There’s a function on mobile phones that gives them a name; usually the name of the owner. I’ve seen some odd names for phones; I was sitting in a public space somewhere and my phone popped up telling me what hotspot wi-fis were available. One was named “ASIO Surveillance Van 86”. Those who were familiar with “Get Smart” will get the nod to that memorable comedy show.
I named my phone “Shamgar’s Goad” some time ago.
It comes from a sermon I heard over 40 years ago on Judges 3:31, the one verse story of Shamgar, a ploughman, who saved Israel from defeat by diligent use of an ox goad, a five–six metre long pointed stick, used to goad oxen pulling ploughs.
The point of the sermon was that Shamgar, by faith, did what he could with what he had. That kind of grounded, simple message has always appealed to me.
So I named my phone “Shamgar’s Goad” because it’s one of the key tools I use to do my job. Some folk across the life of the church will be looking forward after October to fewer phone calls early in the morning!
All this comes to mind in these days because we are in days of quite incredible pressure and ambiguity.
As humans, we do long for a stable environment—relationally, economically, socially, for us to live and flourish. And for many folk, that environment has been profoundly disrupted, and it looks like it will be for the foreseeable future.
A lot like the days of the book of Judges in the Old Testament.
So, the question. How do we then live?
There is much out of our control, and much that is deeply challenging those who exercise oversight of our national life. It is our responsibility to pray for them; that God give them wisdom, discernment, and humility as they do their job;
We’ve all asked, “Where is God in all of this?” I’ve been in more than a few Zooms on this question; at the end of the day, the only fundamental answer that I can see and that gives me strength and hope is that God is in the middle of it all with us. That’s the witness of Jesus; and the witness of the resurrection is that God will be working out God’s good purposes in it all.
So, in the midst of my frustrations with the ambiguity, the thinking you know a path, then it all changes, the deep concern at what impacts all this will have on our common life in the medium and long term, I hold onto two things.
As above, God is with us in the mess of this; so I will trust in that, and collaborate with others with humility and hope; and also, like Shamgar, I can do something; I have some agency to act, and “do what I can with what I have”, and who knows where those actions may lead, and who they may influence; I’m not sure about what “saving Israel” might look like today, but you never know!