In the third chapter of the Old Testament book of Judges, we read God wanted to give opportunity to the people of Israel to exercise faith and obedience in conquering their enemies. It was a test to see whether they would obey the commandments the Lord gave them through Moses. But the people didn’t destroy the enemies of God. Instead they adapted their ways and disobeyed God. So God’s anger flamed out against Israel. (Judges 3:8)
After Israel cried out to the Lord, he raised up a judge, Othni-el, to reform and purge Israel to help conquer their enemies. For forty years there was peace in the land. When Othni-el died, however, the people of Israel turned once again to their sinful ways. So God let them be conquered by their enemies.
The cycle repeated. The people cried out to God. This time he sent Ehud, a left-handed man, to save them. After Ehud’s death, the people again sinned against the Lord, so he let them be conquered.
The judge following Ehud was Shamgar. We have one verse in the Bible to tell us about Shamgar. In that one verse we learn Shamgar used what he had, an oxgoad (cattle prod). By using what he had, Shamgar saved Israel from disaster.
Shamgar was a herdsman when God called him to go against Israel’s enemy, the Philistines. He was a simple man going about his everyday, maybe even mundane, job in a non-specific place far from the spotlight. Nothing heroic about that. Kinda reminds me of how Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars movie started out.
Shamgar wasn’t a soldier equipped with a sword. His weapon was what he had on hand, what he was comfortable using. An oxgoad. And actually, few in Israel even owned a sword at this time since they lacked the technology to forge one. (1Samuel 13:19-22)
One thing though, Shamgar’s willingness to be used by God ranks as heroic in my eyes, regardless of the weapon. Even more so. He offered God what he had, the thing God gave him, in the place God put him, and let God take care of the rest.
Use what God gives you. Easy to say, right? How often do we actually follow through with that thought?
More times than not, I suspect we look at what God gives us and believe it is too small to be of any use. Or that whatever we have couldn’t possibly serve any real purpose. Maybe we believe what God gives us is nothing compared to what our enemy comes against us with.
When we tell ourselves these things, we lean toward believing in our inability more than we believe in God’s ability.
Maybe we look at our oxgoad and wish for a sword to do God’s work, thinking surely we’d be more effective holding something else. Maybe we look at our ordinary world and believe we could accomplish more to advance God’s kingdom if we lived somewhere else. Maybe instead of doing all that, we should look at Shamgar’s example and willingly offer God what we have, leaving the results up to him.
There be giants in the land, my friends. Giants as large as any Goliath. God calls us to use what God gives us to battle those giants. He wants us to use the tools he places in our hands. It might be a slingshot and a stone. It might be an oxgoad. Doesn’t matter. When we willingly use what God gives, giants will fall and mountains will move.
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The next leader was Shamgar son of Anath. He too rescued Israel, and did so by killing six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad. Judges 3:31 (GNT)
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