A few years ago, I was able to secure a ‘Black Thorn Cattle Prod’ while in Northern Ireland. Farmers across the ages have used such an instrument to nudge and direct cattle in the right direction. I have no thought of herding livestock with my small cattle prod, rather, it now serves me as one of my favorite canes.
Another name for a cattle prod is an ox goad. The ox goad makes an appearance in scripture in the hand of a Judge named Shamgar. In the Book of Judges, God pulls back the curtain of time to allow us a brief glimpse of Shamgar and his ox goad. “After him was Shamgar the son of Anath, who killed six hundred of the Philistines with an ox goad, and he also delivered Israel” (Judges 3:31).
The backdrop against which this account occurs is fascinating. The Philistines had overrun Israel. The people had been reduced to utter want. Their crops and cattle had been seized or destroyed. Their weapons were confiscated and those who could make weapons had been put to death. The people had abandoned their villages and were afraid to walk the roadways. All seemed lost and they felt powerless to resist.
One man, about whom we know almost nothing, flashes across the Biblical record. Shamgar has no weapons of war. There is no mention of a royal bloodline, military training, or any other exceptional attributes. He was a common man in whom the Lord evidently saw qualities that He could use. “For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). While scripture does not record Shamgar’s qualities, I would like to suggest four possibilities. I base these on observations of the kind of people God used throughout scripture. I think Shamgar possessed:
- A Noble Discontent: Discontent with present conditions, he was no longer willing to be a ‘spiritual pigmy’, a ‘moral dwarf’. He aspired to be all that the Lord intended him to be.
- A Glimmer of Faith: Maybe not the faith of an Abraham or a Moses, but a little faith about the size of a ‘mustard seed’. He was aware God had used common men in the past.
- Courage To Make A Beginning: Shamgar must have said, “Right here and now, I’m going to stake everything on my belief that God can use a man like me to bring deliverance to me and my people. He brought us out of Egypt, parted the Red Sea, and brought down walls of Jericho, and gave us this land as our inheritance.
- Willingness To Use What He Had In His Hand: Shamgar decided to stand and fight. A battered ox goad may seem a poor weapon, but it is not so much the weapon in person’s hand as it is the Lord in their heart that brings victory.
We live in a dangerous world. Car jacking, home invasions, rape, and murder plague our communities. International terrorists threaten us at home and abroad. In the midst of a troubled world, the organized church is in decline in numbers and influence. What can one believer do?
A few questions seem in order in this regard. Isn’t the Lord calling us to stand up for our faith? Do we have qualities like Shamgar that God could use if we would make them available?; What does His call mean to you today? Is it to wait for a better weapon? Is it to wait for a better place? Is it to wait for a better time?
What Is That In Your Hand?
~ Brother Roy