Shamgar and an Imperfect Tool

Numbers 32 records the children of Israel beginning to occupy Canaan, but the tribes of Reuben and Gad  have found contentment in the land east of the Jordan River. Moses, though, rebukes them for thinking about abandoning their brethren in t heir efforts to move forward. Likewise, a lack of participation in God’s work can discourage or hold back our brothers and sisters. We convince ourselves that we are incapable of adding anything significant to God’s mission. However, in this lesson, we’re going to take a look at a relatively insignificant Bible figure who has a large impact.

From Joshua to Judges

Joshua 13:1 records that Joshua has grown old, and God acknowledges this while noting that much work remains to be done. From here, we read of the positive impact Joshua has on Israel, but, in Judges 1:21 begins recording how the people begin to fall short of God’s expectations for their conquest of the land, and some of them are even driven back by verse 34. Judges 2:1-3 then records a warning from God that these people whom they have not driven out will be problematic for Israel in the coming generations, and this begins to happen in verses 12-13 of that same chapter.

During these times, God raises up judges, and one of these is Shamgar who is mentioned in Judges 3:31. This is one of only two verses he’s mentioned in, and the other is Judges 5:6, when Deborah sings of his time in which it wasn’t even safe to travel. He is not a judge under easy circumstances.

Lessons from Shamgar

There are some lessons we can take from these brief verses about this judge. Shamgar uses those tools available to him, and he accomplishes much with insufficient equipment. An oxgoad is basically a sharpened stick with which to poke a beast of labor to keep it working. It is not a weapon. It is an imperfect tool for the job. With this in mind, look at Exodus 4 while God is telling Moses of his mission. In this, Moses is citing his imperfections and faults that make him unsuitable, and God responds by using Moses’ staff as a demonstration of His power. In God’s hands, imperfect tools and imperfect people become mare than what they believe they are.

He rises to the challenge before him rather than passing responsibility to someone else. He does not neglect his responsibility, and he demonstrates that great good can result from a single act. The very last part of Judges 3:31 states that he delivers, or saves, Israel in this act. Little is recorded about this man, but he saves Israel in one verse. He could have hidden from this responsibility because of feeling inadequate to the task, and it would have been up to someone else to keep Israel on the right path. He could have delegated this task to others he felt are more qualified, but he does not. He demonstrates that a single act of determination can have great results.

Our Application

God simply asks us to use what we have available to accomplish His will. We may consider ourselves or the tools available imperfect to the task. However, how often in the Bible do we see God’s will accomplished through imperfect people? David, Rahab, Peter, Paul – none of these are people who we might consider suitable to do God’s will. God uses us if we but decide to face the challenges individually. We are responsible for doing God’s will ourselves, and a single act on our parts can produce much good.

Matthew 25:34 is in the midst of Jesus speaking about the Judgment, and what does He cite as the works of His disciples? He speaks of the small acts of kindness they had performed toward their fellow man. Single acts accomplish great good. Ephesians 4:16 speaks of Christians being knit together, being united, in individually working toward building each other up. “With God, all things are possible.” The very nature of faith says I can do what I would be otherwise unable to do. We can use what we already have to do God’s will as Shamgar and so many other heroes of the Bible have done.

lesson by Tim Smelser