EHUD: "EH – WHO?"
Read at beginning of service:
Colossian 2:6-10 (NIV)
6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. 9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.
Today, I am continuing the series "Who’s That: Stories of Little Known people in the Bible". I must confess, I have heard many positive comments from some of you regarding the messages I’ve spoken. It is always an encouragement to know when people are eagerly anticipating hearing what I have to say. But at the same time I am humbled by the impact these messages have had in my own life as well – for I know that they aren’t anything I have come up with but what God has granted through me.
Truly the folks we have looked at so far have taught us a lot: Lot, and his compromises; Nadab and Abihu and their strange fire; and Rahab and her simple faith. They certainly are not unknown in my mind anymore!
Today we’re going to look at the story of an underdog. I guess these kinds of stories tend to be popular don’t they? When an unknown, unlikely, and overmatched individual goes up against the big guys and wins, we all take pleasure in the accomplishment, don’t we? I think we love these stories because we see ourselves as underdogs. It gives us hope and motivation if someone like us has a great victory! Today we’re going to looking at one such underdog in the book of Judges.
There is a negative side to this book. The verse found in Judges 17:6 kind of characterizes this:
Judges 17:6 (NIV)
6 In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.
Joshua had led the nation of Israel into the land, defeating 31 kings in the process, but in Judges, Israel suffered great failure. The people did not drive the enemies out of the land. Another generation had arisen that "did not know the Lord nor the work He had done." The nation experienced this cycle of slavery time and time again.
But there is a positive side to this book too. God raised up judges, men and women of faith, unknown and unlikely heroes, who led Israel out of bondage. Today, we’re going to examine the story of one of these people… Judges 3:12-31 (NIV)
12 Once again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, and because they did this evil the LORD gave Eglon king of Moab power over Israel. 13 Getting the Ammonites and Amalekites to join him, Eglon came and attacked Israel, and they took possession of the City of Palms. 14 The Israelites were subject to Eglon king of Moab for eighteen years. 15 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. The Israelites sent him with tribute to Eglon king of Moab. 16 Now Ehud had made a double-edged sword about a foot and a half long, which he strapped to his right thigh under his clothing. 17 He presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab, who was a very fat man. 18 After Ehud had presented the tribute, he sent on their way the men who had carried it. 19 At the idols near Gilgal he himself turned back and said, "I have a secret message for you, O king." The king said, "Quiet!" And all his attendants left him. 20 Ehud then approached him while he was sitting alone in the upper room of his summer palace and said, "I have a message from God for you." As the king rose from his seat, 21 Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king’s belly. 22 Even the handle sank in after the blade, which came out his back. Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in over it. 23 Then Ehud went out to the porch; he shut the doors of the upper room behind him and locked them. 24 After he had gone, the servants came and found the doors of the upper room locked. They said, "He must be relieving himself in the inner room of the house." 25 They waited to the point of embarrassment, but when he did not open the doors of the room, they took a key and unlocked them. There they saw their lord fallen to the floor, dead. 26 While they waited, Ehud got away. He passed by the idols and escaped to Seirah. 27 When he arrived there, he blew a trumpet in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went down with him from the hills, with him leading them. 28 "Follow me," he ordered, "for the LORD has given Moab, your enemy, into your hands." So they followed him down and, taking possession of the fords of the Jordan that led to Moab, they allowed no one to cross over. 29 At that time they struck down about ten thousand Moabites, all vigorous and strong; not a man escaped. 30 That day Moab was made subject to Israel, and the land had peace for eighty years. 31 After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad. He too saved Israel.
In this particular story we find a cycle that repeats itself throughout the book of Judges. It has been labeled by some, rightly so, as the cycle of sin. Apostasy, is the first stage: the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord (v.12). In other words they forgot God and turned away from Him to other fleshly and sinful pursuits. They replace their worship of God with worship of false idols and other false gods.
The second stage is servitude: God sold the Israelites into the hands of Eglon, king of Moab. In this stage of the cycle of sin Israel was under God’s judgement for their apostasy. If you remember from our study of Lot, Moab was his son by an incestuous relationship with his eldest daughter. (The Moabites lived across the Jordan to the south of Israel.) Israel served Eglon for 18 years.
Then, we see the third stage that is supplication (v.15). The Israelites cried out to the Lord.
And, finally came the last stage – salvation: God raised up a deliverer named Ehud. This deliverer came to Gilgal to present his tribute to Eglon, and killed him in the process. Ehud blew a trumpet, and all of Israel joined in the fight as he led a rout of the Moabites.
At first look, Ehud does not seem like the kind of character you would want to emulate. And this particular passage of scripture is one that some people might not want their children studying in detail! But then as you look closer you begin to find that Ehud is really a tremendous character.
He was the son of Gera, a Benjamite. We also know some things about his make-up. He must have been a prominent individual because he was given the responsibility of taking the tribute to present to Eglon. And he must have been courageous, because he was willing to go it alone. Unlike the Terminator or Rambo, he didn’t go in with a lot of heavy artillery. All he took was a double-edged, 13-inch dagger. Ehud was a military strategist. He plotted to kill Eglon, to get him alone, to tantalize him with something very special. And he had an escape route planned. Then, he was able to rally all of Israel. Instead of attacking the city he went down to the Jordan because he knew the Moabites were going to retreat across the river into their own country. There is where he headed them off, and the Israelites killed 10,000 Moabites, all robust, mighty men.
Today, I want to make some observations about this man Ehud that I believe can be applied to our lives.
Ehud wasn’t afraid to confront the enemy (sin, flesh represented in Eglon)You can’t read the book of judges without talking about sin. For instance, sin can grow to an obese state. We see this in Eglon, the king of Moab. If you let sin go unchecked, it just grows, and it can become terribly fat. And sin is ugly. I think the story of Ehud has tremendous shock value. We can try to justify sin, we can paint it pretty colors, we can deny its importance or relevance, but when we look at it for what it is, its just plain ugly. And it is not easy to kill. It doesn’t go away by ignoring it. It must be faced head-on – like Ehud takes on Eglon – even if it is gory and disgusting.
We also learn in this story that people are content to stay enslaved for a long period of time. It took Israel eighteen years before they cried out to the Lord. WE have to ask ourselves, why did they wait so long? Why do we wait so long when we become addicted to patterns of sin? Perhaps because we’re afraid or ashamed to face the reality or the ugliness of these patterns and addictions. Maybe we feel we’re going to lose something we enjoy too much. Or maybe we’re content to remain where we are and our misery becomes comfortable.But we have a Redeemer, a Savior, a Deliverer whose name is Jesus, and he saves us from the dominion and power of sin in our lives. Whether it’s been eight years or 18 years, we can cry out to the Lord today. We can turn away from sin and he will begin to free us from our enslavement to patterns and addictions.
Then we see the result of coming to Christ, of turning away from our idols and having him deliver us. The result is rest and peace. After Ehud judged Israel, there was rest in the land for 80 years. Paul writes that the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23). Sin makes us miserable; it robs us of our sense of joy and well-being. But God gives us new life in Christ and gives us rest from our enslavement to sin.
Ehud accepted his potential in God’s eyesThe second observation we can make about Ehud comes after noticing the number of references in the text to the fact that Ehud was left-handed. The literal translation of this particular phrase is "hindered in the right hand". Twice the text says that he put the sword on his right side because he was left-handed. Ehud, we know, came from the tribe of Benjamin, a name that means "son of my right hand" – a term of strength. But the text is clear: Ehud was left-handed. He was "hindered in the right hand," meaning, he was weak and physically limited. He was an awkward man – "gauche", as the French would say. I believe that this phrase isn’t merely pointing to the fact that Ehud used his left hand more than his right but that he couldn’t use his right hand for some unspecified reason.
Ehud was an unlikely hero; a man who was handicapped and not well known. He was an underdog, an obscure person, a man whom God chose to use to his glory.
Ehud could very easily have dwelt on his disability and doubted his value to God. He could very easily had passed on the opportunity of taking the tribute to Eglon and hence passing up the opportunity to deal with him. Ehud could have doubted and said, "How could God possibly use me?" But no, he didn’t. Ehud accepted his potential in God’s eyes. He rested in his value to God.
We encounter these people all throughout the book of Judges. What we have here are underdogs, obscure people, men and women whom God chose to use to his glory. Look a little bit later into the era of Israel’s first kings and you read the story of David, an unlikely hero – who defeated Goliath. The prophet Samuel looked at all the brothers in the family, and David was the last one—but he was the one God wanted to use.
Jesus was a most unlikely hero. Isaiah says,
Isaiah 53:2-3 (NIV)
2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Yet Jesus accomplished the single most important act in history: He died for our sins, thus becoming the greatest hero of all. No one recognized him when he came upon the scene. There was no red carpet, no fanfare. An unlikely hero.
Now here we are in Christ. We, too, might feel like underdogs; that we don’t have the right credentials. Our family background is not good enough, we think. We feel we’re too ordinary. But our text tells us that God can use us in amazing ways. This room is filled with possible Ehuds. It doesn’t matter what your family background is. It doesn’t matter if you’re limited in some capacity. God sees you as very much more than ordinary. He takes each one of us from our different backgrounds, with our different talents and our different gifts, and he molds us uniquely into a representation of himself. We don’t have to look alike. He uses us, each one of us, in unique ways. And God is excited about how he wants to use you!
The miracle of Christianity is when God takes someone ordinary, someone just like you and me, and uses him o her to his glory. He doesn’t heal all the problems or the handicaps at first. The miracle is, he uses us when we’re limited. This is how he used Ehud. He takes a life that the world discards and uses it to his glory. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:27
1 Corinthians 1:27 (NIV)
27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
Sometimes it takes only one person to motivate many to righteousness. That’s what happened in Ehud’s case. He was willing to go on the attack first, but then he blew the trumpet and all of Israel joined in the battle, routing the enemy!
There may be just one person here this morning who wants to influence his or her generation for Jesus Christ. We live in similar times to the book of Judges, don’t we? Everyone "does what is right in his own eyes." Our world is coming apart at the seams. Immorality and tolerance for sin is running rampant. But then there are the Ehuds. People who are willing to do whatever God wants them to do – using whatever God has given them to use. Do you believe that about yourself? Do you believe that God can use you in these ways, that you’re valuable and important to him and that you can make a difference?A little boy was heard talking to himself as he walked across the backyard, baseball cap in place, ball and bat in his hands. "I am the greatest hitter in the world," he said. He threw the ball up, swung and missed. "Strike one," he said. But again, he told himself, "I am the greatest hitter ever." He threw the ball up again, swung and missed. He looked at the ball, and at the bat, and said, "I’m the greatest hitter that ever lived." He threw the ball up again and swung and missed a third time. This time he said, "Wow! Strike three! What a pitcher! I’m the greatest pitcher in the world!"God thinks you’re great at something. I may not be what you envisioned, but you’re great in his eyes. He sees your heart; he knows your potential. He will take you, with your limitations and weaknesses, and use you to his glory. But are you willing, like Ehud did, to accept your potential in God’s eyes?
Ehud had unreserved faith in and recognition of the ability and resources of God.
The third observation we can make about Ehud and apply to our lives falls closely on the heels of the second. It concerns the resources to do what God wants us to accomplish. What allowed Ehud to have the victory, to serve God and to be used by God, was not his own strength, but his faith in God. What was it that Ehud said to Eglon? "I have a message from God for you" (v. 20). Certainly, this gained the ear of the king but it was also something Ehud firmly believed in – the message was the sword and the sword was God’s swift judgment on Eglon and deliverance from the Moabites. But then listen carefully to Ehud’s words to the Israelites when calling them to battle,
Judges 3:28 (NIV)
28 "Follow me," he ordered, "for the LORD has given Moab, your enemy, into your hands." So they followed him down and, taking possession of the fords of the Jordan that led to Moab, they allowed no one to cross over.
Ehud did not take any credit for anything but gave God all the glory. He recognized and had faith in the ability and resources of God at work in his life.
The thing that allows us to have victory in our lives, to serve God and to be used by God, is not our own strength, or our list of credentials, but it is our faith in God through Christ. Paul writes,
2 Corinthians 3:5 (NIV)
5 Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.
In the church of Jesus Christ we don’t need more knowledge, more programs or more degrees. What we need is simple faith and trust in God. WE need to believe that God is alive today and that as we step out in faith – He, not us, will be for us the power and strength to do what He wants to do!
We live in a world where success is measured by degrees, by credentials, by climbing the ladder, by financial wealth, by popular fame. This is how the world views effectiveness and importance. But its not so in the kingdom of God. What God requires is faith and faith alone. This is why he chooses the weak and the limited – because he can’t use the proud. Did you hear me? This is why he chooses the weak and the limited – because He can’t use the PROUD! When we are weak then we are willing to trust in him, and then he can use us. The people who are handicapped and limited are rich in faith. They have the great resources in God made available to them. This is why he uses the weak, like Ehud, to topple the proud. Hudson Taylor once said, "God is sufficient for God’s work…God chose me because I was weak enough. God does not do his great works by large committees. He trains someone to be quiet enough and little enough, and then he uses him."
Our text this morning encourages us in three ways. First, we need to be willing to confront areas of sin in our lives, even if they are ugly. When we do this, we can enter into God’s rest.
Second, we need to see how valuable we are in God’s eyes. No matter how weak or limited we might feel, we are capable of great things for God.
Third, we need to remember that it is unreserved faith in the strength and grace of our living God that will enable us to do what he wants us to do. We may be weak, but He is strong!
This sermon was preached by Darren Ethier at Hanover Pentecostal Church on August 12, 2001. This message is Part 4 of the sermon series: Who’s That: Stories of little known people of the Bible!. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, Copyright © 1873, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.