Will You Be a Shamgar?

Judges 3:31; 5:6

In the spring of 1979, I was a sales representative for the 3M Corporation.  I graduated in 1976 from Stephen F. Austin State University with a bachelors in business administration.  I went to work for 3M as a result of my choice. When I graduated from college my car was a wreck.  You see, 3M provided me a company car, an expense account and it was a wonderful opportunity.  But when I began my career, I knew quite quickly that God had called me to ministry of some type.

While at 3M, I began taking classes in Houston at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary housed on the campus of Houston Baptist University.  My first course was the Pentateuch taught by Dr. David Garland.  I couldn’t even spell p-e-n-t-a-t-e-u-c-h.  I had been in class about three weeks in when I began to question, What have I done?  Why am I here? Can God really use me? Do I really fit?  I felt like I didn’t.  I felt like a Shamgar.

About 25 years ago, Dr. Bob Pittman, a dear friend and pastor came to my church and did a Bible conference and said, Preachers just don’t preach the Bible anymore! When is the last time you heard a good message on Shamgar?  I don’t think I have ever heard one.  I became so convicted that I was drawn to study the book of Judges.  I was amazed at all of the truths, the important aspects of understanding the history of Israel and how God works through and to His people.

In the time of the judges, many would know Gideon, some would know Samson and Deborah, and perhaps even Jephthah; but, who in the world is Shamgar?  Judges 3:31 and 5:6-7 (NKJV) says, “After him came Shamgar the son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad; and he also saved Israel.” and “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.”

What I have shared in these two verses is all that recorded Scripture says about Shamgar.  He is listed among the judges.  As we move out of the conquest of Joshua and the land into the time of when the judges ruled, often we find that the judges ruled God out.  In this passage and within the whole book of Judges, when interpreting narratives, we look for key words and phrases that are repeated. In chapters 1 through 21 are about a 300 to 350 year historical period that includes a repetitive cycle that Israel goes through as a result of their disobedience to the Word of God.  First, let’s examine the macro before we move into the micro.

See God’s command in Judges 2:1-3, Then the Angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said: “I led you up from Egypt and brought you to the land of which I swore to your fathers;’ and I said, ‘I will never break My covenant with you.  And you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed My voice. Why have you done this?  Therefore I also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you; but they shall be thorns in your side, and their gods shall be a snare to you.’” 

Now look at Judges 3:1-6:  Now these are the nations which the Lord left, that He might test Israel by them, that is, all who had not known any of the wars in Canaan (this was only so that the generations of the children of Israel might be taught to know war, at least those who had not formerly known it), namely, five lords of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites who dwelt in Mount Lebanon, from Mount Baal Hermon to the entrance of Hamath. And they were left, that He might test Israel by them, to know whether they would obey the commandments of the Lord, which He had commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses. Thus the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.” Notice verse six, “And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons; and they served their gods.”

Here is the summary that takes place:  Joshua, during the time of the conquest with the nation of Israel, goes to the Promised Land and conquers 31 city-states or clans throughout Palestine and as a result these were loosely set up in the inheritance as they came in and conquered the land.  But God said as you go in, Don’t make covenants.  Tear down altars.  Drive out the people.  But they did not obey.  A cycle takes place because of their sin.

What happens when we sin?  It always brings suffering. Fortunately, God is a god of mercy and grace.   When Israel sinned and the suffering came, there was always a remnant that began to cry out in supplication, Lord, deliver us!  Have mercy on us!  What does God do when we cry out to Him in our situation?  He is gracious.  He is a holy God. He is a wonderful God Who reaches down in mercy and raises up a savior, Hebrew term, “deliverer,” and judge.  Israel goes through this cycle over and over and over.  It is a terrible setting.  The most devious and depraved things in the history of Israel are done by God’s own people in the book of Judges.

Four times a particular phrase is repeated in the book of Judges: 17:6, “In those days there was no king in Israel,”; 18:1,“In those days there was no king in Israel,”; 19:1, “there was no king in Israel,”; and 21:25, “In those days there was no king in Israel,”; but, in 17:6 and 21:25 contain this additional phrase, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. 

What I have described is the current state of America.  We have come to a point in our country where we know the truth of God’s Word.  We as God’s people have strayed from it; we’ve allowed every other god in the world to take precedence over the Lord Jesus Christ.  We are fearful of standing on the Word of God, fearful of standing up for the Lord Jesus Christ, and fearful of praying in public and witnessing in public.  America is in sad, sick shape!  We are a picture of Israel during this same time frame.  How did Israel get there?  They simply began to disobey the Word of God.

From Apathy . . .

We can see a three-step process of Israel’s disobedience.   After Joshua conquered the 31 city-states, moved in to the land, and began to settle down the Israelites became apathetic.  They became complacent.  The Scripture said they did not do what God had asked them to do.  In Judges 1: 16, “Now the children of the Kenite, Moses’ father-in-law, went up from the City of Palms with the children of Judah into the Wilderness of Judah, which lies in the South near Arad; and they went and dwelt among the people.” Verse 21, But the children of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites who inhabited Jerusalem; so the Jebusites dwell with the children of Benjamin in Jerusalem to this day.” Verse 27, “However, Manasseh did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth Shean and its villages . . .” Verse 28, “And it came to pass, when Israel was strong, that they put the Canaanites under tribute, but did not completely drive them out.” Verse 29, Nor did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites . . .”  Verse 30, Nor did Zebulun drive out the inhabitants of Kitron . . .” Verse 31,  “Nor did Asher drive out the inhabitants . . .”

 Do you see this ongoing consistent aspect?  The Israelites have come into the land, received their inheritance, settled down and decided they had enough war.  They decided they were going to be happy with where they are.  They became apathetic.  They did not drive the people out.  And a result, sin sets in.  Disobedience becomes real.

Often times in our walk with the Lord, if we’re not careful, God speaks to us along the path and we begin to say, “I am happy with where I am and I don’t want to battle this or confront that” and we become apathetic and complacent. If we’re not careful, it will move us into the next stage.

To Apostasy . . .

Israel moved from being a people of apathy to a people of apostasy.  Look with me, “they did not drive them out” and as a result they move to “they did evil in the sight of the Lord.”

Here are some tragic verses in Chapter 2 beginning in verse 8, “Now Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died when he was one hundred and ten years old. And they buried him within the border of his inheritance at Timnath Heres, in the mountains of Ephraim, on the north side of Mount Gaash.”  

Look at Verse 10, “When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel.” Keep reading Verse 11 and as a result of that, “. . . the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord . . .” If we’re not careful, apathy moves us to apostasy.  They did not do what God had asked them to do.  We can keep going, Chapter 10 Verse 6 same thing, “The children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord and 13:1, “Again the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord.”

To Anarchy…

So apathy, if we’re not careful, leads to apostasy. They did evil, which brings us to the next step: anarchy, “They did that which was right in their own eyes.”  A simple rebellion of saying, “Lord, I don’t care who you are and what covenant you made with us, we’re going to do things our way.”  And from Chapter 17:6 through 21:25, some of the most depraved aspects of the people of God take place, even to the point of civil war where Israel wipes out  approximately 25,000 Benjamites because of their sin. What an amazing thing!

What is taking place?  They rebelled against God.  Every time that took place God would raise up a deliver – a judge, who responds and leads them for a time and gives them rest.  Be careful in your walk.  As you go through battles, you’re either going to come out in victory or defeat.  Most often when you come out in victory the devil is right around the corner trying to destroy you where you are.  Be careful what is going on in your life.  Check and see if you are in any one of these – apathy, apostasy or anarchy.  What must we do?

Let’s go back to Judges Chapter 3:31 to see how God used this particular man by the name of Shamgar to do what was needed in the life of Israel at this time.  Who is Shamgar and what did he do?  “After him was Shamgar . . .” The Scripture and Bible theologians will tell us that “Shamgar” is not even a Jewish name.  It is a Gentile name.  We find that this Gentile has been called for God’s purposes.  But there is another interesting fact.  “After him was Shamgar the son of Anath . . .” If you study as you do in the Old Testament, we come to the genealogies.  What is the normal process?  So and so begat so and so, so and so begat so and so, and so and so begat so and so.  Name after name after name.  Always masculine to masculine to masculine.  Shamgar was the son of Anath.  We often read over that.  The term “Anath” is not masculine but it is feminine.  Not only is it feminine, but the term “Ana” is basically a description of the goddess of war and sex of the Canaanites, Phoenicians and Egyptians.  So it seems that God in His wisdom called a pagan heathen by the name of Shamgar out of false worship unto Himself that He might transform him and use him for His honor and glory in the nation of Israel.  Isn’t that just like God?

Where were you when God saved you?  You see me up here after fourteen years of service at Southwestern, a history having done this and that.  But you did not see me whenI went to Stephen F. Austin in 1970.  I was one of those students that crammed a four year program into six.  My favorite was my junior year.  I was a junior for three years.  I was a dope-smoking, beer-drinking member of Tau Kappa Epsilon social fraternity.  One of my fraternity brothers is Willie Nelson.  Do you know that name?  We initiated him.  I was a heathen.  I was a pagan.

Yes, I grew up in a Christian home.  My grandfather and father taught the Word of God and preached the Word of God.  When I was seven, I made a profession of faith and was baptized because I didn’t want to go to hell and wanted my parent’s theology.  But when I got away from home, got away on my own, and got my own understanding of who I was, I put my Bible and my label on the shelf.  I was no longer “PK.”  I was just Denny Autrey.  My heart began to reveal itself.

It took five years for God to show me how lost I was.  At that time I was living Judges 17:6 and 21:5; there was no King in my life.  I did exactly what I wanted to do.  And yet, God in His sovereignty and in His providence began to work in my life.  I had a praying mother and a praying sister.  I met a young lady who was just an angel.  Her name is Angela.  She loved God and I fell in love with her.  God began to transform my heart and life.  God called me unto Himself.  He picked me up. He cleaned me up.  He saved me and sanctified me.  He gave me a hunger for the His Word.

I began to say, “Lord, I’ll do what You want me to do.  I’ll go where You want me to go.  I am willing to do what it takes.”  I quit worrying about what folks thought, what my parents thought and why my friends thought.  I became hungry for the Word of God. I think that is exactly who Shamgar was.

Shamgar was probably a mercenary that went to the highest bidder but somehow God got ahold of his life and said, “Come over here.  I am going to use you.”  Let’s look at four observations of Shamgar’s life:

Shamgar was a man who did what he could.  He killed 600 Philistines.  You might say that doesn’t sound like very much because, if you study the book of Judges, you see one slew 10,000, another 40,000, and Gideon and his band slew 135,000. So Shamgar did what he could.

Isn’t that all God asks us to do?  I can’t do what another does.  I can only be me.  The problem we have in the church is that we began to compare ourselves with one another.  We compare our gifts and talents.  I can’t match up.  We feel like we don’t fit.   I feel like I’m not up to par.  I don’t know this or don’t know that.  God loves you where you are. God wants to take and make you all that He wants you to be.  Quit asking God to make you someone different and be who you are.

Shamgar did what he could with what he had. What is an oxgoad?  It is a tool about six feet tall.  It has a chiseled sharp point on one end.  It is an instrument used by the farmer.  Have you ever heard the phrase, “He’s as dumb as an ox?”  What does that mean?  When the farmer is plowing or headed to the market, the ox often forgets what he is doing and just stops.  The farmer has to poke the hind legs of the ox to get his attention.  In Acts 26, Paul is sharing his testimony about what happened on road to Damascus where he encounters Jesus asking, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? Why are you kicking against the goads?”  God was trying to get Saul’s attention.  Shamgar killed 600 Philistines with an oxgoad.  That surprises us, but it shouldn’t.

Little is much when God is in it.  We find that Ehud used a dagger. Jael used a hammer. Samson used the jawbone of a donkey; a fresh one.  Gideon used pitchers and lanterns.  David used five stones.  And Shamgar used an oxgoad. God has given you all the gifts and talents you need.  They may not be what somebody else has; but, God has entrusted you with everything you need to accomplish what He has called you to do.

Shamgar did what he could with what he had where he was. Where was he?  Shamgar was in a hard place.  In Judges 5: 6, it says, “The highways were deserted, And the travelers walked along the byways.”  What does that mean?  It was a time of terror, a time of fear and a time of confusion.  Everywhere you went there was oppression.

I have the opportunity to fly frequently.  I get up in the morning and get dressed, go to the airport and get undressed and redressed.  You turn on the news and hear of a bombing or another school shooting.  We are living in a great time of terror and confusion.

The devil has this lie.  For example, I will have a student come to me who has been currently serving his church for six years and ask me to write a letter of recommendation to another church.  I ask the student to come see me and tell me about the real story going on in his church.  The student shares about this lady who is a constant thorn in his side.  She just doesn’t like me.  I’ve tried working with her and she just objects to everything.  She sits up at the front every Sunday morning and says ‘Bless me if you can, Preacher.” I’ve tried my best.  I feel like it is time for me to move on.  Maybe God can bring somebody to love her. 

The student moves two states over and, lo and behold, the student calls me and says, “Dr. Autrey, you’ll never believe this but remember that lady I told you about at my last church?  Her sister is a member here.”

You see, the devil has this lie: “You’d be a better preacher if you had a better church.  You’d be a better husband if you had a different wife.  You’d be a better music director if you were at a church this size.”  This lie will confront you time and time again all of your life.  You have to know that God has called you where He has called you that you might accomplish what God has called you to accomplish. Shamgar did what he could with what he had where he was.

There are no perfect churches.  There are no perfect marriages.  There are no perfect jobs.  In fact, if you find a perfect church, don’t join it.  You’ll mess it up!  He did what he could with what he had where he was.

Then the last phrase: “And he also delivered Israel.” He did what he could with what he had where he was for the glory of God.  Shamgar was not concerned about who got the credit.  He was simply obedient to Jehovah God.  If we can get to the point in our walk, in our ministry and in our love for the Lord Jesus Christ that we do not care who gets the credit but want to simply serve God and be a part of the Kingdom work, then God can use us in a great way.

That is exactly what is happening in this setting.  God delivered this no-name, no-fame man to bring glory to God through his service.  We find in the Book of Judges a new phrase that has not been used in Scripture up to this point but in Chapter 13:25, “And the Spirit of the Lord began to move . . .” and in 14:6, “And the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him . . .”

Do you know how you’ll be successful where you are?  You will have to have the anointing of God upon your life, walk with God in obedience, and spend time alone with God to get a word from God and a handle on what He wants you to do.  Sometimes it is a lonely, isolated place.  But if you want to be the influence God wants you to be and to give glory to God, you will have to have the anointing of God upon your life.  I love what Rick Warren states:

If you’re not involved in any service or ministry, what excuse have you been using? Abraham was old, Jacob was insecure, Leah was unattractive, Joseph was abused, Moses stuttered, Gideon was poor, Samson was codependent, Rahab was immoral, David had an affair and all kinds of family problems, Elijah was suicidal, Jeremiah was depressed, Jonah was reluctant, Naomi was a widow, John the Baptist was eccentric to say the least, Peter was impulsive and hot-tempered, Martha worried a lot, the Samaritan woman had several failed marriages, Zacchaeus was unpopular, Thomas had doubts, Paul had poor health, and Timothy was timid.  That is quite a variety of misfits . . . [1]

But you know what I have found out after forty-two years of ministry?  God uses misfits who submit themselves to Him.  Will you be a Shamgar?

Denny Autrey is Dean and Professor of Pastoral Care/Preaching at the J. Dalton Havard School for Theological Studies and School of Preaching of Southwestern Baptist Seminary in Houston, Texas

[1] https://www.lifeway.com/en/articles/sermon-rick-warren-designed-to-make-a-difference