The One Verse Judge

As we progress through the successes and shortcoming of God’s people found in the book of Joshua, we see a five-year journey of Israel spreading themselves across the Promised Land. In chapter 13, God comes to Joshua and says much work is left to be done, and it seems that the people were growing content with the progress they had made while failing to look farther. We also can grow as content as the children of Israel in our spiritual work. We think we can rest upon the progress we have made, but, as we see in the book of Judges, past accomplishments do not predict the future.

Judges 1 lists time and again that one tribe or another fails to drive out the inhabitants of their given territories, and, in verse 34, the Amorites drive back the tribe of Dan from inhabiting their lands. Chapter 2, then, comes with a warning that Israel should not be making covenants with the inhabitants of the land, nor should they worship their gods. Israel’s contentment with partial success would eventually set then up for falling into idolatry and apostasy. By Judges 2:10, we see a generation that does not know God, and the cycle of disobedience and redemption that characterizes the kingdom of the Old Testament begins. Once they arrived in the land, work was still to be done, but they do not do it.

Shamgar’s Deliverance of Israel

In these dark times, we are introduced to a number of individuals who stand as shining examples. One of these is Shamgar in Judges 3:31. Judges 5:6 describes the days of Shamgar as an uncivilized time. Roads are unprotected. War is pervasive. No one is safe. In all of this, we have Shamgar – who slays 600 Philistines with an oxgoad. There are some principles we can learn from this single verse:

  • Shamgar uses the tools available. Weapons have been confiscated, so Shamgar takes what amounts to a pointed stick to battle his enemies.
  • God accomplishes His work through imperfect tools. In Exodus 4:1-2, God asks Moses to take notice of the rod already in his hand as evidence of God’s presence. Likewise, Shamgar turns to the weapon at hand – imperfect though it may be – to accomplish his task.
  • Shamgar does not look for someone else. He does not wait for someone else to rise to the challenge.
  • Great good can be accomplished through a single act. This Judge gets one verse, but scripture attests that his actions delivered Israel.

Our Meeting the Challenge

Often, we wring our hands over what we don’t have while neglecting to use what we do have. We all have different personalities, talents, abilities, and opportunities. We have the power of prayer, but we don;t take advantage of these when we wait for someone else to step up or give us what we think we need. We sometimes use our own imperfections as reasons to avoid work, but God uses prostitutes, shepherds, carpenters, and tax collectors to do His work. While imperfect, we can engage in God’s perfect work.

We can’t rely on others or on programs to do what we should be doing ourselves, and we have to see the significance on small acts. In Ephesians 4:16, Paul speaks of the importance of every part of the church body contributing what they can. Philippians 4:13 reminds us all things are possible through God, and Matthew 19:26 records Jesus saying that nothing is impossible with God. Shamgar may have only one verse chronicling his entire life, but his impact is large. Can we take the opportunities we have and do God’s work in our own lives.

lesson by Tim Smelser