Scripture Text – Judges 3
The weapons we fight with as Christian soldiers engaged in spiritual warfare, are not the weapons of the world.
The Apostle Paul wrote along those lines to the believers in Corinth (2 Corinthians 10:4), reminding them of a principle every Christian needs to take to heart: When God goes to war, He usually chooses the most unlikely soldiers, hands them the most unusual weapons, and accomplishes through them the most unpredictable results.
God is still looking for men and women who have what it takes to win: power, strategy, and courage. These three essentials for victory are illustrated in this chapter in the lives of the first three judges.
Shamgar: Persistent Courage
After him (Ehud) 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.
Only one verse is devoted to Shamgar and it isn’t even stated that he was a judge. Judges 5:6–7 indicates that he was contemporary with Deborah and Barak. “Son of Anath” may mean that he was from the town of Beth Anath in Naphtali (Judges 1:33), which was also the tribe Barak came from (Judges 4:6). Since Anath was the name of a Canaanite goddess of war, perhaps “son of Anath” was a nickname that meant “son of battle” – that is, a mighty warrior.
What was significant about Shamgar was the weapon that he used. An ox goad was a strong pole about eight feet long. At one end was a sharp metal point for prodding the oxen and at the other end a spade for cleaning the dirt off the plow. It was the closest thing Shamgar could find to a spear because the enemy had confiscated the weapons of the Israelites (Judges 5:8; see also 1 Samuel 13:19–22).
Here was a man who obeyed God and defeated the enemy even though his resources were limited. Instead of complaining about not possessing a sword or spear, Shamgar gave what he had to the Lord, and the Lord used it.
Joseph Parker had stated:
“What is a feeble instrument in the hands of one man is a mighty instrument in the hands of another, simply because the spirit of that other burns with holy determination to accomplish the work that has to be done.”
Shamgar may have killed all 600 Philistines at one time in one place (see 2 Samuel 8:8–12), but it’s also possible that 600 is a cumulative total. An ox goad would be an unwieldy weapon to use if 600 soldiers had attacked Shamgar at one time. Since we don’t know the details, we shouldn’t and needn’t speculate. The real thing is to take encouragement in knowing that God enabled him to overcome the enemy though his resources were limited and therefore, God can and will do the same for us.
The few words that are recorded about Shamgar leave the impression that he was a man of persistent courage, which, of course was born out of his faith in the Lord. To stand his ground against the enemy, having only a farmer’s tool instead of a soldier’s full military equipment, marks Shamgar out as a brave man with steadfast courage.
Charles Spurgeon once gave a lecture at his Pastor’s College entitled “To Workers with Slender Apparatus.” Of course, Shamgar didn’t hear that lecture, but I’m sure he could have been able to have given it! And I suspect he would have closed his lecture by saying, “Give whatever tools you have to the Lord, stand your ground courageously, and trust God to use what’s in your hand to accomplish great things for His glory.”
To paraphrase the late E.M. Bounds, known to many as the “student of prayer,” and a Methodist minister:
“The world is looking for better methods, but God is looking for better men and women who understand the basics: the power of the Holy Spirit, wise strategy, and steadfast courage.”
Othniel, Ehud, and Shamgar have shown us the way. Will we have the courage and the faith to follow?