Sermon 1340. Manoah's Wife and Her Excellent Argument
C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"And Manoah said unto his wife, We shall surely die, because we have seen God. But his wife said unto him, If the Lord werepleased to kill us, He would not have received a burnt offering and a meat offering at our hands, neither would He have showedus all these things, nor would He at this time ha ve told us such things as these." Judges 13:22,23.
The first remark arising out of the story of Manoah and his wife is this-that oftentimes we pray for blessings which willmake us tremble when we receive them. Manoah had asked that he might see the Angel and he saw Him-in answer to His requestthe Wonderful One condescended to reveal Himself a second time, but the consequence was that the good man was filled withastonishment and dismay. And turning to His wife, he exclaimed, "We shall surely die, because we have seen God."
Brothers and Sisters, do we always know what we are asking for when we pray? We are imploring an undoubted blessing and yetif we knew the way in which such blessing must necessarily come, we would, perhaps, hesitate before we pressed our case. Youhave been entreating very much for growth in holiness. Do you know, Brother, that in almost every case, that means increasedaffliction? We do not make much progress in the Divine life except when the Lord is pleased to try us in the furnace and purgeus with many fires. Do you desire the mercy on that condition? Are you willing to take it as God pleases to send it, and tosay, "Lord, if spiritual growth implies trial. If it signifies a long sickness of body. If it means deep depression of soul.If it entails the loss of property. If it involves the taking away of my dearest friends, yet I make no reserve, but includein the prayer all that is necessary to the good end. When I say, sanctify me wholly, spirit, soul and body, I leave the processto Your discretion."
Suppose you really knew all that it would bring upon you, would you not pray, at any rate, with more solemn tones? I hopeyou would not hesitate, but, counting all the cost, would still desire to be delivered from sin. But, at any rate, you wouldput up your petition with deliberation, weighing every syllable, and then, when the answer came, you would not be so astonishedat its peculiar form. Often and often the blessing which we so eagerly implored is the occasion of the suffering which wedeplore. We do not know God's methods. This is the Lord's way of answering prayer for faith and Grace. He comes with rodsof chastisement and makes us smart for our follies, for thus, alone, can He deliver our childish spirits from us.
He comes with sharp plowshares and tears up the soil, for thus, only, can we be made to yield Him a harvest. He comes withhot irons and burns us to the heart. And when we inquire, "Why all this?" the answer comes to us, "This is what you askedfor. This is the way in which the Lord answers your requests." Perhaps, at this moment, the fainting feeling that some ofyou are now experiencing, which makes you fear that you will surely die, may be accounted for by your own prayers! I shouldlike you to look at your present sorrows in that light, and say, "After all, I can see that now my God has given me exactlywhat I sought at His hands. I asked to see the Angel and I have seen Him, and now it is that my spirit is cast down withinme."
A second remark is this-Very frequently deep prostration of spirit is the forerunner of some remarkable blessing. It was toManoah and to his wife the highest conceivable joy of life, the climax of their ambition, that they should be the parentsof a son by whom the Lord should begin to deliver Israel. Joy filled them-inexpressible joy-at the thought of it! But, atthe time when the good news was first communicated, Manoah, at least, was made so heavy in spirit that he said, "We shallsurely die, for we have seen God." Take it as a general rule that dull skies foretell a shower of mercy. Expect sweet favorwhen you experience sharp affliction.
Do you not remember, concerning the Apostles, that they feared as they entered into the cloud on Mount Tabor? And yet it wasin that cloud that they saw their Master transfigured! And you and I have had many a fear about the cloud we were entering,although there we were to see more of Christ and His Glory than we had ever beheld before. The cloud which you fear makesthe external wall of that secret chamber where the Lord reveals Himself! Before you can carry Samson in your arms, Manoah,you must be made to say, "We shall surely die." Before the minister shall preach the Word of God to thousands, he must beemptied and made to tremble under a sense of inability.
Before the Sunday school teacher shall bring her girls to Christ, she shall be led to see how weak and insufficient she is.I believe that whenever the Lord is about to use us in His household, He takes us like a dish and wipes us right out and setsus on the shelf-and then afterwards He takes us down and puts thereon His own heavenly meat, with which to fill the soulsof others. There must, as a rule, be an emptying, a turning upside down and a putting on one side before the very greatestblessing comes. Manoah felt that he must die and yet he could not die, for he was to be the father of Samson, the delivererof Israel and the terror of Philistia!
Let me offer a third remark, which is this-great faith is, in many instances, subject to fits. What great faith Manoah had!His wife was barren, yet when she was told by the Angel that she should bear a child, he believed it, although no heavenlymessenger had come to him personally! He so believed it that he did not want to see the Man of God a second time to be toldthat it would be so, but only to be informed how to bring up the child! That was all. "Well might he be the father of strongSamson, that had such a strong faith," says old Bishop Hall. He had a strong faith, indeed, and yet here he is saying in alarm,"We shall surely die, because we have seen God."
Do not judge a man by any solitary word or act, for if you do, you will surely mistake him. Cowards are occasionally brave,and the bravest men are sometimes cowards. And there are men who would be worse cowards, practically, if they were a littleless cowardly than they are. A man may be too much a coward to confess that he is timid. Trembling Manoah was so outspoken,honest and sincere that he expressed his feelings which a more political person might have concealed. Though fully believingwhat had been spoken from God, yet, at the same time, this doubt was on him as the result of his belief in tradition-"We shallsurely die, because we have seen God."
Once again, another remark is that it is a great mercy to have a Christian companion to go to for counsel and comfort wheneveryour soul is depressed. Manoah had married a wonderful wife. She was the better one of the two in sound judgment. She wasthe weaker vessel by nature, but she was the stronger Believer and probably that was why the Angel was sent to her, for angelsare best pleased to speak with those who have faith-and if they have the pick of their company-and the wife has more faiththan the husband, they will visit the wife sooner than her spouse, for they love to take God's messages to those who willreceive them with confidence. She was evidently full of faith and so, when her husband tremblingly said, "We shall surelydie," she did not believe in such a mistrustful inference.
Moreover, though they say that women cannot reason, yet here was a woman whose arguments were logical and overwhelming! Certainit is that women's perceptions are generally far clearer than men's reasonings. They look, at once, into a Truth of God whilewe are hunting for our glasses! Their instincts are generally as safe as our reasonings and, therefore, when they have, inaddition, a clear logical mind, they make the wisest of counselors. Well, Manoah's wife not only had clear perceptions, butshe had first-rate reasoning faculties. She argued, according to the language of the text, that it was not possible that Godshould kill them after what they had seen and heard!
Oh that every man had such a prudent, gracious wife as Manoah had! Oh that whenever a man is cast down, a Christian Brotheror Sister stands ready to cheer him with some reminder of the Lord's past goodness, or with some gracious promise from theDivine Word! It may happen to be the husband who cheers the wife and in such a case it is equally beautiful. We have knowna Christian Sister to be very nervous and very often depressed and troubled-what a mercy to her to have a Christian husbandwhose strength of faith can encourage her to smile away her griefs by resting in the everlasting faithfulness and goodnessof the Lord!
If God the Holy Spirit shall help us, we will take up the argument of Manoah's wife and see whether it will, also, comfortour hearts. She had three strings to her bow, good woman. One was-The Lord does not mean to kill us, because He has acceptedour sacrifices. The second and third were-He does not mean to kill us, or else He would not, as at this time, have told ussuch gracious things as these. So the three strings to her bow were accepted sacrifices, gracious
revelations, and precious promises. Let us dwell upon each of them. And, first, accepted sacrifices. I will suppose that Iam addressing a Brother who is sadly tried, terribly cast down and, who, therefore, has begun to lament-
"The Lord has quite forsaken me. My God will be gracious no more."
Brother, is that possible? Has not God of old accepted, on your behalf, the offering of His Son, Jesus Christ? You have believedin Jesus, dear Friend. You do not believe in Him now? Lay your hand on your heart and put the question solemnly to yourself,"Do you believe on the Son of God?" You are able to say, "Yes, Lord, notwithstanding all my unhappiness, I do believe in Youand rest the stress and weight of my soul's interests on Your power to save." Well, then, you have God's own Word, recordedin His own infallible Bible, assuring you that Jesus Christ was accepted of God on your behalf, for He laid down His lifefor as many as believe in Him, that they might never perish!
He stood as their Surety and suffered as their Substitute! Is it possible that this should be a lie and that, after all, theymay be cast away? The argument of Manoah's wife was just this-"Did we not put the slain goat on the rock and as we put itthere was it not consumed? It was consumed instead of us! We shall not die, for the victim has been consumed! The fire willnot burn us-it has spent itself upon the sacrifice! Did you not see it go up in smoke and see the Angel ascend with it? Thefire is gone-it cannot fall on us to destroy us." This being interpreted into the Gospel is just this-Have we not seen theLord Jesus Christ fastened to the Cross? Have we not beheld Him in extreme agonies?
Has not the fire of God consumed Him? Have we not seen Him rising, as it were, from that sacred fire in the Resurrection andthe Ascension to go into Glory? Because the fire of Jehovah's wrath had spent itself on Him, we shall not die. He has diedinstead of us! It cannot be that the Lord has made Him suffer, the Just for the unjust, and now will make the Believer suffer,too! It cannot be that Christ loved His Church and gave Himself for it and that, now, the Church must perish, also! It cannotbe that the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all and now will lay our iniquity on us, too! It were not consistent withjustice! It would make the vicarious sacrifice of Christ to be nullified, a superfluity of cruelty which achieved nothing!
The Atonement cannot be made of no effect-the very supposition would be blasphemy! O, look, my Soul! Look to the redeemer'sCross and as you see how God accepts Christ, be filled with content! Hear how the, "It is finished!" of Jesus on earth isechoed from the Throne of God, Himself, as He raises up His Son from the dead and bestows glory upon Him! Hear this, I say,and as you hear, attend to the power of this argument-If the Lord had been pleased to kill us, He would not have acceptedHis Son for us! If He meant us to die, would He have put Him to death, too? How can it be? The sacrifice of Jesus must effectuallyprevent the destruction of those for whom He offered up Himself as a Sacrifice!
Jesus, dying for sinners, and yet the sinners denied mercy?! Inconceivable and impossible! My Soul, whatever your inward feelingsand the tumult of your thoughts, the accepted Sacrifice shows that God is not pleased to kill you! But, if you notice, inthe case of Manoah, they had offered a burnt sacrifice and a meat offering, too. Well, now, in addition to the great, grandsacrifice of Christ, which is our trust, we, dear Brothers and Sisters, have offered other sacrifices to God. And in consequenceof His acceptance of such sacrifice we cannot imagine that He intends to destroy us. First, let me conduct your thoughts backto the offering of prayer which you have presented. I will speak for myself.
I recall now, running over my diary mentally, full many an instance in which I have sought the Lord in prayer and He has mostgraciously heard me. I am as sure that my requests have been heard as ever Manoah could have been sure that his sacrificewas consumed upon the rock! May I not infer from this that the Lord does not mean to destroy me? You know that it had beenso with you, dear Brother. You are down in the dumps, today. You are beginning to raise many questions about Divine love.But there have been times-you know there have-when you have sought the Lord and He has heard you.
You can say, "This poor man cried and the Lord heard him and delivered him from all his fears." Perhaps you have not jotteddown the fact in a book, but your memory holds the indelible record. Your soul has made her personal boast in the Lord concerningHis fidelity to His promise in helping His people in the hour of need-for you have happily proved it in your own case. Now,Brother, if the Lord had been pleased to kill you, would He have heard your prayers? If He had meant to cast you out, afterall, would He have heard you so many times? If He had sought a quarrel against you He might have had cause for that quarrelmany years ago and have said to you, "When you make many prayers I will not
hear." But since He has listened to your cries and tears-and many a time answered your petitions-He cannot intend to killyou.
Again, you brought to Him, years ago, not only your prayers but yourself. You gave yourself over to Christ-body, soul, spirit,all your goods, all your hours, all your talents, every faculty, and every possible acquirement-and you said, "Lord, I amnot my own, but I am bought with a price." Now, at that time did not the Lord accept you? You have at this very moment a livelyrecollection of the sweet sense of acceptance you had at that time. Though you are at this time sorely troubled, yet you wouldnot wish to withdraw from the consecration which you then made, but on the contrary you declare-
"Hgh Heaven, that heard the solemn vow,
That vow renewed shall daily hear,
Till, in life's latest hour, I bow,
And bless in death a bond so dear." Now, would the Lord have accepted the offering of yourself to Him if He meant to destroyyou? Would He have let you say, "I am Your servant and the son of Your handmaid: You have loosed my bond?" Would He have permittedyou to declare, as you can boldly assert tonight, "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus," delighting to rememberthe time of your Baptism into Him, whereby your body washed with His pure body, was declared to be the Lord's forever- wouldHe enable you to feel a joy in the very mark of your consecration, as well as in the consecration itself-if He meant to slayyou? Oh, surely not! He does not let a man give himself up to Him and then cast him away! That cannot be!
Some of us, dear Friends, can remember how, growing out of this last sacrifice, there have been others. The Lord has acceptedour offerings at other times, too, for our works, faith and labors of love have been acknowledged by His Spirit. There aresome of you, I am pleased to remember, whom God has blessed to the conversion of little children whom you brought to the Savior.And there are others on earth whom you can look upon with great joy because God was pleased to make you the instrument oftheir conviction and their conversion. Some of you, I perceive, are ministers of the Gospel. Others of you preach on the cornersof the streets and there have been times in your lives-I am sure that you wish they were 10 times as many-in which God hasbeen pleased to succeed your efforts so that hearts have yielded to the sway of Jesus.
Now, you do not put any trust in those things, nor do you claim any merit for having served your Master, but still, I thinkthey may be thrown in as a matter of consolation and you may ask, "If the Lord had meant to destroy me, would He have enabledhe to preach His Gospel? Would He have helped me to weep over men's souls? Would He have enabled me to gather those dear childrenlike lambs to His bosom? Would He have granted me my longing desire to bear fruit in His vineyard if He did not mean to blessme?"
Now, the second argument was that they had received gracious revelations. "If the Lord were pleased to kill us, He would nothave showed us all these things." Now, what has the Lord shown you, my dear Brothers and Sisters? I will mention one or twothings. First, the Lord has shown you, perhaps, years ago, or possibly at this moment He is showing you for the first time-yoursin. What a sight that was when we first had it! Some of you never saw your sins, but your sins are there all the same. Inan old house, perhaps, there is a cellar into which nobody goes and no light ever comes in. You live in the house comfortablyenough, not knowing what is there. But one day you take a candle and go down the steps. You open that moldy door and whenit is opened, dear Me!
What a damp, pestilential smell! How foul the floor is! All sorts of living creatures hop away from under your feet! Thereare growths on the very walls-a heap of roots in the corner, sending out those long yellow growths which look like the fingersof death. And there is a spider-and there are a hundred more-of such a size as cannot be grown except in such horrible places!You get out as quickly as ever you can! You do not like the looks of it. Now, the candle did not make that cellar bad-thecandle did not make it filthy! No, the candle only showed what there was. And then you get the carpenter to take down thatshutter which you could not open anyway, for it had not been opened for years.
And when the daylight comes in, it seems more horrible than it did by candlelight! And you wonder, indeed, however you didgo across it with all those dreadful things all around you and you cannot be satisfied to live upstairs now till that cellardownstairs has been perfectly cleansed! That is just like our heart-it is full of sin-but we do not know it. It is a den ofunclean birds, a menagerie of everything that is fearful, fierce and furious-a little Hell stocked with devils! Such is ournature. Such is our heart.
Now, the Lord showed me mine years ago, as He did some of you, and the result of the sight of one's heart is horrible. Welldoes Dr. Young say, "God spares all eyes but His own, that fearful sight, a naked human heart." Nobody ever did see all hisheart as it really is. You have only seen a part, but when seen, it is so horrible that it is enough to drive a man out ofhis senses to see the evil of his nature! Now, let us gather some honey out of this dead lion. Brothers and Sisters, if theLord had meant to destroy us, He would not have shown us our sin because we were happy enough, previously, were we not? Inour own poor way we were content and if He did not mean to pardon us, it was not like the Lord to show us our sin and to tormentus before our time, unless He meant to take it away!
We were swine, but we were satisfied enough with the husks we ate-so why not let us remain swine? What was the good of lettingus see our filthiness if He did not intend to take it away? It never can be possible that God sets Himself studiously to torturethe human mind by making it conscious of its evil, if He never intends to supply a remedy. Oh no! A deep sense of sin willnot save you, but it is a pledge that there is something begun in your soul which may lead to salvation! That deep sense ofsin does as good as say, "The Lord is laying bare the disease that He may cure it. He is letting you see the foulness of thatunderground cellar of your corruption because He means to cleanse it for you."
But He has shown us more than this, for He has made us see the hollowness and emptiness of the world. There are some herepresent, who, at one time, were very gratified with the pleasures and amusements of the world. The theater was a great delightto them. The ballroom afforded them supreme satisfaction. To be able to dress just after their own fancy and to spend moneyon their own whims were the very acme of delight! But there came a time when across all these the soul perceived a mysterioushandwriting which, being interpreted, ran thus-"Vanity of vanities; all is vanity."
These very people went to the same amusements, but they seemed so dull and stupid that they came away saying, "We do not carea bit for them. The joys are all gone. What seemed gold turns out to be gilt. And what we thought marble was only white paint.The varnish is cracked, the tinsel is faded, the coloring has vanished. Mirth laughs like an idiot and pleasure grins likemadness." We have heard the words, "Vanity of vanities; all is vanity," sounding in our hearts, and now do you think thatif the Lord had meant to kill us, He would have taught us this? Why, no! He would have said, "Leave them alone, they are givenunto idols. They are only going to have one world in which they can rejoice-let them enjoy it."
He would have let the swine go on with their husks if He had not meant to turn them into His children and bring them to Hisbosom. But He has taught us something better than this-namely, the preciousness of Christ! Unless we are awfully deceived-self-deceived,I mean-we have known what it is to lose the burden of our sin at the foot of the Cross. We have known what it is to see thesuitability and all-sufficiency of the merit of our dear Redeemer and we have rejoiced in Him with unspeakable joy full ofglory! If He had meant to destroy us, He would not have shown us Christ!
Sometimes, also, we have strong desires after God! What pining after communion with Him have we felt! What longings to bedelivered from sin! What yearnings to be perfect! What aspirations to be with Him in Heaven and what desires to be like Hewhile we are here! Now these longings, cravings, desires, yearnings-do you think the Lord would have put them into our heartsif He had meant to destroy us? What would be the good of it? Would it not be tormenting us as Tantalus was tormented? Wouldit not, indeed, be a superfluity of cruelty to make us wish for what we could never have and pine after what we should nevergain? O Beloved, let us be comforted about these things! If He had meant to kill us, He would not have shown us such thingsas these!
I shall have no time to dwell upon the last source of comfort, which is what the Lord has spoken to us-many precious promises."Nor would He have told us such things as these." At almost anytime when a child of God is depressed, if he goes to the Wordof God and to prayer, and looks up, he will generally get hold of some promise or other. I know I generally do. I could nottell you, dear Brothers and Sisters, tonight, what promise would suit your case, but the Lord always knows how to apply theright Word at the right time. And when a promise is applied with great power to the soul and you are enabled to plead it atthe Mercy Seat, you may say, "If the Lord had meant to kill us, He would not have made us such a promise as this."
I have a promise that hangs up before my eyes whenever I wake every morning and it has continued in its place for years. Itis a stay to my soul. It is this-"I will not fail you nor forsake you." Difficulties arise, funds run short, sickness comes-butsomehow or other my text always seems to flow like a fountain-"I will not fail you nor forsake you." If the Lord had meantto kill us, He would not have said that to us. What is your promise, Brothers and Sisters? What have you
got a hold of? If you have not laid hold of any and feel as if none belonged to you, yet there are such words as these, "Thisis a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners," and you are one!
Ah, if He had meant to destroy you, He would not have spoken a text of such a wide character on purpose to include your case!A thousand promises go down to the lowest deep into which a heart can ever descend. And if the Lord had meant to destroy asoul in the deeps, He would not have sent a Gospel promise down even to that extreme. I should like to say these two or threewords to you who are unconverted, but who are troubled in your souls. You think that God means to destroy you. Now, dear Friend,I take it that if the Lord had meant to kill you, He would not have sent the Gospel to you. If there had been a purpose anda decree to destroy you, He would not have brought you here!
Now you are sitting to hear that Jesus has died to save such as you are! You are sitting where you are, earnestly bid to trustHim and be saved! If the Lord had meant to slay you, I do not think He would have sent me on such a fruitless errand as totell you of a Christ who could not save you! Some of you have had your lives spared very remarkably. You have been in accidentson land or on sea-perhaps in battle and shipwreck. You have been raised from a sickbed. If the Lord had meant to destroy you,surely He would have let you die-but He has spared you, and you are getting on in years-surely it is time that you yieldedto His mercy and gave yourself up into the hands of Grace. If the Lord had meant to destroy you, surely He would not havebrought you here, for, possibly, I am addressing one who has come here, wondering why.
All the time that he has been sitting here, he has been saying to himself, "I do not know how I got into this place, but hereI am." God means to bless you, tonight, I trust, and He will, if you breathe this prayer to Heaven, "Father, forgive me! Ihave sinned against Heaven and before you, but for Christ's sake, forgive Me! I put my trust in Your Son." You shall findeternal life, rejoicing in the sacrifice which God has accepted! You shall, one of these days, rejoice in the revelationsof His love and in the promises which He gives you, and say, as we say tonight, "If the Lord were pleased to kill us He wouldnot have showed us all these things!"