These nations were left to test the Israelites, to find out whether they would keep the commandments of the LORD, which He had given their fathers through Moses.
1. How absurd it is for any man to blame his tools for bad work. Shamgar used an ox-goad; Samson wielded the jawbone of an ass; David had but a sling and stone. Some times we think what wonders we could do if we had better instruments.
I. IT WAS A RESULT OF PARENTAL NEGLECT. The fathers had left much of their task undone. A determined attitude on their part, and vigorous measures, would have rid the land of the nuisance. One generation may do much good or evil to its successors. We never reap all the results of our own misdoing; a great portion is left for the children of after generations. The neglect of the laws of health, of the canons of a moral life, of educational institutions, social and political progress, may entail grievous disadvantage upon those who come after us; as much that comes in this way, comes in this way alone, and cannot be produced suddenly. And so it is with the growth of theological truth, and the habits and usages of the spiritual life.
II. BUT THE CHILDREN TOO WERE TO BLAME. The oracle of God at Shiloh could have been consulted still. God's will could easily have been ascertained. Thorough and absolute trust in Jehovah, and devotion to his service, would have rid them of their enemies. They were therefore the children of their fathers in this also, viz., that they were not wholly given to God's service and the desire after righteousness. How much of human guilt consists in mere letting alone, or in supinely submitting to evils as if they were inevitable or incurable!
III. IT WAS AN INSTANCE OF EVIL DIVINELY UTILISED. A probation. To call forth the courage and faith of the new generation. To prevent them accepting the situation as a final one, or calmly submitting to and acquiescing in the wicked customs and idolatries of their neighbours. Some natures find the way of transgression harder than others. They are finer, more susceptible, have more deeply-set longings after goodness. They feel the inherent contradictions of evil more acutely; its penalties press more heavily upon them. This is not an injustice on the part of their Maker; it is a mark of his goodness and mercy. He would have them fenced in by the sanctions of righteousness; driven back into his fold. He has meant them for a better life. So it was with his elect people then. They and their heathen neighbours were upon a different footing. It was the destiny of Israel not to be let alone. A later experience in order to the comprehension of an earlier experience. One of the most valuable uses of experience - to throw light backward. It reveals the true value of an inheritance, and renders precious things more precious. Otherwise the younger Israelites who entered into the conquests of the first warriors would not have known the severity of their toils, or the mighty hand of God which wrought their deliverance. There are some lessons every man must learn for himself. A true appreciation of God's saving grace is a personal and, for the most part, an incommunicable thing. "To teach them war, i.e. to inure them to it as a necessary discipline, and as the preliminary work that had to be done ere the kingdom of God could be brought in; and, as above, to show them how much spiritual privileges cost, and how difficult and yet how honourable it was to defend and secure them. Still it was -
IV. AN INSTANCE OF A PROVISIONAL ALLOWANCE OF COMPARATIVE IMMORALITY. The world was not ripe for the morality of Jesus. The self-contradiction of a continual state of warfare was to be their schoolmaster to bring them to Christ. The state of peace is not of itself more moral than that of war. It is "the things that make for peace," the spirit of brotherhood and Christian charity, that are the aim of the righteous mind. The world must first be righteous ere it can be peaceful. - M.
Shamgar the son of Anath.
I. MEN DETERMINE THEIR FUTURE BY THE MANNER IN WHICH THEY MEET THE DUTIES AND PROVOCATIONS OF THE PRESENT. God never selects a lazy, idle man, when He is going to choose a person to do some noble work. He promotes none but busy men. Shamgar was ploughing when the Philistines came upon him. It speaks well for him that he had heart to plough at such a time, for the whole country was thrown into great fear and discouragement. Few men, I am inclined to think, had courage enough just then to plough. Such men are an inspiration and a blessing to any community. So far as we can ascertain, Shamgar was an humble labouring man. Yet his heroic conduct on this occasion brought him into notice, and raised him to be one of the judges of Israel. The world is looking for men who can bring things to pass. Noble deeds are the stairway leading to greatness and honour. If you would be trusted, first learn to be honest; if you would rule, first learn how to obey; if you would rise to a more important position, fill the place where you are to overflowing with yourself, and God will soon beckon you to a wider sphere.
II. IN THE ABSENCE OF SUCCESS, IT IS POOR LOGIC TO THROW THE BLAME ON OUR INSTRUMENTS OR SURROUNDINGS. The workman is more than his tools. The spirit and skill of the worker tower above his surroundings, and give value and significance to the instruments he wields. Shamgar fought this battle with an ox goad. However discouraging your circumstances, if you give yourself fully to God, and walk in the full honours of uprightness before Him, the great Captain of our salvation will not only give you blessed foretastes of the "rest that remaineth for the people of God," but He will also enable you to cut your way to victory through all the spiritual Philistines that may confront you, even though your instruments may be as insignificant as those of Shamgar.
III. IN OUR LIFE WORK WE SHOULD BE NATURAL, AND USE THE INSTRUMENTS WE KNOW BEST HOW TO HANDLE. Shamgar fought with the ex-goad. He knew so well how to handle it that, at close range, it was a terrible weapon to come in contact with. He could kill more men with it in a crowd than with sword or musket. He knew the spring and feel of it so perfectly that every stroke brought two or three Philistines to the ground. What we want in order to our greatest possible efficiency is, not somebody else's way of doing things, but our own, trained and sanctified by the grace of God. No two persons are exactly alike; and so there are phases of work which each individual is constitutionally fitted to do which no other person can ever do quite as well.
IV. NEW INSTRUMENTALITIES SHOULD NOT BE CONDEMNED SIMPLY BECAUSE THEY ARE NEW AND OUT OF THE REGULAR ORDER, BUT SHOULD BE JUDGED AND VALUED ACCORDING TO THEIR RESULTS. As a weapon of destruction the ox goad was unknown up to this time; but, judged of by its results, it was worthy of high appreciation. It may be that, in the past, the Church has been a little too conservative in the matter of new agency; that she has been too much inclined to condemn any agency that was not officially sanctioned or technically approved. There is nothing that carries conviction like the logic of facts, and nothing succeeds like success. Think of one man against six hundred, with nothing in his hands but an ox goad. You may not be as well qualified for the work as some others; but still God has a work for you to do, and He will help you to do it if you do your best and trust Him. It may be that your sphere is humble and obscure, but you can live a noble life and do grand work in obscurity. Some of the greatest evangelists of our own day teach us two lessons —
1. That sanctified individuality is the condition of usefulness and the great want of the times.
2. That the vast majority of Christians have talent enough to become each a mighty power, in the hands of God, to hasten the millennial glory of the future.
I. THE APPARENT INCOMPATIBILITY AND INSUFFICIENCY OF THE DELIVERER AND HIS WEAPON. A herdman carrying a goad, an ugly implement some eight or ten feet long, and shod with iron. Uncouth, without such military training as the science of the times could give, destitute of such arms as the Philistines would be likely to fear. He could only be looked upon as an improvised leader with an extemporised armament. Opposed to him was a host led by hereditary chieftains. Now, as ever, the Philistine opponents of Christ and the truth grin inanely at the rabble rout, as they deem the Lord's host to be. They sneer at the Word, albeit they bear many scars inflicted by that old Damascene blade. They laugh at the praying, the preaching, and the labour of the "unlearned and ignorant men" whom the Lord has called to do His work.
II. THE TRIUMPHANT EFFICACY OF BOTH. Shamgar's generalship, strong arm, awful ox-goad, proved to be no laughing matters. The soul of a patriot, the genius of a leader, the skill of a strategist, were all in him. Neither devil, lords, nor army had much time to sneer when Shamgar reached them. They had mistaken the man, the instrument, and the God behind all. History repeats and spiritualises itself. For, we ask, in what is the augury, whence is the success of our Christian warfare, waged against the enemies of God and man? In numbers, literary efficiency, dialectical skill, scientific theology? Not so; Satan can beat us out of the field in every one of these. He is constantly doing it. Not all the drum-beating, banner-waving, and shouting of our conferences and demonstrations ever frighten him. But his doom is sealed when a Christ-filled Shamgar leads. That man who on his knees pleads and waits to know, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" — such are the men we want, the men we should pray for, the men we ought to be. The fact that we are Christians should be a certificate that we are surrendered, Christ-filled men, or our profession is a lie. Would that all were so. Oh, that all may become so! Whatever the sacrifice involved, there is no more happy life, and, at its close, can be no more glorious epitaph than "he saved Israel!"
2. How important it is that men should use those instruments which they can handle most skilfully. Shamgar knew how to use the ox-goad, and David knew how to use the sling and stone.
3. How foolish it would be to ridicule the instruments when the results are so obviously good. Look at the six hundred dead men! Look at the slain giant! Look at the prostrate walls of Jericho! The rule applies to every department of life. It applies to preaching. It applies to foreign missions. It applies to every Christian effort.
4. How victories are sometimes won in the face of the greatest improbabilities. One man against six hundred! Some men would have succumbed under the mere pressure of numbers, but Shamgar fought the crowd. Do not let us blame men for working with instruments that have not been officially or technically approved. The one great object is to do good. What meaner instrument can there be than the Cross?
(J. Parker, D. D.)— Shamgar considered not whether he was equipped for attacking Philistines, but turned on them from the plough, his blood leaping in him with swift indignation. The instrument of his assault was not made for the use to which it was put: the power lay in the arm that wielded the goad and the fearless will of the man who struck for his own birthright, freedom — for Israel's birth right, to be the servant of no other race. Undoubtedly it is well that in any efforts made for the Church or for society men should consider how they are to act, and should furnish themselves in the best manner for the work that is to be done. No outfit of knowledge, skill, experience, is to be despised. A man does not serve the world better in ignorance than in learning, in bluntness than in refinement. But the serious danger for such an age as our own is that strength may be frittered away and zeal expended in the mere preparation of weapons, in the mere exercise before the war begins. The important points at issue are apt to be lost sight of, and the vital distinctions on which the whole battle turns to fade away in an atmosphere of compromise.
(R. A. Watson, M. A.)
PeopleAmalek, Amalekites, Ammonites, Amorites, Anath, Aram, Canaanites, Chushanrishathaim, Chushan-rishathaim, Eglon, Ehud, Gera, Hittites, Hivite, Hivites, Israelites, Jebusites, Kenaz, Moabites, Othniel, Perizzites, Shamgar, Sidonians, Zidonians
PlacesCanaan, Gilgal, Jordan River, Lebanon, Lebo-hamath, Mesopotamia, Moab, Mount Baal-hermon, Seirah
TopicsCommanded, Commandments, Commands, Ear, Fathers, Forefathers, Hearken, Israelites, Listen, Lord's, Obey, Orders, Prove, Purpose, Testing, Whether
Outline1. The nations which were left to prove Israel
5. By communion with them they commit idolatry
8. Othniel delivered them from Chushan-Rishathaim
12. Ehud from Eglon
31. and Shamgar from the Philistines
Dictionary of Bible ThemesJudges 3:1-4
LibraryUse what You Have
Few people really are and do their best. Nature has blessed a few with great talents and abilities. These persons often become proud, self-centered, and feel themselves to be superior, and for that reason many times they fail to make the proper use of their abilities. How often are they used in a bad or foolish way, so that what might be a blessing to the world fails to be such! There are many others who realize they do not possess these natural gifts. They look upon those who have them, and envy …
Charles Wesley Naylor—Heart Talks
Gifts and Talents.
Whether Baptism Should Take Away the Penalties of Sin that Belong to this Life?
"This Then is the Message which we have Heard of Him, and Declare unto You, that God is Light,"
Whether the Old Law Enjoined Fitting Precepts Concerning Rulers?
The Country of Jericho, and the Situation of the City.
The Prophecy of Obadiah.
The Doctrine of Angels.
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