2/26/12 Judges 3a. God Delivers From Dark Times (Ehud & Shamgar)

God Delivers From Dark Times (Ehud & Shamgar)

Kevin Jesmer NIU UBF 2-26-12

Judges 3:12-31                                           Lesson 5
Key Verse: 3:30

“That day Moab was made subject to Israel, and the land had peace for eighty years.”

Once again the ancient Israelites did evil in God’s sight. And so God allowed King Eglon of Moab to have power over them. Eglon joined with two other kings and captured Jericho and ruled Israel for 18 years, exacting tribute from God’s people. The times were hopeless. But though it all, God led them to cried out in prayer, and he gave them a deliverer, Ehud, a young man with a passion to set his country free. Using his perceived weakness, he led Israel to victory. Through him, God ushered in a time of peace for 80 years. Later on came Shamgar, who saved ancient Israel from the Philistines using what he had. In this passage we discover God, who hears his peoples’ cries and sends his servants to deliver them. We will learn about God who turns peoples’ weaknesses into strengths. We will also learn about God with who works through people who utilize what they have, by faith. God bless.

Part l: Moab’s Power Over Ancient Israel (12-14)

The Israelites did it again. They fell away from the Lord. Look at verses 12, “Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD,…” It took forty years to undo the good that God brought about through Othniel. But but it happened. In falling away from the Lord, they began to worship the Canaanite gods and serve their idols. When Joshua and the Israelites entered the Promised Land they fought hard and obeyed God absolutely without any excuses. As a result God gave them the Promised Land. They experienced one victory after another, but most of all they experienced the living God who was at their side, guiding them and helping them.

But their descendants did not experience the Lord’s deliverance, as Joshua’s generation had. Verse 2:17 reads, “Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. They quickly turned from the ways of their ancestors, who had been obedient to the LORD’s commands.” They did not obey the Lord fully in driving out the nations. They intermarried with the pagan peoples’, adopted their religions, and worshiped and served their idols. It is very disturbing. God raised up his children like a good father and then they blew it. That is precisely why humanity needs the grace of Jesus.

There were consequences for allowing their hearts to fall way from the Lord. Verses 12b-14 read, “…and because they did this evil the LORD gave Eglon king of Moab power over Israel. 13 Getting the Ammonites and Amalekites to join him, Eglon came and attacked Israel, and they took possession of the City of Palms 14 The Israelites were subject to Eglon king of Moab for eighteen years.” Eglon was the king of Moabites. Their forefather, Moab was the son of the Lot’s eldest daughter and so the Moabites were a people descended from Lot. After the conquest of Canaan the relations of Moab with Israel were sometimes warlike and sometimes peaceful. This time was warlike. Moabites had formed an alliance with two other nations, the Ammonites and the Amelekites, and conquered Israel. Eglon set up headquarters in City of Palms, (Jericho), in 1359 B.C. According to Josephus (the historian), he built himself a palace, and oppressed the children of Israel, who paid him tribute for eighteen years. They were subjected to him for many years. Because of their sins, the people suffered a lot. Their enemies invaded and took over. They lost control of their very lives and were oppressed by their enemies, made subject to them for eighteen years.

It is no different for those who give their hearts over to idols today. The enemies that take over are spiritual in nature. The alliances that Eglon built, and the subjugation of the people of God are akin to the spiritual alliances that Satan builds to besiege our souls. The power of sin takes over because they have turned away from the Lord. As a result they experience completely unnecessary oppression. When you put down your spiritual defenses, then other spiritual forces of darkness come in. It is like the parable of the house that was cleaned. When the evil spirit returned, it brought with it seven other demons, more wicked than itself, to take residence in that house. (Matt 12:44-46) Such is the same with a person who was once cleansed, but due to their lack of vigilance, they revert back to their old ways. These forces attack our hearts and subjugate us to slavery. Sometimes people are subjected to this slavery for decades. Our nation is suffering greatly. How much more shall we suffer before we cry out to the Lord?

But, we must never forget the fact that God works through all of our suffering. When the Israelites cried out to God, he heard their prayers. He cared about what was happening to his people and he raised up deliverers each time. When we cry out in prayer, our Deliverer, Jesus, will come to our aide and deliver us bringing about a victory in our lives.

Part ll: God Raises Up A Deliverer, Ehud (15-30)

God responded to their cry of distress. Look at verses 15b, “…and he gave them a deliverer- Ehud, a left-handed man, the son of Gera the Benjamite. The Israelites sent him with tribute to Eglon king of Moab.” Let’s think about Ehud. He was the son of Gera, of the tribe of Benjamin, (3:15). He was the second judge who judged around 1370 B.C. In the Bible he is not called a judge, but a deliverer. As a Benjamite he was specially chosen to defeat Eglon, who had established himself in Jericho, which was within the boundaries of the tribe of Benjamin.

The Spirit of God was working mightily in him for he wasted no time in figuring out a battle plan and implementing it. Let’s look at what this passage has to say about his assault on King Eglon. Look at verses 16-23, ““Now Ehud had made a double-edged sword about a cubit long, which he strapped to his right thigh under his clothing. 17 He presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab, who was a very fat man. 18 After Ehud had presented the tribute, he sent on their way those who had carried it. 19 But on reaching the stone images near Gilgal he himself went back to Eglon and said, ‘Your Majesty, I have a secret message for you.’ The king said to his attendants, ‘Leave us!’ And they all left. 20 Ehud then approached him while he was sitting alone in the upper room of his palace and said, ‘I have a message from God for you.’ As the king rose from his seat, 21 Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king’s belly. 22 Even the handle sank in after the blade, and his bowels discharged. Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in over it. 23 Then Ehud went out to the porch; he shut the doors of the upper room behind him and locked them.

There are several good qualities that we can discover in Ehud. First, he was courageous. He went straight to the heart of Moab’s occupation, the palace of Eglon, in Jericho. He was not afraid of loosing his life. It required great faith to do what he did.

He was decisive. He took radical action without hesitation. His war on Moab was swift and deadly. He was like many heroes in the Bible who did not hesitate to answer God’s call. Even in our own lives, there are some conditions that call for radical action. For example when God shows us something wrong in our life there are times when we must take painful action to correct it. There are times when God calls us to obey him in some specific way. We need to heed the call and follow through with it. In these cases, Ehud’s example should inspire us.

He used his “left handedness” for the glory of God. In ancient times, being left handed was seen as a sign of the devil, and is still abhorred in many cultures. In Hebrew, as well as in other ancient Semitic and Mesopotamian languages, the term “left” was a symbol of power or custody. The left hand symbolized the power to shame society, and was used as a metaphor for misfortune, natural evil, or punishment from the gods. ( ) And so Ehud was left handed. But God used this to bring about a great victory. He was able to approach Eglon and get close to him and draw his knife in an unsuspecting way, taking Eglon by surprise.

God is ready to use our unique qualities to accomplish his work, even if we think they are weaknesses. All of them can be utilized for the glory of God. In fact, God delights in working through our weaknesses. God even prefers to work through our weaknesses rather than our strengths, for when he does he is glorified and not us. 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 read, “8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. ” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” For Paul, they say his weakness could have been epilepsy (his thorn in the flesh). What are some of your weaknesses that God can work through? For me it was my stammering, my lack of self confidence, my thinking that I had nothing important to share with the world, my lack of resources as a small house church. Asked God to show you how he could use something unique about you that he could work through just as he used Ehud’s left handedness.

Ehud was a man that locked the door to evil behind him. Verse 23, “Then Ehud went out to the porch; he shut the doors of the upper room behind him and locked them.” When Ehud left, he locked the door. This is symbolic gesture. Elgon represented evil oppression. Ehud defeated him and locked the door. When evil is defeated we must lock the door, leaving no chance of ever being enslaved again.

Ehud’s frontal attack took even Eglon’s personal servants by surprise. Look at verses 24-25, “After he had 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 palace.’ 25 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.’” Look at the affect of Ehud’s actions. The head of the “monster” lie dead. The servants were surprised and did not know what to do. The Moabite forces were in disarray. When we are decisive and follow through with the task God has led us to, and we follow through with it, with decisive faith, then even the devil will be left scratching his head, not knowing what to do next.

Ehud was just as decisive on the battle field as he was in Eglon’s palace. Look at verses 29-30, “At that time they struck down about ten thousand Moabites, all vigorous and strong; not one escaped. 30 That day Moab was made subject to Israel, and the land had peace for eighty years.” He led the revolt against Moabite domination with determination. He inspired his fighting men and together they brought about a great victory. Through his faith and obedience to the will of God, God gave his people, Israel 80 years of peace.

The enemies we face are as real as Ehud’s, but they are often within ourselves, in our hearts and minds. The battles we fight are not against other people but against the power of sin. We need God’s help in fighting this battle against sin. But we also need to remember that Jesus has already won the war for us. He has defeated sin at the cross. No matter how heated our individual skirmishes may be, Jesus has gone on before. The risen Lord, is alive and by our side. He will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear.

Part lll: Shamgar-He Used What He Had For The Glory Of God (31)

In another national crisis, God raised up another deliverer. Look at verse 31. “After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad. He too saved Israel.” Shamgar means “sword”. He was a judge who lived about 1290 BC. When Israel was in dire straights, Shamgar was raised up to be a deliverer.

Shamgar used what was available do the work of God. Verse 31a reads, ““After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad. …The weapon with which Shamgar slew six hundred Philistines was an oxgoad. You may be asking yourself, what in the world is that? It is a farm implement. One end of an oxgoad was an iron spear, for poking a farm animal such as an ox to prod them on. The other end was flattened and used to scrape mud off of things. It could measure up to ten feet long. Plowmen would still use an oxgoad. Shamgar, living in an agrarian society, maybe have even been a plowman himself. He would have ready access to an oxgoad.

Shamgar rose to the occasion. Look at verse 31a again, “…Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad….” In this time of national crisis, this peaceful agrarian answered the call of God to be one of the judges of ancient Israel. This oxgoad became a weapon apparently more fitted for the hands of the warrior than the peaceful plowman. With his oxgoad, he made a passionate assault on the Philistine forces. With God’s help, he slew six hundred of them.

There is an important point to be garnered from this passage. We can do the work of God with what God has made available. Jesus tried to teach his disciples this important principle. Once, Jesus and his disciples met a man who was born blind. Jesus set out to heal him in a very unorthodox way. John 9:6-7 says, “After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7 ‘Go,’ he told him, ‘wash in the Pool of Siloam’ (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.” Jesus not only wanted to teach this man, faith, but he wanted to teach his disciples that they can do the work of God using what they have available to them. Everyone who is alive on this planet has at least three things available to them…spit (saliva), mud and faith. Mix all these together and apply them as Jesus directs, then you have a great work of God. Miracles can happen.

Jesus also teaches the same thing when he feeds the 5,000. John 6: 5-11 reads, “When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. 7 Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages[a] to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” 8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.” Phillip thought that there was no way to feed all those people. But Andrew found five loaves and two fish and offered them to Jesus, by faith, believing God can take these and multiply them to fill the need. And that is what happened. Jesus accepted it and fed the thousands. Again, here is an instance where taking what you have and offering it up to Jesus with faith brought about a great work of God.

None of us have an excuse. We are alive. We have spit and mud and a small amount of food. We all have a measure of faith. And it doesn’t take much…only faith the size of a mustard seed. We can use what we have to bring glory to Jesus. As a house church leader, I need to put this into practice and believe that the few resource we have been given is enough to be used by Jesus to bring about a fantastic work of God.

In this study we have learned so many new and wonderful things. First, we learn the character of one who can be used by God. Ehud shows these. He was decisive. He was direct and courageous. He was obedient to the mission God had called him to. Second, we learn to glorify God though our weaknesses thereby rendering glory to God. Third, use what you have for the glory of God. Fourth, we learn that once we have been delivered from evil we must “close the door behind us.” Fifth and lastly we learn to seek and find the resources that God has already given us and utilize them with faith to render glory to God.

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