12 “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.
13 Getting the Ammonites and Amalekites to join him, Eglon came and attacked Israel, and they took possession of the City of Palms. [a]
14 The Israelites were subject to Eglon king of Moab for eighteen years.
15 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,” Judges 3:12-15.
Othniel becomes a Judge or Deliverer of Israel and the “land has rest forty years” (v. 11) but upon his death the people drift back into their old ways of apostasy. So God raised up Eglon king of Moab to have power over Israel and they suffered persecution for eighteen years.
Verse 15 tells us that after eighteen years of misery the people cry out to God once again for a Deliverer and God gave them Ehud. Now this is both interesting and important to our understanding of how God works for the salvation of His people.
We get ourselves into all kinds of trouble just like the Israelites because we chase after other gods and forget Him in the joy of the moment. We would often just drift along totally indifferent to Him if it weren’t for difficulties that arise and spring out of that indifference and self-centeredness. It is interesting how many people remember God and prayer when their lives start falling apart, but have no time for Him when things are going well.
This is what happened to Israel. Under the leadership of Othniel they prospered and for forty years everything went wonderfully. During that time, instead of drawing close to God and giving Him praise for all He had done for them, they simply took Him and His grace for granted and went back to their old ways of worshipping sex, wealth, and status.
Without God, however, they ended up in a complete mess and He allowed Eglon, king of Moab, to become a thorn in the flesh of the people. God simply waited for Israel to come to their senses and return to Him and when they did that, He delivered them.
The character that He chose for that deliverance is not a person who we would think would be up to the challenge. The writer of Judges goes out of his way to state that Ehud was a Benjaminite and a left-handed man.
The Benjamite’s were a tribe that had been decimated by inter-tribal warfare and Ehud doesn’t appear as any great leader from the group. The idea that he was left-handed has been interpreted two ways by Old Testament scholars. Some believe it was a form of deformity that kept him from using his right hand in warfare. Others believe it meant he was a warrior who would have advantage in warfare because he could use either hand for thrusting out with a sword.
It is important for us to remember upon reading this section concerning Eglon and his oppression against Israel that he doesn’t seem like a bright man and most certainly is not a warrior king. The whole plot of Ehud’s killing of Eglon revolves around the obesity of Eglon.
Here is the point of all this. God is telling Israel you have been oppressed by a very obese man who is as dull as a door-hinge so what condition must you be in to have allowed that? If Eglon is a mess then surely Israel, if they would take a moment to self-examine, would see they are in even worse condition than that foreign king.
It is important for us to know that it doesn’t seem that the people crying out to God in verse fifteen is true repentance. It is more like the cry of someone in trouble who just wants out of the mess they find themselves in. But the wonderful aspect of all this is that God hears us anyway regardless of our motives and sends a deliverer.
In the case of Ehud there is nothing special about him, in fact he is just the opposite of a real hero. He may be deformed, if we accept that his left-handedness was the result of his inability to use his right hand. He comes from a tribe that is broken and small. In short, he is a deliverer who should never be able to deliver—unless God does the delivering.
Timothy Keller in his book Judges for You gives us an interesting insight into what is going on with Ehud. “All of the judges from Ehud onward point us to Christ. Unlike them, He did not use deception (Ehud), need assistance (Deborah/Barak), or display selfish ambition (Gideon), rashness (Jephthah) or sexual weakness (Samson). In fact, He was in every way as flawless as Othniel appears on the pages of Judges.
Yet, like all the major judges after Othniel, Jesus was an outsider, someone the world could not believe was either God’s chosen Ruler or His Rescuer. Jesus is still more of an unlikely and inside-out Deliverer. He delivered His people not through great triumph, but through crushing defeat.” p. 50
Ehud points us to Jesus, the ultimate outsider, who brings deliverance to the ultimate left-handers—us. He wins our freedom from the idols, gods, and oppressors of life, not by a mighty sword but through the manger. Jesus doesn’t come crashing down upon us as a Hollywood Epic but flies to us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
At the cross the world would cry out Jesus was defeated, but at the cross Jesus won the victory. The ultimate outsider makes us all insiders in the realm of grace. There is no room for legalism, egotism, or anything else when faced with the unmerited grace of God, we just accept it for what it is.
Ehud the outsider, the least likely, was used by God to deliver His people in a particular time and place. Jesus the ultimate outsider delivers His people throughout all time and in every place.
God is good.
* Many people around the globe are experiencing persecution for their faith in God, and many even unto death. They need our support and continuous prayers. Please take the time to read some of their stories at http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ there is much more on the internet but you have to search for it