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.

Everyone Did What Was Right in Their Own Eyes

In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Judges 21:25

This is the depressing end to the book of Judges. Depressing, but not surprising. No sooner is Israel settling in the promised land than they are turning from God’s ways and falling into sin. The Judges were to bring the people back to God, but the chorus of this book is that Israel again does what is evil in the sight of the Lord (2:11, 3:7, 3:12, 4:1, 6:1, 10:6, 13:1). Having heard that phrase, in the sight of the Lord (NIV – in the eyes of the Lord), so many times, it is then so fitting to close the book, “Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.”

Many times over God has shown them how he sees things. He urges them to live according to his ways, to do what is right in God’s eyes. But continually they instead do what is right in their eyes, according to how they see things.

…and everyone did what was right in their own eyes.

Judges is a saddening book as we see Israel, who have been blessed by God with so much, turn from him. Yet we can’t read it from too far a distance. Are we that unlike Israel? Don’t we do whatever we think is good? Do we allow God to be the judge in our lives, or do we more often take that role upon ourselves? How many things do we do that don’t look “right” to our own eyes? How many things can we name that we know God wants, but we think differently? Who wins that battle?

This problem can be even more deceiving because we may not easily think of things in our lives that we know God wants to change.* It’s amazing how much we all are in agreement with God–or how much God agrees with me! But is that the way we would expect it to go? No, we’re told to expect sacrifice and trials. We are told to die to the old self, to live for Christ (Romans 6:1-18, Galatians 2:20, Ephesians 4:17-24, Romans 12:1-2). So if it seems that God has stamped his approval on all that we do and believe, isn’t it possible we’re just doing what we think is right in our own eyes, not in the sight of God?

It is easy to read the Bible and look for those parts of Scripture that affirm what we want to hear. But we need humility to approach God confessing that we are prone to self-deception (1 John 1:8). We need to ask God to help reveal those things that we think are in line with his will, but are not. We need the Spirit to pierce through our assumptions as we read God’s Word and reveal to us the challenges as well as the comfort of the Bible.

I think back to Galatians as Paul tells the churches that he had to challenge Peter (Cephas) for the way in which he was treating the Gentiles. Here is Peter, a great leader of the early church, and he is mistreating fellow brothers in Christ. He was doing what was right in his own eyes. God uses another of his servants to remind Peter than in the sight of God, there is no Jew or Gentile, and to act in another way is against the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We need God’s Word, prayer, and other followers of Christ to speak truth to us. We are not equipped to be our own judges. If everyone is left alone to decide for themselves what is right and what is the truth for them, we find ourselves with the people of Judges. Rather we should seek to see things through the eyes of God. We should seek to do what he says is right, even if the world around us thinks us foolish.

*There may be plenty of little things as we are sure God would prefer that we pray more, speed less, and be nicer to others. But on those things we agree with God, it is just a matter of doing. I’m thinking bigger.

Year in the Bible, Q2 Week 4

We now begin another wonderful week of reading God’s Word. I hope you enjoyed the way, in just one week, we finished the letter to the Galatians. Certainly there is plenty to study in a book like that, but it packs a punch when you read straight though. We almost finished Judges, which we’ll do this week as it only has a few more chapters. Then on top of finishing Judges, we’ll begin and end both Ruth and Ephesians.

Map of the 12 Tribes to help give you the context for Judges. Click for full size.

But do not be overwhelmed. We have may four books this week (Judges, Ruth, Ephesians, Psalms), but no one book has that many chapters. Figure out a good way to read them, and might I suggest not trying to each a little bit every day. That may be confusing.

The great thing about having four this week is that we can really build momentum. When we can start to build a longer list of books we’ve read, it makes me excited to see all we’ve done. God has given us each of these books and all of the Scriptures are useful for us today, so what a blessing to have journeyed through as many as we have.

So I hope you share such excitement and enter this week with an anticipation that God will continue to speak to you as you make your way to the end of three more books of the Bible.

If as you are reading you have thoughts to share, pass them along. And let me know if you’d be OK if I then share them here.

Week in Review, Quarter 2, Week 3

Samson and Lion fountain in St. Petersburg, just one character we passed over this last week in Judges.

I haven’t devoted much typing to the book of Judges this week, something I’ll be sure to remedy for the next week’s assignments for Year in the Bible. But in reading through Galatians I see a connection to Judges, and Galatians could just about be retitled and delivered to the tribes of Israel. Paul writes in chapter one:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—

He goes on to say that calling anything but the gospel of Christ ‘gospel’ doesn’t make sense, for nothing is good news compared to God’s grace. But, the point I’m making with relation to Judges is that this church in Galatia, some two thousand years ago, suffered the same problems that God’s people struggled with thousands of years before that. They so quickly turn from the God who had delivered them from Egypt and delivered them into the promised land. Sadly the story is a common one in which humanity, for no good reason, turns from God.

I don’t know whether we should grow more angry with ourselves seeing this pattern continue or if we should have greater sympathy. Maybe both. At least it should help make us humble people.

The good news is that this pattern also includes a God who forgives and welcomes us back again and again.

Quarter Two, Week Three

Is it just me or have the last couple weeks flown by? We’ve already finished up both Joshua and Mark and now we begin Judges and Galatians.

I’ll just make one tip as we get into these readings. Galatians is a letter, and how many letters do you read spread out over a week? Answer: none. We don’t typically read letters in parts, so I’d encourage you to take your time with Judges, but when it comes to Galatians, try to read it in one sitting. It’s not that long, so don’t worry. If you do I think you’ll get a good sense of Paul’s intent and purpose in writing this to the churches in Galatia.

If you have questions throughout this week, send them my way!