The writer of Judges doesn’t say much about Shamgar other than he was the son of Anath that he killed 600 Philistines and like Ehud delivered Israel. In my sermon today I want to answer two questions. First, how ordinary people like Shamgar with no military training slain 600 battle hardened Philistines? Second, What can we learn from Shamgar today? Since the writer doesn’t give any details other than what is already given I am going make some assumptions on my way.
Text: Judges 3:31
How do we know Shamgar was actually called by God like the others (Judges 6:11-24; Judges 13:2-5)? We don’t. It’s doubtful even if Shamgar himself knew if he was formally called by God or not.
Hence our best guess as to why Shamgar did what he did is he was obsessed with the deliverance of his land and the people in it. This obsession brought him to a point that he would do anything to deliver his people. We are not told whether Shamgar engaged the 600 Philistines he killed, in a single battle or in multiple confrontations. Some scholars say that Shamgar must have ambushed small Philistine patrols at night and slowly killed up to 600 of them over time.
Military experts would say Shamgar’s fight against the philistines sounds more like a suicide mission. He was outnumbered by 600 to one! May be he killed one of them at a time. Still, in a face to face fight chances are rare that a cattleman will prevail against a well trained soldier. But this is the case with obsession. It takes our fears of failure away.
Ministry starts when we become aware of the spiritual needs of people in our communities and be obsessed with compassion to reach out to them with the love of God. Unfortunately some Christians wait without doing anything until they hear God’s voice. The problem with waiting for a formal calling for service is that God doesn’t speak to everyone through dreams, visions or in a still small voice.
Yet all of us can agree that God speaks to us through his word and even thoughts. One would argue we need to discern God’s will before acting upon our thoughts and obsessions. However our obsessions are in alignment with the divine will as long as our obsessions are about serving him.
Another common mistake is waiting for the leadership to recognize our skills and offer us a title. We cannot help but presume that Shamgar was not a solider because a solider would think twice before engaging 600 well armed Philistines in battle with nothing but an “ox goad”. Neither any military leader of the day would have recruited Shamgar as a soldier.
Once a journalist asked Jack Kilby the inventor of the “Integrated Circuits” how he did it? Kilby replied, “I did not know the right way or the wrong way of doing it. So I tried every way and finally it worked”
Was Shamgar a professional solider, instead of taking action he would have assess the situation, calculate the risks and decided it cannot be done. Quoting from my personal experience, when I want to accomplish something new for God, sometimes it’s good to just do it without asking anyone, because most people we know are good at telling us why we cannot do it than why we can do it.
Shamgar did not wait for permission, divine affirmation or recognition. He just did it! Are you obsessed with doing something for God tonight? Remember, that God really respects people with such obsessions. So, just do it!
We don’t find any reference to the Spirit of God in the story of Shamgar, (barely a story). But it’s safe to assume that Shamgar actually slain the Philistines under the influence of the Spirit because it was the way God used the others, (Judges 15:14; Judges 3:10). The Spirit of God must have rushed upon him each time he ambushed a patrol of Philistines pass by. We call this the anointing of God.
Zechariah 4:6 is one of my most favorite bible references. It says, “Not by strength, and not by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD.” In ministry, obsession is only the start. It’s the dream. Those dreams cannot become real unless we have the anointing of God. Now concerning anointing, there is very good chance that we can get stranded with our dreams for God because most of us tend to just do nothing and wait for the anointing.
The truth about anointing is, it kicks in only when we step out of our comfort zone in faith and actually start acting upon our obsessions. If we look at the life of Samson the Spirit of God came upon him only when he wanted to engage the enemy. A fine example is found in Judges 15:14 where Samson turned himself over to Philistines because within he was planning to slain them all. When Samson was ready, the Spirit of God rushed upon him and Samson struck down a thousand men.
In the beginning of my ministry I always avoided praying for the sick because I believed the lie that I lacked anointing. I regularly prayed that the Lord will anoint me but I could not feel it within me. Several years later I was preaching in another Church and the Pastor there requested me to pray for the people at the end of the sermon and I obliged. Words cannot describe it but I know the Spirit of God came upon me the moment I placed my hands upon the first man that responded to the invitation. In the alter call that lasted for one hour God used me to minister deliverance, heal the sick and even give prophetic utterances to the gathering. Do you want to be anointed like Shamgar? Just step up and act upon your obsessions. God will surely anoint you.
3. The Ox goad
The writer of Judges is careful to mention even the weapon Shamgar used to slain the Philistines. It was an Ox goad. The Ox goad is an eight foot (two and one-half m.) wooden pole, having at one end a spade for removing mud from the plow and at the other a sharp point for prodding oxen. It would not be surprising if Shamgar used it against a wild animal in self defense but in his hands it became a formidable weapon with which he killed well armed 600 Philistines.
Use of such unconventional weapons was common among the judges. For instance Samson used a dead Donkey’s jawbone to kill 1000 Philistines, (Judges 15:15). Both of them were laymen and used whatever they had within their reach.
Every Christian has a gift (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:12:31) that he or she has received from God, presumably from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit at the time of regeneration. The Holy Spirit also can take “natural” talents and abilities and redirect them for Christian service.
In ministry, it’s important to recognize these gifts we have because anointing comes upon what we already have. It doesn’t impart us with skills that we don’t already possess. God wants us to serve him with the gifts we have not with ones that we don’t. (Besides the judges Deborah and Samuel never went to war after all). One must not feel inferior or superior about his own gift because the Holy Spirit is the author of all gifts, (1 Corinthians 12:7)
Attempting to imitate someone else’s gifting or envying our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ because they possess skills that we don’t are often the mistakes we make with our gifts. When we do, we actually insult our creator.
The Bible encourages us to serve God with the gifts we already have, (1 Peter 4:10; 2 Timothy 1:6; 1 Timothy 4:14). St. Paul in his second epistle to Timothy use fire as a metaphor to describe the nature of gifts. The tendency of fire is to go out and it must be stirred occasionally. Gifts are the same. We lose our gifts unless we use them. Tonight, this is Shamgar’s message to us. Just use what you have!
While the majority of judges served in full-time professional capacities (Prophets, Warriors and Priests etc.) Shamgar most probably was a layman just like Gideon was. God has an important lesson for all of you here tonight. God has done great things through laymen in the past and he wants to do even great things through you. Are you ready?
Image: Kenneth Tan