JUDGES 3: CAN GOD USE OUR FLAWS TO SAVE?
A LEFT HANDED DELIVERER
Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and because they did this evil the Lord gave Eglon king of Moab power over Israel. Getting the Ammonites and Amalekites to join him, Eglon came and attacked Israel, and they took possession of the City of Palms. The Israelites were subject to Eglon king of Moab for eighteen years.
Again the Israelites cried out to the Lord, 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. Now Ehud had made a double-edged sword about a cubit long, which he strapped to his right thigh under his clothing. He presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab, who was a very fat man. After Ehud had presented the tribute, he sent on their way those who had carried it. 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.
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, Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king’s belly. 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.Then Ehud went out to the porch; he shut the doors of the upper room behind him and locked them.
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.”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.
While they waited, Ehud got away. He passed by the stone images and escaped to Seirah. When he arrived there, he blew a trumpet in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went down with him from the hills, with him leading them.
“Follow me,” he ordered, “for the Lord has given Moab, your enemy, into your hands.” So they followed him down and took possession of the fords of the Jordan that led to Moab; they allowed no one to cross over. At that time they struck down about ten thousand Moabites, all vigorous and strong; not one escaped. That day Moab was made subject to Israel, and the land had peace for eighty years.
WHO WAS THE FIRST JUDGE OF ISRAEL?
The first judge of Israel was a man named Othniel (vs.7-11). Since you’ve already read one devotional based on Judges 3 (there’s only supposed to be one devotional per chapter), I’ll make only one point regarding Othniel. Judges 3:10 says, “The Spirit of the LORD came upon him, so that he became Israel’s judge and went to war.” Here’s the point. It was the power of God that delivered the Israelites, not Othniel. God used Othniel, but it was by God “who raised up a deliverer” and empowered and equipped him to save his people. Salvation does not come from human efforts. As Jonah would later write, “Salvation comes from the LORD” (Jonah 2:9). That is as true today as it was for Othniel. Whatever you accomplish, the ability and power to achieve it comes from the Lord. That’s certainly true of salvation from sins. We are saved, not by our own efforts, but by the powerful blood of Jesus.
WHY DOES THE BIBLE POINT OUT THAT EHUD IS LEFT HANDED?
The bulk of Judges 3 is the story of Israel’s second judge. His story begins like so many of the upcoming judges: “Once again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD” (v.12), and because they did, God allowed the Moabite king, Eglon to oppress Israel 18 years. Another recurring refrain follows quickly, “Again the Israelites cried out to the LORD, and he gave them a deliverer—Ehud, a left-handed man” (v.15).
Ehud’s left-handedness is more than a minor detail. If you look up references in the Bible to “right hand,” they are all positive. Two examples: God swears by his right hand (Isaiah 62:8), and Christ sits at God’s right hand (Ephesians 1:20). The right hand was a symbol of power and ability. One fought with his sword in his right hand. Hebrew scholars point out that “left-handed man” is a Hebrew idiom which literally means “man bound/restricted in his right hand.” That possibly means that Ehud was paralyzed or disabled in some way in his right hand. His fellow Israelites trusted him with their money (likely agricultural products) because they sent him to pay tribute (taxes) to Eglon. But sending Ehud to deliver them? Not likely, not with a disabled right hand!
Yet, Ehud is the man God raised up to deliver Israel. How like God to do that!
As we so often read in the Bible, God chose surprisingly unqualified people to accomplish his objectives. Instead of calling the rich and famous, God normally chose poor people who were unknown—shepherds (think Abraham), prostitutes (think Rahab), fishermen (think Peter, James and John), slaves (think Joseph and Moses), murderers (think Paul the Apostle), and scores of others who were powerless, untrained, and ill-equipped to get God’s job done.
So, why does God so often do this? The Bible says that it’s to ensure that salvation comes from God and not from human strength, wisdom, or resources. Apostle Paul reminds us of this truth, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8).
If God can use a handicapped man to deliver his people, God can use you, no matter how unqualified you think you might be. Rely on his power, and you could be another Ehud!
Lord, sometimes I feel so untalented, ill-equipped, and so inadequate that I freeze instead of moving forward with the tasks you put before me. The truth is, Lord, that I am weak. But remind me that you are strong and that you can give me the ability and the power to do what you've called me to do. In Jesus Name, Amen!
Dr. Dan Dozier
Dan Dozier preaches for the Rural Hill Church of Christ in Antioch, TN. Dr. Dozier holds degrees from Lipscomb University, Harding School of Theology, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Doctorate from Abilene Christian University. He has been married to his high school sweetheart, JaneLee, since 1972. They have three married children and eight grandchildren.