Today with all that’s happening around us, we need heroes. The whole world is crying out under the weight of this pandemic, and instead of sporting heroes, or wealthy people or actors, our heroes are now common, ordinary folks who are serving a doctors, nurses and first responders.
Not flashy, just getting the job done and caring for others. Heroes are often just ordinary people like you and I who stepped up or stepped out when it was needed.
Last week we looked at a reluctant hero in Gideon, and today I want to check out a not so well known guy with what at the time was considered a disability, who rescued Israel. His name was Ehud, we find the story in Judges 3, and warning, this story is rated R for graphic and excessive violence.
The book of Judges details the nation of Israel after the founding fathers of Moses, Aaron and then Joshua had died. Instead of continuing in the victories of those guys, they fell into an endless cycle of sin, repentance, restoration then sin again. Judges summarises itself this way…
Judges 2:17-19 (ESV Strong’s)
Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they whored after other gods and bowed down to them. They soon turned aside from the way in which their fathers had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the LORD, and they did not do so. Whenever the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them. But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them. They did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways.
Our lives are often like that. We sin, we feel guilty, we finish up in a mess, then we repent, God lovingly restores us, and then we fall again. And in the middle of Israel’s latest instalment of sin and mess, God sends a rescuing judge called Ehud.
STRONGHOLD REVISITED… A BIT OF HISTORY
Moab provided the latest instalment of oppression for the wayward Israelites, with Eglon as their king and Jabba the Hut lookalike. Here’s the crazy thing… Big fat Eglon installed himself where? The city of Palms… Jericho.
Judges 3:13-14 (ESV Strong’s)
He gathered to himself the Ammonites and the Amalekites, and went and defeated Israel. And they took possession of the city of palms. And the people of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years.
Just a few years before the people had marched around Jericho, and saw the walls crash down. It was their first victory in the Promised Land. Now, because of their own selfish, stubborn, sinful behaviour, they lost the city to their arch enemy of the time… The Moabites. What was once a great victory became a stronghold in their lives.
I must confess, I’ve experienced this too. I’ve had great victories in the past, but afterwards became complacent, even arrogant, and self reliant. I’ve experienced this in health, and especially finances, where God’s had to strip away quite painfully these areas I thought I was pretty awesome at, to humble, teach and mould my life to be used by Him. Israel had to retake Jericho.
Moab was of the same racial stock as Israel, descending from Abraham’s nephew Lot and his incestuous relationship with his daughter. Moab had a history of sexual debauchery, and was also responsible for leading the Israelites astray using fleshly pursuits, on the advice of Balaam
Numbers 25:1 (ESV Strong’s)
While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab.
So Moab really represented the flesh. None more so that the grossly obese king Eglon. And for 18 long years the people put up with fat Eglon’s oppression. He stood for excess, lack of restraint and huge oppression for the people.
18 years! How many of us just reach the point of putting up with stuff God doesn’t want us to have. Might be a sickness, or lack of finances, or relationships you know are bad for you, but you just keep persisting in them. We figure it’s our lot in life, it’s what we deserve. But God is ready and waiting to step in and rescue you, if you turn to Him today. Cry out, and God is ready.
ENTER AN UNUSUAL GUY CALLED EHUD
Ehud means union, and God was going to use this left handed man to bring unity and victory to God’s people.
Judges 3:15 (ESV Strong’s)
Then the people of Israel cried out to the LORD, and the LORD raised up for them a deliverer, Ehud, the son of Gera, the Benjaminite, a left-handed man. The people of Israel sent tribute by him to Eglon the king of Moab.
Enter Ehud, described in the text as “a left-handed man”, which can be translated “a man handicapped in the right hand,” which suggests that he was not ambidextrous at all but able to use only his left hand. If the Israelites had been asked to vote on a leader, Ehud probably would have lost on the first ballot.
But Ehud was God’s choice, and God used him and his particular quirk to set the nation free.
If you look back in history, Moses was not very good with words (Ex. 4:10) and Paul was not imposing in his appearance (2 Cor. 10:10), but Moses and Paul, like Ehud, were men of faith who led others to victory. Ehud turned a disability into a possibility because he depended on the Lord.
There were undoubtedly plenty of normal right handed, able bodied men around, so what made God choose to use Ehud? First, his unusual trait of being left handed, or possibly disabled, might seem like a disadvantage, but in the hands if the Lord it became a hidden advantage.
And Ehud’s plan for killing Eglon was a masterpiece of strategy. It’s also a great encouragement to anyone with a physical disability who may have the erroneous idea that God can’t use them in His service. You might look in the mirror and think you’re too disabled, too old, too young, too disadvantaged. By God can see your minuses as pluses for His Kingdom.
We think God only uses talented, skilled people, but He actually uses normal people with all their hangups, disabilities and quirks, if they have a heart after Him. Ehud was such a guy, and he used his unusual characteristic or disability, turning it into an ability others didn’t have in dealing with the king.
What seems like a disadvantage, from our limited perspective, can become a unique advantage when dedicated to the Lord! You are never too shy or too tongue-tied, too young or too old, too dumb or too slow, too unpopular or too “whatever” to be used by God. What you see as a “different to my friends” can be used to make a huge difference in the kingdom of God!
I remember meeting Joni Erickson Tada once in Amsterdam at a Billy Graham conference. This little lady in a wheel chair so touched my life as she has so many, and God has not healed physically her but used her disability to launch an international ministry.
But perhaps a second reason God uses Ehud was that he was a guy who could see circumstances and unique opportunities others could not see.
Moab had enslaved Israel rather than obliterating them, and part of the slavery was for them to bring a tribute, a kind of tax, a fairly large portion of their Gross National Product to the king. Ehud was designated to take that year’s tribute, and in this he saw a unique opportunity.
So what opportunities is God opening for you right now? Everyone else sees lockdowns, isolation, financial ruin, rules and restrictions. But in the middle of this whole mess, God has opportunity, if you have eyes to see it. I mentioned in a Spark recently that the Chinese word for crisis is a combination of 2 words, danger and opportunity. Ehud was a guy who saw through the danger to a unique opportunity, through what others saw as his faults to what God sees as unique possibilities.
EHUD: THE GLORY AND THE GORY
OK, let’s get down to the gory details…
Ehud presented his tribute humble, like a servant, but then claims to have a secret message for the king. And fat Eglon’s curiosity was stirred up. The guards obviously checked every visitor for weapons. But Little Eglon know that they had only checked the left thigh for a sword, and Ehud had an 18 inch double bladed dagger strapped secretly to the other thigh! He looked innocuous enough, right? Here’s what goes down…
Judges 3:19-22 (ESV Strong’s)
But he himself turned back at the idols near Gilgal and said, “I have a secret message for you, O king.” And he commanded, “Silence.” And all his attendants went out from his presence. And Ehud came to him as he was sitting alone in his cool roof chamber. And Ehud said, “I have a message from God for you.” And he arose from his seat. And Ehud reached with his left hand, took the sword from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly. (Now for a few details, just for the more dramatic) And the hilt also went in after the blade, and the fat closed over the blade, for he did not pull the sword out of his belly; and the dung came out.
Graphic, gross, and I bet Hollywood could make a great movies about this, special effects and all! Sword disappears into the fat guy’s, well, fat! The Bible doesn’t hold back. Ehud skewers the king, then takes off out the back door, leaving a dead king, a pile of seeping dung and some confused attendants.
Judges 3:24-26 (ESV Strong’s)
When he had gone, the servants came, and when they saw that the doors of the roof chamber were locked, they thought, “Surely he is relieving himself in the closet of the cool chamber.” And they waited till they were embarrassed. But when he still did not open the doors of the roof chamber, they took the key and opened them, and there lay their lord dead on the floor.
Ehud escaped while they delayed,
And then Ehud rallies the troops to becomes the leader and judge God had destined him to be. He blows the trumpet and gathers forces to defeat these Moabites…saying,
Judges 3:28 (ESV Strong’s)
And he said to them, “Follow after me, for the LORD has given your enemies the Moabites into your hand.” So they went down after him and seized the fords of the Jordan against the Moabites and did not allow anyone to pass over.
Judges 3:30 (ESV Strong’s)
So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land had rest for eighty years.
IT’S TIME YOU BECAME A HERO LIKE EHUD?
When God needed a hero, Ehud had a heart after God and, despite his unusual traits or what may have been a disability, he stepped up when he was needed, and he conquered the enemy. He didn’t focus in his shortcomings or disabilities, he focused on his God, and believed that God could use his lack of normalcy as a distinct advantage, ushering in 80 years of peace for his people.
Ehud used a sword to fight the enemy… So can we! He used an 18 inch, double bladed sword, but we also have a double bladed sword…
Hebrews 4:12 (ESV Strong’s)
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Eglon the king represents flesh, and loads of it. We all face a battle with lusts of our flesh. We all face the temptation to demand what we want when we want it. The flesh is always demanding, it says get it now, by any means possible. But we all have access to a secret weapon like Ehud, a double edged sword that is sharp and pierces to the dividing of soul and spirit, joints and marrow… The Word of God.
PICK UP YOUR SWORD OF THE SPIRIT
God’s Word is like a sharp sword that cuts into our innermost being in order to discern whether our thoughts and intentions are worthy or unworthy, spiritual or unspiritual. Like a surgeon’s scalpel, it cuts away the spiritual corruption and fleshly leanings from our lives and brings healing and life to those who submit to the Word in faith. Yet, like a warrior’s sword, God’s Word brings judgment and destruction on those who openly turn from and defy it.
The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.
God’s Word can penetrate our lives and inner beings so precisely that it discerns and defines the obscure dividing line between “soul” and “spirit.”
“Soul” (Gk psyche) refers to our inner life aside from our spiritual experience–our life in relation to ourselves (i.e., our emotions, thoughts, desires, choices, will, etc.) “Spirit” (Gk pneuma) here means the human spirit; in the NT this refers to the spiritual dimension of our being–our life in relation to God.
Romans 8:10 (ESV Strong’s)
But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
God’s Word awakens and strengthens His life in our spirits, and it exposes our own “soulishness” (i.e., our own motives and desires), especially when one part conflicts with the other.
The Gospel is not that Jesus came to make bad men good, but to make dead men live.
I can’t conquer the flesh, you can’t beat the soul and it’s demands, only Jesus can empower us to live a life of victory. And when we know and obey only Christ, the sword of the Spirit becomes our weapon of choice. We have to read God’s Word and listen for His rhema word into our spirits.
So whoever you are, whatever your quirk, disabilities, hangups or history, you have access to the same sword. God’s Word.
As we come out of lockdowns, I believe there will be a whole lot of flesh going on in the world. The pressure of the lockdown has caused pain and strain on people and relationships, and some will just respond by launching out into selfish, self centred, flesh driven behaviour.
But we can each become an Ehud, placing God’s Word in our spirits, reading it, learning it, living it. In this next few months, while the world goes crazy to satisfy it’s flesh, we can stand holy and true serving the Lord with our spiritual swords.
This morning God is looking for Ehuds. He is searching for those who take their eyes off their shortcomings and deficiencies, their disabilities and hangups and place them on Jesus alone. He is looking for those who will read God’s Word, obey it, live it and trust Jesus, no matter the cost and no matter the consequences.
2 Chronicles 16:9 (NIV-WS)
For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.
Give Him your life fully now, as broken, disabled, hurting, or messed up as it might be, because God is searching for and has great plans for those fully committed to Him