A note about Ehud the left-handed man

Does the author of Judges just want to give a shout out to all the southpaws out there, or is there something more to Ehud being left-handed?
Does the author of Judges just want to give a shout out to all the southpaws in Israel, or is there something more to Ehud being left-handed?

If you’re following along in Judges you come upon to the pretty gruesome story of Ehud. He goes to a rival king, Eglon, sneaks in a sword, hangs out alone, and then kills him. Once Ehud leaves the guards assume with the smell that thad made itself to them was just the king relieving himself. By the time they realize he is dead, Ehud has escaped. What a strange story.

With plenty of questions to ask, let’s just ask “Why did the king even feel comfortable to be alone with Ehud?” There is a strange comment about Ehud in his short intro. It says that he was a left-handed man. Do we need to know that? Why is it included?

It could mean more literally that Ehud couldn’t use his right hand, perhaps he was physically deformed or permanently injured. If so, he may not have been a picture of strength and didn’t seem a risk to Eglon.

Not only is that a possible explanation about Ehud, but it tells us something about who God chooses.

Ehud is a surprising choice; in a society which was even more cruel than our own to people who were physically handicapped, he would have been considered ineffective. No one would have looked up to him or naturally chosen to follow him. Yet he is God’s choice. (Tim Keller, Judges For You, Kindle Locations 596-598).

Is Ehud an exception to all the exceptional leaders of God? Or is this just how God works? God continues to surprise and do the unexpected. He takes those whom the world has rejected and works wonders. And when Jesus comes this is just the case. “Jesus? From Nazareth? Joseph’s son? A carpenter?” Even after his miracles and the crowds had gathered, when Jesus is there on the cross, he is not the picture of strength. But this is how our God works.

Let this story of Ehud, with all its vividness that makes it easy to remember, help us remember that God uses people like us and that God used one the one who was rejected by others to be our very foundation.

Preview of Judges, our own sinful cycles, and God’s repeated faithfulness

Judges will reintroduce us to some familiar names, yet as we read it again slowly, we may be surprised at what we learn about people like Gideon or Samson. We may see the Biblical narratives as full of heroes of the faith, yet these heroes aren’t always so heroic.

Judges will remind us of our own failings and how we repeat sinful patterns. God alone is faithful and thankfully the is full of grace and mercy. This points us ahead toward Jesus, as Keller reminds us in his summary of this book:

God relentlessly offers his grace to people who do not deserve it, or seek it, or even appreciate it after they have been saved by it. The book of Judges is not about a series of role models. Though there are a few good examples (eg: Othniel, Deborah), they are early on in the book, and do not dominate the narrative. The point is that the only true savior is the Lord. Judges is ultimately about grace abounding to chief sinners. God’s grace will triumph over the stupidest actions. (Keller, Timothy (2013-08-06). Judges For You (God’s Word For You) (Kindle Locations 70-74). The Good Book Company. Kindle Edition.)

As you continue reading, let this image remind you of what you’ll encounter again and again. It is a cycle of repeated rejection of God, yet he remains faithful.

The tone of God’s instructions

We’ve all experienced rules and regulations in life that do not have clear reasons behind them. While they may have had some logical justification at some point, that time has gone.

There are also laws in this world that may not be any better than another way of doing things, but they are enforced because there needs to be some sort of consistency. Think about what side of the road you drive on. The left or right side of the road is no better or worse; one is not a more morally superior option. All that it is really important is once a decision is made you stick with it.

Sometimes we see the path God lays out for us and we wonder, “Why?” Is there a good reason to follow? Is it just arbitrary? Does God just want me to follow his way, yet any other way could be fine, too? But he just wants me on his side?

While we do not always know the full benefits of following God, for we do not always see what is around the corner and we never can see what might have been, God doesn’t want us to think following him is arbitrary. He doesn’t want his people to worship him and him alone just because that is the way he happens to prefer us to act. God desires that we follow because his ways are good and true. And that doesn’t mean just for him. When we follow it is good for us.

That’s why when we read a psalm like Psalm 81, we get a clear tone from God. He says listen to my voice, remember what I have done, turn to me so I may provide! He is grieved when we turn away because he knows it won’t go well for us.

Oh, that my people would listen to me,
that Israel would walk in my ways!

God is pleading with us because he wants what is good for us. He’s not a hall monitor yelling at us, merely upset we’re not presenting our hall pass. He’s not demanding we retake some test because we used the wrong pencil. He’s certainly not trying to put up countless hoops of bureaucracy and paperwork, like we navigate to complete our taxes. He’s not looking to make life more frustrating or painful or arbitrary. God loves his people and he knows his ways are best. Let that help guide your reading and give you a sense of the tone we see in the words of God.