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JUDGES 3:12-30
Series:  Heroes of Faith - Part One

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
June 12, 2005

Today we’re beginning a study from the Book of Judges.  In a bit we’re going to come to Judges 3 - starting at verse 12 - the account of Ehud.  But, before we come there I’d to place Judges for you in the history of the Old Testament and to share some of why we’re looking at this book.

The Book of Judges comes complete with a set of bookends.  The first and last verses of the book summarize the whole of what this book is about.  Chapter 1:1 - the first bookend - says: 
Now it came about after the death of Joshua that the sons of Israel inquired of the Lord, saying “Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight them.”

When Joshua died.  This warrior who had seen so much in his life.  The slavery of Egypt.  The wilderness wandering.  The conquest of Canaan.  In obedience to God - the settling of the Promised Land - dividing it among the Twelve Tribes.  This great man of steadfast faith who had lived so close to God.

As Joshua is dying he calls the elders of the tribes together - challenges them with these words: 
“Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve - remember these?  Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve:  whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River - in Egypt - or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)

The sad reality is that when Joshua died there really was no one who stepped up to take his place - no one else who was willing to give themselves wholeheartedly to serve the living God.  As Judges 1:1 puts it - there was no one to “go first” - to lead the fight against their enemies - setting the standard of obedience to the sovereign God.  After Joshua died God’s people choose to worship other gods.  They sold out.  They compromised.  Try that with me,
“They compromised.”

A true story.  Maybe you’ve heard this.  A man - down in Long Beach - went into a Church’s Fried Chicken to get some chicken for himself and the woman with him.  Inadvertently the manager of the store handed the guy the box in which he’d placed the financial proceeds of the day.  Apparently he was going to make the deposit and had camouflaged it by putting the money in a fried chicken box.

This man takes the box - goes back to the car - and this couple drives away.  When they get to the park and open the box - they discover this box full of money.  There’s this very real moment - to keep the cash or to not keep the cash.

The man and this woman take the money back to Church’s and give it back to the manager.  The manager is relieved - excited - grateful.

The manager tells them,
“Stay here.  I’m going get your picture - call the newspaper.  You’re the most honest guy in town.”

The man says,
“Oh no, don’t do that.”

“Why not?”
asks the manager.

says the man, “You see, I’m married and this woman is not my wife.” (1)

The Book of Judges covers a period of about 330 years.  During that time there are 7 complete cycles of sin - of compromise.  The book is a testimony to our ease of wandering away from God.  The cycles run like this.  First, Israel would sin in the sight of God - idolatry - paganism - immorality.  Second, God would send punishment - war - captivity.  Something to get His people to turn back to Him.  Third, Israel would cry out to God.  Fourth, God would send a Judge - someone to deliver them.  Fifth, Israel would enter a time of peace and rest.

Does that sound familiar?  Put your name the place of Israel.  Steve does evil in God’s sight.  God hits Steve over the head with a 2X4 to get my attention.  Steve cries out to God.  God delivers Steve - the greatest deliverer being our Savior, Jesus.  Then Steve goes on living close to God until he chooses to again compromise with sin.

Seven times that cycle is repeated in Judges.  Until finally the last verse  of the book - chapter 21:25 - the closing bookend: 
In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes

I was at Burger King the other morning and ordered cinni-minis.  Have you had these?  Four little cinnamon rolls that come in a small box with icing.  Listen to the promo - what was written on the box top of these cinni-minis. 
“Opening this box is the first step to having things your way today.  Or maybe ordering it was the first step and this is the second step.  Either way eating it is definitely the next step.  So, soon you will be three steps into having everything your way today.  Keep it up.”

When everyone does whatever is right to them there’s no standard.  Lies and truth - righteousness and evil - what’s the difference?  Whatever works to my advantage is okay.  Does that sound familiar?

Isn’t that at the core of what troubles our society - marriages - families?  Self - unyielded to God?  Even in the church - God’s people struggle with this.  We’re tempted to serve - or attend - or participate - when its to our advantage to do so. 

What our study of Judges is about - is seeing Heroes Of Faith - the judges here in this book - ordinary people that God used - despite themselves.  Seeing them as examples for us - learning to live without compromise in a compromising world.

Which brings us to Ehud.  Ehud comes on the scene after the first cycle of sin is complete. 
“Now the circle is complete.”  Compromise and deliverance.  For 40 years - one complete generation - God’s people have been living in obedience to God.  God has blessed them with peace. 

Which brings us to Judges 3 - starting at verse 12.  What I’d like to do is read through this account.  Then we’ll come back and make two practical applications for our lives.

Verse 12: 
Now the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord. 

Step One - God’s people sin and really make a mess of their lives.

So the Lord strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel because they had done evil in the sight of the Lord.  And he gathered to himself the sons of Ammon and Amalek; and he went and defeated Israel, and they possessed the city of the palm trees
- Jericho.  The sons of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years.

Step Two - God hits His people with a 2X4 - in this case Moab.

The Moabites were descendants of Lot - descended from Lot’s older daughter.  These are cousins.  The lived just east of the Dead Sea.  They were continually causing problems for Israel.  The Ammonites are descended from Lot’s younger daughter - more cousins.  The Amalekites lived in the south.  They descended from Esau - more cousins.

God allows Eglon to get the relatives together - defeat Israel - capture the prize city of the area - Jericho - and for 18 years Israel is made to bow down and serve their cousins.

Verse 15: 
But when the sons of Israel cried to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for them, Ehud the son of Gera, the Benjamite, a left-handed man.  And the sons of Israel sent tribute by him to Eglon the king of Moab.

Step Three:  God’s people cry out to God.

Step Four:  God raises up a deliverer - Ehud.

There are three things about Ehud that we don’t want to pass by. 
First, He is the son of Gera - the Benjamite.  The tribe of Benjamin - which was located right next to Moab - had a significant stake in the occupation.  Jericho was located in the territory of Benjamin.  This is personal.

Second, the Bible highlights that Ehud was left-handed
.  He’s part of a minority.  A looked down upon minority.  The word “sinister” in English comes from a Latin word that means left-handed.  Up until recently - even in this country - someone who was left-handed was trained to use their right hand.  Being left handed meant that something was wrong.  Ehud is different.  And, in the culture of the day - he’s different - but not in a good way.

Third - notice that Ehud was the one selected to bring the tribute
- the taxes - to Eglon.  Its hard to imagine a more despised position - having to take what was extracted at spear point from your own people - and give it cheerfully to Eglon.  We have a word for people like this.  They’re called traitors.

Verse 16: 
Ehud made himself a sword which had two edges, a cubit in length - about 18 inches - and he bound it on his right thigh under his cloak.

If you’re right-handed - like everyone is suppose to be - your dagger would be strapped onto your left leg.  So when we draw it - we pull it out in one easy motion without cutting our leg off.  But, Ehud is left-handed.    So while the guards are searching his left leg - Ehud’s dagger is safely hidden on his right leg.

Verse 17: 
Ehud presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab.  Now Eglon was a very fat man.  How fat is Eglon?  Hang onto that question.

It came about when Ehud had finished presenting the tribute, that he sent away the people who had carried the tribute.  But he himself turned back from the idols which were at Gilgal
- a place on the way heading from Jericho towards Jerusalem - and - Ehud - said, “I have a secret message for you, O king.”  And he - Eglon - said, “Keep silence.”  And all who attended him left him.

Verse 20: 
Ehud came to him while 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.

Now - this it the part where we have to tell people that things get graphic.  So, if you’d like to step outside for a minute and get a Starbuck’s and then come back - you’ve been warned.

Verse 21: 
Ehud stretched out his left hand, took the sword from his right thigh and trust it into Eglon’s belly. 

How fat is Eglon?  Now’s your chance: 
“How fat is Eglon?”  He’s so fat that - the handle also went in after the blade, and the fat closed over the blade, for he did not draw the sword out of his belly - he couldn’t - and the refuse came out.  You were warned. 

Then Ehud went out into the vestibule and shut the doors of the roof chamber behind him, and locked them.

Verse 24: 
When Ehud had gone out, Eglon’s servants came and looked, and behold, the doors of the roof chamber were locked; and they said, “He is only relieving himself in the cool room.”  They waited until they became anxious; but behold, Eglon did not open the doors of the roof chamber.  Therefore - because they couldn’t take it any longer - they took the key and opened the doors, and behold, their master had fallen to the floor dead.

Don’t miss that.  In contrast to Ehud’s cunning and cleverness and bravery is this fat dim-witted hedonistic complacent king who has no clue of the danger before him or how incompetent the guards are that he’s trusted his life with.

Three times in verses 24 and 25 is the word
“Behold.”  In Hebrew it has the idea of, “Whoa!!” - astonishment - surprise.  The guards are surprised that the door is locked.  Which means that the king locking the door was unusual.  But they never sound the alarm.

After what was way too long a time finally they start to get suspicious.    Nothing gets past these guys.  How long does it take for a person to
“relieve oneself in the cool room” before we might get suspicious that something is wrong?

Finally they open the doors - with the key.  These best of the best guards take the time to get the key.  If this was Hollywood they would have crashed through the doors.  And, surprise - surprise - the king is dead.

Hold onto that image.  The competency of Ehud - the foolishness of his enemies.

Verse 26: 
Now Ehud escaped while they were delaying - He kills the king and they let him escape.  They had him.  and Ehud passed by the idols and escaped to Seirah - he’s heading north to the hills.  And it came about when he had arrived, that he blew the trumpet in the hill country of Ephraim; and the sons of Israel went down with him from the hill country, and he was in front of them.  Ehud said to them, “Pursue them, for the Lord has given your enemies into your hands.”  So they went down after him and seized the fords of the Jordon opposite Moab, and did not allow anyone to cross.  They struck down at that time about ten thousand Moabites, all robust and valiant men; and no one escaped.

Again the Bible emphasizes the contrast.  Look how the ten thousand armed to the teeth - having subdued Israel for 18 years - Moabites - look how they’re described.  Robust.  Valiant.  How many escape?  None.

Why?  Because the Lord leads them to the slaughter.  It’s like a roach motel.  The roaches go in.  But they don’t come out.  The Israelites capture the escape route - the fords between Jericho and Moab.  The Moabites trying to cross the river to get home just keep getting killed.  Do the Moabites learn?  Do they go around?  No they just keep walking into the trap and getting slaughtered.     

Verse 30: 
So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel.  And the land was undisturbed for eighty years.

Step Five:  Peace - rest.

Two practical observations - how all this relates to us.  Living without compromise in a compromising world.

First observation: 
The importance of sizing up our enemy.

The minute this despised left-handed Benjamite kills off the king the enemy crumbles.  Over and over we’re shown how foolish - how incompetent - how weak is the enemy.

So many of us live bound up in fears and habits and pressures.  We assume that there is no way out of our sin or our circumstances.  That we’re obligated by our nature to compromise with the world around us.  We go on and on bringing tribute to a fat self-serving king.

Do you remember 1 John 4:4? 
“You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”

We’re God’s kids.  Children of the Almighty God of creation.  Why are we afraid?

James 4:7: 
“Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”  That’s a promise from the One who is our deliverer.

When we’re tempted to compromise - to submit - to wimp out.  Think about who the enemy is.  A - by the cross of Jesus Christ - defeated enemy.  We don’t have to go there.

Second thought of application: 
The importance of trusting God.

The fifth part of the cycle of sin is what?  Living with God in peace.  God’s blessing.  In the account of Ehud - 80 years - two complete generations living within God’s blessing.  Because Ehud trusted God - allowed God to use his uniqueness - rather than live in fear.

Is there a lesson there for us?  Sure.

Where are you in the cycle of sin?  You might want to skip the getting whacked with a 2X4 part and just go on to the trusting God - peace - blessing - part.

Whatever you’re struggling with.  Whatever seems powerful to you.  Trust God.  His grace.  His mercy.  His love.  His forgiveness.  He’ll give you the strength and healing that you need.  He will do in you and through you what is beyond what we can possibly imagine for ourselves. 




1. Dallas Times Herald, 09.23.66

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible®, © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.  Used by permission.