Before you continue reading, you’ll want to listen or read the sermon on Judges 3.12-30. After preaching this sermon many asked, or were thinking, ‘Did he just say what I think he said?” The answer is probably “yes”.
Unfortunately, we live in a sensationalistic world where even preachers proclaim God’s Word in such a way that they believe they have the power. They add clever jokes, funny illustrations, or emphasize the most sensationalistic details of text in order to make their message more “memorable” or shocking. All the while, God’s message is lost in the noise.
I didn’t want that to happen with this passage. So, in an effort to avoid unnecessary shock value, and to protect some younger listeners, I attempted to preach a PG-13 version of the story of Ehud. Below is some explanation to help clarify any confusion about what I believe really happened in this story. Consider this the unrated version…
What exactly did Ehud do here? To be frank, I believe that Ehud sexually propositioned Eglon in an effort to get close enough to slaughter him like a fat calf on an altar–to save the people from their sins which led to their enslavement. Usually, people get lost in the grossness of bathroom humor, but I believe the narrative is much “darker” than that. There really is no bathroom humor to be laughed at without a sword and a murder. Some wrongly read this text to say that Eglon is relieving himself when Ehud enters. In truth, there is no relieving going on, no dung, at least not until his belly is ripped open. So, there must be another understanding.
The meticulous breakdown of the actual assassination leaves us with few alternatives but a sexual propositioning—there are simply too many questions. Why does Elgon send his guards away? Why does Eglon invite Ehud into his private restroom? If they are alone, why does he have to be close enough to whisper a message? What is Elgon really hoping to receive and what is Ehud really implying he is going to give? Additionally, there are the obvious contextual clues that hint of sexual overtones. Some of these include that fact that the Moabite, and the Ammonite, people originated from an incestuous relationship in a family that left the city of Sodom (known for its sexual wickedness). There is the deeply sexualized culture of the Moabites who worship the god of fertility and enjoy sexual worship as part of their religious practice. Finally, there is the killing of a King by taking a short sword from underneath a man’s clothes, attached to his inner thigh, with a left hand (not the right which would be threatening), and thrusting it in his belly, literally, a female’s “womb.”
Though this might be difficult to believe, I am not trying to sensationalize the text, only refocus it. What should be strongly emphasized is the incredibly humbling role that God leads Ehud to play. It’s not humbling because he has to make an offering to a fat king. It’s not humbling because he gets covered in dung. It is humbling because a special-forces warrior Israelite defeats an enemy by acting the part of a sexually immoral Canaanite. Of course, his disguise enables him to deliver God’s people, but there is immeasurable shame in simply playing the part which, I believe, helps us to see more clearly the shame that Jesus experienced in the incarnation–He was a man whom the whole world thought was a sinful deviant.
I’ll end this with an excerpt from the sermon. In the end, knowing the shame that Ehud place himself in helps us to see a little more clearly the shame that Jesus chose to experience.
“… You might think that [pointing this to Jesus] impossible, but consider how this grotesque story helps us to appreciate the gospel. Our God doesn’t save the world despite the sins of men, he saves men through them. We serve a God who does not stand at a distance, but one who becomes dirty, and broken, humble, and shameful so that we might be saved.
In Hebrews, the Word of God is called a double-edge sword. And according to John, that Word, that sword, took on human flesh. That means that the eternally perfect, beautiful, and glorious son of God, the creator and sustainer of all things became a man. That is outrageous. The humility that required is incomprehensible. This is not simply Special Forces warrior becoming a seductive mailman assassin—this is much more scandalous. He did not come and live as a king, no, he started as a child, in a dirty little city called Nazareth and lived as a man for 30 years. He experienced life of his creation. He was the true Benjamite whose name means, “man of sorrows.” But the humility did not stop at the incarnation. It extended to the point where he was rejected, mocked, ashamed, and eventually murdered. And what is even more outrageous, is that he choose to place himself in a position of shame. Much like Ehud, he could have unleashed his special forces training. Like a divine Rambo, he could have wiped out all of his enemies with a thought…but he waited, allowed his unsuspecting enemy fat with pride to get very close and then delivered at the right time, in the right place, the right way, through his death. Like Eglon, in our weakness we believe we are strong. Like Ehud, Jesus became helpless to show we were wrong. He took the risk he took the shame, he took on all of the crap of life—so that I might be delivered…”
Bottom line, our God is big. God is mysterious in his being and incomprehensible in his ways. No matter how you come down on whether God “approves” or not, the fact remains, God uses and blesses Ehud’s faithfulness. And though it makes many uncomfortable to view God has using such “dirty” means to accomplish his work, without doubt, it makes him real. Remember, in terms of creation, God nothing other than “sin” to work with. He has decided that the plan for redeeming creation will come to fullness through men. In other words, however broken the man or the method, God uses such things to deliver His people. Ehud whether you’re more comfortable saying he allows, ordains, or causes it to come to pass.