A King on His Throne
I was reading some interesting statistics this week about dexterity. Roughly 12% of the world’s population is left-handed, less than 1% of the world is ambidextrous (they identify as being able to use both hands comfortably), and less than 1% of the world is ambilevous, meaning they find it awkward to use either hand. Did you know age can be a contributing factor to dexterity as well? In 1920 only 4% of the population identified as left-handed, while in 2000 12% of the population identifies as left-handed. Of those 65 or older in North America only 6% identify as left-handed, but of those 30 and under 12% identify as left-handed. Part of this may have been due to the stigma of being left-handed.
Left-handedness has not always been accepted, and even today in some countries left-handedness is “corrected.” The word “sinister” actually originates from the Latin word meaning left-handed. North America and Europe have the highest percentage of left-handers and it’s been suggested that the complexity of the writing system in Asian countries contributes to a lower percentage of left-handed people in Asian countries. Men are 23% more likely to be left-handed than women.
Left-handed people have higher rates of schizophrenia and psychosis, are more likely to experience migraines, more likely to drink, more likely to suffer from insomnia, dyslexia and ADHD, mature on average 4-5 months later than right-handers and are often more irritable, less confident, and scared more easily. Left-handed people are also often more artistic and better at sports, better at multi-tasking, recover from strokes quicker, and adjust to seeing underwater quicker. Left-handed college graduates make 26% more than right-handed graduates and can also process things quicker and are more likely to be geniuses.
A Lack of Connection Can Lead to Regression
There’s a story in Judges 3 about a famous left-handed Judge named Ehud. During his time Eglon, the Moabite king, joins forces together with the Ammonites and the Amalekites and attacks Israel and takes over the City of Palms. The City of Palms was also known as Jericho. This is the same land that the Israelites conquered in Joshua 6 on their way into the Promised Land. The main city of Jericho was never rebuilt, but they rebuilt their own cities in the land of Jericho.
This land was consecrated to God, it was their very first victory in the Promised Land, a battle where God brought down the walls with marching and shouts. It doesn’t matter that the Israelites had had previous victories there, when they severed their ties with God they regressed in the areas God had previously given them victories. When we lose our connection to God we face the possibility of losing ground where we had previously gained victories. Whatever addiction, whatever difficulty, whatever trial that we have overcome or conquered, it is possible to lose the victory we’d won when we disconnect from God.
It’s not that God causes us to lose out of spite, or anger, that’s not the kind of God we serve. It’s that we alone don’t have the power to overcome. If we could overcome our own sins by ourselves then there would have been no need for Jesus to die on the cross. Christ died on the cross because we couldn’t overcome on our own. The victories we gain, the overcoming we experience isn’t a result of our own strength or ability, it is the sustainingpower of Jesus Christ working within us. So, when disconnect from God, and lose our sustaining power we can regress and lose what we had previously overcome because the sustaining power is no longer present in our lives. Since it’s the power of the Spirit of Christ in us that gives us victory then we need to remain connected to that power source in order to maintain the victory.
Your Idols Become Your Oppressors
Whenever the Israelites “do evil in the sight of the Lord” the biblical writers are most always referring to idol worship and idolatrous practices. These worship practices included throwing their live children into furnaces as appeasement for gods. It included mass sexual acts performed in public as a means of promoting good harvest. The Israelites kept coming back to foreign gods, Molech, Baal, Asherah, Chemosh, the gods of the people of the land they were living in. They tried becoming like the other nations around them by emulating their practices and worshipping their gods. In fact the book of Judges in the Ancient Israelite context was a book justifying their need for a king.
The prelude and epilogue of Judges say “in those times Israel had no king and so everyone did as they saw fit.” They wanted a king not to lead them collectively, but in order to consolidate their nation to be like the nations around them. It didn’t matter how much they copied the people around them, the very people they tried copying were the people that oppressed them. You’ll notice this about the Old Testament that the more they tried the copy their enemies the more their enemies oppressed them. It’s only in the times where they gave up their idols and followed Yahweh that they had peace from the people around them.
Trying to be like the world around you in going against God’s commandments for Kingdom Living will not bring you peace, in fact it will only bring you more trouble. We can try to find comfort in alcohol, drugs, sex, pornography, the wrong social circles, money, material possessions, whatever idol you place at a higher importance over God but the reality of these idols is that they can’t ever bring you the freedom you’re looking for, they only bring you further oppression.
There’s no real freedom in alcohol or drugs, because any false sense of freedom is dependent on your level of inebriation. Where’s the freedom in not being able to control your actions? There’s no freedom in sex and pornography, in meaningless and empty relationships that negatively affect your ability to love other people. There’s no freedom in the wrong social circles that only offer acceptance in response to conformity. There’s no freedom in money or material possessions, the constant pursuit for more never being satisfied with what you have. There’s no freedom in any idols, only oppression. Yet there’s freedom in God who gives salvation without prerequisites; who gives love without conditions; who gives acceptance without conformity; who gives comfort in sobriety; who gave His only son while we were still sinners so that anyone desperate enough to have the faith to look to the Jesus would be saved into the Kingdom Life. Your idols become your oppressors but God is always the deliverer.
God Can Turn Disabilities into Capabilities
After long years of oppression from Eglon the Israelites cry out to God, and He gives them a deliverer by the name of Ehud, who the Bible says was a left-handed man, and a Benjamite. They send Ehud along with the envoy to present a tribute to King Eglon. This tribute was likely a payment of the taxes imposed on Israel by Eglon. Tributes presented to kings were done in extravagance. They would’ve sent a whole procession of slaves to carry a tribute that was light enough to be carried by one man. Ehud is part of that processional, and he decides that it’s here that he’s going to take action against Eglon and assassinate him. So he fashions a dagger about a foot long, handle included, and straps it to his right thigh underneath his clothes
The Bible says that Ehud was a Benjamite which is interesting for this book because he is the only Benjamite to be a judge of Israel. The story of Ehud actually occurs chronologically after the events of Judges 19-21, which if you’ve read does not put the tribe of Benjamin in good standing with the other tribes of Israel. Ehud is also noted to be left-handed with the Hebrew actually describin him as “being shut-up to his left hand” which suggests that Ehud wasn’t necessarily left-handed in dexterity but that he was left-handed because his right hand was crippled. Normally people were right-handed and would then strap any weapon onto their left thigh for ease of access. They likely would not have let the envoys of the tribute enter into the king’s chamber armed with a weapon but since Ehud was left-handed, crippled in his right-hand, they underestimated him and did not suspect him to be carrying a weapon on his right thigh
The Moabite guards saw Ehud’s disability and counted him out as a threat but when everyone else saw a disability God worked that disability into a capability. His left-handedness and his crippled right hand were the reason that Ehud was able to assassinate Eglon. He was the only one capable of completing his mission because of his unique circumstances. The book of Judges has been proving time-and-time again that God isn’t restricted by our gender, our lineage, our weakness, or our disabilities.
I can boast in my weakness because it is in this weakness that Christ’s power rests on me. His grace is sufficient, and His power is perfected through my weakness. Whatever you think is your greatest weakness, whatever you think is your greatest disability (mental, physical or whatever), in whatever way people around you underestimate you, it’s in these ways that God wants to you! God doesn’t want to just use you in powerful ways He wants to use you in ways you would never suspect! He’s going to use you in ways that leave you and everyone around you marvelling at the power of God through you.
You aren’t limited by your disabilities, because God is in the habit of turning your disabilities into capabilities! If God could heal the blind and crippled, cure disease and cast out demons, feed thousands and create with a single whisper then God can turn your greatest weakness into an asset!
Let Your Stones Remind You
The Bible says Eglon was a very fat man. This is an odd detail for the Bible to include in the story but it makes sense when you understand this story in the Hebrew context. This story is more of a satirical comedy, dealing with the serious theme of Israel’s liberation while at the same time making fun of and degrading their oppressors. It’s the dim-witted Moabites who let in a slave armed with a sword. It’s the very obese King Eglon, whose name in Hebrew actually means fattened little calf (more specifically a calf fattened for the purpose of sacrifice) who is slaughtered by a cripple all the while he sits on his throne, or his toilet seat (which we’ll get into in a second).
Ehud delivers the tribute to Eglon and it appears he leaves soon after delivering the tribute. lWhat exactly happens in his mind, whether he has second thoughts, or is scared I’m not sure, but he leaves the kings presence and reaches the stone images near Gilgal. Gilgal is the location in Canaan where the Israelites crossed the Jordan River with Joshua. God stops the river from flowing at its highest stage and all of Israel crosses into Canaan on dry ground. Then at Gilgal they build a 12-stone monument to remind them and future generations of the miracle God worked for Israel. When Ehud reaches these stones, this monument that serves as a reminder of the power of God, he gains the courage to go back and fulfil his plan to kill the evil king.
Monuments to God for the Israelites were for the purpose of reminding the people that God has a history of coming through in powerful ways for his people. Monuments in your life, whether physical or spiritual are meant to remind you of the tremendous works of God in your life. Anything can be a monument in your life. The house you were struggling to buy where God blessed you with a loan big enough to purchase. The kids you never thought you could have but God blessed you with. The relationship or spouse you prayed for over years that God has brought into your life. The car you’re blessed enough to drive. The fact that you’re still here even though illness threatened to rob you of your years. You are a monument to God working in your life, who has brought you through all the mess of your life, who has brought you up to this point right now, and promises to continue to lift you up. Let your stones, your monuments, remind you of God’s faithfulness in the past and inspire you into faith today!
Sometimes we need a reminder of God’s faithfulness before we step out in faith, but everyone has their own version of Gilgal, some moment in life where God has come through in amazing ways. Let your Gilgal inspire you to do what you feel God is calling you to do! Let your stones remind you of God’s amazing, consistent, extravagant faithfulness. If you’re running from your purpose, this right here is to remind you that there are stone monuments in your life. May you find your Gilgal, and turn back into whatever purpose God is calling you into.
Victory is the Beginning of Peace
So Ehud reaches Gilgal and is inspired to turn around. He heads back and reaches the kings and says “Your Majesty, I have a secret message for you.” Ehud returns with a secret for Eglon, so the king sends his servants away to hear this secret from God. Eglon was sitting alone in the upper room of his palace. In Middle Eastern palaces they a small room, often to the side, enclosed by 3 walls where the king could “sit on his throne.” Ehud approaches to deliver the message, and Eglon sits up a little in anticipation and Ehud whips out the sword and plunges it deep into the kings belly. Eglon is so fat, that the sword literally gets lost in his fat and Ehud escapes out the porch, locking the doors of the upper room behind him.
The servants must’ve seen Ehud leave because they go up to the chamber to check on the king. They get to the doors and they’re locked and they assume that he’s relieving himself in the inner room. This upper chamber was often situated a little higher in the palace grounds and had windows of ventilation to allow airflow in and out for the hot summer days. So it’s hot and stuffy, the air is flowing in and out of the upper chamber, and the servants are waiting outside and they smell something that leads them to assume he’s using the washroom. Remember that when Ehud stabbed Eglon, it says Eglon “discharged his bowels.” Ehud would’ve stabbed him from a downward angle and in such pierced his intestine, allowing anything inside to spill out of the wounds. The Bible says the servants waited until the point of embarrassment, which very well may have been a few hours, and when they finally opened the doors they found him laying dead.
While they waited, Ehud got away. He passed by the stone images and escaped to Seirah. When he arrived there, he blew a trumpet in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went down with him from the hills, with him leading them. “Follow me,” he ordered, “for the Lord has given Moab, your enemy, into your hands.” So they followed him down and took possession of the fords of the Jordan that led to Moab; they allowed no one to cross over. At that time they struck down about ten thousand Moabites, all vigorous and strong; not one escaped. That day Moab was made subject to Israel, and the land had peace for eighty years.
Ehud slipped away and called out the armies of Israel to follow him and they followed and struck down the armies of the Moabites and they had peace for 80 years. One moment of victory inspired the armies to stand up against their enemies. One victory brought peace to Israel for 80 years. Victories in your life will be the beginning of peace for you. Whatever your struggling with might not be conquered in one battle, it might not be conquered all at once, but when we fight along side Jesus it marks the beginning of peace.
It might get messy, literally or metaphorically, I don’t know what victories you need in your life, but I know that whatever battlefield you step into whether it’s the battlefield of sobriety from pornography, alcohol, drugs, or sex outside of marriage; whether it’s the battlefield of freedom from financial burdens; whether it’s the battlefield of your marriage and relationships; whether it’s the battlefield of parenthood and trying to raise your children in a godly way; whether it’s the battlefield of spirituality and you’re trying hard to build a connection with God, whatever battlefield you step into, know that God goes before you. Know that God’s planning a victory before you pick up a sword. Know that this battle will lead to victory and this victory will lead to peace. It might not be easy, but you can’t gain a victory unless you’re willing to step into battle.
Paul says in Romans that through one man, one moment, one choice, sin entered into the world and marked the beginning of death, but in that same way, one man, one cross, and one resurrection marked the beginning of life for all who would believe in Jesus lifted high. The same way Jesus’ victory over death marked the beginning of salvation for your life so too can your victory over whatever you’re dealing with mark the beginning of peace for your life. The best part of entering into battle with Jesus is that He prepares the victory, and He provides the strength we just need to be willing to let Jesus in, and step out in faith.
Help us to remain connected to you so that we may never lose ground in areas where you have previous given us victories. We don’t want to copy the world around us because we know that what the world has to offer can’t bring us lasting joy. Help us to be filled daily with your mercy, grace, love and spirit, and help us to find our contenmnet and fulfillment in you. We know we are weak, we know that there is nothing in us worthy of all you are but we also know that you can turn our disabilities into capabilites. Thank you for always working through us in spite of ourselves. Help us never to forget the amazing things you’ve done for us in the past and let those moments be a reminder and an ecouragement for us to step out in faith in the future. God we pray for victory in our lives, let it be the moment we experience peace in you. Amen.