Friday, March 4, 2011

Book of Judges Series - Ehud

Last week in Judges we studied Othniel.  If you recall, we left off where the children of Israel followed the Lord all the days of his life.  That was about 40 years, or a generation, until he was gone.  That is where we pick up today.
And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD. So the LORD strengthened Eglon king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the LORD. Judges 3:12 NKJV
This sounds familiar, doesn't it?  We talked two weeks ago about Israel's pattern of behavior and here we have it again.  The oppression is gone, the inspiration of God delivering them through the hands of Othniel is gone.  Apparently, even the memory of their oppression is also gone.  Israel falls right back into sin.  This reminds me so much of times in my life and I am sure it applies to many of you as well.  We have this sin that we struggle in.  God allows consequences to come upon us to chastise us for that sin and turn our hearts back to him.  That chastisement (especially if it is not the first time He chastised us for that same thing) can be a miserable experience.  We ultimately repent and God brings us back into fellowship with Him and we make promise after promise knowing how much better it is to walk with God then against Him.  Something happens though.  We forget His chastisement, we forget how much better it is to walk with Him, and we fall right back into that sin.  Any of us struggling with that kind of cycle of sin must repent once and for all.  For me, and for others I have known, the best thing is to find someone to be accountable to.  We need that person in our lives to ask us directly how we are doing, and that person needs to be able to check and see that we have not fallen again.  Accountability is essential for a Christian struggling in a sin cycle.
Then he gathered to himself the people of Ammon and Amalek, went and defeated Israel, and took possession of the City of Palms. So the children of Israel served Eglon king of Moab eighteen years. Judges 3:13-14 NKJV
 This time God raises us the people of Ammon and Amelek.  They defeated Israel and in the end, the people of Israel served Moab for 18 years.  Remember last week it was only 8 years.  Sometimes God needs to increase the severity or duration of our chastisement if we continue to rebel. Again, God is not doing this to re-punish our sin already paid for through Jesus but to correct bad behavior.  Just a parent who may need to increase punishment if lighter punishment fails to correct something.  It is not about forgiveness, but about protection.  Think about it, does a parent not forgive their child before the punishment happens?  The forgiveness is already there, but we still need correction.
But when the children of Israel cried out to the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer for them: Ehud the son of Gera, the Benjamite, a left-handed man. By him the children of Israel sent tribute to Eglon king of Moab. Judges 3:15 NKJV
Enter our next judge, Ehud.  Ehud was a Benjaminite and he was left-handed.  Other that that, we do not know much about him.  What we do know is that the children of Israel sent him to pay their tribute to Eglon, the kind of Moab.
Now Ehud made himself a dagger (it was double-edged and a cubit in length) and fastened it under his clothes on his right thigh. So he brought the tribute to Eglon king of Moab. (Now Eglon was a very fat man.) And when he had finished presenting the tribute, he sent away the people who had carried the tribute. Judges 3:16-18 NKJV
 It seems as through Ehud had a plan.  As Israel was subject to Moab, they would have to bring their king tribute.  This is what Ehud was doing.  It was a convenient way to get an audience with the king.  As for Eglon, the Bible tells us he was a very fat man.  I am not sure why we are told that, but we are. Eglon was very fat.  Probably means he did not move very fast or spend too much time away from his throne.  It was probably a substantial tribute as a group of people was required to bring it all in to the king.  The tribute is brought in and the people are sent away.
But he himself turned back from the stone images that were at Gilgal, and said, "I have a secret message for you, O king." He said, "Keep silence!" And all who attended him went out from him. Judges 3:19 NKJV
To get himself alone with the king, he told the king that he had a secret message just for him.  The king sent everyone else away leaving Ehud and Eglon alone together. This is exactly what Ehud wanted.
So Ehud came to him (now he was sitting upstairs in his cool private chamber). Then Ehud said, "I have a message from God for you." So he arose from his seat. Then Ehud reached with his left hand, took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly. Even the hilt went in after the blade, and the fat closed over the blade, for he did not draw the dagger out of his belly; and his entrails came out. Then Ehud went out through the porch and shut the doors of the upper room behind him and locked them. Judges 3:20-23 NKJV
If there was ever a message from God you do not want, it is that one. The message was "you are judged."  The message was his death for his oppression of Israel.  Ehud took that dagger his hid away and pushed the dagger all the way into his belly until the fat closed over it and held it inside his body.  The king was dead and Ehud slipped out the back.  Such is the end for someone who opposes Israel.  May we as a nation take that message to heart.  God did not make Moab hate Israel.  Moab hated Israel all on its own.  All God did was weaken Israel and thereby allowed Moab to do what Moab wanted to do all along.  The Bible is filled with the terrible ends of those who oppose Israel.  Hell will be full of kings and others who opposed Israel.
When he had gone out, Eglon's servants came to look, and to their surprise, the doors of the upper room were locked. So they said, "He is probably attending to his needs in the cool chamber." So they waited till they were embarrassed, and still he had not opened the doors of the upper room. Therefore they took the key and opened them. And there was their master, fallen dead on the floor. But Ehud had escaped while they delayed, and passed beyond the stone images and escaped to Seirah. Judges 3:24-26 NKJV
Eglon was alone for a long while and his servants became concerned.  This is a case where the translators were polite.  Attending to his needs means going to the bathroom.  They figured his was taking his time doing his business.  While they waited, Ehud escaped.  When they finally opened the door and found him dead, it was too late.
And it happened, when he arrived, that he blew the trumpet in the mountains of Ephraim, and the children of Israel went down with him from the mountains; and he led them. Then he said to them, "Follow me, for the LORD has delivered your enemies the Moabites into your hand." So they went down after him, seized the fords of the Jordan leading to Moab, and did not allow anyone to cross over. And at that time they killed about ten thousand men of Moab, all stout men of valor; not a man escaped. So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land had rest for eighty years. Judges 3:27-30 NKJV
Ehud returned to and called the men of Israel to arms leading them to victory of Moab.  Israel was no longer under the oppression of Moab.  God had delivered them through Ehud.

So what can we take today from Ehud.  I think there are two lessons.  The first is that you do not want to be in position to be coming against Israel.  It may be right away, it may be in 18 years, and it may be longer, but God will deal with all those who oppress His people.  This king of Moab will be known forever as very fat and then very dead after God looked upon his sin.  In the end, the picture we have of him is not a flattering one.  In the end, he will stand before Christ and be judged eternally.  Do not opposed God's people.  God, Himself, will come to their defense.

Secondly, we learn that God is a very smart Father.  Whereas children today often learn to play the system with their parents either by thinking they can talk themselves down from punishment or they sometimes feel that the consequences are worth the disobedience.  This is not so with God.  First of all, God can not be conned into altering the chastisement He has planned for you.  Secondly, with God, it is never worth the consequences.   God knows us better than we will ever begin to know ourselves.  He knows what will help us not stumble.  He knows how to correct our bad behavior.  Do not dare God to chastisement by purposely stepping out in disobedience because, as we learn with Israel, He can and will oblige.  I can tell you from personal experience, it is never worth it.
Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 1 Corinthians 1:25 NKJV

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