Been thoroughly enjoying teaching recently on the Book of Judges. I know some folk tend to avoid most of it – well, a lot of the Old Testament really – because it is “too gory”. Well, it is, in part, but actually for a good reason. God wanted to have an incredible relationship with His people, and be their King. After releasing them from the slavery of Egypt, He was well aware that the people we call “The Israelites” (who at that time did not actually live in Israel) needed to eradicate the culture of Egypt out of their thinking and practise. This would be reinforced as they journeyed, and fought to obtain the Land God had promised them.
Many of their battles involved destroying the people who would turn them away from God and towards Idols, and the Book of Judges is full of the cycles of such battles. Some of the Judges are allotted whole sections in the book, but there are a few who are almost mentioned “in passing”.
One such “minor” Judge is Shamgar. We have two sentences about him in the Bible, just 20 words:-
“After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad. He too saved Israel” (Judges 3:31)
An oxgoad was used by farmers who ploughed the land, a tool approximately 6-8 feet long, used to goad (prod) oxen to stay in the same furrow as they ploughed. It was roughly pointed at one end to prod the cattle, and often at the other end had a vicious hook, used mainly to get mud out of the blades of the plough.
Shamgar had such a tool. He saw that the Philistines were a real problem, so where he was, he used what was already in his hand – very effectively, and with a supernatural strength given in the moment.
It struck me that such a tool is so reminiscent of how the Holy Spirit works in our lives. He keeps us on the path God wants us to travel, sometimes with a gentle (or not-so-gentle!) prod, so that we turn “neither to the right or the left” (Deuteronomy 5:32), so that we keep in a straight “furrow”. He also takes the time to clear out the mud that sticks so easily to our lives, and our attitudes. Sometimes He has to do a fair it of scraping, but this is so that we are not weighed down by sin. We need to keep that furrow of our lives straight and true, fixing our eyes on Jesus.
Hebrews 12:1-3 in The Message Reads:-
“Strip down, start running — and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. 2 Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed — that exhilarating finish in and with God — he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honour, right alongside God. 3 When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he ploughed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!”
One other piece of research inspired me about Shamgar. I am indebted to http://www.shamgarministries.com/ for the tagline, for they remind us that Shamgar used 3 simple principles to defeat six hundred Philistines – who were formidable foes:-
- Start where you are
- Use what you have
- Do what you can
If all of us practised these principles every day, there is no telling what we could achieve. “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen”. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
- If there were only 20 words available to write the story of your life, what would they be?
- Stop wondering how you could serve God somewhere else, until you have served where you are
- Stop envying the ministries and skills of someone else – use what God has already entrusted you with. Never devalue the gifts He has already imparted
- Stop underestimating yourself. When Satan tries to whisper that you are not strong enough to withstand the storm, remind him that as a Child of God, you are a Warrior – you are the storm – and he is the one who ought to panic!