Never Too Small

Bible Boot Camp  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  29:24
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In the past few weeks we have covered a lot of history. We have seen the creation of all things, the disastrous fall of man, the flood, God calling one man to form a new nation, then that nation enslaved to Egypt, God bringing them out of Egypt, establishing them as a nation, and entering the Promised Land. It has been quite the journey. This week you read of the conquest of Canaan in Joshua and the struggle of Israel’s fidelity to God in the book of Judges.
The book of Judges is a very tragic book. At the very end of the book of Joshua, Israel is called to fidelity to the Lord. Joshua warns them that they will not, but they continually insist that they will. The Israelites fail to drive out the Canaanites as God commanded and they begin to serve other gods as Joshua had warned them.
This begins the cycle of the Judges. The book of Judges presents a six part cycle where Israel begins by faithfully serving the Lord. Then Israel falls into sin and idolatry. Because of their rebellion against God, He allows them to be taken over by a neighboring nation and they are enslaved. During their enslavement, Israel calls out to God for deliverance. God raises up a judge for Israel who leads an attack against their oppressors, and Israel is delivered. Israel returns to faithful service to God, but ultimately they abandon their worship to God in favor of other Gods and the process starts all over again until the time of Samuel and the monarchy is established.
The book of Judges shows us what happens when God’s people violate His covenant. Before Moses’ death, the Lord told him that the people would abandon their promise and chase after other gods. He explained the consequences of the people’s actions. He said that He would hide His face from them, that He would forsake them. Part of the consequences for disobedience as spelled out in Deuteronomy 28 is that He would allow other nations to come to Israel and take them over. The book of Judges shows that God is not a liar. He will do what He says He will do.
This cycle that we see in the book of Judges is not a cycle where everything is as it was when we get to the start again. Rather than the cycle being a full circle where everything is as it once was when you get back to the start, it is more of a downward spiral where you see periods of renewal but things are progressively worse. The first few Judges start out well, but the successive judges have increasingly terrible character flaws. By the time you get to the end of the book of judges, the tragic reality is that Israel has forgotten their God and they have become like the other nations. At the end of the book, Israel is in need of another Savior.
If you had to sum up your life in a single sentence, what would it be?
There is one man who is mentioned in the book of Judges whose entire life is summed up in a single sentence. The Bible has 31,102 verses in it and this man’s name appears in only two of them. Let’s look together at Judges 3:31. This verse follows the account of Ehud, who assassinates the Moabite king, Eglon and delivers Israel from Moabite oppression. Judges 3:31 says this:
Judges 3:31 NASB95
After him came Shamgar the son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad; and he also saved Israel.
We do not really know anything else about Shamgar. We know his name, his father’s name, and that he killed 600 Philistines with an oxgoad. We know that he is referenced in Judges 5:6, but only to provide a point in time reference to describe what travel conditions were like during his time. Scholars have debated whether he was Hebrew or not. arguing that the name Shamgar is not a Hebrew name and the name Anath may actually be reference to the Canaanite goddess Anath, a goddess of war. So it is argued by some that Shamgar is a warrior and servant of Anath, not an Israelite. The evidence for such a position does not seem conclusive, but whether he is of Canaanite or Hebrew origin matters less than why this verse was recorded to begin with. Even if all of that is true, God has and does use people outside of Israel for Israel’s benefit. If this was the case, then it was a case of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
It still seems impressive that one man took down 600 Philistines by himself. The Philistines are a people familiar to us. We see Israel struggle with them for much of their history. The Philistines were known for their military might. They were no pushovers. Remember that Goliath was a Philistine. We are talking about intimidating folks.
But Shamgar comes along and kills 600 of them with an oxgoad. Do you know what an oxgoad is? An oxgoad was a long wooden pole with a sharp metal end on one side and a flat chisel-like end on the other. The sharp end of the pole was used to keep oxen moving as they plowed the field. The flat end was used to scrape excess dirt from the plow. The closest equivalent today might be something like a cattle prod, but in shape and size, it probably looked more like a show stick. So this man goes to battle equipped with nothing but this farmer’s instrument, takes out 600 Philistine soldiers, and is forever remembered in a single sentence in the Bible., the last part being most important. “…and he also saved Israel.”
How much can we glean from such a brief mention of a man we know next to nothing about? For the answer, we have to consider what is not being said. We have to consider the situation he found himself in. This was not a period of peace. There were newcomers who established themselves as a dominant force in the land. Their God parted the Red Sea. Their God brought down the walls of Jericho and led victories against the city states of Canaan. The people who remained pushed back as Israel sinned against God. The Philistines were among them and Shamgar is seemingly alone.

God does not always wait for a favorable position before he calls you to act.

Shamgar did not have an army at his disposal. He did not have military grade weapons. What he did have was an oxgoad. One man against 600. This was no favorable position for Shamgar. What if Shamgar said, “Lord, I’ll wait until I get some more people to come along. I’ll go when I save enough money to buy some real weapons. I’ll go when the Philistines are weaker.” God did not wait to use Shamgar at a moment that was favorable and He does not do that today.
God does not wait for things to be favorable toward the church when He calls the church to engage the culture. He calls us to engage the culture no matter the circumstances. It is true that the culture you grew up in far different than the one we find ourselves in today. So many of us wish that we could go back to the way things were. We can’t believe how society has shifted and priorities have changed. It is unbelievable to see how much pagan culture we see in America. But if there is to be a resurgence of biblical values in our country it is not going to be when the culture grows more tolerant of the church. It will be when God empowers His people to act in the midst of a declining culture and pushes back against the darkness.
Courage does not call in the absence of adversity. It is born in the midst of it.
God has a right now mission for the church. Not a when COVID is over plan, not when the right political leaders are in place, not when the conditions are favorable or the gospel is popular, but right now. What is God calling you to do? And if it doesn’t scare you, are you sure you heard from the Lord?

God does big things with impossible odds.

We don’t know how long it took Shamgar to take down 600 Philistines. Was it one at a time? Was it over several battles? Or did he look out across the battlefield and see 600 men lined up to meet him and charge them anyway? We don’t know. What we do know is God does big things with impossible odds. He uses Shamgar to take down 600 men. He uses Gideon to take down an army with just 300 men. He uses David to take down Goliath with just a slingshot. He uses Elijah to stand against hundreds of prophets of Baal.
It is easy to look at the world around you and wonder if there is any hope. It is easy to look at your job or the culture and say, “How am I supposed to change that?” It’s easy to say that things aren’t going to get better. And if we say those things, we are right. They won’t. But I believe in a big God who can do big things with impossible odds. But here’s the good news: If you are on God’s side, the odds are always in your favor.
The transformation that takes place in another’s life is not your responsibility. Transformation comes about through the power of the Holy Spirit to convict the individual to give up his or her ways and follow God. But God does use you as His mouthpiece, His vessel, His living example to show the people around you what God is like. Faithfulness to the Lord demonstrates what God is like to others and through that, He calls people to Himself.
We are a small church. How is a small church in Three Rivers, Texas supposed to impact the world? How are we supposed to impact our state? How are we supposed to impact our community? The answer is simple. Have courage and be obedient to what God tells you to do. God used one man to save Israel from the Philistines. You are never too small to be used mightily by God. Do you believe you can? Do you believe He wants to use you that way? I can assure you He does and He will if you will commit to following Him in every way.
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