Friday, July 15, 2011

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday July 17, 2011

IN GOD’S STRENGTH
(GOD uses unlikely, ordinary people to do HIS work)
(Judges 3)

After the death of Joshua, GOD allowed certain Israelite enemy nations to continue to exist. In addition to the Canaanites, the LORD left alive and prospering, the nations of the five Philistine rulers (Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron, Gath, and Gaza), the Sidonians (the Phoenicians), and the Hivites (the Horites of Mittanni), who lived in the hill country of Lebanon. HE would later use those “unlikely” nations to do HIS bidding, and to test those of HIS “chosen people”, who had not yet participated in the wars to conquer the “Promised Land”.
GOD wanted to ensure that the next generation of Israelites would be able to keep HIS commands to drive out the Canaanites, and, HE wanted them to be just as experienced and battle-ready, as the generation that preceded them. HE also wanted them to be militarily able and ready to hold and keep the territories that had been gained through the blood and sweat of their predecessors. But, above all, HE wanted them to continue to be faithful and obedient to HIS word (Judges 3:1-4).
Sadly however, the Israelites failed GOD’s test miserably, as they, instead, began to live and intermingle with the sinful Canaanites and the other nations around them, marrying, and giving in marriage to their sons and daughters, and also, worshipping their gods, namely, the Baals and the Asherahs.
Angered by the Israelites behavior, the LORD handed them over to the evil king, Cushan-rishathaim (koo-shan-rish-ah-THAY-im), the king of Aram (Mesopotamia), who’s very name means “double wickedness”. They remained in servitude to him for eight years before they repented and the LORD sent HIS judge, Othniel, one of only four judges in scripture, of whom it is said that, “The SPIRIT of the LORD was upon”, and he rescued them from their oppression. Afterwards, there was peace in the land of the Israelites for forty years (Judges 3:5-11).
In Judges 3:12-30, after the death of Othniel, the Israelites returned to doing what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and this time, HE gave them over to the control of King Eglon, the obese dictator who ruled over Moab. Eglon joined forces with the Ammonites and the Amalekites and they attacked Israel and took control of Jericho. After that, the Israelites would remain in servitude to Eglon, for another eighteen years.
After hearing the Israelites familiar cry for help, the LORD once again sends them salvation in the person of a judge, this time, a man named Ehud, an “unlikely hero” who was a southpaw (lefthander), from the tribe of Benjamin. His being “left-handed” would later provide an opportunity for him to “single-handedly” pull off a highly unlikely and daring deed inside the very palace of King Eglon.
We pick up the story in verse 15, as the Israelites send young Ehud and a small entourage of men to deliver Israel’s tax money to Moab, which Eglon had imposed upon them when he took over ruler-ship of the Israel. Ehud made for himself, a double-edged dagger eighteen inches in length. He then strapped it to his right thigh, keeping it hidden under his clothing. After delivering the money, and while heading back to Jericho, Ehud stopped near Gilgal, and sent the rest of the men on home. He then turned around and went back to see King Eglon under the pretense that he had a secret message for him. When Ehud arrived back at the palace and informed Eglon as to why he returned so soon. The king then sent all of his servants away, not wanting any of them to hear what the secret was. Ehud then approached the king and told him that his message was from the LORD. When the king stood up Ehud drew his dagger and plunged it so deep into the king’s belly that the whole handle was concealed by fat of his body. Ehud then locked all the doors, climbed down the latrine, and escaped through the sewer access. It was quite a long while before King Eglon’s servants discovered that the king was dead.
Meanwhile Ehud ran all the way back to the hill country of Ephraim and sounded a call to arms. He then led a band of men back to the shallow part of the Jordan River across from Moab. There they killed over 10,000 Moabite soldiers as they tried to cross the river and they conquered Moab that day, and were able to abide in peace all the days of Ehud’s life, which was about eighty more years, because they were faithful and obedient to the LORD all the while.
There have been many people, who were thought of by man, to be awkward, incapable, or even inadequate to do GOD’s work. But for those of us who study the history of GOD’s word, we know that that is exactly the kind of people whom GOD most often uses, because it is “in GOD,s strength” that one who is called by GOD, will have to work anyway. Being left-handed in the days of the judges was considered to be a handicap, and Ehud certainly wouldn’t have been the one most men would have chosen to perform the lofty and courageous mission that he did. And although we as a people may often see the work of ordinary people as unimportant, GOD does not, and, JESUS doesn’t either. In fact, JESUS showed us throughout HIS three-year earthly mission, how GOD always seems to want the man, woman, or child, that, nobody else seems to want.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander


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