SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE, 14 February 2021
Sermon Text: Judges 3:31
Sermon Series: “Judges” (#6)
Watch Sermon Video: Click the link below
I. “Shamgar the son of Anath” and becoming like everybody else
II. “600 Philistines” and triumphing over the strong adversary
III. “An oxgoad” and submitting to your God
So far, in this series on Judges, we’ve covered the first two, that is, Othniel the shy judge and Ehud the left-handed from the tribe of Benjamin whose literal meaning is ‘the son of right hand.’ This morning, we have the third one, Shamgar. But this judge is quite different from his predecessors. His introduction is so short that it puzzles us. Moreover, there’s no explanation of Israel’s situation. The pattern we’ve found so far with the previous two judges is that Israel sins against God and a foreign nation oppresses Israel, putting them in a great trouble which leads them to cry out to God for help. Then, a judge appears and delivers Israel. But we read no such information from this verse. What lacks more is the duration of peace Israel enjoyed after Shamgar’s deliverance. In a word, Shamgar is a mysterious judge. All we know is his name and what he did for Israel.
But there’s interesting information on how he saved Israel. He used an oxgoad – a very simple and primitive farmer’s wooden tool about two and a half metre long. And he killed 600 Philistines with it.
Although we lack information on Shamgar the judge, God’s message for us is clear, straightforward and appealing. In a word, the message is, ‘trust God who saves His beloved.’ So, I invite you to join me and hear what the Holy Spirit speaks to us through this simple and short verse and through the life and work of His servant, Shamgar.
I. “SHAMGAR THE SON OF ANATH” & BECOMING LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE
Let’s begin with Shamgar’s extremely-short introduction. He is introduced to us as ‘the son of Anath.’ So simple, isn’t it? But, this name, ‘Anath,’ gives us an important clue to understanding of who Shamgar was. It tells us that Shamgar was not a super-believer, but as ordinary as everybody else. In fact, this introduction, ‘the son of Anath,’ tells us that he might’ve been an idol worshipper.
Let’s see how it is so. ‘The son of Anath’ suggests two possible interpretations. One is, simply, Shamgar’s father’s name was ‘Anath.’ Another possible meaning is, this name could’ve been Shamgar’s nickname based on his nature or what he had done, like the case Jesus named James and John as ‘Sons of Thunder’ because of their quick temper.
Whichever interpretation we take, there’s an undeniable spiritual problem associated with the name, ‘Anath,’ because ‘Anath’ was the name of a Canaanite goddess of war. Anath was, according to Canaanite mythology, a sister and consort of Baal. We could infer from this fact that ‘the son of Anath’ may be Shamgar’s nickname, and Shamgar regarded it not as an insult but possibly as a compliment. Otherwise, Shamgar would’ve stopped anyone calling him the son of Anath.
On the other hand, if we regard Anath as his father’s name, then, I don’t think it’s too extreme for us to guess that his father was not a faithful God-worshipper. This is because no God-fearing worshipper would like to be called by such a pagan name, let alone any Christian parent would like to name his/her child after a pagan god or goddess. So, it is clear that Shamgar was associated directly or indirectly with Anath, a Canaanite deity.
This also means that Israel in Shamgar’s time was like his neighbours, the Canaanites. They were ‘Canaanised,’ if you like. In a word, there was little difference between God-worshipping Israelites and Anath-worshipping Canaanites. There might’ve been statues of Anath erected next to the tabernacle of the God of Israel. They did forget about their God and followed the idols of the land in Ehud’s time. Not only was worshipping idols their problem, they also mixed their faith with various other religions of the land.
Shamgar was not free from the sins of his generation. This is why he was called as ‘the son of Anath.’ If Shamgar, Israel’s judge, was guilty of a syncretic faith, it’s not difficult for us to guess how deeply and widely the ordinary people in the marketplaces would’ve fallen in idol worship and been saturated with syncretism.
I’d like to pause here and ask you to compare Shamgar’s generation with ours in this 21st century. Is there much difference? Unfortunately, I don’t think many of you would say we’re much better or more faithful to God than those of Shamgar’s generation. I believe that Shamgar’s generation was exactly the same as ours – there’s no difference at all.
Shamgar and his contemporaries were almost like their neighbours, that is, the Canaanites, and many Christians of our generation are almost like our neighbours, that is, the people of the present unbelieving, rebellious world. Like the way Shamgar was nicknamed as ‘the son of Anath,’ many self-introducing Christians of this generation agree with the sinful world and concur with many, if not all, of their unbiblical agenda. Some of the recently highlighted agenda could be homosexuality, euthanasia, abortion, political-correctness and ecumenism, just to name a few. A Christian denomination wrapping itself with the ‘LGBTQIA+’ rainbow flag is, for example, a ‘son of Anath’ of the 21st century. In this sense, there’s no difference at all between Shamgar’s generation and ours.
In a sense, ours is worse than Shamgar’s. This is because we see more subtle and undetectable infiltration of pagan ideas and practices into churches and such intrusion has successfully altered Christian faith and life. Merging psychology and Christian faith is one of those attempts and business management methodology substituting pastoral care is another. ‘New Age’ which is nothing but Hinduism disguised as therapies and health improvements that pushes aside biblical meditation and prayer and so on is another. Very recently, feminism and racism have shaken the lives of so many churches and Christians.
These are very stealthy, so hard to detect. And we see many individuals and churches and denominations have been casualties of these pagan religious ideology. In this sense, we’re surrounded by numerous ‘sons of Anath’ as was Shamgar in Jdg. 3.
Shamgar’s introduction in this last verse of Jdg. 3 is, therefore, the Holy Spirit’s verdict on us and the churches of this generation as much as on Israel at the time of Judges.
II. “600 PHILISTINES” & TRIUMPHING OVER THE STRONG ADVERSARY
Having said, let me tell you that the author of Judges intends, not to dishearten us, but to stimulate us with the fact that God called one like Shamgar whose faith was not genuine but syncretic and worldly, and made him a mighty one of faith who did a great thing for God and His people! If God called one like Shamgar, the son of Anath, and did a great thing for Israel, He would do the same with us of the 21st century. This is what this statement, “Shamgar the son of Anath … killed 600 of the Philistines,” means.
The message is that God forgives such a sinner as Shamgar and raises him up for His deliverance of such a sinful people of Israel! Do you see what it means? The message is that there’s no one in the world too sinful to be saved, too bad to be forgiven, too far adrift to be drawn back to the Lord again, or too weak to be used for the glory of God.
Shamgar, ‘the son of Anath’ of the time of Jdg. 3, was forgiven, as was Abraham who had been originally an idol maker in the land of Ur, or as was Peter who had abandoned Jesus and denied Him not once but three times! So, the message is, come to God and seek His mercy for forgiveness of your sins! For all who come to God in repentance and faith, God’s promise is His free grace through which He forgives all sins and adorns with life everlasting!
In addition to this forgiveness and grant of eternal life, God makes all whom He called mighty ones in His kingdom. Like Shamgar who defeated the enemy and brought victory to Israel, God’s children are victorious and advance the Lord’s church on earth.
The picture we have is Shamgar killing and triumphing greatly over the enemy of Israel. In fact, this victory is a foreshadow of Jesus’ victory over our enemy, Satan, on the day of His resurrection. In faith, we share the joy of victory with Jesus. Let me tell you why it is so.
The Philistines that appear first time in Judges here were not the original residents of the region of Canaan. They were originally from the area of present-time Greece. They were sailors, warriors and adventurers with advanced iron technology. In a word, they were a people of well-organised, well-trained militia. They were one of the fierce, if not the fiercest, enemies neighbouring Israel.
We have a clear description of the Philistines in 1 Sam. 13. A war broke out between Israel and the Philistines and Israel’s king was Saul. When Israel’s army was at the battlefield, they had only two swords and no spear. Saul had one of the two swords and the other was on the hand of Jonathan, the prince. That was it. On the contrary, the Philistine army came with 30,000 chariots, 6,000 horsemen and – according to 1 Sam. 13:5 – their troops were ‘like the sand on the seashore.’ That was a several hundred years after the Shamgar’s time, but Israel still did not have iron technology. Moreover, in Saul’s time, Israelites had to go to the Philistines to sharpen their such farming tools as plowshares, axes or sickles.
Coming back to Shamgar’s story, this is why Shamgar fought against the Philistines with an oxgoad, a farmer’s tool. We’ll come back to this tool in a minute, but let’s focus on the scale of Shamgar’s victory. One man – most likely a farmer or shepherd – killed 600 highly trained and equipped soldiers and won the battle. Isn’t it a miracle? Isn’t it an incredible victory that would drop everyone’s jaw? A farmer against 600 soldiers? Probably more than just 600, and it could’ve been a thousand or more. Such a victory is more than simply abnormal; it’s a great miracle!
As I mentioned earlier, Shamgar’s victory foreshadows the victory of the Lord Jesus Christ. He won, defeating the devil once and for all. And all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ share the joy and effect and result of His victory. There’s no exception; each and every Christian has won through Jesus, triumphed over the strong adversary, the devil. It is the miracle that takes place in every true Christian. Like Shamgar ‘the son of Anath’ triumphed over the strong adversary, Christians who are ‘the saved sinners’ have triumphed over the devil! Hear the word of God delivered to us through the Apostle John in 1 Jn. 2 that we ‘have overcome’ the evil one!
So, come to God in repentance and faith, and rejoice in the Lord Jesus because of His victory which is yours also!
III. “AN OXGOAD” & SUBMITTING TO YOUR GOD
This leaves us one last point, that is, Shamgar triumphed over the strong adversary with an oxgoad. An oxgoad is a farmer’s tool, a wooden stick with a metal point – most likely bronze piece. And with this simple and primitive farmer’s tool, Shamgar killed 600 fully armoured Philistines.
What does this mean to us? What is the message of an oxgoad in Shamgar’s hand? A full submission to our God. That’s what it teaches. You and I who are true worshippers of God and followers of Jesus Christ must submit to God in full trust. And whatever is in our hand, whatever gift we have, give it to God for His service. Then, we’ll see God turning what we bring to Him in full submission and dependence a miraculous tool for a glorious work of God.
This reminds me of the boy’s lunchbox in Jn. 6:9 and following which was brought to Jesus. When that little lunchbox was given to the Lord, it was suitable for feeding at least 5,000 men and, if we consider women and children, it could’ve been at least 6 or 7,000, and all were satisfied!
I believe that you all remember what the Apostle Paul says in 2 Cor. 12:10. Telling that he is content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities, he says, “when I am weak, then I am strong”! He means that when he gives his weakness to God’s service, it becomes the power of God. Having experienced this many times in his life, Paul affirms in 2 Cor. 12:9, “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
When Shamgar, in faith, gave his oxgoad to God’s service, it was no longer a farmer’s tool but a sword of the Most High God. Likewise, what you have will become God’s mighty tool for His kingdom when you give it to God for His glory. Never consider what you have as scanty, meagre, insufficient or tiny, but give it to God in full submission and in full dependence. He’ll receive it and use it for His glory, and the glory will be yours too in Jesus’ name.
The message of God with Shamgar’s simple tool is for us to see how his fight was ridiculously unfair in a human sense. Likewise, how terribly unbalanced is our battle against the devil if we carry it alone, without the Lord. But, standing in Jesus, our weakness is no longer weakness, but the power of Jesus’ resurrection! So, trust the Lord and depend on Him in full!
Let me conclude. God forgives the penitent sinners and raises us up to be His victors together with Jesus. So, come to this gracious God and seek His face. And trust Him and give your heart to the Lord Jesus. No matter how big or strong or undefeatable your enemy seems to be, the Almighty God, through Jesus Christ, our Deliverer, has already enabled you to win and enjoy victory over your enemy, our enemy, Satan. God was Shamgar’s victory, and He is ours too now and forever more! ***