The Saving Hand of God
Judges 3:12-30
A Lowly, Left-Handed Man and The High, Humble Hand of God
Published May 3rd, 2020; Updated May 5th, 2020
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Main point summary
Main point summary
Even though the Lord sent enemies against His people, He heard their cries, and saved them by His own hand, through the lowly left hand of Ehud.
Judges 3:12-30
d And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord ,
and the Lord strengthened Eglon e the king of Moab against Israel,
because they had done what was evil in the sight of the Lord .
He gathered to himself the Ammonites and the f Amalekites,
and went and defeated Israel.
And they took possession of g the city of palms.
And the people of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years.
Then the people of Israel h cried out to the Lord ,
and the Lord raised up for them h a deliverer, Ehud, the son of Gera, the Benjaminite, i a left-handed man.
The people of Israel sent tribute by him to Eglon the king of Moab.
And Ehud made for himself a sword with two edges, a cubit 1 in length,
and he bound it on his right thigh under his clothes.
And he presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab.
Now Eglon was a very fat man.
And when Ehud had finished presenting the tribute, he sent away the people who carried the tribute.
But he himself turned back j at the idols near Gilgal
and said, “I have a secret message for you, O king.”
And he commanded, “Silence.”
And all his attendants went out from his presence.
And Ehud came to him as he was sitting alone in his k cool roof chamber.
l And Ehud said, “I have a message from God for you.”
And he arose from his seat.
And Ehud reached with his left hand, took the sword from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly.
And the hilt also went in after the blade,
and the fat closed over the blade,
for he did not pull the sword out of his belly;
and the dung came out.
Then Ehud went out into the porch 1 and closed the doors of the roof chamber behind him m and locked them.
When he had gone, the servants came ,
and when they saw that the doors of the roof chamber were locked, they thought ,
n “Surely he is relieving himself in the closet of the cool chamber.”
And they waited till they were embarrassed.
But when he still did not open the doors of the roof chamber, they took the key and opened them,
and there lay their lord dead on the floor.
Ehud escaped while they delayed,
and he passed beyond o the idols and escaped to Seirah.
When he arrived, p he sounded the trumpet in q the hill country of Ephraim.
Then the people of Israel went down with him from the hill country, and he was their leader.
And he said to them,
“Follow after me,
r for the Lord has given your enemies the Moabites into your hand.”
So they went down after him
and seized s the fords of the Jordan against the Moabites
and did not allow anyone to pass over.
And they killed at that time about 10,000 of the Moabites, all strong, able-bodied men; not a man escaped.
So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. t And the land had rest for eighty years.
The hand of Israel was the Victor-- God's power manifest in weakness. A greater judge was coming in weakness, and no one would expect Him, and yet He would fulfill the covenant for all of Israel.
Israel's persistent disobedience is their source of enslavement. They are slaves to sin, and cannot free themselves.
What is the significance of Israel sending this "gift" to Eglon? Israel sends him as a "gift." The tribute comes by the agency of Ehud. Ehud carries their salvation.
Plenteous, well-fed, lacking nothing. 1 Corinthians 1:26-31
Ehud sends the others away, but he alone remains to accomplish the mission. Just a left handed man. Then Eglon sends others away-- it is just weakness and might in the room.
The message is salvation for Ehud, and judgement for Eglon.
God had said, that "I will not drive them out before you, but they shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you." (Judges 2:3). However, Ehud passed by. God allowed Ehud to pass through unharmed.
The reason to follow Ehud (the left handed judge of God) was because of God's hand giving the nation over to Israel's hand.
Hebrews 4:12 - Ehud brings a sword, and thrusts it through Eglon. And before he does this, he says, I have a message from God for you. He brings not peace, but a sword(Matthew 10:34). Christ's hard words are salvation to the disciples, but divisive in any case where there are believers and non believers. The sword of the Word saves His people, and judges the rest. The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18). This is not a salvation accomplished by us, but by God. God raised up a deliverer-- Israel only cried out. We are the people of Israel, who did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and have now had powers raised against us for our humility. We need to know that it is the man does not live by bread alone, that it is the Word of the Lord that saves. God's hand will pluck us out of Egypt and put us in the promise land, and that hand comes in the form of Christ. The all powerful, creating, sustaining Hand of God came to wash feet and be pierced. All authority in heaven and earth took on weakness. And here, God's salvation came through a left handed man of the tribe of Benjamin. You are not Ehud, but Israel.
Today we're going to take a look at an event in the Scriptures that shines light on Israel's history , Israel's heart , and Israel's Helping Hand . This story comes to us out of the book of Judges, a time after God's hand had already led them into Egypt through Joseph, out of Egypt through Moses, and then expanded their nation through Joshua. And once we get to the book of Judges in the Bible, Joshua is dead, no longer their leader, and the Scripture tells us that "the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals. And they abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the people who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the LORD to anger... whenever they marched out, the hand of the LORD was against them for harm, as the LORD had sworn to them. And they were in terrible distress" (Judges 2:11-12, 15). So, once the leadership of Joshua leaves Israel, they turn away from the LORD. They serve the gods of the surrounding nations, they chase the evil desires of their hearts, and God gives them up. He raises up nations to fight against His own people. However, He brings them low to bring Himself high. The Scripture goes on to say, "Then the LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them. Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they whored after other gods and bowed down to them.They soon turned aside from the way in which their fathers had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the LORD, and they did not do so. Whenever the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge" (Judges 2:16-18). . And this is the pattern throughout the whole book of Judges: Israel commits treason against their God and King, turning to the powerless gods of those around them. This provokes the Lord, the righteous Judge to anger, Who then sends nations to destroy His own nation! However, the Lord would send a judge who would save them, and Israel would once again be free. And then the cycle would repeat. This is the pattern of the book of Judges, a time period when, as the Scriptures tell us that, "there was no king in Israel [and] everyone did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25)." And the judge that we are going to look at today is named Ehud. So, let's turn to the Word and read Judges 3:12-20. Now, as is the pattern that we noted in Judges, our story begins with the hard heart of Israel that is their history. The Scriptures tell us that "the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done what was evil in the sight of the LORD" (Judges 3:12). Israel continues to be disobedient to God, and just as God had said, He raised up a nation to bring them low. Now, remember, God does not owe anyone mercy. Any withholding of judgement that God grants us He does so out of His goodness and mercy, not because He has to. We serve a perfect God Who is a perfect Judge, which means that He has to give out justice to those who have sinned. And our disobedience toward a God Who is holy, eternal, and good, means that we only deserve eternal punishment. God is perfectly just in giving us any judgement He sees fit. However, in the case of Israel, His people, God's judgement is not unto eternal death, but unto eternal life. We see in verse 15 that the oppression of Eglon has brought Israel low, and they cry out to the LORD that He might save them. The LORD showed them that they needed Him. And in response, God saves. The Bible says that the LORD raised up a deliver, Ehud, making sure to note that he is a Benjaminite and a left-handed man. Why does the Scripture include that? Because it wants us to see the weakness of Ehud. He is of the tribe of Benjamin, the youngest of Israel, and a left-handed man. At the time, people who were left-handed were looked down upon, and even the way the Hebrew tells us that Ehud was left-handed tells us that they didn't think positively of his condition. The Hebrew doesn't emphasize that Ehud was better with his left than his right, it instead emphasizes that he was unable to use his right. Instead of focusing on Ehud's ability to use his left hand, it focuses on his inability to use his right hand. In other words, the Scripture does not focus on how strong Ehud was, but on how weak . In contrast, the Scripture emphasizes the strength and prosperity of Eglon. The Scripture mentions how fat he was, a sign of wealth and prosperity, and tells us that the LORD strengthened him and his nation against Israel. So, what is the story setting up? The weak overthrowing the strong, for, the weakness of God is stronger than men. Paul writes of this in 1 Corinthians 1:26-28, when he says that, "not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God." The hand of God raises up oppression, and it raises up deliverance from that oppression in the form of weakness. For Ehud was weak, and the only reason he succeeded was because God was with him. For, the LORD was with his judges, and we see in verse 19 that the idols of Israel's enemies had no effect on Ehud, even though God had said earlier that "their gods shall be a snare to you" (Judges 2:3). God was with Ehud, and he was not turning aside from his mission. And what was that mission? The deliverance of Israel. That was the purpose that the LORD had in mind when raising him up as a judge, and that was the purpose that the LORD would work out through him. So, Ehud turns back to accomplish the purpose that God raised him up for. He has a message for Eglon, a secret message that is for his ears only. Eglon sends out his attendants so that only Ehud and Eglon remain. Then Ehud says in the silence, "I have a message from God for you." And he gets up from his seat, approaches the king, and reaches for his sword. How is it that he snuck this sword in? How did he get this far? Surely the guards should have checked him to make sure he didn't have any weapon on him. And surely the must have, but only in the place that they would expect a weapon to be: on Ehud's left thigh. For, the guards would expect Israel to send someone of high rank to represent them, not this lowly left-handed man. And a man of high rank would surely be right-handed, which would mean that he would strap his sword on his left thigh when reaching for it. However, Ehud was not what they were expecting. In fact, the sword was in just the opposite spot, on his right thigh, and slipped past the inspection of the guards. And now, Ehud was in front of Eglon, sword drawn, ready to deliver "a message from God" for him. Except, Ehud stays silent. He only thrusts the double edged sword directly into Eglon's belly, killing him. The "message from God," was a sword. A sword that meant freedom for the people of God and judgement for those who oppressed God's people. And let us not think this to be a simple sword. The Scriptures tell us that they themselves are a sword, and in Hebrew 4:12 we see that "the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." The sword that Ehud draws on Eglon represents the word of the cross that is "folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (1 Corinthians 1:18). The sword that Ehud drew resulted in the salvation of God's people, and the destruction of those against God's people. This is echoed by our Savior when He said that He came “not to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). Christ came as a judgement to the oppressors, and as freedom to the oppressed. His hard words of serious devotion to Himself fall on some as an easy and light burden and on others as insane and overbearing. He came to put a sword into the hands of His weak ones unto salvation and to put a sword into the bellies of “strong ones” unto their destruction. God rose up enemies against His people, rose up a deliver from those enemies, and provided the weapon that would conquer the oppressors and free the oppressed. Let us not think it is much different today. For "we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:24). We no longer need God to give us judges to free us from oppression, for we have the Judge of all, living and dead, Who has freed us from all oppression, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And His message of repentance and belief might be rejected by many to their own destruction, but it will be accepted by the children of God for their own salvation. And just as Ehud came in weakness, rejected by men, Christ came down in weakness, and was rejected by men. And just as God used Ehud's weakness to deliver Israel, God was use Christ's humility to accomplish salvation for all who would trust in Him. God used Ehud to conquer the oppression of the slave-master Eglon, and God would send a greater Conquerer later to end once and for all the oppression of our slave-master sin. Just as the weakness of Ehud became the strength of Israel, the humility of Christ became the salvation of God's people. This is not salvation by our own hand, but salvation by the saving Hand of God. The same Hand of God that brought the people of Israel from out of Egypt and into the promised land (Exodus 6:6), the same Hand of God that shut the mouths of the lions in the lions den for Daniel, and the same Hand of God that reached down from Heaven in the form of Jesus, only to be pierced by His own people. For, "to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief," (Isaiah 53:1-3) as John tells us that Isaiah wrote of Jesus (John 12:38). The lowly left hand of Ehud would later be replaced by the humble and mighty hand of God. And while Ehud saved the people of God for a season (for they would persist in disobedience), Jesus would save the people of God for all eternity, and causing them to walk in His ways and be careful to obey His law (Ezekiel 36:26-27). So, what does this story mean for us? Are we to not allow people to think low of us just because we might not be great at everything? Are we to "block out the haters" as the world says, and continue thinking highly of ourselves anyways? Is this story proclaiming a deeper confidence in ourselves or a deeper confidence in God? Let it proclaim what it does, which is a deeper confidence in a God who saves. For, we are not Ehud in the story, but the people of Israel who did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. We need a deliverer, and Ehud was the deliverer of Israel at that time, but a better Deliverer was coming, and a better Judge. We need Christ our Deliverer every day, for life, breath, obedience, comfort, joy, and salvation. It is in Christ where we find freedom from what torments us, not in greater efforts on our behalf! It is God who allowed Ehud to turn away at the idols of Eglon, and it is God who grants us the same repentance today. It is God who planned the salvation of Israel at the lowly left hand of Ehud, and it is God who planned the salvation of His people at the humble yet mighty hand of His Son. So, turn from the strength of your own hand, and lean into the mighty saving Hand of God. There is no safety, no comfort, no joy, no freedom anywhere else.
Disclaimer: The opinions and conclusions expressed on this page are those of the author and may or may not accord with the positions of Biblearc or Bethlehem College & Seminary.