Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The basement and the God upstairs

Years ago I read some book by Francis Schaeffer.  I can't remember the title but I was fresh out of seminary wondering what to do with my life.  In that book, Schaeffer had described people in this house and God was supposed to be on the roof.  In today's terms, we would see the people in a basement or ground floor and God on the first floor.  It can also be said that we are in some machine and God is outside the machine.

Pre-modern people believed that people could escape the ground floor and go up to the first floor where God is.  Either that or God could come to the ground floor and bring us up.  But they believed in God and could have some kind of access to him.

Modern people believed that God was upstairs but that we couldn't get to him and he wasn't going to try to get to us.  The underlings in the basement had to make a utopia based on that belief.

Post-modern people don't believe in anything outside the basement.  This ground floor is all there is.  Even if there is a staircase or elevator, they've blocked it up and can't get upstairs and God can't get to us. 

I read that book and wrote a song that I hope to upload again someday called "God in the Machine."

Last week I read an article entitled, "When Ground Floor Projects Are Pushed One Floor Up."  It is based on the same house/machine assumption.  Stephen McAlpine is looking at the sexual revolution.  Whether its the ability to have lots of heterosexual sex without restraints, or the LGBT agenda, or abortion rights, or the wish to have children without having sex, it has all become a religion.  And it confirms my beliefs that if there is no God upstairs, then there is nothing else to live for.  We must live for our pleasures and our whims because it is all we have.  And its a poor substitute for the perfect and holy God, so it must get wilder and wilder as we get bored with it.

And it makes me thing of the women at the pregnancy center that I volunteer for and the one I volunteered for in the past.  They all are in sexual relationships outside of marriage and having children but at the same time they think that they are Christians.  They think they can serve both God and the sexual culture.  But we must find a loving way to tell them that they cannot do so.  Either you believe that there's a God outside the machine who you must serve or your go against what he has revealed in Scripture and have unmarital sex which leads to pregnancies, some pregnancies to abortions, and all of it to broken relationships and struggling to make ends meet. 

Is it judgmental for me to say all this?  Maybe.  I know I'm not perfect either and am also struggling to make ends meet.  But the main thing that kept me from having sex before I got married to Tim was my belief in God and that he has commanded to not commit adultery.  In fact, the main thing that kept me from pursuing same-sex relations is my belief in God and that he has made marriage and sex to be between a man and a woman with no room for questions.  And I'm in a healthy relationship now that is not entangled by previous relational baggage.

And I have had many people say, "well, 'adultery' simply means that you can't have sex with someone other than the one you are married to, but if you are both unmarried than you are fine."  But if you are unmarried and having sex and then break up and marry someone else, then you've already cheated on your spouse.

And I've heard just about every argument for people trying to reconcile Christianity with LGBT identity.  "God made me this way."  "That was only a cultural command."  Look, from creation, God made man male and female (binary) and commanded them to get married and have children.  He commanded sex within a male and female marriage and forbid it outside that context.  And he would not forbid you to do something and then make it impossible for you to carry that out.  1 Corinthians 10:13 says he will always provide a way out for you if you are tempted.  I can understand having strong emotions for someone, but that is not a call to be in a romantic relationship with them.  It could just simply be a call to a really good friendship.  People simply do not know how to be friends anymore because they live in a basement, have blocked up the stairs to the first floor, and have found no substitute for God other than this meaningless thing called sex.  And there is no way out of this machine until God breaks in and rescues you.

And he did that by sending Jesus to die for your sins.  There was no way to approach this holy God and live because you would die with your sins.  But God send his Son to die for your sins.  Jesus also lived the only perfect life and credits it to all who will believe in him.  It is only that way you can come upstairs and meet your God. Will you choose today between sexual perversion and serving Jesus?  You can't serve both.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Judges: The story of Jephthah

At last I get to the story of Jephthah.  I finished Gideon.  I lightly touched upon Gideon's son Abimelech, but I'm not going to do a blog about him because it's painful for me to read Judges 9.  It's very detailed and rather confusing.  He was not a true judge or king of Israel.  He rose up after Gideon died, killed all his brothers, and tried to rule Israel.  Eventually, they all turned against him and he died. 

Then Israel had peace and worshiped the Lord again.  Tola came from the tribe of Issachar.  Then Jair came from Gilead from the part of the tribe of Manasseh that lived east of the Jordan river outside the promised land.  Jephthah would come from this same clan.

Abimelech was the son of a concubine and was ridiculed by his brothers who were born do Gideon's wives.  Gideon was from Manasseh's tribe, but from the west side of the Jordan.  Jephthah was born to a prostitute and was ridiculed by his brothers through his dad's wife.  They disowned him and he moved out into the wilderness.

But then, Israel began to worship the false gods again, and God send the Ammonites to oppress them.  Jephthah had joined a band of ruffians who wreaked havoc around the country.  He must have done a good job with the thug life.  When the nation of Ammon rose up, his brothers finally found a use for him. 

Jephthah had many flaws, as we will see toward the end of this blog, but he proved to be a godly man.  Much godlier than Abimelech.  He did not seek leadership.  He sought the Lord when he was asked to lead.  And he made his brothers repent of their sins against him before he would say yes.  But he never sought revenge against them.

Despite God's mercy on Jephthah, you can still see that he was influenced by his wayward culture.  Before he went to fight the Ammonites, he made a vow to the Lord that if God would give him a victory, then he would sacrifice the first thing that came from his house as a burnt offering.

The fact that he made a vow in the first place is a problem.  God called him to leadership.  He should have had faith that God would give him the victory without having to make a rash vow.

But here's the bigger problem: the first thing to come out of his doors was his daughter.  His only daughter.  Apparently, when Jeph made his vow, a burnt offering would include a human life.  Not just his dog or a sheep, but his own daughter and only child.  If there had been proper education in Israel, Jeph would know that God abhors human sacrifices and that he drove the pagan nations out of Canaan because they burned their children as sacrifice to their gods.  Why would he do the very thing that broke the camel's back in causing God to say, "It's time," when he drove out the pagans?

Some commentators, including my Old Testament prof from Erskine George Schwab, and one of my favorite bloggers David Murray, conclude that Jeph didn't actually kill his daughter.  They suppose that the story was open ended enough that the girl convinced her dad to not kill her but to let her live as a virgin the rest of her life and serve God in the tabernacle. 

I want to believe that.  I really do.  I love Jephthah and consider him a great guy.  He apparently learned from his father's error and had only one wife.  He tried his best to follow the Lord.  Anything good about him is purely God's grace, which is true for all saved people.  But I somehow think, and Matthew Henry agrees, that Jephthah went through with it and sacrificed his daughter.  Many people were dedicated to the Lord such as Samson and Samuel, but they didn't remain virgins.  Samuel had sons and Samson was a player.  Prophetesses such as Huldah and Deborah were married.  Virginity is not necessarily next to holiness, though it's required if you are unmarried.  Perhaps Jephthette (the Bible doesn't say her actual name) decided to never marry in exchange for her life, leaving Jeph without an heir.  But maybe Jeph actually did kill her.

And one more thing: atheists like to use this story to explain that the God who they don't believe in approves of human sacrifice.  "See, he's a monster after all."  To them, God doesn't exist and he's a monster and they hate him.

But God hates human sacrifice and murder.  He did tell Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, but stopped him at the last minute and provided a lamb as a substitution.  That showed Abraham that a sacrifice would be provided for our sins one day in Jesus.  But God did not stop Jeph for some reason, and his daughter seemed willing to go along with it.  But at this time, people had mostly stopped following the Lord and those who did were terribly compromised.  It also seems quite pagan that the Israelite girls would go off for four days every year to mourn Jephthette as a tradition.  Girls that never knew her. 

But God left the story open ended to perhaps conclude that Jeph did the right thing and spared his little girl.  Or maybe God didn't tell us because he didn't want the Israelites thinking that human sacrifice was alright.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Hagar: What did happen, not what should happen

In order to get more Bible reading in, I downloaded Matthew Henry's Commentary to my Kindle and have been reading it alongside my Bible.  My plan succeeded, and I'm being fed more from the word and have been having a better attitude about life, though I will always have a long way to go.

I love Matthew Henry and his Reformed views on things, but I just could not help quite disagreeing with his views on Hagar in Genesis 16.

This is the part of Genesis where Sarai gets tired of Abram not having kids so she suggests that he sleep with her servant Hagar and have a son through her.  He does that, and it results in Hagar getting pregnant with Ishmael.  She knows this and starts showing contempt for Sarai.  Then Sarai starts abusing her, possibly giving more work to do.  Hagar gets overwhelmed and runs away.

Matthew Henry considers her running away from Sarai a sin.  I don't know if it's sin or not, but it's a perfectly natural response to her situation.  Abraham and Sarah (their later names), brought her into their marriage without consulting her.  They never talk to her or use her name.  They only talk about her and then Abraham uses her to get a son.  It is only when she runs away that God appears to her, calls her by her name, and treats her like a human with rights and feelings.  He tells her to go back to Sarah, serve her, and bear Abraham's son, Ishmael, who God will bless.  Although he is not the promised son that would be born through Sarah, he's still Abraham's son and will be blessed, too.

I'm writing on this for the second time this year for two reasons. 

1). I'm about to write about Jephthah, and Bible naysayers like to try to discount the faith by using both his story and Hagar's story.

As for the case of Hagar and other concubinage in the Bible, liberals like to say that God commanded childless women to provide a handmaiden for the man through which he can have a child.  We can't realistically expect men and women to save sex for marriage when God commanded such things.

But that was never the case.  God has never desired for a man to have sex with anyone other than his wife, whether he gives them children or not.  It was the culture in Mesopotamia to do that and one that Sarah adopted that God never commanded.  Things that our Bible heroes do are what did happen, not necessarily what should happen.  God still took the situation and used it for his glory and our redemption, but what he expressly desires is for one man to have marital relations with one wife and no more.  Adam never had more than one wife.  And Noah had only one wife along with his three sons who only had one wife each.  All the population of the earth comes from them.

And as we see in this story, God is the only one who tried to treat Hagar with dignity and honor.  Only when he did, then Sarah and Abraham began treating her the same.

2). I read this article that broke my heart.

Basically, these men on this show who are married to each other desired a child.  So one of them chose an egg donor from a catalog, used his sperm to create a child, and this woman bore the child.  The network filmed the childbirth on the show without her consent, and the men gawked at her anatomy in the process. 

I find it appalling that somebody can purchase a child out of a catalog, manufacture that little girl, and then add her to the household like she's an accessory.  Just a fashionable purse or poodle to support your lifestyle.  Meanwhile, the woman who bore the child and carried her inside her body for nine months has no rights in the process and will have no relationship with her baby.  This baby will have no woman in her life close enough to talk with as she gets older and reaches puberty.  Both mother and baby are used as objects to satisfy the desires of this richer people who are already living a lifestyle outside God's will.

It reminded me of Abraham and Sarah in their treatment of Hagar.  They wanted a child but did not want to wait on God's timing.  They just used another woman to be a surrogate with no consideration of her desires or dreams. 

But as God redeemed their situation, God can redeem this situation.  All children are in God's image and must have rights.  God can reach the two men on this TV show and save them from sin and reform them, just like he did for Abraham, Sarah, me, and you.  He can reconcile this little girl to her mother.  Perhaps they can all teach the world that sexual sin does harm people outside of those committing the sin.  Innocent people get caught in the trap and lose their dignity as humans when it goes unrepented.  But God is so merciful and can still save people such as that in bring Christ into their lives.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Judges: Gideon, a weak man from a weak clan in Manasseh

The Israelites still search for a Savior.  So far, they have had Caleb, Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, and Deborah.  All were good people who did their jobs.  And they brought Israel back to worshiping the true God.  But they all died, and the people went right back to cheating on Yahweh with gods who would allow them to get drunk and sleep around.  God rescued them from Israel and then other oppressors over and over again, but they kept going back to their adulterous idolatries.  So this time, God sent the Midianites who didn’t even let the people eat their cattle or raise prophets.  It was like working at Piccadilly on a Sunday night.  Swarms of hungry, irrational customers come, touch our pies, decide they don’t want it after all, and then give it back to you without paying for it.  And you have to throw it away because you can’t put it back on the line.  They care nothing that they are wasting the company’s food and money.  They only care about their entitlement issues.

Okay, rant over.  The Midianites were so much worse than this.  The people were starving, which let them to thresh their grain in hiding.  This led to our friend Gideon, who was found doing that very thing inside a winepress.

I have to laugh every time I read Judges 6:12 when the Lord calls Gideon a mighty warrior.  (It says Angel of the Lord, but as with all cases when the Angel of the Lord appears in the Old Testament, it proves to be so much more than and angel.  It is God himself.  And if God appears in a body, then it has to be Jesus.)

Gideon is no warrior.  He is a poor boy having to do his farming behind closed doors so the enemy doesn’t see him.  Even after God raises him in power, he makes foolish mistakes in his old age through pride.  Gideon is no warrior.

But God is a warrior.  And God will not be upstaged by anyone, which is why he likes to include unlikely characters in his plan for redemption.

First Gideon argues that God has let the enemy wreak havoc on his country.  How could a good God let that happen?  And like all people who ask this question, they forget how often they have betrayed the Lord who said that disobedience of his commands, cosmic treason, would lead to death.  God is very patient with Gideon and says, “Go in the strength you have.  Am I not sending you?”

Then Gid says that he is from a weak clan in Manasseh.  How can he do anything?  God says the same thing.  Just go.  “I’m the one sending you.  I will give you power.”

This is where Gideon gets annoying.  He asks God for a sign.  Not for the last time.  God is so patient with us.  He lets Gideon go get a goat and a cake of bread to sacrifice him.  And then, this is where the Angel of God proves that he is actually just God.  He consumes the offering, making Gideon afraid of his death because he’s seen God.  But God calms him down and tells him to cut down his dad’s Asherah pole. 

Gideon’s own family was involved in Baal worship, and Gideon had to ask why God was sending Midian to Israel.  But he knew about God’s sacrifices which means, they had somehow blended the two religions, which God commands we should never do.

Does this happen today?  Are idolatrous practices so commonplace in our culture that they somehow show up in our homes and get syncretized with our Christian worship?  Do we follow horoscopes or have Ouija boards?  Do we watch shows on HBO where we know there’s going to be lots of nudity just so we can be caught up with our neighbors on the show?  Who are we trying to impress?  Certainly not God who calls us to be set apart and to worship him only and to obey his commands.

So Gideon went and tore down his dad’s Asherah pole.  The people wanted to kill him but his own dad, Joash, stood up for him saying, if Baal is god, then he can defend himself.  If not, then Gideon’s done a good thing.

So the town gave him a new name, Jerub-baal.  The man who tears down Baal.  Impressive for such a poor boy that nobody loved.

Afterwards, Gid annoys God with two signs that he will lead Israel against the Midianites.  One night he wants God to make a fleece all dewy but the ground to be dry.  The next night, he wants God to make the fleece dry but the ground all dewy.  Once again, God is very patient with this slow guy and does it.

Chapter 7

Now, Gideon gathers his brethren from the tribe of Manasseh to fight the army.  But God wants a small army, because if a huge army wins, people will say the army won and not God.  So, Gid dismisses anyone who is afraid.  But there are still too many people.  So Gid sends them to a stream for a drink.  The ones who gathered the water in cupped hands were dismissed.  You know, then ones who would still be able to see an enemy coming as they drank.  He dismissed the wise ones.  He kept the ones who knelt down and lapped the water like a dog. 

This reduced the army to 300 foolish men, so that the people would definitely know that God won the war. 

Then, before the battle, Gideon still couldn’t sleep, so he took a nighttime stroll toward the camp of Midian.  He overheard a Midianite saying that he dreamed a huge hunk of bread came and crushed the whole camp.  This emboldened him and led him to take his army and defeat Midian, making their presence flee from Israel.  They even captured the kings Oreb and Zeeb and killed them. 

I’m beginning to see that while we are waiting on Jesus to come, God sends people to lead who are weak simply because we need to keep our focus on God and not ourselves and our heroes.  From the time Jesus left this earth on his ascension until now, God has sent many people to lead the church and even lead it back from trusting in man and not God.  He sent people like Augustine who in the fall of the Roman empire reminded the people that God’s city is much better than man’s.  The Romans had a god for everything that did not keep them from falling, and the true God has given them a better home that is not of this world that they will see someday.  But he had flaws.

Martin Luther came along and led Christians back to putting the Bible at the center of theology and looking to Christ alone for salvation, not Christ plus a plethora of saints and his mom.  But he had a quick temper and said anti-Semitic things that last to this century.

Calvin took Luther’s first steps and systematized them, but even he had a quick temper.

Spurgeon is one of my heroes, but he fell for evolutionistic thinking. 

Even my most current hero, RC Sproul, had flaws.  He loved Thomas Aquinas a bit too much.

While they are all good men, they had feet of clay and we still look to he true Messiah who does all things perfectly and will make all things right.

Chapter 8

Later on, the tribe of Ephraim complained that they weren’t being used in the war against Midian.  But Gideon replied that they never offered to help and didn’t even offer to feed the troops.  They just sat back and watched.  But for now, he would not retaliate because he had to still fight Zebah and Zalmunna. 

Then all the people try to make him king, but he refuses, because as God planned, there is no way Gideon and his army defeated the Midianites.  God did. 

Just the same, there was something in Gideon’s pride that wanted to be king.  He ended up making this gold ephod (a priestly vest) that the people ended up trying to worship.  The tabernacle where God wanted everyone to worship was in Shiloh in Ephraim, and Gideon still had bad blood with them.  So he tried to worship God in a way that God did not command, which is always wrong, and will always lead to false God.  “False worships made was for false deities,” says Matthew Henry on this chapter. 

Also, he married many wives and had 70 sons.  God never wanted people to marry more than one person at a time, but having many wives guarantees a dynasty.  And he had one son through a concubine who eventually killed all 70 of those sons, making Gideon’s secret desire naught.  Plus, the concubine’s son was named Abimilech (son of a king).  And he fought for his right to be king and failed.  And the people began to follow false gods again, never learning their lesson.

But the next big judge, Jephthah, was also born to a man who slept with a prostitute.  Like Abimilech, he was ridiculed by his siblings born to wives of their fathers.  But he became a godly man, and I look forward to his story.

Monday, May 21, 2018

When Mother's Day is awkward

It's a week late, but not a dollar short because I decided to talk about Mother's Day and how awkward it can be for people.  I never really paid attention to Mother's Day growing up.  It was just another Sunday for me and not all that important.  And I don't have a problem with it.  In fact, I kind of like it for reasons I will talk about.

But now it is awkward for me, and I know I'm not alone, for two reasons.

1).  In 2009 my mother passed away from cancer.  Many people have lost their mothers to death, and some to even abandonment.  Many people don't have their mothers around anymore.  How do you celebrate Mother's Day without simply saying, "Happy Holiday"?

a) Since my mom was one of the greatest women I knew, I still celebrate her.   Her spirit is alive in heaven and one day will be reunited with a new improved body when Christ returns.  I can celebrate the memory of her and how I want to be like her.

b) This can help if your mom is alive but has abandoned you.  Celebrate women you know and love who have been influential and like moms to you.  One of my mom's best friends in Conyers practically took me in and has been very influential to me.  Also know many other older women who have been kind to me.  Celebrate them.

c) Remember the Lord and still go to church.  Church can be awkward on any day, not just a greeting card holiday.  But you go for Him, not for them.  You go because he commands it.  Cling to Jesus, the only one who can provide any true meaning for life and true healing.

2). Between Tim and me, we still don't have children.  We've been trying for 3 years and will still keep trying.  But still, people my age and younger have children left and right.  Some don't even want to have children.  We want children, but we don't have children.  So, if somebody at church tells you "Happy Mother's Day" and you still don't have children, what do you do?

a) If you can, volunteer for children's ministry.  You can spiritually raise children.  But also beware of emotional attachments, because they will happen.   But also, don't let that keep you from volunteering. 

b) Reach out to young people in your family.  I know one person who helps with her niece.  I have a niece through marriage and hope to influence her a long time. 

c) Trust God's plan.  For some reason, people don't like to be reminded of God's will when it doesn't match theirs.  Sometimes, I don't even like to be reminded of it.  But why?  It really is the greatest comfort.  God made you, loves you more than anyone else, and knows exactly what you want and need.  He also gave you your desires for his glory.  If it's his plan for you to bear a child or even adopt, then it will happen.  But if it is not, he still has sent Jesus to die for your sins and has so much more in store for you beyond this life.  You must trust him because there is no one else to trust and because he knows exactly how it should go. 

Is Mother's Day awkward for you?  How do you cope?  What about Father's Day?  Mine is alive and well, and I don't know what I'll do when he goes.  But, what do you think?

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Judges: Lady Deb

Say what you want about Ehud, or just read my previous blog about him, but Israel stayed faithful to the Lord while he was alive.  He was not the promised Messiah, the deliverer of the people, but he got the job done.  But even so, people only served Yahweh on the outside but not with their hearts.  And so when Ehud died, they sinned again.

This time, God sent Sisera, the general of king Jabin, to inflict pain on Israel.  A woman named Deborah, wife of Lappidoth, from the tribe of Ephraim, sat under a tree and judged cases for Israel.  She loved the Lord and wanted to do what was right.  The land was under oppression from Jabin and needed a strong warrior to stop Sisera.  She called for Barak from Naphtali.  She said, "God wants you to go fight Sisera."

Barak said he would go, but he would not go unless Deborah went with him.  She said she would go with Barak, but the true victory would belong to the woman. 

And so Barak had a good victory.  But Sisera wandered over to the tent of Heber the Kenite.  The Kenites were the family of Moses's wife.  Jabin's people were not at war with Heber.  Sisera went to his tent.  Jael, the wife of Heber, invited him in. 

Rabbit trail: I lived in Macon, GA from 1990 to 1994.  I was in kindergarten through 3rd grade there.  There was a Sonny's BBQ that later changed its name to JL's.  Whenever I read about Jael I think about JL's.  I don't think JL's is around anymore, but I did like that place once.

Okay, so Jael did not offer Sisera barbecue.  But with pure intentions, he came in and she gave him milk and let him sleep in a blanket.  Somewhere in that time, she got some feeling that she should kill Sisera and so she did.  And that was the end of the war.

Israel had people who loved the Lord and people who loved their passions and followed them via Baal worship. The land was never pure.  Say what you want about women leadership, but the Bible is clear that men should mostly be leaders because although Adam and Eve were equal, God granted Adam headship. 

And I like Deborah.  Deborah was a cool woman with wonderful gifts and blessings from the true God.  But even she realized she needed Barak to lead the army, not herself.  And the fact that Barak wanted to not take full leadership but have Deborah go with him caused Deb to say that he won't get the glory for this victory.  It will go to a woman.  And after this, it seems Deborah was the last really pure judge of Israel as everyone after her, except maybe Jephthah, seemed very compromised in their egos and sexuality. 

It's like when men decide they don't want to be the head of families or God's community, the community slides into more compromise with sin, accepting of "alternative" lifestyles, and more open to shady theology.  Now, don't get me wrong, I like women and honor their leadership, but I also become more complementarian as life goes on and see the lack of true men in society who are willing to lay down their lives for their women and simply want to have fun and feel good.  They have less men to look to as godly examples.  Plus, it's okay to have a binary society.  In fact, God made mankind male and female and it was very good.  It's how life is meant to be. 

Friday, April 13, 2018

Judges: Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar - will the real Savior please stand up? Oh, and Hercules

Caleb has died and the cycle continues.  The Israelites betrayed God and followed the gods of the culture whose worship included recreational sex and child sacrifice.  Sounds a lot like America today.  Then enemies come along to oppress them, they turn back to God, and he sends a judge to save them.  Then they turn away again.  This cycle keeps reminding them, and us, how helpless we are in our sins.  We just love ourselves and our ways way too much and will never turn to God.  And we need a Savior.

Othniel seems like a good candidate.  He's Caleb's nephew/son-in-law and from the tribe of Judah.  He wastes no time in saving the land Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram.  But is he the Savior we're looking for?  No, because he will die and the land will return to their idolatry.

Then king Eglon comes along from Moab to torture the land.  Ehud from the tribe of Benjamin comes along.  He's a southpaw, which is not bad in itself but is superstitiously seen as a curse and was even up until my parents' generation.  He gets the job done of ridding the land of Eglon, but he does it with more trickery.  He goes to Eglon's palace, tells him that he has a message from God, pulls his sword off of his right thigh with his left hand (because Eglon would suspect a sword from the opposite direction), and plunges it into his fat belly in a rather graphic scene.  Eglon's attendants wait to the point of embarrassment and then finally get a key and find out the truth.  Is Ehud the man we're looking for?  No.  He's a jerk and eventually dies.  The Savior will certainly not come from Benjamin.  He'll be more like Othniel from Judah.  He will do his job honestly and directly and not die.

And finally, we have two sentences and no more about Shamgar until Deborah sings about him in chapter 5.  He killed 600 Philistines with an oxgoad.  He has a pretty good write-up here.  I read about this backwoods farmer guy and simply think of Hercules.  I was very much into Kevin Sorbo's Hercules when I was in 5th grade and middle school.  I could see him doing this with very cheesy special effects.  His story was surpassed by Samson who I'm pretty sure the myth of Herc was based on.  Herc was a mix of Samson and Jesus (being a son of a god and all).  Is he the man we seek to save us from our sins?  I mean Jesus is always compared to Melchizedek in Genesis 14 who also makes a brief appearance, then disappears.  No, because Hebrews says that Jesus is a priest FOREVER.  Like Mel and like Shamgar, but FOREVER.  And when he finally comes to finish the job, his people will never turn away again because he's given them his Holy Spirit to grow and guide us.