the strength of the little band of Jehovah’s devoted witnesses. They could not appreciate the ‘sweetness’ that God’s “slave” finds in doing his will, nor could they understand how God makes full might abound by his spirit. The spiritual slaying and exposing of false religionists continued. And those of the clergy who persisted in their opposition to the Samson class received, as it were, additional “Philistine” garments, identifying them as “dyed-in-the-wool” adherents of false religion. “Samson’s” righteous anger “continued hot,” reaching a climax in the publication, in 1917, of the polemic book, The Finished Mystery.
17. What do Samson’s further feats picture?
17 What of Samson’s further feats? There was his superhuman accomplishment of catching three hundred jackals, and dispatching them with torches between their tails—to burn up the standing grain, the harvested sheaves, the vineyards and the olive groves of the Philistines. Likewise, in the pre-World War I activity of Jehovah’s “slave,” the claimed “spiritual” provender of Christendom’s religions was badly scorched. It was shown to be valueless, being “set on fire” and burned up—gutted by millions of fiery tracts, booklets and books. Days of famine, a “famine . . . for hearing the words of Jehovah,” came upon Christendom. (Amos 8:11) In Jehovah’s strength, the Samson class went “smiting” and exposing the false religionists, “piling legs upon thighs with a great slaughter.” It was a time for aggressive spiritual warfare.—Judg. 15:1-8.
18, 19. What is foreshadowed by (a) Samson’s taking refuge in the crag Etam? (b) his slaying the Philistines with the jawbone? and (c) his being refreshed at En-hakkoré?
18 Coming under enemy pressure, Samson took refuge in the crag Etam. Likewise, the Samson class today have found their refuge and consolation in Jehovah, ‘the rock of salvation.’ (Ps. 89:26; 144:1, 2) At Etam, cowardly fellow Israelites, Judeans, tried to trap Samson and to turn him over to the enemy. But when they thought they had him bound, “Jehovah’s spirit became operative upon him,” so that he tore his bonds asunder, and, taking “a moist jawbone of a male ass,” he struck down a thousand Philistines. By a miracle of Jehovah, that frail jawbone stood up to the crushing of a thousand thick Philistine skulls! In modern times, Jehovah has similarly sustained and empowered his witnesses, as they meekly use their jaws in speaking out against false religionists, and in bringing comfort to other meek ones.—Isa. 61:1, 2; 50:4.
19 In need of refreshment, Samson now called on Jehovah, and God caused a miraculous spring of water to flow forth. So, the place came to be called “En-hakkoré [‘The Fountain of the Crier’], which is in Lehi down to this day.” In like manner, Jehovah has made abundant and never-failing provision today, through The Watchtower and other Bible-study helps, as well as through congregational meetings, so that his witnesses, ever “conscious of their spiritual need,” may be constantly stimulated for further theocratic warfare. We do well always to drink deeply of this provision.—Judg. 15:9-19; Matt. 5:3, 6; Isa. 41:17, 18.
FROM GAZA TO HEBRON
20. What feat did Samson perform at Gaza, and by whose power?
20 Once Samson went to Gaza, a Philistine city, and lodged for the night in the house of a prostitute woman. Was this for an immoral purpose? No, for he was again “looking for an opportunity against the Philistines.” These now surrounded him and lay in wait at the city gate. Gaza was renowned for its massive walls, a challenge in later years to conquerors, even such as Alexander the Great. How ponderous its gateposts must have been! But miracle of miracles! Samson “rose at midnight and grabbed hold of the doors of the city gate and the two side posts and pulled them out along with the bar and put them upon his shoulders and went carrying them up to the top of the mountain that is in front of Hebron.” (Judg. 16:1-3) That was all of forty miles—out of enemy territory clear up to a peak in Judah, the land of Jehovah’s praise! Only Jehovah’s sustaining power could strengthen Samson for so colossal a feat!
21. How did the clergy expect to trap God’s “slave,” but what did they fail to reckon with?
21 This humiliating blow to Philistine pride has a modern-day parallel. From its first year of publication, in 1879, Zion’s Watch Tower,* official journal of the “faithful and discreet slave,” consistently proclaimed the year 1914 as the date for the end of “the Gentile times” and the establishment of God’s kingdom by Christ. (Luke 21:24, AV) ‘Let’s lie in wait until 1914,’ declared the Philistine religionists, ‘and when the forecasts of these “Bible students” prove wrong, we will have them trapped!’ But they reckoned without Jehovah’s determination to fulfill the prophecies he had long previously recorded in his Word.—Isa. 46:9-11.
22. What happened in 1914, and how did a New York newspaper comment on this?
22 Right on time, in the fall of 1914, “the kingdom of our God” in the hands of his Christ began ruling in the heavens. As visible evidence thereof, “the nations became wrathful” in their first world war, and other sorrows marking “the conclusion of the system of things” began to afflict mankind. (Rev. 11:18) It was just as Jehovah’s spirit had moved his devoted “slave” to warn in advance. A leading New York newspaper, The World, acknowledged this in a long feature article in its issue of August 30, 1914, which included the following:
The terrific war outbreak in Europe has fulfilled an extraordinary prophecy. For a quarter of a century past, through preachers and through press, the “International Bible Students” [Jehovah’s witnesses] . . . have been proclaiming to the world that the Day of Wrath prophesied in the Bible would dawn in 1914. “Look out for 1914!” has been the cry of hundreds of traveling evangelists who, representing this strange creed, have gone up and down the country enunciating the doctrine that “the Kingdom of God is at hand.” . . . And in 1914 comes war, the war which everybody dreaded but which everybody thought could not really happen.
23. How was the Samson class vindicated, and with what praise to Jehovah?
23 In Jehovah’s power, the “faithful and discreet slave” thus tore the enemy’s traplike gate from its foundations, posts and all, and carried it high up into the land of Jehovah’s praise. Truly, the Samson class was vindicated in its support of Jehovah’s Word of prophecy, and, to this day, Jehovah is being praised more and more, as the evidence continues to mount that his kingdom by Christ was indeed established in 1914, and is here to stay!—Rev. 12:10, 12.
SAMSON AND DELILAH
24. What was represented in Samson’s long hair?
24 Remember that Samson was a Nazirite. His divinely provided strength was dependent on his continuing in unswerving devotion to Jehovah, and of this his long hair was a symbol. His strength lay in what that unshorn hair represented. In the same way, the strength of Jehovah’s “slave” today rests in its unwavering devotion to Jehovah. Just as “long hair . . . is a dishonor” to a man, so the Samson class must continue to suffer the world’s reproaches, fearlessly and without compromise, in maintaining integrity to God.—1 Cor. 11:14.
25, 26. (a) Who was Delilah, and whom did she foreshadow? (b) How did this class try to influence Samson, but with what result?
25 “And it came about after that that he fell in love with a woman in the torrent valley of Sorek, and her name was Delilah.” (Judg. 16:4) Who was Delilah? Her name means “Languishing,” and it appears she was an Israelitess. The modern history of Jehovah’s witnesses reveals a spirit-begotten class like Delilah. These became offended at not being caught away immediately into the heavenly kingdom in 1914, and grew slack in zeal. During the years 1917-1918, they tried to grab control of the Watch Tower Society and to force a “soft pedal” compromise with the modern Philistines. Though they had no real love for the devoted Samson class, the Samson class did indeed express genuine love toward these associates whose ‘lamps were about to go out.’ (Matt. 25:8) They were trying to recover them. Taking advantage of this, the Delilah class used a series of approaches in an attempt to have the Samson class bound with ropes of compromise, so that they could be handed over to the religionists of Christendom.
26 These erstwhile lovers wanted the devoted “Samson” to soften down the polemic utterances against false religion. They wanted the God-fearing “Bible Students” to jump on the bandwagon of patriotic sentiment over World War I, which was now supported fiercely by Christendom’s religionists on both sides of the fighting. However, “Samson” did not immediately fall victim to “Delilah’s” blandishments. In its issue of April 15, 1917, The Watch Tower unequivocally declared: “There is no middle ground for a Christian. He can be true to the Lord . . . only by taking one course, namely, a refusal to engage in the war.”
27. How was the integrity of the Samson class endangered, and into what trap did they finally fall?
27 The efforts of God’s “slave” to accommodate these “lover” rebels may be compared to Samson’s permitting Delilah to weave the braids of his hair—so precious in symbol of his devotion—with a warp thread. Integrity was endangered! And just as Samson slept on the treacherous Delilah’s knees, so the Samson class’ conciliatory attitude toward languishing apostates finally brought weakening, and a beginning of compromise. That the dedicated witnesses fell into just such a trap in 1918 is shown by an article appearing in The Watch Tower of June 1 of that year. This came out in support of the “day of prayer and supplication” proclaimed by the president of the United States for May 30, 1918, stating: “Let there be praising and thanksgiving to God for the promised glorious outcome of the war . . . and the making of the world safe for the common people.”
28, 29. (a) What was the result of the “slave’s” compromise? (b) What questions are therefore asked?
28 Worldly compromise resulted in loss of Jehovah’s spirit. The hair of the Samson class was shorn off in a symbolic way, and their “power kept departing” from them. The Philistine religionists succeeded in grabbing God’s “slave.” They bored out his eyes of discernment of God’s will, and made him “a grinder in the prison house” down in Philistine territory. For a short season, the “slave’s” bold witnessing for God’s kingdom ceased. Religious pressure also brought about the imprisonment, under false charges, of the second Watch Tower president and seven other responsible brothers, for terms of up to eighty years each. The enemy caused a closing down of the Society’s headquarters at Brooklyn, New York. During these darkest days of “Samson’s” imprisonment, however, The Watch Tower continued to be published from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, spreading, if faintly, a ray of comfort and hope.—Judg. 16:5-21.
29 Would Jehovah leave his “slave” in this imprisoned condition? Would the Samson class awaken to the reason for its plight? Would Jehovah again empower his servant for theocratic action? The following article will tell.
Volume 17, under “Luther.”
Now The Watchtower.