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Judges 3:7-31: The Gritty Gospel Print E-mail
Sunday, 08 March 2015

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There are passages in the Bible that can embarrass us.  We would think twice about reading them in Church or during a small group study.  We secretly hope our lost friends never ask us about them because we are not sure what we would say.  If you think I am overstating it, then go home and read Song of Solomon and get back to me.  The Bible is simply not G-rated at times.  But hear me, these passages are just as much a part of Godís revelation as the ones we memorize.  I imagine it might serve us well to meditate upon them more.  We need to see what they say, even if we do have to look for appropriate times to do it to avoid immodesty.  The people of God need the Word of God, all of it, even the passages that make us uncomfortable.

Some passages in Judges can be a bit embarrassing to us.  One of them is in our text this morning, namely the story of Ehud.  But we need to hear it.  We need to meditate upon it.  We need to ask what God is revealing to us through the crudeness of this story.  The book of Judges tells the story of the downward spiral of the people of Israel due to their rebellion and idolatry.  But it also tells the story of Godís grace toward sinful people, people like you and me.  Over the next few weeks we will look at the story of 12 different judges, or deliverers.  Their stories will surprise and shock us, amaze and astound us, humble and break us.  Not because of the judges themselves but because of the God who keeps raising them up.  We will begin with three deliverers from Judges 3.  Would you look at those with me?

Othniel: The pattern of Godís deliverance (v. 7-11)

We identified the repeated pattern in the book of Judges in 2:16-23.  This pattern is most recognizable in the story of Othniel, the first deliverer of the book.  It begins with the people doing evil against God.  Look at verse 7.  Israel is continually giving themselves over to idolatry in the book of Judges.  Instead of driving out the people of Canaan, they begin to accommodate them by worshipping their gods.  The Baals and the Asheroth were fertility gods believed to make the crops and families and everything else grow.  They were worshipped through sexual activity and Israel joined in.  They did not remember Yahweh and all that He had done for them.  No, they forgot Him and ran after other gods.

So the Lord gives them over to their enemies.  This is the second part of the pattern.  Look at verse 8.  Notice the wording in this verse.  Was Israelís slavery to these people a coincidence?  Did it happen by accident?  No, God gave them over to the Mesopotamians.  His anger burned against the sin of Israel and so He sold them into the hand of the king.  They were slaves for eight years.  Donít miss that detail.  Eight years they were enslaved.  It might be hard for us to see, but God is actually being gracious to His people even in this.  How?  He is not letting them remain in their sin.  He is pursuing them by driving out their affection for idols.

Then the people cry out to God.  Look at verse 9a.  We might want to read this as the people repenting and turning back to God, but that is not what is being communicated.  Rather, the people are simply desperate for help, for relief.  They are not yet at the point of repentance, but they are at the point of crying out for change.

Then the Lord raises up a judge to deliver them.  Look at verses 9b-11.  Othniel has already been mentioned in the book as the one who helped Caleb secure his inheritance and was awarded Calebís daughter (1:11-15).  The Lord now raises him up to rescue the people from slavery to the Mesopotamians.  He is given the Spirit of the Lord and is able to defeat Israelís enemies by the Lordís strength.  Now think about this with me: God gave Israel into the hand of their enemies (v. 8) and then delivered them from the hand of their enemies (v. 10).  I point this out so that we can see Godís sovereignty over this pattern of deliverance.  He is sovereign over all circumstances and we can trust in His plan of salvation.  The story ends with the land having rest for forty years until Othniel died.  Then what happens?  The pattern starts again with a new judge.

Ehud: The grit and grime of Godís deliverance (v. 12-30)

And now time for the embarrassing story.  Be honest, did you cringe a bit as I read it a moment ago?  Did you wonder why I didnít leave out certain parts for the public reading?  Did any of you have to shush your children for laughing (for the record, there is humor in this passage so donít be too hard on them)?  So what in the world do we do with this?

The pattern begins to repeat itself in verse 12.  Once again the people sin and God gives them over to their enemies.  Look at verses 12-14 with me.  Once again the people give themselves to their sin and once again God sovereignly gives them over.  Notice the language again: and the Lord strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel.  This is simply a fulfillment of Leviticus 26, where God told Israel that He would fight against them if they did not obey.  God does this to warn His people and to break the power of sin in their lives.  And not just for them but for future generations as well, including us.

The pattern continues with the people crying out and the Lord raising up Ehud to deliver them.  Look at verse 15a.  The author tells us that Ehud was a left handed man, which possibly meant that he was ambidextrous, or simply that he could fight with both hands, which actually gave him an advantage in battle.  So how is this left-handed Benjamite going to deliver the people?  We are told his story in verses 15b-30.  Look at 15b-17.  Ehud is chosen to take the tribute to the king.  So he makes a sword that he can conceal on his right thigh, where he would not be searched (again the advantages of being left-handed), and he goes to see the king.  The author notes at this point that the king was a large man.  However you want to try and explain it, I believe the author is poking fun at the king (and preparing us for what will happen next).  So what happens? 

Look at verses 18-19.  Again, any Israelite would be laughing at the tale.  What the great king had in size he lacked in smarts.  Ehud tells him he has a message and the king orders everyone to leave so that he can be alone with this enemy.  Not hard to guess what happens next.  Look at verses 20-26.  Needless to say, the humor continues.  Ehud stabs the huge king with the sword and loses it in his belly.  The king dies and soils himself.  Ehud locks the door in order to make an escape and the soldiers will not enter the room because they think the king is using the bathroom (perhaps the smell?)  Eventually they come in, find the king dead, and Ehud is long gone.  I know, I know, fairly crude and a bit embarrassing.  The author goes on to tell us about Ehudís victories in battle.  Look at verses 27-30.  Ehud gives credit to Yahweh as he leads the people in defeating the Moabites.  Before we consider why this story is here, letís consider one final judge this morning.

Shamgar: The unexpected instruments of Godís deliverance (v. 31)

The next judge only gets one verse.  Look at verse 31.  Why include this guy at all?  What can we learn from him?  It is interesting to note that Shamgar was not an Israelite.  Although it is hard to be sure where he came from, it seems pretty clear that he was not a descendent of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Why is this significant?  Because the Lord used him to save the Israelites from the Philistines, even using an oxgoad no less.  This continues to show Godís sovereignty over all and His interest in all peoples.

So again, we have to ask: what can we learn from such a seemingly embarrassing passage?  The book of Judges, like all books in the Old Testament, points us to Jesus Christ.  But what do the stories of Othniel, Ehud, and Shamgar, reveal about Jesus?  From Othniel, we learn that the pattern of God saving His people from their enemies by raising up a deliverer is the pattern that leads to Christ.  He is our Deliverer.  He has saved us from far worse enemies than the Mesopotamians and the Moabites and Philistines, as bad as they may have been.  Christ has saved us from our sins, from the dominion of Satan, and from death itself.  God has given us a Deliverer and His name is Jesus.

Yet, how did Jesus save us?  What did He do to deliver our souls from death?  He got His hands dirty.  The story of Ehud points us to this truth.  Davis comments on that passage: ďAnd the glory of this text is that it tells us that Yahweh is not a white-gloved, standoffish God out somewhere in the remote left field of the universe who hesitates to get his strong right arm dirty in the yuch of our lives.Ē 1 In order to save my soul from the Hell it deserved, Jesus, Godís own Son, took on flesh like mine.  He breathed in cursed air and drank cursed water.  He exposed Himself to the weight of our sin.  And He bore it on His back all the way to Jerusalem, where they shoved a crown of thorns on His head and spit upon His face and made fun of Him.  They took Him to the place of the skull, stripped Him naked, and nailed Him to a tree.  And if you would have been there, if you would have seen Him on that cross, you would have turned your head away from embarrassment and shame.  You would have seen what your sins cost the Son.  Do not think that it was clean.  Do not think that it was sanitary.  It was bloody and crude.

But it was beautiful too.  It was God doing what only God could do: saving us in an unexpected way.  Delivering all nations through the blood of His own Son.  Taking an instrument of death and transforming it into the instrument of our salvation.  Jesus became sin for us at the cross.  He got His hands dirty just like in the days of the judges.  And that is great news for people like us.  Show me the dirtiest sinner, the filthiest idolater, and I will show them a greater Savior.  If we ever think that people are too dirty for the gospel, then we have not understood the gospel and the power of what Jesus did for us at the cross.  He is not afraid to meet us in the muck of our lives with mercy and grace.  The Lord was there with Ehud and He is with us through Christ.  Shamgar had his oxgoad but Jesus has the cross.  It may not be what we expected, it may not be clean and nice and G-rated, but it is absolutely everything we need to be saved from our sins.  Amen.

1 Dale Ralph Davis, Judges FOTB (Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 2006), p. 63.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Monday, 23 March 2015 )

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