We are told very little about Shammah and Bible commentaries generally refer only fleetingly to this Old Testament character. Yet his name is preserved in the Word of God for a purpose and there are some vital lessons that we can learn from the record of his life. The chapter in which Shammah's name is found lists David's "mighty men" whose exploits are recalled at the end of the life of Israel's illustrious king. Shammah is the third man to be mentioned. He lived at a time when the cruel enemies of God's people (the Philistines) were making inroads into Israel's territory. He was a Hararite, which means a mountaineer. This suggests that his ancestors lived in the hills perhaps having been forced there by earlier Philistine oppression. Shammah's own name means ruin, and by implication it can mean distress or dismay. It seems very likely therefore that Shammah had been born at a time of great difficulty when the Philistines were oppressing the people of God. The Israelites could well have been living in constant fear of the marauding armies.
As Shammah appears on the scene, the Philistines were mounting another attack. The enemy presented a united front, being “gathered together into a troop,” as yet again they invaded Israel’s territory. God’s people were all too familiar with this kind of situation and simply “fled from the Philistines.” Some past attacks may have been thwarted, but this latest one looked well organized and was too much for the Israelites to contemplate. But one man stood his ground alone. Shammah would not flee with the rest! Bravely he took his stand right “in the midst” of the ground. Why was he prepared to be different and take this lone stand?
What Shammah Knew
Shammah recognized something that nobody else seemed to remember. The land that the Philistines had entered was not theirs but belonged to Israel! The God of heaven had given the land to their forefathers centuries before. It was His and it was not to be surrendered! Lentils had been eaten at least since Jacob’s day (Gen.25:34). Someone had planted and tended that crop. Was it to be lost to the Philistines as well? Were they simply to trample upon it as they took possession of the territory or would they be allowed to exploit someone else’s labors and enjoy the harvest themselves? As far as Shammah was concerned, it was unthinkable! Bravely he took his stand to defend that ground because he appreciated its value.
We are living at a time when many precious things are being regarded as cheap. Liberties to worship God have been won, precious doctrines have been uncovered, and God’s people possess a rich and priceless heritage. Enemies today threaten to rob us of these prized possessions. Many treat sacred truth lightly and think nothing of allowing the trends of the world to find a welcome in the church. Others see no harm in ecumenical ventures and are unaware of the peril of joining forces with those whose beliefs and practices deny the truths of Scripture. We need men and women of God today who will value their heritage and take that lone stand for the glory of God.
In Shammah’s case “the Lord wrought a great victory.” Without regard for his own safety, he stood his ground right at the center of the field. As he defended the land single-handedly, he “slew the Philistines” who had tried to dispossess him. What a great victory was wrought that day! It was great because it resulted from the courage and the commitment of one man; and because the enemy did not prevail. Superhuman strength was given to God’s “man for the moment.” Ultimately, the victory was traced to what the LORD had done!
To Be Like Shammah
For Shammah, more than a field of lentils was at stake. The challenge for all believers is this: Are the things of God precious to us? In this day of spiritual compromise and cheapness are we prepared to take our stand for Him? If we, like Shammah, are ready to defend His interests He will use us to win great victories in His name.
By Martin Girard
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org