“Then the Sons of Israel cried out to Yahweh. So Yahweh raised up for them a deliverer, Ehud, the son of Gerar, the Benjaminite, a man which was left-handed. And the Sons of Israel sent a gift in his left-hand to Eglon, the king of Moab.”
As I mentioned above, this account is filled with humor if you look for the double entendre, some of which we find here, though it is sometimes lost in English translations. Many of our translations simply state that Ehud is the one who will take the tribute to Ehud. In ancient times, it was common for the conquered people to have to take a tribute either seasonally or annually to the conquering King. And, that may indeed be what Ehud’s assignment is, yet, that is not specifically what the text states. It states that Ehud is bringing a gift for Eglon “in his left hand.” We have already been told in this verse that Ehud is a south-paw, so we know that something is afoot. If we know the rest of the story, then we know that the item that will become most accessible to his left hand will be his long dagger, but that gets ahead of the story. The fact that this man’s left-handedness is mentioned twice in the same verse is meant as an indication that something is coming with respect to the left hand…namely that this gift or left-handed tribute, is not the ordinary kind that we might expect. And certainly not the kind that Eglon will expect.
Ehud’s name means, “He that Praises,” so right up front there is an indication of the kind of man that God chooses to use. He is not predominantly a warrior, though he is clearly skilled in combat, he is a man who praises God first and foremost in all he does. And beloved, if you wish to be used by God in significant ways in life, this is the kind of person that you, too, must be. God will win the battles, build the churches, change the culture, and evangelize the lost, and he will do so through the person whose first aim is to praise and give glory to His great name. There is an old saying that goes, “God does not call the equipped; he equips those he calls.” And those he calls are those who will honor him and not themselves. Ehud is presented to us as such a man.
Too often Christians feel inadequate to change the world. And that is because we are. Yet God is more than adequate and he will work through you if you honor him in all things. The question that we are all faced with is, “will we seek first the kingdom”? God will honor nothing less.
“And he gathered to himself the Sons of Ammon and Amalek and they went and struck down Israel and dispossessed the City of Palms. Thus, the Sons of Israel served Eglon, king of Moab, for eighteen years.”
We tend to have short memories. We want everything in an instant and to move on to the next thing. The notion of being disciplined for 18 years seems like a lifetime for most of us. The notion of having to wait 18 years for a deliverer seems to us to be interminable. And recognize, too, much like today, during that 18 years, the people would have looked to this leader or that leader to lead them out of their servitude. There would have been some “political strategists” who would have advocated blending their society more with that of the Moabites and others who would have been chanting, “Let’s make Israel great again.”
The reality, though, deliverance does not come from politics or from political parties who jockey for power. Deliverance comes from God. That is an important lesson to learn for all of us today who sometimes get caught up in the frenzy of political promises. It is also a lesson to remember within the church as local congregations often look to their pastors to “fix” all of the problems and bring growth. But the role of our governors is to be ministers of God to bring terror to evil-doers (Romans 13:1-4), to punish wrongdoing and praise those who do good (1 Peter 2:14). It is the role of the pastor to train and equip the church to do the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12). The solution to the problems in America today are the same solutions as were the solutions in ancient Israel…repent of your sin, do justice, love God’s mercies, and walk humbly with your God. Yet, much like was the case with Adam and Eve, people today and during the day of the Judges, never want to look to self, but always seek to place the blame on another.
Thus, Moab and their allies move into national Israel and even take back the City of Palms, better known to us as Jericho (Deuteronomy 34:3). And, following the defeat, find themselves under Moab’s yoke. I wonder, will the Christian church today realize their sin before they find themselves under the yoke of a pagan federal government? Maybe we already are and are just too blind to see it.