Enough! I’m Turning this Around!
by Impact Church
3:15 But when the sons of Israel cried to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for them, Ehud the son of Gera, the Benjamite, a left-handed man. And the sons of Israel sent tribute by him to Eglon the king of Moab. 16 Ehud made himself a sword which had two edges, a cubit in length, and he bound it on his right thigh under his cloak. 17 He presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab. Now Eglon was a very fat man. 18 It came about when he had finished presenting the tribute, that he sent away the people who had carried the tribute. 19 But he himself turned back from the idols which were at Gilgal, and said, “I have a secret message for you, O king.” And he said, “Keep silence.” And all who attended him left him. 20 Ehud came to him while he was sitting alone in his cool roof chamber. And Ehud said, “I have a message from God for you.” And he arose from his seat. Judges 3:15-20
There comes a time in everyone’s life when they have to decide. There comes a time in every company’s existence when they have to decide. Equally true, there comes a time in a church’s life when it has to decide. When enough is enough and things have to change. There comes a time to turn things around. There comes a time to act.
Ever felt that incredible level of frustration when things are simply not right? The conditions of your life are far from where they once were and should be? It might be because you made some decisions that appeared to be OK but they turned out to be bad. It might be that someone else made decisions that you have to deal with. Maybe it is on a much larger scale and you simply cannot account for how things have gotten to the place that is so badly affecting you. Difficult moments challenge who we are and force us to consider what is most important. When we suffer, we appeal to a standard that judges the wrong and reminds us of what’s right. Suffering can challenge our beliefs but, if we respond correctly, it reinforces our beliefs. It takes us back to our story of God’s provision in the past.
The time of the Judges was a dark period in Israel’s history. Following Joshua’s campaign to lead the nation into the Promised Land, Judges is the painful and faithless sequel. Without a dynamic leader like Moses or Joshua, the people of the days of Judges suffered from a lack of faithfulness to The Law, they were doing “what was right in their own eyes”. As a result, they suffered under one oppressive country after another. As the people suffered, they cried out and God raised up individuals to deliver them. The Book of Judges is the story of Israel’s sinful abandonment of God’s Word and God’s mercy to send judges to deliver them. The story of each judge’s deliverance provides spiritual insight for us to consider.
The second judge in Israel’s story is a man named Ehud. As the passage mentioned, he was a Benjamite. The name “Benjamin” actually means “son of my right hand” or “son of my strength”. The Patriarch Jacob was proud of fathering a son in his old age, thus the name of the tribe. However, in Ehud’s case, his tribal experience might have worked the other way round: he was left-handed! When he bound the sword to his right hip it meant that he retracted it with his left-hand for battle. This small fact will pass the notice of those men guarding the oppressive Moabite king Eglon.
For years, Israel had been offering a tribute to King Eglon. Eglon and his men (ten thousand are mentioned in 3:29) had gotten fat off the offerings of Israel. Then one day, Ehud decided to strap on a sword and take it with him to Eglon’s palace for the tribute presentation. Nothing out of the ordinary.
Ehud and the other Jewish men were returning home, when Ehud suddenly sent his men on ahead and he alone (his name may mean “alone” or “majesty”, which could be understood to reflect the singular majesty of God) turned around to go back to Eglon’s palace. The turning point was “the idols which were at Gilgal” (3:19). Idols at Gilgal.
Gilgal was a holy place. It was the most significant location in the history of the Jewish conquest of the Promised Land. In Gilgal, the priests set up the 12 Memorial stones. In Gilgal, the men were circumcised – the name “Gilgal” actually means “the reproach is rolled away” to commemorate their renewed obedience to the Law. Finally, it was in Gilgal they observed the first Passover in the Promised Land. (Joshua 4:20—5:12). By the time Ehud was a judge, this important place commemorating God’s faithful deliverance and provision was a place of idolatry.
Not unlike Gilgal’s decline to idolatry from a sacred place reflecting God’s provision, people and organizations can suffer a drift from the most important things in their existence. Over time, the most important truths are ignored and forgotten, or worse, rejected. Memorials of God’s Grace become museum pieces or highway markers of a historic place. Alliances with others who do not share the most important things in life are formed. Compromises are made. Pragmatism becomes the basis of decisions. Then suddenly, someone else is getting fat on your tribute. You’re working for their values. The assimilation of God’s people into the cultural norms and values surrounding them is terrible result.
One day, Ehud passed by Gilgal and something about that place changed him. He turned around. He repented.
Having turned around and arrived back at Eglon’s palace, Ehud was able to secure another meeting with him. Anticipating that another tribute was being paid, Eglon covetously took Ehud’s bait; “I have a secret message for you, O King!” The King rose from his seat.
Ehud, the judge God had raised to deliver His people from their oppression, reached for the sword hidden on his right thigh. The left-handed Benjamite plunged the blade into the stomach of the fat king and everything on the inside spilled out. Eglon was dead. Israel’s oppressor was vanquished. Once he left the palace, Ehud rallied his fellow Jews and together they destroyed 10,000 of Eglon’s men. Israel experienced 80 years of peace.
How did God deliver His people from the oppressive Moabites? He used a man who had simply remembered how good God had been to His people and he refused to continue to honor what dishonored God.
Want to turn things around? Remember Gilgal! Go back to the first things. The 12 Stones remind us to remember God’s faithfulness. Circumcision was the dedication of the people to once again be the covenantal people of God. Passover was the worship feast that memorialized the redemption of God’s people.
Remember. Dedicate. Worship.
Turn it around!