Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Shamgar, who is he?

I reckon not many people would even hazzard a guess about who this guy, Shamgar is. If they are of a certain age and live in the Uk they probably would say he was a dead racehorse! I've read the Bible through a good few times and I'll admit that I might have read his name but who or what he did has escaped me until my recent read through Judges.

There are only two references to him. Judges 5:6 tells us that he lived at the time of Deborah during a period when Israel was in a weak position and her enemies had confiscated all the weapons in the land. "War came to the city gates and not a shield or a spear was seen among forty thousand in Israel ."

This however did not deter Shamgar. With the spirit of the British Home Guard in WW2, he used what he had to hand and turned it into a weapon to defend his home and family. Chapter 3:31 says Shamgar struck down 600 Philistines with an ox-goad. An ox goad was a strong pole, about 8ft long with a sharp metal prod at one end and a spade at the other for cleaning dirt off a plough.

Warren Wiersbe says, "Instead of complaining about not possessing a sword or spear Shamgar gave what he had to the Lord and the Lord used it. Joseph Parker said, " What is a feeble instrument in the hands of one man is a mighty instrument in the hands of another, simply because the spirit of that other burns with holy determination to accomplish the work that has to be done."

There are a lot of excuses made among God's people that they cannot do the work for God they want to do because they don't have the resources of people, money, buildings, technology, talent or experience and they give up. Now there certainly should have been some questions asked as to why the people of God had got themselves into the position where their enemies had so much control over them. Judges 5:8 tells us that the situation arose because of idol worship among the people "When they chose new gods war came to the city gates." It is important to examine the reasons for lack of success and oppression of God's people by the world around it. But I also thank God for faithful people who carry on fighting whilst others have given up and investigations is taking place. For example, I got saved as a child, despite the fact that there was not widescale revival where I lived and at a time when the Church in the UK was declining rapidly. How did that happen? People around me didn't give up, they used what they had to hand to teach and preach the gospel.

And whilst Shamgar held on and fought with what he had, at the same time God was raising up Deborah, who did not just hold on but took back what the enemy had stolen.

Keep fighting and keep on believing for greater things.

God bless


Friday, 24 September 2010

Left handed hero

Being one of the minority of the population who is left handed I was delighted to find the Bible has a left handed hero, called Ehud. His fascinating story is found in Judges 3:12-30. It has all the hall marks of a spy thriller or a murder mystery.

Apart from it taking me a while to learn to peel potatoes and a tendency to smudge my work if I am writing with ink being left handed has never really been a problem for me. It does irritate my husband sometimes that if he uses the computer after me he has to move the mouse to the right side.

However in history left handed people have often been the target of prejudice. In most European languages, including English, "right" is used not only to signify direction but also a sense of what is "correct", "authority" and "justice". In German, "links" means "left" as well as "sly" and "devious". In China the left side is the bad side.
Perhaps the most palpable modern example of prejudice came with the famous 1960s BBC TV test card which showed a girl playing noughts and crosses with her toy clown. When it was realised that she was holding the piece of chalk with her left hand, the story goes that BBC executives had the picture reversed to make her right-handed.
Until relatively recently, such was the prejudice against left-handers that children who displayed this trait were often forced to use their right hand and punished by having their left hand tied to their chair to stop them from using it.

It is unclear from the reading of Judges whether Ehud was simply left handed or that he was maimed in is right hand. Either way the writer seems to suggest that Ehud was perceived to be a person with a disability, who was not much of a threat and who was not much use. However whilst the enemies of Israel at that time completely under-estimated him God had no such prejudice and he chose Ehud to lead his nation to a glorious victory.

I love the fact that the lables, the stigma, the limitations that society puts upon people, do not affect God's willingness to choose them or his ability to use them.

I'm off to do my ironing, ambidextrously!

God bless


Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Oh no Judges!

I have to admit that I have never been that excited about the book of Judges. It's all a bit bloodthirsty for me but as I finished Joshua and Judges is on the next page I decided to tackle it again.
And rather than skim quickly over them I am taking a bit of time to look at some characters I had never given much attention to before. And the first one is Othniel.

He is overlooked in the list of famous leaders of Israel. Maybe that was because his brother was the great man of faith, Caleb and he lived in his shadow. He could have resented this but instead Othniel seemed to value the heritage of faith in the promises and power of God that he had witnessed in his famous relative. Other people of his generation, sat back and didn't go on claiming the inheritance of the Promised Land but Othniel responded readily to that challenge and in faith took Kiriath Sepher on his own.

Other people of his generation compromised but Othniel stayed focussed on God's commands and didn't intermarry. He reminds of the need to stay true to our God given inheritance of faith, even if it seems we are going against the tide.

Thus it was when at last the people of God realised their desperate need for deliverance God used Othniel to save the day. I like the fact that when he could have just manned the defences and made Israel secure again, we are told that the Spirit of God came upon Othniel so that he became Israel's judge and he went to war. The role of the Judge meant that he rescued the people from their enemies and he also addressed the domestic affairs of the people. But Othniel did not just settle for keeping Israel's enemies at bay or sorting out the people's problems we are told he also "went to war" In other words he went on the offensive in order to fulfill God's command to claim the Promised Land. He never lost his pioneering spirit.

We need God to raise an Othniel in our day. Someone who will not say, all we can do is hold on. Someone who won't be so caught up in dealing with the saints that they cave in under the weight of their problems and concerns. We need the Spirit of God to come upon an "Othniel" who will go to war!

Warren Wiersbe says that in Judges the key to new leadership being raised up is that the people cried out to the Lord and the key to that leaderships effectiveness was none other than the Spirit of God.

God bless