THE CATTLE PROD
By Steve Bietz
For my college education, I went to Southern University near Chattanooga Tennessee. And although it has been a lot of years since I was a college freshman, I still remember my first class at 8:00 am on the very first day of classes. It was actually a Bible class and the professor gave us what I still consider a wonderfully unique assignment. He asked us to take these four individuals, Abraham, Moses, David, and Daniel, and pick one verse that contained their name that we students thought best described their entire life. Not so easy. For example, it is said that there are 929 verses in the bible that mention the name of David. Like Lay’s Potato Chips, it’s hard to pick just one as a synopsis of David’s entire life. By the way, I picked 1 Samuel 18:14 for my verse for David. “And David behaved wisely in all his ways, and the Lord was with him.” Of course, we cannot say that David really acted wisely at every point in his life. Again, it is difficult to narrow David’s life down to just one verse that contains his name.
Yet, this is exactly the case for a man whose name was Shamgar. His name does not show up in scripture 929 times. Shamgar’s name shows up only one time in one verse in the Bible and it is in Judges 3:31. “After him was Shamgar the son of Anath, who killed six hundred men of the Philistines with an ox goad and he delivered Israel.” That is all there is about the man Shamgar. But from this one verse, we are given quite the snapshot. Shamgar is not said to be a judge of Israel in those days before the Hebrews decided they wanted kings to rule over them. Instead, Shamgar was just a local guy down in the southwest part of Cannan who allowed God to use him. There is a local threat from a people known as the Philistines.
Now what is interesting to me is that Shamgar does not pick up any conventional weapons that one would expect to find on a battlefield. I got to believe that if Shamgar would have had a sword or other conventional weapon, he would have used it. Instead, Shamgar used an ox goad. What is an ox goad you ask? Well, it is a tool that one would have used as he plowed. An ox goad was basically a long stick, around 8 feet long with a sharp point on the end. Today’s more modern device would be called a cattle prod. Normally you would use it to convince your ox or oxen to keep moving and pull the plow. Shamgar grabs it and takes it to the battlefield.
Shamgar used what was in his hand and evidently, God gave Shamgar a great victory for His people. He simply used what he had in his hand. Years before, God asked Moses, What is that in your hand? (Exodus 4:2) Moses had been trying to explain why he was not the man for the job because of his shortcomings and God pops the question of what’s in your hand. It happened to be a shepherd’s rod. And Moses would carry that rod for the next 40 years and would use it in completely unconventional ways, again and again. Just a simple shepherd’s rod but look at what God did with what Moses had in his hand.
It was the same for the “one verse man” Shamgar. He had a cattle prod, and by the power of God, he was able to accomplish a great victory for the cause of God…for God’s church of that day. What is in the hands of your church that could be used for God’s people? Way too much of the time we look at our hands and think I have nothing that God can use. I can’t get up front and speak, I can’t sing or play the piano or guitar, and I would not even make a decent greeter at the church entrance. First, don’t underestimate what God can do through you. Secondly, God can use the most unconventional item to bring victory for His people. Now I’m not suggesting that we pick up a cattle prod. But this we know, that God uses what we have in our hands, and there is no telling how God will use you. I promise you this, God will use us if we will let Him use what we have in our hands.