Reading: Judges 2:7-19 / 3:12-15, 29-31 / 4:1
Judges were deliverers who were raised up when the people cried out from oppression (2:18). Shamgar followed Ehud, a great deliverer, who brought 80 years of overall peace, but from Judges 4:1 it appears that Shamgar was a regional deliverer during the time of Ehud. This is the first mention of the Philistines as troublesome neighbors of the Israelites, and they were in the Southwest region of Canaan, and this is about 1290 BC.
The people’s disobedience was the cause of the oppression of their enemies. Sin against God led to their defeat and the decline of their way of life. Because the oppression became so great, the people groaned under the weight of it, they cried out, and God raised up judges to deliver them once again. This was a cycle of defeat and deliverance throughout the times of the judges, after Joshua, and before the kings. They were defeated, it was as if their way of life was dead, and they needed a deliverer to bring revival and victory and restore their way of life again.
He used an oxgoad – This instrument is eight feet long and about six inches in circumference, with a sharp point at the end. Not really a weapon at all, but a device used to drive working animals. God used it through Shamgar to drive back the Philistines.
Judges 5:6-8 – No weapons (1 Samuel 13:19-23, this is Philistine way) and the people were in fear traveling on back roads. Shamgar is described as having been one of the prior rulers, in whose days roads were abandoned, with travelers taking undeveloped paths, with the village life in distress. That part of the country next to the Philistines was so infested with plunderers that people could not travel the open roads in safety. They were ripe for plunder; they had no defense. The people were being oppressed and their land was being possessed.
The people were impoverished; there were no swords, no defenses, no power, no way out of their oppression. The enemy was so entrenched and fortified and bold that the people hid in the shadows for fear. Sin does that to us as Christians. We are either actively possessing the land of our souls for Christ, or the enemy is making inroads, setting up outposts which turn into strongholds. We will either drive the enemy out, or we will be driven back. The Puritan John Owen said, “be killing sin, or it will be killing you”. When we, through our disobedience and unbelief, allow the enemy to start invading our lives, our families, our churches, and our communities, then the people of God will be driven to hide in shame and helplessness. Their way of life seems dead, there is no power, they had lost their ability to resist the inroads of the enemy, and they need a revival. That is when God raises a deliverer.
Shamgar used the only resource he had but God made it enough. The only weapon He had was the instrument of his daily work. How often do we forget that our homes and our workplaces are a battleground and plowing field? Now we don’t attack people but we must be doing our work God’s way, shining as lights, being bold to live out the gospel, not mouthing off to people, but being excellent in our duties, faithful to be honest, helping others.
We need to be like Shamgar, working as unto the Lord, doing what we are supposed to be doing, not sinking back into the shadows because of our own disobedience, and letting the enemy of our souls make inroads into our way of life, dimming our shining light before the world. The rest of the world is defeated; as Christians we can’t afford to let the only light they may have be drowned out by our own disobedience. When the world is darkest and there is no hope that is when God’s people can shine brightest, and when deliverers are raised up, to show God’s people that they are still free and others that God is still setting men free.
A huge problem today is that we often think that we are not hiding in the shadows of sin because we are not “sinning” as bad as we used to. But I am talking about more than that. We cannot think that we aren’t hiding away when all we do is live our Christian life isolated from the non-Christian world. We cannot be so content to occupy the back roads that the enemy has made inroads to our main roads. They may leave us alone for now, but they will advance if we don’t stand for Christ. I am talking about spiritually, of course. We cannot sit back and retreat into a Christian ghetto, isolating ourselves into our little Christian caves, because the enemy will eventually make its way into any place we retreat to. No, we must live boldly as martyrs out there in the real world, proclaiming the gospel even if it means, and especially if it means, persecution. We must be living the light of Christ, out in the open, out where people can see us, can see the light, and can experience Christ through our lives and our witness.
Shamgar was plowing, occupying his own piece of land despite everyone else fleeing and fearing and leaving off normal business. This is probably why he was challenged. When the rest of the people are falling into sin or simply compromising, their bold witness is lost. That is when we need modern day deliverers to stand as a standard of the Lord, to give hope to the helpless. This is why we need judges today, to show the people just how far they have fallen into sin and away from the power of God to shine as lights in this dark world. The judges’ example judges the sin, it says no, we as Christians do not have to live in fear, we do not have to hide in the shadows, we do not have to act like the rest of the world, we will stand up when the world is beating us down, even if we are put down into the grave for it.
Their example judges the sin, but it also points to Him, to Christ, who has judged sin, and who empowers us all to be delivered out of the hands of the enemy, from out of the shadows, out from the fear, and back into the highways of holiness, shining again as bright lights to the way of God. We need a revival of true religion today. The answer is not simply “come to our cave” unless it is also “go out and be brave”.
The application of this passage is not about a physical battle but a spiritual battle (2 Corinthians 10:3-5 / Ephesians 6:10-18). We may feel that we are not equipped, but look at what Shamgar had to use, we may not as yet have our minds renewed as they ought to be, and we may have let our sword go dull, but our spiritual weapons are available and we need to avail ourselves of them. We need to fast, we need to pray, we need to read our Bibles, we need to work as unto God, we need to witness, and we need to live with holy boldness and holy gladness. It is our duty to keep our minds sober and our sword sharp. We need the word of God, we are in danger of losing our sword, we are living the words of Amos 8:11-12. We will either use it or lose it.
It is not about political victory or physical power but standing in the power of the Lord and the strength of His might. When we are doing what we are supposed to be doing and wearing the armor of God then that is when we will stand out from the cowering crowd and be attacked. However, instead of this making us cowards it is testing us so that we may see just how strong this armor actually is. 600 Philistines said, oh yeah, you little farmer, we’ll show you what happens when someone defies us by taking a stand, but God showed them what happens when one man stands in the power of the Lord! We need a revival of the Word of God, we need to stop sin from stealing our sword, and keep the enemy from running us over and ruining our witness.
Now this wasn’t a foolhardy man who just got his dander up and went out in a rash manner. No this was a man with true conviction whom God raised up. He didn’t go out looking for the fight it came to him, and he was made ready to defend, to deliver, to declare the power of God. Believe me God will raise up His lights to shine in the darkness even in small corners where no one else may recognize it right away but the powers of darkness will be driven back all the same.
Shamgar was a man of character, a man God raised up, a man who made a stand. He was willing to be harassed, to suffer for being out in the open, to fight and he was intentional. You might have to go at it alone, like Shamgar, and like another farmer, the prophet Amos. During the darkest times the brightest lights will come forth shining as a flaming fire. During the time of Ahab and Jezebel we see God raising up Elijah and Elisha. During the time of the dark ages and the apostasy of the church we see God raising up the reformers like Martin Luther. In the darkest periods of humanity is when the church should shine brightest.
What does that say about us today, considering the condition of our world and the condition of the American church? Who will God raise up to be a Shamgar to this generation? Many, in God’s providence, this is my prayer, that many will fight the battle on their own little battlefield. They may be unnoticed but they will still be empowered by God to wage war in their own place, not worried about gaining recognition as some big time super saint, but willing to lay down their lives for the cause of Christ in the place where they are. We may never know their names this side of heaven, but God sees them as we see Shamgar, a mighty deliverer, a declarer of God’s righteousness and His faithfulness to His people.
Hearing this message, it may cause you to think or you may have heard people say things like, “I wish I had those gifts, I wish could get to do that, I wish I had that big ministry, I wish I could get a break”. Christian, not every one is called to be an Ehud, a John the Baptist, a Martin Luther, a John Wesley, or an Apostle Paul, but everyone has the chance to be a Shamgar. If you are ready and willing God will make you able.
Still, how can you say that you are ready and willing to do the big things when you aren’t ready and willing and doing the little things? Believe me God shows us here that Shamgar was important, and even if no one else notices God does, and it is important to Him. He is the one passing out the rewards anyway, so don’t worry about the size or recognition, concern yourself with being found faithful to use what you have been given.
Christians are too often acting helpless, being terrorized by the enemy, seemingly without weapons, unable to resist the enemy, and in fear. Will God use you as a deliverer? You may be outnumbered, perhaps even alone, but this would inspire others. This gives people hope to see someone overcome the enemy when conditions are bad. Think of David – Psalm 3:6-7 – (sing).
Ehud seems to be the main, national deliverer during this time, and Shamgar had a smaller role, but it is a big lesson for us. Some might not seem to be victorious in their particular scenarios, but their place is part of the overall victory, not all battles are won in a war, but all are important pieces of the puzzle.
“He also” or even he – even Shamgar, the man of no big reputation, God used even him, and he can use even you. Scripture is filled with ordinary men and women who did extraordinary things. Shamgar is an example of a man who was willing to be used by God for the purpose God designed for him. Shamgar was ready when God needed him, for the place and time God had for him. Even his name is of uncertain meaning; he was of no status but to God. But it isn’t your background, but your backbone that matters to God.
No Christian should think their role is insignificant in God’s sight. Challenges will come our way, and all Christians will suffer persecution of some sort, no matter how entrenched in an isolated cave they get. Still, all Christians can be a Shamgar in those tough times if they act with faith and courage, if they confront the local enemy that terrorizes God’s people.
When we don’t stand up for God and live holy lives, we as a rule slide back and out of sight. Instead of us being bold the enemy grows bold and begins to oppress us, to keep us down and invade and terrorize and take territory. Spiritually our churches suffer, our families suffer, and our lives suffer. The witness of God is clouded over and all that the people do is worry about their own sins and how they cannot get free. That is when a deliverer is raised up to shine the light again, and evangelism and discipleship happen, the word of God is magnified, the name of God is glorified, the people of God are edified, and the kingdom of God is multiplied.
So what do we need to do? We need to rise up like Shamgar. But how are we to do that, how can we battle back the massive tidal wave of sin and godlessness in our society, what can we do as one church, as one person, in one community? How can we raise up a revival when we cannot get up ourselves? It would seem as if there is no hope for a Shamgar today.
No, we cannot be like Shamgar, actually, not until we see that we need to be delivered and that Jesus is our ultimate deliverer. When He came on the scene there was spiritual darkness greater than at any time in Israel’s history. True believers were living in fear, taking the back roads, unable to overcome. Until John the Baptist the Jews had been without a prophet for 400 years. They were under Roman rule and religion had apostatized under the Pharisees. Now here comes Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, a lowly carpenter, no weapons in His hand, nailed to a cross, seemingly defeated and yet ultimately victorious. In this insignificant first century little old Israel, this most massive event of consequence took place.
Jesus is our righteous judge, He is the One who has delivered us from sin, death, and hell, and only He can cause us to rise up to declare His righteousness, in the place we are at, the place of grace. The Savior has won the war, and He causes us to be spiritual Shamgar’s to deliver His people in battles all over His world.
Friend, Jesus delivered you and His people while the rest of the world was mocking and laughing, and His disciples were in fear. The world can laugh at you and your insignificant little life, and your Christian friends can be living in fear, but if you trust Jesus and give glory to God, He will raise you up like Shamgar to show the light of Christ like a flaming fire to a dark and desperate world, and He will use you to help your brothers and sisters in Christ to also rise up again, and He will use you to help deliver souls from hell. You don’t have to be some ministry big shot. Christ has been raised up and He wants to raise you up to show forth His unconquerable deliverance. You can start a revival, you can be raised up, cry out to God today, and be used whenever, wherever, and however He sees fit.
The truth is that the Philistines remained a thorn in Israel’s side for many years later. Shamgar wasn’t the only or the final deliverer. The Philistines were still around, waiting to give Israel much trouble, but Shamgar did what God raised him up to do. He was raised up for a revival in that part of the land for that time. Believe me, those people he delivered were just as joyful at what the Lord did thorough him as with anything else. To them he was the deliverer.
You may not drive back the enemy fully, but you can fight fully in the power of the Lord and His might, and set those free whom God has called you to, in your own life, in your home, your work, your school, your church, your community, your world. No, Shamgar didn’t stop the Philistines from advancing forever, but he did have the satisfaction of a life lived for the Lord. He was willing to die that the power of God might live through him, and for that one moment, at least, God used him to do something supernatural. God made his life count.
That is the essence of revival, that God would allow us to arise from the dead and be the instrument of His grace, to make a difference, and there is great satisfaction in that. Let us not be satisfied until we see a revival in our own lives, in our church, and in our world. Oh Father, that you would empower us with your Spirit so that we may shine the light of Christ for your glory. Raise us up, send a revival, let us live out your Word, and drive back the enemy, amen.
“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©
Labels: Faithfulness, Judges, Revival, Sermon