Summary: In a world of uncertainty and insecurity, spiritual people are needed.
A LOCAL HERO - SHAMGAR
“After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an ox goad” (Judges 3: 31).
In the book of Joshua, God was with the whole nation as they conquered the land of promise. But, in Judges, God turned from the nation and gave victory to individuals. He called and empowered individuals by his Spirit. Thirteen different judges are named in the book. The thirteen individuals are not national leaders, they are local heroes who rescue and deliver God’s people from oppression and destruction in different parts of Canaan.
Shamgar is one of those local heroes. His story on the pages of Scripture is very brief - one verse. All we know is that his father’s name was Anath, and he singlehandedly overpowered six hundred men - a brigade of Philistine soldiers. His weapon was an oxgoad - a wooden paddle. It is noticeable that many of the judges made their own weapons, Ehud made his own dagger, Samson improvised with the jawbone of an ass. Shamgar utilised this wooden paddle which was about eight feet long, he pointed the end and tipped it with metal, thus he fashioned it into a homemade spear. It seems that the Philistines who had the upper-hand in the land at the time, were inforcing the policy of disarming their enemies (1 Samuel 13: 19 - 22). As a result, the deliverers tended to be very resourceful and were able to improvise well.
So, here we have this isolated exploit! Who wants to know about a man who killed six hundred men? Yet, as all Scripture it is recorded for some reason - a lesson is waiting to be learnt. What lesson can be learnt from a story that is only twenty words. As a deliverer, Shamgar too saved Israel. We could say, that Shamgar was almost one of the forgotten, because his story is so brief.
Another famous judge in comparison to Shamgar was Deborah, mainly because she was a female (let’s not get into that!) Deborah after her victories on behalf of the Israelite nation composed a song. A song of victory! It is interesting, that in her song of victory she mentions Shamgar - “In the days of Shamgar the Anta, in the days of Gael, the roads were abandoned; travellers took to the winding paths. Village life in Israel ceased....” (v. 6). Life for the Israelites in the villages was difficult and dangerous. Marauding Philistines exacted their aggression on the small unwalled villages. The activities of the village was severely hindered by fear. People were not prepared to travel on the open roads - the commercial roads that traders used. Life for God’s people was surrounded by insecurity and uncertainty. To me, that has a familiar ring to it! Safety and security are the two big issues of our modern life. The village life of old and the global village of today share something in common. It is highly probable that Shamgar exploit occurred against this background, the unprotected village.
The song of Deborah states something more, “When they chose new gods war came to the city gates, not a shield or spear was seen among forty thousand in Israel” (v. 8). Obviously, there was a spiritual decline in the people of God. They had forsaken God and as a result were left defenceless. This says something about Shamgar! His spirituality! His loyalty! His longing! His desire! A man who is determined to make a difference, even though he is alone. Shamgar displays a courage that it born of conviction that he can do something to change the situation. He invest his time and energy into effecting that change, this man with little history, this man with little resources. Shamgar is the local hero! A deliverer! The title deliverer is no mean title on the pages of Scripture.
The lesson that Shamgar teaches us today becomes very apparent. In the midst of life, with all its insecurities and uncertainties, the spiritual person is needed. No one may know much about us, our background or family. Indeed, in suburban life, we may see ourselves as one amongst the hordes of the forgotten. Like everyone else around us we share the experiences of the community, some good experiences, but often, so many that are bad. Yet, God has a work for us! To live our lives in such a way that darkness and evil will be overcome. We can be the ‘unsung heroes’ of our neighbourhoods. Our spirituality matters!
Issac Watts asks the question, Are there no foes for me to face? - (Song 678, v 3). Little do we know it, that the foes that we are to face do not compare to the Philistine brigade that Shamgar defeated.
But, what Shamgar, and each of us possess is the empowering Spirit of God!