Greetings. This month we have two Old Testament characters, one we know of fairly well, Jeremiah and one not as well known, Shamgar. They both exhibit qualities that reveal God’s character and nature. I am guessing not too many Christians have done a in depth study of the book of Jeremiah. This book is very interesting to study and meditate on. The coverage on Shamgar is very short but has powerful insight. Enjoy this edition. Mike
Jeremiah – Simply Faithful
Very possibly one of the Old Testament books that is not studied closely because of its length is Jeremiah. Some verses are quoted from there but by and large, few sermons are taken from Jeremiah. We meet Jeremiah when he is a young person and God lets him know that he has been chosen to be God’s prophet prior to and during the years Babylon conquered Judah and Jerusalem.
Jeremiah is reluctant to be God’s spokesperson (Jeremiah 1:5-8), but does submit to God’s leading and is obedient. What Jeremiah is to share is not at all popular with the Judah kings and establishment. He lets the Judeans know that they quickly better turn from the idolatry and “we know better than God but God won’t anything bad happen to us” attitudes, otherwise Babylon is going to destroy them.
This message of destruction is not shared just once but time and time again by Jeremiah. God instructs Jeremiah to use various visual illustrations to show the Judeans what is going to happen. A linen belt, wineskins (Jeremiah 13) and clay pots (chapter 18) are used to demonstrate in visual form the coming destruction. But all this fell on deaf ears and blind sight.
Due to his faithfulness to the Lord, Jeremiah was plotted against (ch 11), lied to by other “prophets” (ch 23, 28), threatened with death (ch 26), beaten, left to starve, had his scrolled message burned by King Jehoakim (ch 36), imprisoned (ch 37) and thrown into a muddy, murky cistern to basically die (ch 38).
Almost ironically King Zedekiah who tossed Jeremiah in the cistern, sent for Jeremiah to secretly meet to tell Zedekiah exactly what will happen to him. Even at the “eleventh hour”, if Zedekiah would have obeyed the Lord, his life would have been spared but Zedekiah would not listen. No matter how many years Jeremiah preached over and over about the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem, hardly anyone listened, and he paid a hefty price for being obedient to the Lord.
The other irony is when Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian army destroyed Jerusalem, he had Jeremiah freed, perhaps because he heard Jeremiah’s prophecies against Judah and/or Nebuchadnezzar and his officers figured that Jeremiah was an enemy of Judah and would not give Babylon any trouble (ch 39-40). God took care of Jeremiah and he was free.
As we consider his life and calling, Jeremiah simply was faithful and persevered. In spite of great hardships, Jeremiah was obedient to what God wanted him to share, no matter if anyone listened. His continuous warnings went on for about a good decade and rather than people heeding these warnings, they simply wanted nothing to do with Jeremiah and get rid of him.
Like many quality leaders in Scripture, for example Abraham, Noah, Joseph, Paul, Ruth, Daniel, Peter, Jesus’ mother Mary and David, Jeremiah endured a long time being obedient to the God’s leading. Seeking to be a wholeheartedly committed leader for the Lord for the most part not a short sprint. It is a grueling marathon with a lot of difficult terrain to cover.
Jeremiah proved himself to be faithful and letting the results up to God. Few heeded his warnings but that was not his responsibility. His responsibility was to speak what God was telling him to say. The same is true for each of us – be responsible and obedient to what and how God is leading us and let the results up to Him. I am figuring that Jeremiah was told when he entered heaven, “Well done good and faithful servant.”
YOUTH MINISTRY – SHAMGAR AND HIS OXGOAD
Do you have your ox goad with you today? You are probably asking what an ox goad is. Well, it is an eight feet wooden tool, that has a iron spike or very pointed on one end. That end is used to prod or spur oxen as the ox pull a cart, plow or something else. The goad can also have a piece of iron on the non-pointed end to scrap dirt from a plow.
This was a necessary handy tool when driving oxen. It was also used as a weapon as described in Judges 3:31, “After Ehud, Shamgar son of Anath rescued Israel. He once killed 600 Philistines with an ox goad.” Shamgar and Ehud were judges for Israel who presided over the affairs of the Israelites between the death of Joshua and the time when Saul became king over Israel.
This is the only verse in the Bible saying anything about Shamgar. As a judge for Israel the person ruled over affairs that came up for the nation. Plus as you read in the book of Judges, many of the judges played key roles in military activities, including Shamgar. The Philistines were constant enemy pests for Israel.
Shamgar was likely a farmer by trade. He was very handy with a goad in his hand and could have easily fought off wild animals that tried to attack his ox. This tool became an extension of himself, not afraid to use it to defend his animals or himself. The enemy showed up one day and paid the consequences of meeting Shamgar.
To defend himself using this tool is impressive. Shamgar had a mastery of how to use it. Killing 600 Philistines was extraordinary as Philistines were very happy to rid themselves of Israelites, especially rulers and soldiers. The time element is not offered so we do not know how long it took to fight and kill that many people. Still, he used what he was in essence gifted with.
God expects us to use what we are gifted with, especially because He has provided us with talents, abilities and gifts, to include spiritual gifts. The truth is use what you have been equipped with to live out your life as you obediently follow Jesus. Shamgar was strong, had good hand-eye coordination, quick reactions, master of a tool in his hand, follower of God and able to lead people. He was obedient and played a key judicial role during the time of Israel history to even have one verse mentioning him.
Know how you are physically and spiritually gifted. Figure out your abilities, talents and passion. These all play a role in who you are and in ways you can be utilized for His glory. Be a good steward; be responsible and faithful in managing and utilizing intelligently the abilities and gifts you have been given (1 Corinthians 4:1-2).
Do not bury or ignore your giftedness by suppressing your giftedness, trying to be someone you are not. Celebrate you have been created by the Creator of the world and He has uniquely put you together. You can celebrate who you are by becoming the best YOU that you can be. That is pursing excellence in your life, that,”whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31). For a Christian, this is our definition of excellence.
Shamgar embraced the role God provided him and used what he knew to judge and defend Israel. The goal for us is not to go out and kill people but use the gifts and talents given to us to share with people who Jesus is and that He is the Savior of the world.