Stabbing the fat man: Ehud and Othniel
By Bob Mendelsohn
Given in Moscow, Russia
6 June 2014Today is commonly nicknamed D-Day in the English-speaking West. In Russia, the term would be Час Ч. This is the day General Dwight D Eisenhower and the US military launched an offensive the size of Israel against the Nazis in Normandy, France and began to take the Western Front back, ending the stranglehold the Nazis had on the West. At the same time the Eastern Front was being assaulted by Stalin from Russia and Hitler had nowhere to go. D-Day was supposed to happen the day before, but bad weather prevented such. The day produced what it was intended, although with great casualty on both sides. Less than a year later on 8 May 1945 the German government surrendered in Berlin and World War 2 was ending. (It took a while longer for the Japanese to surrender after two atomic bombs killed its populace.)
Remember our campaign slogan is “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon.” We had to study his life and ministry first as that is the central idea in the book of Judges and in our life together on this campaign. Now we back up today to visit some other judges in chapter 3 of the book, and hope to learn what God wants to teach us today, as we continue in this all-out effort to make Yeshua known among the 150,000 Jews and all the 12 million people of Moscow in these days.
Let’s look at the purpose of the enemy in the Land: They were for testing Israel, to find out if they would obey the commandments of the LORD, which He had commanded their fathers through Moses. (Judges 3.4)
The reason God did not cause the entire enemy to fall under Joshua was to test or prove us as a people. Would we stand up for God no matter what we encountered? Would we learn to wage war in the future? In our modern language as believers, would we withstand temptation and live a godly life?
There are some images that might help us as believers as we think of living among the nations of the world. First I think of the image of the iceberg. The world and its way are compared to a big block of ice in the ocean. And we are compared to a fire, a small fire that is kindled nearby. If we can melt it, if we can affect change on it, then we ought to be living near it. If however, it begins to freeze our little fire and diminish us, then we are in trouble.
Perhaps you have tried to counsel a woman who is dating an unbeliever. You know it’s not right, and the Bible seems to say so, but she is not listening to you. She ‘loves’ the man. You try this image. Imagine yourself on the top of a table and pulling the man you love onto the top of the table. He at the same time is pulling at you, trying to help you fall down to his place. Which one will win? Usually, if we are honest, the man will win, and thus many women have fallen from their place in God to live a sinful life.
There are many other images we can use, but the point is this. God wants us to wage war against the enemy and if we do it correctly, we will win and He will get the glory. That’s real victory. Paul wrote the Corinthians:
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses, destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10.3-5)
The point of Paul’s comment is that we are in a battle and we have to fight the fight God wants us to fight, so that we win in His method and not for our own purposes. And remember, He is going to use us, as odd a choice as that is, to make His name known on the earth. Hallelujah!
Back to Judges 3. We see the pattern emerging. Israel forgetting God and being punished for it. But remember this is a punishment of discipline not a punishment of judgment. Let me make this point very very clear.
Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, so that He sold them into the hands of Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia; and the sons of Israel served Cushan-rishathaim eight years. (Judges 3.8)
If God were finished with Israel, then the story would end there. If He were judging Israel as a failed nation, then the judgment which ensues would be final. BUT it is not!! Whenever we read of God’s pouring out trouble on the Jewish people, in the days of Moses or in the days of Isaiah or Micah or Jesus… the point is to wake us up, and to have us call on Him. I want you to think of the Holocaust as judgment by God on the Jewish people for living godlessly and for dismissing God from our conversation and daily life. But, the judgment is only temporary and the purpose of the judgment is to bring us to our knees, not to bury us in the grave. The apostle who wrote the book of Hebrews used the term “discipline” to help us learn this principle. We will come back to this in a day or so.
So in Judges 3, when Israel (.7) lived sinfully, and did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, He was angry with us and sold us into slavery. Wow, this is the same term used of Joseph by his brothers (Gen 37) and this term of God selling us is used four times in the book of Judges. We were already slaves to sin and to the nations of the world, so being officially slaves made sense to the Almighty. Peter said, “by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved.” (2 Peter 2.19)
That is a stern warning to me to keep my fire on and strong against the icebergs of the world.
So God raised up Caleb’s relative, named Othniel, and he became a military leader and the first of 7 judges listed in our book. As quickly as he is introduced, he wins the battle with the enemy and
Judg. 3.11 Then the land had rest forty years. And Othniel the son of Kenaz died.
It’s as if the little pattern of sin/ judgment/ cry out to the Lord/ deliverance is complete. But you and I know the ‘rest of the story.’ We know like in chapter 2
When the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge and delivered them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed and afflicted them. But it came about when the judge died, that they would turn back and act more corruptly than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them and bow down to them; they did not abandon their practices or their stubborn ways. (2.18-19)
So, buckle your seat belt. This is exactly what happened after Othniel delivered the Jewish people. After Othniel died and after the 40 years of complete rest, we read
Judg. 3.12 Now the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD. So the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the LORD.
You would think we would learn. But we didn’t. And we still don’t. We still think God’s patience in final judging Israel and in final judging us means He won’t really ever punish wrong. But that’s exactly NOT what the Bible is saying.
Back to our story. Othniel delivers Israel and then we sin. Then we cry to God (.15) and God sends another man, a clever one, named Ehud. He is left-handed. And clever. And he meets with Eglon, the leader of Moab, another enemy of Israel, and kills him with a sword. The story is very descript. He plunges the sword into the fat belly of Eglon and the fat surrounds the sword. This must have been more like a dagger. His refuse comes out of him and Eglon is left on the floor dead. Ehud devises a clever exit strategy, locking the door, and telling his servants that Eglon is in the toilet. They wait a while, but then using the key find their lord on the floor dead.
Ehud and his Israeli troops kill 10,000 Moabites that campaign and as a result Israel lived securely for 80 full years. And the chapter ends with another barely-mentioned leader Shamgar who used an ox goad, which is a stick used to prod or make sure oxen keep moving in a direction, to kill 600 Philistines. That’s all the mention he gets in the Bible.
What do we learn today? What we are learning almost daily! God wants us to walk with Him completely, no pandering or no allowing sin in our lives. Don’t marry unbelievers. Don’t live like heathen and bow to idols. Trust in God or else we will be weak.
What is our strength? Listen to these words from your former national anthem:
Партия Ленина - сила народная Lenin’s party: strength of our people…
We know, however, that our strength is not in Lenin’s party, but in the name and power of the Lord our God.
Some boast in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God. They are brought down and fallen: but we are risen, and stand upright. Save, LORD: let the king hear us when we call. (Psalm 20.7-9)
So our work is to believe in Him. Our effort needs to be to focus on the Lord each day, in the morning and in the evening. Some of you know that I take many photographs. Those are now available to each of you online and I will show you if you want to find and download any of them for you, for your family, for your newsletters, whatever you want. But a photo only works if the subject and the photographer get together. That is, if the person or object being photographed comes into focus on the camera. That is the work of a good photographer. I have to make sure the subject is in the lens and that the camera focuses clearly on the subject. If not, the picture is to be tossed aside.
In the same way, our focus is on Yeshua and His love for us and for all people. What we do today, this afternoon, wishing people “Shabbat shalom” and to “have a nice weekend” is only part of it. We have to personally trust Messiah for our lives, for their lives, and for His work to be done in them.