Ehud: The left-handed judge
Who was Ehud, also known as the left-handed judge? And what lessons can we learn from his story? On this sermon, pastor David takes us through the incredible (and graphic) account of the life of Ehud, the second judge of Israel, whom God used to deliver Israel from the pagan king Eglon.
We're continuing in our series on um on judges this morning and in just a few moments I'm going to read this passage of scripture which is up here by the way if you've um last week when we started talking about Judges we distributed this um this outline which uh uh Jason brought it to our attention and so encourage you to bring that each week you'll give you some idea where we're up to and if you weren't here last week there might still be some at the door or certainly we can email you the link to um to where you get it uh can download it so I'm going to read this uh passage of scripture I just want to give you a bit of a warning before I read it is it's a pretty graphic passage um it's a bit of violence and uh blood and uh things like that in it and and um it's not really the sort of thing that um you want to read necessarily to your kids as a bedtime story um and it's probably not a really good time to read it just before lunch as well but I just want to just give you some warning about this is what the passage is about but when I get to preaching it we're not going to focus on those areas okay so um so you can feel a bit relaxed in that way if uh if you're a bit squirmish Judges chapter 3 and we're reading from verse 12-30 goes this way 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 getting the ammonites and the amalekites to join him eglon came and attacked Israel and they took possession of the city of Palms um we've actually got the Palms family here today um not sure whether the city was named after you you no it wasn't nothing to do with them the Israelites were subject to iglon the king of Moab for 18 years again the Israelites cried out to the Lord and he gave them a deliverer a deliverer Ehud a left-handed man the son of Gira the benjamite the Israelites sent him with tributes to iglon King of Moab now Ehud had made a double-edged sword about a foot and a half long your Bible may say a cubit if you're used to the old money a foot and a half if you're younger than um whatever that in centim is about 45 cm they made a double-edged sword about a foot and a half long which he strapped to his right thigh under his clothing he presented the tribute to EG king of Moab who was a very fat man after Ehud had presented the tribute he sent uh he sent on their way the men who had carried it at the idols near gilgal he himself turned back and said I've have a secret message for you O King The King said quiet and all his attendants left him eood 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 he had reached with his left hand drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king's belly even the handle sank in there after the blade which came out his back eood did not pull the sword out and the fat closed in over it then Ehud went out to the porch he shut the doors of the upper room behind him and locked them after he'd 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 they wanted or 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 while they waited he had got away he passed by the idols and escaped to Syra then 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 follow me he ordered for the Lord has given Moab your enemy into your hand 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 at that time they struck down about 10,000 moabites all vigorous and strong not a man escaped that day Moab was made subject to Israel and the land had peace for 80 years nice story well there's a lot of good things in here uh hand up all the left-handed people in the church okay we're praying for you folk um hand up if you're left-handed and when you're at school um you were sort of whacked on the cross the knuckles or certainly encouraged to change over to the right hand okay a few um oh thank you I'd be lost without my not would I um I think I think eood is the only person in the Bible that's mentioned that is Left-Handed not somebody else okay well certainly St eh Hood could be your patron saint if you're left-handed folk as we approach this subject we just want to think about some of the issues in this passage and uh firstly I want us just to acknowledge that there's a lot of graphic detail in this uh in this story and so much so that sometimes people in um sometimes crit criticizing the Bible talk about all this graphic detail in there why is it there and I just wanted to acknowledge this and say this is that the Bible always um approaches and deals with the very stuff of life um there's no gloss crossing over difficult issues but the Bible deals with it secondly there's killing in here and um and so uh how can we uh how do we address this whole area of killing what do we do with this in the Bible especially when the um when the the one of the Ten Commandment says you shall not kill and so uh so people say well he come particularly in the Old Testament there's so much killing which seems not only to be approved by God but um actually commanded by God now that's a separate topic on its own as a sermon and so we don't have time to deal with it all I just want to just point out this which may be a step along the way to help um you see that I've written there that the Bible distinguishes between murder and killing I'm going to teach you Hebrew word today which I reckon about 90% of you will not forget this word okay so when it says about kill and when it talks about murder the Hebrew which the old testament's written in Hebrew the Hebrew actually has two different words the Hebrew word what going say normal killing is there such a thing uh but the more General word for killing is uh is a Hebrew word Cartal um if you're writing it they write from right to left and it looks like this and you put your pointings in after that and this is the word that you won't forget probably but the Hebrew word for murder is rat sack true story probably the pronunciation is a little bit different but uh but that's how how it's it's spilt it's looks like and certainly when I was Hebrew and learning our vocabulary um I could always remember murder is ratsack cartel is just the other word for killing so when the Ten Commandments says Thou shalt not kill which word do you think it's using there it's using ratsack Thou shalt not rat sack and um and so Thou shalt not murder and so even just that um itself helps us to understand something about that um we we also have to think very carefully about these sorts of things too um You probably or most of you will be aware that I spent seven years in the Army and um and let me say never a hero um uh I lived when I was in the army with the time of Peace never went overseas uh went over to French island for the victorians on an exercise once but um but never went overseas never saw any action or anything like that however still had to learn how to use a pistol how to use a rifle how to use a submachine gun how to throw grenades had to learn uh by the way our targets and things like that were not the nice fancy round uh things full of different colors but they're always silhouettes of people that uh we had to aim that and there were particular areas where we told where we had to aim um we also had to uh learn how to fix bayet and how to use a bayet in close quarter combat if ever that was required and so let me assure you that um I guess every Soldier and certainly I did even in the training has to stop and think well what's what's my attitude in this and as a Christian to think about well if ever I'm called upon to go to war as as a lot of Christians are have been still art and serving overseas and whatever um what's the attitude in all this this it say this is going to be a topic for another day but it's a very very serious topic and as I say just the the Bible distinguishing between murder and killing is one way of uh is is one aspect which is helpful for us to understand the third thing about the issue In this passage is the consequences and we need to fully understand that the consequences of Disobedience to God are always severe um let's not Overlook that let's understand that very clearly and sometimes the consequences are are immediate but sometimes the consequences deferred or delayed but to understand that every person has ever lived that one day that we're all going to stand before the Lord Jesus and give an account of our lives and to realize there are consequences and the primary consequence is or the question is what have you done with the Lord Jesus in your life and to understand that and that's a very very very serious question to realize this is that the way that we treat Jesus now is the way that he'll treat us then so if we accept him now he'll accept us then if we reject him now he'll reject us then so there are three issues which we need to understand quickly let's just recap on some things in judges the period of the judges covers the period of time from around 14400 to about 1050 BC last week we looked at othneil who is the uh the nephew of of Kaleb Joshua and Caleb leading people in the promised land so it's from that generation below that through to the beginning of the Kings key words and phrases and there are many here but I'll just limit it to two again did Evil the Israelites again did evil but the Lord and once again we we focus on this the Lord the Lord and as we pointed out last week about the the one thing which which just comes through again and again in judges is this whole aspect of the patience of God and the grace of God which just every time I read these passages and spending more time in studying this story this week just again and again is is it how can the children of Israel continue to be so disobedient again did evil but the Lord the Lord came to the rescue so the main message I think is not about people not about the judges but about God's faithfulness about his grace and Redemption but one observation which I make is this is that without the judges people are left on their own it just reveals what people can really be like and uh I think it's uh towards the end of the judges which we'll get to that somewhere along the line it says uh the time they did not have a king and the and the people of Israel were evil did everything what was right in their own eyes last week we talked about the cycle and if you've got your diagram it's uh the cycle is down here which recurs again and again and uh and we see this cycle coming out here so the first thing in this cycle that we're looking at is sin so we read in verse 12 again the Israelites did Evil the oppression which came as a punishment of sin the lord gave Egon Power by the way if you've been really observant you'll see the couple of times I've used the word Lord It's capital L capital O capital r capital D in your Bible it'll be that as well um there's good reason for that when you see small L small o r d it's just means sir when you see capital L small o r d it's talking about God but still that word sir but when you see the capital L capital O capital r capital D it's translating the word Yahweh which is the name of God so whenever you see the capitals there and I for consistency I've used it here is that Yahweh God his personal name uh gave Egon power this uh evil King but then repentance came again the Israelites cried out verse 15 Deliverance God gave them a deliverer so this is eood in verse 15 and then at the end of that passage which we read is that the land had peace for 80 years it's not a bad Innings is it a good time for for a lot of Peace So In this passage there are two key people we're talking about King eglon and we're talking about Judge eood so they the two main characters there are other people uh we're aware but it's focusing on these two so let's look at King eglon so as I say we're not going to go into a lot of detail in all of this because there are other things that want to cover and you can study some of this yourself so here's about King Egon so he's the Pagan King used by God to punish Israel Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord and God said okay eglon you can have free Reign Over the Israel so he formed Med an alliance with other nations there um king of getting the ammonites and the amalekites and he was a moabit so the three uh armies of these three places went in and conquered Israel and it says there they conquered the city of Palms which uh which is Jericho which in the desert that Jericho is in the Oasis so it particularly points out and it probably sets up this place that uh Egon goes in conquering takes over the city of Pals this Oasis in the middle of the desert which becomes the party headquarters it would seem to uh for for eglon and Co and so his weight as you reading in verse 17 suggests that he lived the party life um that uh that he put on weight considerable so he went from a king this mean lean Mighty fighting machine in leading the armies in to fight Israel to uh to have the victory setting up in this Oasis the city of Pals or Jericho to where 18 years later he's changed from this mean lean fighting machine to eat drink and be merry and it showed here in uh it's it's implicit here that uh this is what 18 years years of party life did to did to eglon and so for this period as it says there in verse 14 is that for 18 years he had uh he had this ruling thing over Israel and because his his country his uh the moabites they were they're the top well I guess he got all the um all the dud jobs guess he got all the dirty work to do Israelites and as they went through all of this is that they brought down finally brought down to their knees eventually and uh cried out to God and said God we we've neglected you and we really need you so it's King eglon and then we have King uh sorry uh judge eood and he's probably someone who you haven't heard too much about either and we don't know out this passage much about eood either so he's another unknown person and don't you find again and again in the Bible God seems to raise up unknown people whether it be Old Testament New Testament um often it's the high Mighty who God seems to overlook and yet the unknown seem to come to the fall his name means United or strong and you will be aware that um that the importance of names in the Bible is that a person that the name they had um was significant because it characterized uh something about them when we talk about oil last week we talked about that and about his name and the meaning of that and and a few people after the service told me what their name meant as well and and so his name is United or strong but the Bible here specifically points out that he was left-handed um and it's a significant part in the story and commentators and I'm I'm not an expert in language so I don't know I'm just going by some commentator saying some commentators are saying that he was left-handed because there's something wrong with his right hand so he's forced into being left-handed so whether that's case or not I don't know um but but but it turned out to be a significantly important part of the story that he was left-handed so he may have been naturally left-handed like a number of folk here I thought it might have even been more because statistically I think it's about 10% is what the people say but Google says and it's always right of course says about uh about 10% of the people are left-handed but uh so whether it's natural like it is for a lot of folk here or whether it's because there's something wrong with his right hand for whatever reason that he was forced into being left-handed but one of the significant things about that is that we noted that he he we read here that he belonged to the Tribe of Benjamin you know what Benjamin means it means son of the right hand uh so benjam means son of the right hand so he belongs to the the tribe of the right-handed people but he's a left-handed um which well they could make all sorts of things out of that but uh you know there's just something in there that grabbed my attention that here is someone who uh part of his name his his village name his tribal name has to do with the son of the right hand the right hand of power of strength and whatever but here's he Hood the left-handed one and it sticks out sticks out it the the the um stands out for us it also says this about this unknown uh left-handed from a right-handed group says in verse 15 that he was chosen by God again verse 15 again the Israelites cried out to the Lord and he gave them a deliverer eood a left-handed man um and this is once again just pointing out what a great God we have that when people are at the um at the end of their rope that God comes through when people repent and turn to him I say not these things about eh Hood's character is this is this that he's available that he's astute that he's obedient and that he's courageous now would you like those things to be said about you I'd really like that to be said of me that uh for God I'm a viable God whatever you want to do uh with me or through me um I'm available it's St that it's due to hearing God speak to him but also the way that he conducted himself and God I'm obedient whatever you want me to do I'm going to do and there's courage because what God wanted him to do do was to take on an army which had been ruling them for 18 years took on the king this Unknown man took on the king uh dealt with him went back got his own people said let's go back God has given us the maab botes so here's a quick uh quick overview of of the story which we've read and so it's like well you've read one now this is the Reader's Digest condensed version of what happens so read here about they had to pay a tribute so Israelites because they were the um underdogs in all of this that they owed an annual tax so eood leads the delegation to pay the tax but he has a hidden sword this 45 cm sword um so he presents the tax to uh to King eglon and he says okay we' presented the tax let's go and so the group of them led by eglon are heading away they get to a certain point eglon says to the rest of the group hey you keep going I've got to go back because I've got a message from God for the king so he goes in and goes to the king and and he smuggles in this sword it would seem now obviously they don't have the same security measures that we have at airports today um or whenever you go to you know a secure place Parliament House or anything like that um you don't they didn't have that but probably did the frisking and so because most people are right-handed and when you're using a sword you draw it out from the opposite side if they're going to Frisk him for any weapons or whatever it's down the left hand side without realizing that EG uh that eood is um wish they had Nam started differently but anyway eood that he's left-handed and he's strapped the sword to his right thigh so if he's going to get fris they're not going to pay that attention because nobody carries the sword on their on their right thigh so so he um he smuggles in the sword says I've got this Secret message from God for you uh the king says everybody out just leave the two of us here and so everybody departs and uh and Ehud says I've got this message from God for you uh eglon stands up to get closer to hear the message and um eood does him in assassinates him locks the door Scapes out the through the toilet window would seene uh from the chamber and he's on his way outside Are All the King's Men thinking well they're taking their time here um this is a really big long secret that's taking place here um and and well maybe the king himself has gone to talk we don't want to embarrass the king but uh when when you know think well you know this can't go on forever they call uh they call Daryl flood the locksmith um it was before darl's time I assume that Daryl's a good locksmith can break in anywhere if your car's missing ask no he wouldn't do that his Integrity is above that but they with the lock they key they unlock the door go in and they find that um they find that the king is dead he's been done in but meanwhile eood has escaped while everybody's there waiting to attend to the king and and so Ehud goes back and he goes back to all his people and he stands up and he says follow me and he says why for the Lord this is verse 28 the Lord has given Moab your enemy into your hands eood God said to Israel here eood for you to redeem you eood then goes back to all his people and he says God has given Victory to us follow me for the Lord so eood is this key character in it all but what do we see it's really God it's really God at work using eood is a human instrument but eood is always very careful to say hey this is not my battle the Lord has given the Lord has given Moab to us and following in from that on on from that the Bible tells us that 18 years after 18 years of uh persecution of under the moabites for the next 80 years the next 80 years they had peace um what an impact that this man eood had so what are some lessons that we can get out of here and I've listed eight less that I've got and maybe you'll have another half a dozen if you get more let me know first lesson that I get from eh hood is this is that we need to always be available and courageous in obedience always available and available now remember in the New Testament Jesus said to some people some guys follow me I said you I'll follow you but got to do this this and this first no follow remember when Jesus called the disciples he said follow me and Mark's gospel said immediately they LIF their Nets and followed when God speaks to you what's your response well uh uh immediately so always be available Lord I'm I'm ready any time and be courageous because sometimes God will call you to do things which are not easy but to be obedient secondly God can use us as unknown God can use us whether we are left-handed right-handed and be dextrous or whether we have limited ability so what I'm saying is this it doesn't matter who we are and we can get this from anywhere in the Bible that um that God uses unlikely people and he can use anybody young old male female nationality doesn't care doesn't matter what God is always looking for is men and women who are faithful to him and obedient who are available and who will be courageous and uh and who will be obedient to him thirdly when I look at the Israelites it just seems to me were they all bad well certainly the general characteristic was yes I guess there was some people in there who were not so bad he would being one of the goodies in the but it seems to me that often what seems to be an issue is that we have this tendency to um to to uh to water down God's word or to rationalize it or whatever to fit in our with our own experience and and what the Bible is always telling us to do is that we've got to raise our experience up to the level of God's word and so sometimes when we read the Bible we want to rationalize wonder what the bible really means here and and does this really apply to my circumstance um the the Jews were very good at that in the New Testament um they took the Ten Commandments and they issued also well what does it really mean to keep the Sabbath holy and uh so they had all these rules and regulations water it down and uh so he can only walk a certain day Journey Sabbath day Journey can only walk a certain distance from your house well where's the edge of your house well if you get a rope and you tied onto your doorpost and you stretch that out that actually becomes an extension to your house and so it can go a Day's Journey a Sabbath day Journey from there you hear what I'm saying that's that's literally what they did but when God said keep the Sabbath day keep it pure keep it holy then we lift up our experience say God what's your expectations let's not water it down to suit us and I give a what seems to be a ridiculous example but it just happens in so many different areas of our life if you're not sure God will tap you on the shoulder by the indwelling spirit and if if you if he needs you to know something number four is that we need to lead others to follow God eood obedient to God and then he goes back to all the people of Israel he saysf follow me for the Lord I have been courageous available and obedient to God now you follow me and folk that's got to be our testimony that's got to be our practice that's what we've got to be on about as we are obedient to God we then need to leave others to be obedient to God what it is is that rather than looking so much at circumstances and whatever we need to keep our eyes on Jesus need to be constantly asking yourself what is God saying to me what is God doing in this in the circumstances fifth lesson is this is that we need to go the long distance um I'm not sure how long he would live for but there was peace for 80 years and so it seemed a good slab of that or maybe the whole 80 years eh Hood's there and uh so eood um went the long distance with God and U so there were no talked about being the Army I signed up for nine years got out after seven to go to theological college with special permission but you sign up and uh but you know with God you sign up for Life fake you sign up for eternity actually and and to go the long distance and it's not just in our living for him but sometimes in ministry as well to be prepared to go the long distance six stand firm against those who oppose God and um is is uh the the moabites and King Egon we got to stand against these people remember this is that God's judgment is always severe let's remember that and think about the implication of your behavior my behavior and our actions our decisions and number eight is that God always wins God always wins God always wins and that God plus one God plus eood God plus othneil God plus me God plus you even if it's only one God plus one is always always the right way now Want You cast your over those eight and which one of those do you want to take home today so this is the key lesson for me I'd encourage you to be thinking about that maybe you need more but to try to bring all of those together so I'm going to do all eight this this week might be a bit much just whatever I want us to just focus go back to number four where it says to keep our eyes on the Lord stay true true to Jesus I think that's one which underlines everything else is to keep your eyes on Jesus stay true to the Lord when I was a young fellow years and years ago um we used to sing this uh sing this chorus which um uh I found out that the It Was Written in the 194s which is even before I was born um but it goes like this when the road is rough and steep it's not talking about the Bruce highway there fake when the Journey of life when the Journey of life is rough and steep what Fix Your Eyes Upon Jesus he alone why do we fix our eyes on Jesus because he alone has power to keep fix your eyes upon him why what do we know about this person Jesus is a gracious friend one on whom you can depend he is faithful to the end so what do we do fix your eyes upon him and up those who know that chorus okay come down the front we're going to sing it no just stay stay stay there just kidding I I actually just want to sing it as a solo but uh I'm not even going to do that but I want to do it this way for us you'll see that part of this every few lines that there in bolded this is what I'm going to do is I'm going to ask everybody to stand not yet in just a minute I'm going to stand I'm going to do this exercise then I'm going to pray then we're going to sing Our Last Song which talks about the Amazing Grace of Jesus but when we stand up I'm going to read the bit that's not in Bol so I'm going to say when the road is rough and Steep and you as a congregation are all together going to say what Fix Your Eyes Upon Jesus then I'm going to say the next bit he alone has power to keep and then together we're all going to say so good you are so clever even the left-handed ones let's stand and this is what we're going to do okay ready this is how we're going to say okay let's go when the road is rough and steep Fix Your Eyes Upon Jesus do you really mean that let's say it like we really really really mean it when the road is rough and steep Fix Your Eyes Upon Jesus he alone has power to keep fix your eyes upon Him Jesus is a gracious friend one on whom you can depend he is faithful to the end fix your eyes upon him stay true to Jesus and all God's people said let's pray father we need your grace if we're going to be courageous available obedient followers of yours we know even as we talk about it today that in our hearts there's a resolve yes I will be that man that woman that young person who will do that and when we say that we know Lord that you'll give us that opportunity for that to be tested in this coming week pray Lord that you'll find us faithful obedient courageous in all that you you expect of us knowing that you will not put anything in our way expect anything of us that is too difficult impossible for us and so here today as a congregation we testify to ourselves to each other fix your eyes on Jesus in his name we pray. Amen.