The Goad

Judges 3:31 “After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath. And he too saved Israel, striking down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad.”

Have you ever had the task of being placed into a position you didn’t want to be in? Your going about your business, doing your thing and suddenly your called upon to act in a way that is completely out of your element. This is kind of what happened to the farmer Shamgar, who when it was required of him, he stepped up and performed magnificently.

Shamgar the farmer took his ox goad and did the unthinkable, he saved Israel from the invading Philistines when Israel needed it most.

In the time of the Judges, around the 12th century B.C. around 130+ years before Israel had a king, God was King and this tiny fledgling nation was continually being tested.

The testing had a purpose.

God was watching to find out whether they would keep the commandments of the LORD, which He had given their fathers through Moses.”

The way God tested the people of Israel was by using local nations around them. The Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites were descendents of ancient peoples that dated back to Cain. The big difference between those nations and Israel was that God had given the land to the descendents of Abraham. God had fulfilled His covenant promise made with Abraham centuries before and proved His faithfulness before those idolatrous and pagan nations.

As God brought these tests, the people of Israel responded in rebellion before God. They had taken the daughters of these nations and began adopting their idolatrous practices.

As the people of Israel acted unfaithfully, the Lord chastised them by bringing in others to rule over them.

Judges 3:7-8 “So the Israelites did evil in the sight of the LORD; they forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs. Then the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and He sold them into the hand of Cushan-rishathaim king of Aram-naharaim, and the Israelites served him eight years.”

When the people repented of their sins, the Lord relented of His anger and raised up men like Othniel to free the people from oppression.

Judges 3:10The Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he became Israel’s judge and went out to war. And the LORD delivered Cushan-rishathaim king of Aram into the hand of Othniel, who prevailed against him.”

We begin to see a pattern—when the people of Israel acted faithfully, the Lord brought blessing upon the land, when they acted unfaithfully and did evil in the sight of the Lord, the Lord would chastise this tiny nation and bring oppression.

The patterns of God’s faithfulness are ones we can look at individually in our own lives. The loving kindness of God is on full display when He chose to withhold the full extent of His wrath, by exhibiting patience when His people rebelled, He revealed His mercy.

The pagan idol of Baal was portrayed as a man with the head and horns of a bull, an image similar to that in biblical accounts. His right hand (sometimes both hands) is raised, and he holds a lightning bolt, signifying both destruction and fertility. Baal has also been portrayed seated on a throne, possibly as the king or lord of the gods.

Asherah was honored as the fertility goddess in various forms and with varying names (Judg. 3:7). The Bible does not actually describe the goddess, but archaeologists have discovered figurines believed to be representations of her. She is portrayed as a nude female, sometimes pregnant, with exaggerated breasts that she holds out, apparently as symbols of the fertility she promises her followers. The Bible indicates that she was worshiped near trees and poles, called Asherah poles.

Baal’s worshipers appeased him by offering sacrifices, usually animals such as sheep or bulls (1 Kings 18:23). Some scholars believe that the Canaanites also sacrificed pigs and that God prohibited his people from eating pork in part to prevent this horrible cult from being established among them. (See Isa. 65:1-5 for an example of Israel’s participating in the pagan practices of the Canaanites.) At times of crisis, Baal’s followers sacrificed their children, apparently the firstborn of the community, to gain personal prosperity. 

Asherah was worshiped in various ways, including through ritual sex. Although she was believed to be Baal’s mother, she was also his mistress. Pagans practiced “sympathetic magic”, that is, they believed they could influence the gods’ actions by performing the behavior they wished the gods to demonstrate. Believing the sexual union of Baal and Asherah produced fertility, their worshipers engaged in immoral sex to cause the gods to join together, ensuring good harvests.(Ray Vanderlaan) 

As you can see, this practice of Baal and Asherah worship was detestable in God’s sight and yet Israel allowed this practice into their nation.

Judges 3:12-13 Once again the Israelites did evil in the sight of the LORD. So He gave Eglon king of Moab power over Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the LORD.After enlisting the Ammonites and Amalekites to join forces with him, Eglon attacked and defeated Israel, taking possession of the City of Palms.”

For 18 years the Israelites served Eglon king of Moab. When the people called out to the Lord, He raised up Ehud to deliver them once again. The people who had been hiding in the hills came down with Ehud and helped overthrow their captor’s once again. It was at this time that Shamgar shows up on the scene. When the Philistines attacked, Shamgar took his ox goad and slayed 600 of the enemy.

The song of Deborah reminded the people of Shamgar’s courage and faith and was passed down through generations.

The song in Judges 5 gives a description of the times.

1. The highways were deserted. Probably because of constant raiding by these local peoples, the traders were forced to go through the byways to deliver their goods.

2. The people of Israel didn’t have the technology to make swords or shields. Metallurgy was a new craft that the Philistines controlled, thus giving them a military advantage.

3. Idolatry was common in the land. When the people married women from the other nations, those women brought their religion with them.

Courage under Fire

*When the time came for Shamgar to help fight off the Philistines, he took what he had and used it faithfully. The reminder the Lord gave Joshua and the people to be strong and courageous was a reminder that echoed throughout Israeli history. Shamgar would have remembered the encouragement that began with Moses and Joshua and was later spoken through David and many other leaders through the years.

Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”

The ox goad was one he had used countless times in the fields of Israel and it required much strength. Driving a plow while maintaining his oxen likely hardened Shamgars physique and made him ruddy and strong. A farmer is not trained in the art of war, he is trained in working hard. Shamgar acted faithfully before the Lord. He served from where God had led him—-from the farm fields to the battle field.

*He used what resources God had given him. The ox goad was a long pole that is likened to a modern spear, when used in battle it can be difficult for a man with a sword to reach the man with a spear.

*He did what he could. Shamgar fought valiantly and as recorded in the annals of Israel–he delivered!

God doesn’t call us to be anything more than what he has prepared us for. Shamgar may have thought his life was pretty boring. Working in the fields day after day, hoping for rain and just enough sun to yield a favorable crop can take its toll after a few years, and yet God had prepared him for a greater work.

Isn’t this all that God expects of us?

We have got to remember that in the midst of living our lives, if we are trusting in God’s leading, there is a reason for where He has us. When the time comes, He will reveal why He has done what He has, why He has led us to where we are at, and why He has given us the skills we have acquired.

We must be prepared for the call up! We can serve the Lord where we are, and we can take what we have learned and serve Him where He leads further.

If we fall into sin, we can expect God’s chastising. It isn’t abandonment but a reflection of His love. When we repent of our sin and call out to Him, He draws us out of despair and into His glorious joy.

Greatness comes by God’s hand, trust Him for where He is leading in your life and keep watch for how He might use you.

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