Friday, September 30
Joshua spends significant time during his life encouraging the Israelites to remember. Remember… the commands of Moses, the allotted inheritance, all the LORD has done for you… However – we soon see, what appears to be, short term memory loss as we jump into the book of Judges. I think many of us, as Christians, want to make great choices… then we see something attractive, fun, accessible, & maybe a little shiny. We think we want it and we can handle it. As you look at our friends from Finding Nemo staring at the shiny object, they feel happy and mesmerized by something they aren’t familiar with –but it’s close and it’s shiny and hard to turn away from. The period of Judges spotlights some dark times and poor choices made by God’s chosen people. The Israelites seem to trap themselves in a repetitive cycle throughout this book. They persist in forgetting the LORD and follow a pattern of: sin, bondage, deliverance by a Judge, blessing, death of the Judge, and sin again. It seems their shiny lure comes in the form of heathen people and their idols.
“The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD” (Judges 3:7). “The anger of the LORD burned against Israel so that he sold them … into the hands of …the king of Aram” (Judges 3:8). Their shiny idols and lifestyle changes have now turned on them. (Notice Dory’s shiny attraction turned on her too). They were greatly oppressed for 8 years by these pagans. God raised up Othniel (Caleb’s nephew) to deliver his people. He went to war and overpowered the enemy, and the land had peace for 40 years.
It would be great if the Israelites brushed up on their history lessons and took a stroll down memory lane, but no! They revert to their ever-so-popular repetitive cycle of sin. The shiny idols and old pattern of infidelity reasserts itself. They once again fall into the hands of their enemy. This enemy is King Eglon of Moab and they are overpowered for 18 years. We see a cry for help, and God is faithful to give them a deliverer. Ehud is clever and uses his gifts of left-handedness and wit to his advantage. He made an 18 inch double-edged sword and strapped it to his right thigh. He secured this under his clothing when he joined other Israelites to present tribute to the king of Moab and his thugs. Ehud and his men left the tribute and headed back to their people – but Ehud stopped and returned alone to the king. As Ehud approached big ol’ King Eglon, I am sure the king and his guards were keeping their eyes on Ehud’s right hand – the expected offensive strong arm. Ehud used a technique on the king that he couldn’t resist. A little bait and hook! Maybe this was King Eglon’s moment to want something special and shiny just for himself. Ehud said, “I have a secret message for you, O King” (Judges 3:19). Eglon was intrigued and selfish enough to want this all to himself! He sent everyone out of the room. He was ready for his special message. Ehud approached him and told him he had “… a secret message from God for you” (3:20). The King didn’t see it coming… Ehud used his dominant left hand to grab the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king’s belly. Following this sneaky execution, Ehud led the Israelites in battle against the Moabites and won. They had peace for 80 years.
Each time the Israelites relapsed to their infuriating cycle of sin, God was faithful to their cries to Him for help. Judges 2:18 tells us, “Whenever the LORD raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the LORD had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them.”
We don’t know a lot about Shamgar, the third judge of Israel. We do know he killed 600 Philistines with only an ox goad and he too saved Israel. The Philistines were wise enough to realize if one man can defeat that many men with one farmer’s tool (long pole with a sharp metal point for herding oxen), maybe they should walk away. If one man could do that – what could a dozen men, armed with ox goads, do?! God’s power was written all over this story. Why the Israelites couldn’t just hang out in the “deliverance by a Judge/ blessing” portion of their repetitive cycle… who knows?? Maybe too many shiny choices? Let’s not allow distractions or shiny things to blind us. We can attract others for the kingdom by reflecting God’s radiant light. “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
Let’s remember everything the LORD has done. Let’s also turn away from sinful (shiny) desires… and, in the words of Dory, “just keep swimming!”