Looking at heroes of the faith today—brave missionaries, eloquent pastors, wise ministry leaders—it can be easy to play the comparison game and think, “I will never be good enough to do the amazing things these people are doing for God’s Kingdom.”
But, if any one of these people were asked, chances are they would say that they also don’t feel worthy of the task they have been called to.
As it turns out, most of the people who became great leaders and missionaries for God are not the kind of people others would expect God to raise up. This is evident in the first few judges the Lord chose to deliver the Israelites after the death of Joshua.
Time and time again, God chose the least likely people to lead and save His chosen nation in the Promised Land.
“Again the Israelites cried out to the Lord, and he gave them a deliverer—Ehud, a left-handed man, the son of Gera the Benjamite.” -Judges 3:15a
The first judge God raised up was Othniel of the tribe of Judah. Judah was the largest of Israel’s tribes, and its people were known for being warriors. It was no surprise that the Lord chose Othniel.
And then there was Ehud. He was from the tribe of Benjamin, one of the smallest tribes of Israel. On top of that, he was left-handed. There is nothing wrong with being left-handed, but throughout history, there has been a stigma with left-handed people. They were often viewed as cursed or were accused of witchcraft or being servants of the devil. (Ironically, Benjamin in Hebrew can be translated as “son of my right hand.”)
So, God chose a left-handed man from one of the smallest tribes to deliver the Israelites from the king of Moab. Regardless of what others may have thought of Ehud, the Lord gave him favor. Ehud’s left-handedness didn’t stop him from killing King Eglon and defeating the Moabites. Through Ehud’s leadership, the Israelites had peace for 80 years.
“After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad. He too saved Israel.” -Judges 3:31
This is the only verse in the Bible that gives any information about Shamgar, but much can be inferred from these two sentences.
Shamgar was a son of Anath, which likely refers to the Canaanite warrior goddess Anath. This indicates that Shamgar was not an Israelite but a Canaanite. The Israelites were supposed to drive out the Canaanites from the Promised Land, but many tribes instead allowed them to live among them and subjected them to forced labor. This was disobedient to the Lord and led many of the Israelites to worship other gods.
If he was a Canaanite, Shamgar was essentially an enemy of God. And yet he likely feared the Lord because God chose him to save Israel. This is also the only time in the Bible an oxgoad is mentioned. It is a long wooden tool with a spike at the end to prod oxen. It was not a traditional weapon of war, but it is what Shamgar used to single-handedly kill 600 Philistines.
Shamgar’s lineage and resources did not stop him from being one of Israel’s deliverers.
“Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, now that Ehud was dead. So the Lord sold them into the hands of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. … Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time.” -Judges 4:1-2a, 4
Deborah is one of the most well-known judges of Israel—in part because her story is one of the longest in the book of Judges and also because she was a woman. Today, female leadership can be an anomaly, and that was even more so the case in the time of judges.
Deborah was one of the godliest judges and was well-respected. Though she was not a military leader, Barak asked her to go to battle with him. Together, they led 10,000 men against the Canaanite army and succeeded. Deborah proved that God can use both men and women for His purposes.
Stigma, lineage, and gender did not stop God from raising up these three judges. They were unlikely leaders, but God gave them favor. Many more leaders were raised up to save Israel, and some of them had serious shortcomings.
All of this shows that success in a mission is not determined by a person’s ability but by God’s. We cannot boast in our strength when it is God who provides the victory. Even the least likely people can do incredible things for God’s Kingdom.
Learn more about God's heart for you in the Great Commission.