Friday, March 11, 2011

The Book of Judges - Shamgar

Good Friday everyone!  Today we will be continuing our study of the judges.  So, without undo delay, let's jump right in.
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 NKJV
And this is all we know about Shamgar except for a brief mention later in Judges in Deborah's song. 
In the days of Shamgar, son of Anath, In the days of Jael, The highways were deserted, And the travelers walked along the byways.
Village life ceased, it ceased in Israel, Until I, Deborah, arose, Arose a mother in Israel.  Judges 5:5-6 NKJV
So what do we know about Shamgar.  We know that he was a brave man living in a scary time.  An ox goad is basically a pointy wooden rod used to poke oxen to keep them moving.  Sort of like what a cattle prod would do today.  So we know he stood up to a large group of Philistines and killed six hundred of them with that pointy stick.  Considering what he used as a weapon, we can deduce that he was not planning on going out to battle.  You would not choose an ox goad as your weapon against an army of soldiers.  We also know he was a farmer, otherwise why would he even have an ox goad. 
As for the times, we know they were scary times by what Deborah said.  Israel was surrounded by enemies and other miscreants just waiting to rob and plunder whatever they could get their hands on.  People stayed off the main road and only traveled on the back roads.  Village life ceased as people were shut in cowering from the dangers all around them.  It was a hard and scary time and Israel lived in fear.  We also know that this oppression was brought on by their own sin.  This was all chastisement for rebelling and forsaking God.  They rejected God and were allowed to experience what life would be like if there were no God. 
So what can we learn from Shamgar?  In the few words we have about him, we learn about a man of faith in God.  Shamgar did not cower in fear like everyone else, but stood up to the Philistines and drove them off.  Much like Israel lived in scary times back then, we do as well now.  We are a nation that has forsaken God and I do believe that God is chastising us.  We live in fear of terrorism, weather calamities, oil prices, the soundness of our financial system, growing crime, and violent gangs roaming large parts of many cities.  If you are reading this in another country, your nation may even be more dangerous.  We live in a scary time, but those of us who know the Lord need to rise above that fear. 
Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.
In God (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me?  Psalm 56:3-4 NKJV
For those of us in Christ, our trust is in God.  If our trust is in God, what can any man (flesh) do to any of us?  I am not saying that our enemies can not physically harm us or even kill us, but what is that even to a Christian? 
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.  Matthew 10:28 NKJV
We are not to fear men nor are we to fear the worst that they can do to us.  Whatever it is they can put us through, the grace of God is superior.  If they hurt us, God will give us the grace to endure.  If they kill us, we have God's grace unto eternity.  So the worst they can do is to send us to Heaven. Whether God delivers us from the snare of the oppressor or takes us home, we must rest in the faith that no matter what God is with us.  Those who oppress us will one day answer for their crimes, whether it be in repentance after they come to Jesus or as they hear their eternal sentence when they stand before God in judgment. 
I know there are many scary things in this world.  We not only have evil men to contend with, but we have natural calamities and the impending financial doom that seems to be looming over our nation.  We have unemployment high and only getting higher.  We worry about how we are going to take care of ourselves and our family during this time and we fear what kind of world our children will grow up into.  How does one handle the fear or crime along with all the other fears that seem to come at us from every direction.  I mean even as I write this, they are still counting the dead in that terrible earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan and Hawaii is preparing for the worst but praying for the best in terms of the size of the tsunami that will hit them as a result of this quake.  In my own state of New Jersey, we had a lot of rain recently and people are worried that that homes are about to be flooded.  In other parts of the nation, there are fears of drought.  I know many fear losing their jobs or their unemployment benefits running out.  These fears are real and they are pervasive.  What is one to do?
Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid." And Peter answered Him and said, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water." So He said, "Come." And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, "Lord, save me!" And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"  Matthew 14:25-31 NKJV
As we see in this passage, the answer to what we are to do is to focus on Jesus and not on the waves all around us.  When Peter had his focus on Jesus, the wind and the waves did not matter and he was literally walking on water.  He was being sustained by his faith in Jesus despite sinking into the deep, which is what should have been his fate.  It was when he began to focus on the wind and the waves that his faith wavered. Once his faith wavered, he sank.  He still knew enough to cry out to Jesus and Jesus lifted him up and chided him for his lack of faith.  The lesson here is that scary things seem even more scary when you stare at them.  Big problems seem even larger when our eyes are looking at them instead of Jesus.  But when we look to Jesus, He will sustain us through our faith. In fact, the more our eyes are on Jesus, the less they are on the countless dangers lurking around every corner of this world.  If your faith does begin to waver, do not be so proud as not to call upon Jesus.  Though you may begin to sink, the Lord will lift you up when you put that focus back on him. 
Shamgar was no great man.  He was a farmer who happened upon an army of Philistines.  His focus, though was not on the army in front of him, it was on the Lord.  We do not know how large that army was.  We know he killed six hundred of them, but we do not know how many ran away.  Shamgar was but one man, but that one man had his eyes on the Lord and not on the large army surrounding him.  He did not fear the Philistines so long as his focus was on God and through that faith, he delivered a nation from an invading army.  If God can turn back an army through one man with a pointy stick, what can't God do through you?  Step out in faith and stand for the calling God has put in your life.  What are you afraid of?  Is there really anything in this life that is bigger than your God? 
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.  1 John 4:18 NKJV

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