Summary: After a short story based on Judges 3 to introduce the text, this sermon notes how God uses unexpected leaders and how God's leaders overturn idols.
In an attempt to capture some of the drama of this passage, I want to attempt something different as an introduction to the text. I hope you’ll follow along in your Bibles when I get to the meat of the sermon, but I thought I’d introduce the sermon by reading a short story I’ve written. Hopefully, this will give the sermon something of the feeling of Old Time Radio where the story was told in words. Here goes:
The perspiration forming small rivulets down Ehud’s back had little to do with the heat. If these guards were as conscientious as they were supposed to be, the Israelite assassin might be in the shadowy realm of the dead long before his target. He prayed his sweat would not smell like fear. Even with his atrophied right hand, he expected the Moabites to search him for weapons. He hoped his special sword, lacking the bold hilt of the usual Israelite sword, wouldn’t be obvious under his robes. Self-consciously, he glanced at the bag of silver and gold coins strapped to his right side—tribute money for King Eglon. He rattled the coins a little to make sure he caught the guards’ attention. They knew he was there to bring the Israelite tribute to the greedy Moabite king. Maybe they would assume that no one would strap a sword underneath a bag of coins.
Of course, Ehud was wagering on another factor, too. Maybe the guards would be overconfident enough not to look on his right hip. Right-handers were used to reaching across their bodies to draw their swords from their left sides; it was too awkward to draw from the same side as your sword hand. In fact, drawing across one’s body offered a chance for an immediate parry if one was swift enough. Even looking at his right hand, relatively useless for holding a sword or much else, the guards wouldn’t normally be thinking of a left-handed swordsman. He saw one of the guards eyeing the bag of coins and simultaneously sneering at Ehud’s weak “sword” arm.
But Ehud winced when the guard smiled slyly and offered to take the bag of coins to King Eglon, himself. Ehud couldn’t just outright object to that plan; that would be tantamount to accusing the guard of planning to steal the tribute money. He immediately realized that the guard wouldn’t have made such a suggestion unless the Moabite had already judged him to be weak and unarmed. The truth was, Ehud’s weakness was deceptive. As a lefty, he had humiliated many of the best sword arms in Israel and he was certain he could take down this complacent guard along with his equally bored companion. But, if he did so, the original plan would be foiled. The plan depended upon subterfuge and subtlety, and Ehud determined to stick with the plan.
“How very kind of you,” said the Hebrew spy. “I’ve heard of your king’s fierce temper and battle-hardened reflexes. There is little I would like better than to avoid an audience with the conqueror of our nation when I bring such a small token from my people. But don’t you think King Eglon would be angry if Israel’s representative failed to submit to him in person? I can well imagine our Lord Eglon’s penalty for such a disrespectful courier snubbing his worthy presence. I’m sure he would send you and another dozen soldiers after me for the sole purpose of cleaving my insolent head from my body.”
He could see the guard had no immediate answer for that torrent of words. The Moabite had merely gambled on Ehud’s weakness and hadn’t expected resistance. As though his words were a series of sword-thrusts, Ehud struck again before the Moabite could recover his defenses. “In addition, I have been charged by our elders to bring a word for His Eminence’s ears only, a mysterious message from our God Himself. I’m very certain King Eglon will want to hear this and, lest you worry that it is bad news that will put him in a foul temper, I assure that I am unafraid of him beheading the messenger.”
Ehud hoped he had countered all of the guard’s objections. He was thankful that the other guard was silent and sullen, letting his partner take the lead. He could almost read the silent guard’s thoughts, obviously resenting the fact that his partner had wanted to keep some of the tribute for himself and angry he hadn’t thought of it first. The sullen guard stayed in position as the more loquacious one led the way through the double doors and into the roof garden.
The roof was surrounded by plants and trees of all descriptions. Ehud considered that the water needed to keep these plants alive for a week would keep a Hebrew family in water for a month…or longer. But many of the plants and trees had such large leaves that Ehud noticed there was shade covering the roof from nearly any angle. The king sat in the densest part of the shade, drinking from a large horn and had obviously just dismissed a small rat-faced man with an armful of clay tablets and broken pottery with writing on them. Ehud made his obeisance, as distasteful as it was.