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On the horizon, as many well known prophets of God have told us, there is a new wave of revival coming.  Many feel that this revival will be the last before the coming of our Lord Jesus. They believe that it will encompass the entire world and the power of God will be demonstrated like never before. "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father” (John 14:12).  To this end God is looking for willing instruments to work through in these last days.  Are you willing to be one of them?  Let us look at a Biblical example of a man who was “God’s willing instrument” to find out how we can be used of God on that level.
Shamgar: God’s Willing Instrument
February 2011

                   1.   The Character                                                        2.   The Condition
                       
3.   The Challenge                                                        4.   The Call
                       
5.   The Conquest                                                        6.   The Characteristics

I.                  The Character – Shamgar the son of Anath unlike other Biblical Judges appears and disappears on the scene of Israel’s history with no fan fair, no introduction, conclusion, or reference to his length of reign.  In fact there are virtually no details given about him what-so-ever.  His name means “stranger, cupbearer or sword,” and only occurs twice in Scripture; the first time in Judges 3:31 and again in Judges 5:6.  In Judges 3:31 all we are told of his genealogy, is that he is the son of Anath, leaving much speculation about who Shamgar was. 

After him was Shamgar the son of Anath, who killed six hundred men of the Philistines with an ox goad; and he also delivered Israel” Judges 3:31.

                        Many speculate he was not an Israelite because his name is not Hebrew.  Some believe that he was a Canaanite of Hittite origin.  Others believe he was Hurrian, an ancient group of travelers that entered Mesopotamia and continued to migrate westward early in the second millennium BC.  They joined the Israelites seeking to repel the Philistines who were arch enemies, for they caused continual disruption throughout the eastern Mediterranean area. 

            The term the “Son of Anath” gives little help in pinning down Shamgar’s lineage as well.  The Hebrew word son or “bên” is a word that encompasses many facets, from a child, to a grandchild (male of female), children, youth (as in human), young (as in animals), sons of God [for angels]), people (of a nation), or a member of a guild, order, or class.  So as you can plainly see, to take the words “son of Anath” literally, is to make a false assumption, which could lead to false facts. 

            Anath could also be a reference to Beth-Anath a town in Galilee, or the name of his father, grandfather, or people.  Beth-ānath which means “house of repose or affliction” is a fenced city in the territory of Naphtali, (Joshua 19:38; Judges 1:33).  It was a place that was associated with the “house” or “temple” of Anath, a goddess of the Canaanites.  All that is really revealed about Shamgar in the two verses attributed to him is that he was a man called by God as a deliverer who repelled the Philistine incursions, and slaughtered 600 soldiers with an ox goad (Judges 3:31).  Shamgar was simply a “regular Joe;” a man with no special talents or name.  He was simply a man who saw a need and acted in the name of his God.        

            The other mention of Shamgar is within the Song of Deborah found in Judges 5:6.  Here Shamgar is described as a prior ruler, who God rose up in this time of fear, devastation and vulnerability.  The Song of Deborah records that in those days the highways were abandoned, with travelers taking winding byways not the main roads, probably due to the fear of being killed by their foreign oppressors.  Village life ceased, Israel was serving foreign gods, war was in the gates of the cities, and there was not a shield or a single weapon of war found throughout all Israel.

II.               The Conditions – Judges 3:12-30 record the second oppression and slavery of God’s people which lasted for eighteen years under Eglon the King of Moab.  Then when Israel cried out to the Lord for help, God raised up Ehud son of Gera, of the tribe of Benjamin, who was left-handed, to deliver them.  The deliverance and subsequent peace lasted for eighty years.             

            If you also recall the Moabites lived east of the Dead Sea, and they attacked Israelite territory by crossing over the Jordon, turning south following the Jordon valley and ultimately established their headquarters, though temporary as it was, in Jericho.  Ehud through a well devised and executed assassination gained the victory over Moab, and reigned bringing peace for 80 years (Judges 3:30). Then according to the very next verse, “after him (Ehud) was Shamgar.”  Obviously Moab was not the only threat to Israel at this time.  The Philistines, who lived along the Mediterranean Sea coast, now tried to conquer Israel from the West. 

            Obviously the Philistines must have seen something about the state of Israel and its people that gave them a strategic advantage which gave them the belief that they had a very good chance of victory over Israel, or they would not have invaded Israel at this time.  The Bible tells us that this invasion came at the end of Ehud’s reign, after “the land had rest for eighty years” (Judges 3:30).  So what was it about Israel that the Philistines saw and caused them to believe they had a strategic advantage and a very good chance of success? 

            Could it be, that

"In the days of Shamgar, son of Anath, in the days of Jael, The highways were deserted, and the travelers walked along the byways. (7) Village life ceased, it ceased in Israel, until I, Deborah, arose, Arose a mother in Israel. (8)They chose new gods; then there was war in the gates; not a shield or spear was seen among forty thousand in Israel” Judges 5:6-8.

            When this description of the state of Israel, given by Deborah in Judges 5, is compared with the statement made in Judges 3:30-31, it begs a serious question.  What was going on after Ehud secured the victory over Moab and brought peace to Israel that would leave Israel in such a state of desolation?  One possible answer could be that this period of rest (shâqaṭ) was of the same character as the 40 years of rest mentioned under the reign of Othniel.  It was a time of idleness, contentment, apathy without godly gain. 

            Israel lost the understanding of who they were and the sense of their divine purpose. They as we all do, have a divine heritage and destiny which can not be experienced or realized when we are idle.  Notice:

Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. (3)And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. (4) Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. (5) And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. (6) Whoever abides in Him does not sin” (1 John 3:2-6a).

            We are called the children of God, we are now new creations made in the likeness of God.  We have a glory bestowed upon us by God that the world does not understand or recognize, and therefore, the world does not know us – they know not what to make of us. We are a mystery to them.  Mysteries birth curiosity.  The manifestation of Curiosity is questions.  Questions are opportunities to share the love of God.  This is our divine calling.  Oh, but brethren the glory that Christians now see and experience is nothing compared to what it shall be.  Why? For it has not yet been revealed what we shall be (1 John 3:2).  What a priceless heritage, what a glorious hope and unfathomable destiny.  Are you part of this priceless heritage?

            Do you have this hope?  Are you holding on to this unfathomable destiny?  Are you looking forward to receiving it with all your heart?  If so, you must purify yourself.  For every one that has this hope, that is, the hope of seeing and enjoying Christ in glory, must purify himself, according to the pattern and copy which Christ hath set before him (Romans 13:14).  They must continually labor to reproduce it in their own lives.  It can not be obtained through idleness.  Every Christian that has this hope has a glorious destiny of future blessedness.  Because the author of this hope is God and the object of His work is us and our future glory, which He promised and all who believe can expect to receive. This future hope was purchased through Christ’s atonement and sanctified by the work of the Spirit, in and upon our hearts. This is our glorious destiny; to be like Jesus, now and forever!

            Israel’s idleness prevented them from gaining any knowledge and experience about their God, God’s ways or His government. They were just pacified.  They were just sitting back enjoying the peace and prosperity they were experiencing, without any concern for their present state, the government, their political situation, or the situation taking place in the nations around them.  This lack of effort or concern, and their lack of faithfulness to God brought on the state of affairs described in Judges 5:6-8. 

            Shamgar is said to have lived during the latter days of Ehud and the early days of Deborah and Barak.  Many theologians believe the events described in Judges 3:31 happened within 20 years after the death of Ehud. During the days of Shamgar the country was in shambles and desolate – cf. Judges 5:6-8. 

  1. There was no trade.  There were no weapons or soldiers to protect commercial endeavors.

  2. There was no traveling.  In order to do any trading one must be able to travel to a place he would be able to sell his goods.  Traveling was impossible for fear of being attacked, robbed and killed.  The only traveling that could be attempted was via the back roads and by stealth.

  3. There was no farming.  Villages were unoccupied for fear of plunderers.  The villagers were, as a result forced to live in walled cities for protection.

  4. There was no capability of administering justice.  There was war in the gates where their courts were kept.  The continual attacks of the enemy deprived the magistrates of their dignity, and the people of the benefit of a government.

  5. There was no peace to anyone coming or going.  The gates of these fortified cities in which travelers must pass had war in them, because again, they were infested with plunderers.  Verse 11 tells us that even the people who had to go out to draw water were afraid of death at the hands of enemy archers.

  6. There were no weapons of war anywhere.  Not one shield or spear to defend them.  Either they were all taken by their oppressors, or they themselves neglected them and the art of war; either way they had lost the skill or will to use them.

            Why did all this happen?  Deborah shows why in one statement (cf. Judges 5:8).  “They chose new gods, then …” It was their idolatry that provoked God to give them up into the hands of their enemies.  The Lord their God was one Lord, but having only one God did not make them content, they needed more.  Their God was the Ancient of days, and still the same, and they grew weary of Him, they wanted something new.  When their fathers were given that choice, they chose the Lord for their God (Joshua 24:21), but now their children would not abide by that choice, they chose to have new gods of their own making.  God therefore, brought this desolation and destruction and sent the Philistines as another wake up call for Israel to see their ways and repent.  Once they started to cry out to God in repentance, Shamgar was the hero God rose up to repel the Philistine invasion. 

III.           The Challenge – Heroes are often considered to be: smart, possessing great physical attributes, strong, and brave with great warlike skills that are battle hardened.  But as we read our Bibles we discover soon enough that God does not always adhere to this standard.  The Christian heritage does not have room for superheroes of this kind, because there is only one superhero, if you will: God Himself!  Shamgar on the other hand, might be eligible for the position of the most obscure Biblical character found in Scripture: for as stated earlier, there are only two verses ascribed to his complete story.  We find no information whatsoever about his birth, childhood, youth, family, education, or career.  To him the author of Judges does not even assign any particulars about his hometown, wealth or even his death.  Deborah only mentions him once in the process of describing the historical background which defined the circumstances at the time of his call. 

            But in spite of all this, Shamgar-Ben-Anath who appears to be a local farmer, was called to fight against the Philistine occupation forces and was given a tremendous victory.  He was given no army, military support or training.  His weapon was of no military value nor did it possess any powerful advantage over the weapons of the enemy soldiers.  In fact it was a farm tool which was a wooden stick approximately 6-8 feet long, about 2 inches in diameter.  On one end was a rounded metal point probably bronze, used for poking the oxen when their movements become intolerably slow, and at the other end is a broad chisel-like blade sometimes in the shape of a shovel, which was used to clear the plowshare of roots and thorns which impede it or stiff clay which adheres to it.  Obviously the ox goad was an instrument used for agriculture, not for fighting against seasoned warriors.  But in Shamgar's anointed hands, God transformed the ox goad into a lethal weapon which killed 600 soldiers and turned back the Philistine invasion.  Shamgar’s contribution to the history of Israel was considered significantly important, because the writer of the book under God’s anointed hand bestowed upon Shamgar the title of “deliverer” (yaw-shah') a word implying “savior.”

IV.           The Call – Shamgar is an example of a man who was willing to be used by God for the purpose God designed for him.  Shamgar was ready when God needed him!  And that is the main lesson we must glean from him.  He was an ordinary man who saw an extraordinary threat from one of God’s enemies.  He did not wait for a spiritual leader to deal with the threat.  He did not go and tell the leaders, Shamgar became the leader!  God sent His spirit out to find someone who would respond to the needs of His people.  He found that man in Shamgar.  Shamgar was willing, compassionate and available; he showed up when God needed him. 

V.               The Conquest - In some very striking ways the spirit of Christian faith and victory are seen in this man.  Here we have a man engaged in the ordinary tasks of life, a man who was available to God when God needed Him and who because of his faith was not afraid of the daunting task God set before him, and met it head on as it came to him.  He did not meet the challenge by shirking his responsibility, nor did he step aside from the path of his ordinary duties.  He did not need to be acknowledged, be placed in some illustrious position, or to be a hero, he just stood where God placed him and fought the battle God presented to Him.  He just obeyed his creator and became a symbol of victory and deliverance.  He did not go out of his way to find a place where God could use him, he just responded to everything that came his way in the midst of his everyday tasks.  Shamgar stands as a person who finds countless opportunities for fighting the battle of the Lord, even in the midst of the weighty burden of every day life.  He is a symbol of a true warrior for God.
            Shamgar did not have to wait till he had a sword or spear or battle-bow either, he took whatever lay close at hand, and he turned it against the enemy, and so God wants to use whatever resources you have on hand. He is asking, "What is that in your hand?" Like Moses' rod, Dorcas' needle, David's sling and stone, Joshua's ram's horn, the lad’s five loaves and two fishes, or the widow's little bottle of oil, give God what you have on hand and be willing to use it for Him.  That is all God requires for His mightiest victories and His grandest ministries.  No matter if it is at home, at work, while shopping, or at the hair dresser, no matter where you are or what you are doing be available when God calls; “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word!  Be ready in season and out of season.  Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:1-2).  Do you notice anywhere in the Bible where it says: “ministerial degree required?  No!  There is an old Christian saying I am sure you have heard before.  It says:  “God is not looking for ability – He is looking for availability!’  Be available when God calls you.  No matter what you have in your possession. 

VI        The Characteristics – Although we are not to seek being heroes, we can be witnesses and vessels that God can use for dramatic and unbelievable actions because our God is Almighty.  Get ready for His mighty deeds.  No Christian should belittle him-or-herself as insignificant.  Challenges and offences will come upon a child of God (cf. Luke 17:1).  But in all challenges God will be glorified and the victory assured.  Not everyone can be an Isaiah or John the Baptist or Apostle Paul, but all Christians can be a “Shamgar” if they are available and with earnest respond to all potentially devastating challenges with faith and courage, and confronting those who aggressively and powerfully threaten God’s people, God’s ways, or God’s Word.

            For as Shamgar was so must we be!  Shamgar

  • Was a man who was ready to serve God when the need arose; even in the every day grind of life

  • Was a man who knew that God can be served with unlikely instruments; “What is that in thy hand?” In Shamgar’s hand was an ox-goad with which he slew six hundred Philistines.

  • Was a common man, not one of upbringing, wealth, or military training

  • Was a man of faith and boldness

  • Was a man sold out to God who had complete compassion for his people and country

   In conclusion let me list for you what Shamgar has to teach us:

  • If you think that you are nobody – Serve Him anyway!  “For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent." (20) Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world…? (25) Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (26) For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. (27) But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty” 1 Corinthians 1:19-20, 25-27

  • God is no respecter of person – God shows no partiality (Acts 10:34). 

  • Serving God does not require special training or equipment – God uses what is in your hands and what you are willing to give Him.

  • Serving God requires one to be a volunteer, one of desire and bravery

  • Our full fledged service to God brings full fledged blessings – What Shamgar’s life show us is that it is not necessary that our service be recognized and rewarded by men.  If God takes note and is pleased, it is enough!  The world may look upon our lives of service and laugh to scorn, Oh, but God; He acknowledged their lives by recording these men’s name and legacy forever in the world’s best known and most read book.  We are not to strive after worldly fame and acclaim (Galatians 1:10).  Our innermost desire should be to hear His thrilling invitation: “Well done, good and faithful servant…Enter into the joy of the Lord” (cf. Matthew 25:21, 23; Luke19:17)

  • Actions speak louder than words.  “Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: (35) for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; (36) I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ (37) “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? (38) When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? (39) Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ (40) And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” Matthew 25: 34-40.

            Shamgar saw the needs of his fellow brethren and without any fanfare and only possessing what he had in his hand, volunteered his service to God in whatever capacity God wanted.  With courage, determination and faith he proceeded obediently into action conquering all that stood before him.  He saw, he had compassion, he acted, and he conquered.  This is a real hero; unknown, unheralded, unremarkable, un-noticed, whose actions were unrecorded.  A man of God who just gave without the desire of fame or fortune;

As Shamgar was so must we be!

            Next month we will look at another one of God’s willing instruments; a man whose name means “Lion.”  A man who was from the tribe of Judah that vanquished a doubly wicked king and is army using an eighteen inch long blade and the God-given ability to mobilize people of faith.

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