This program is a rebroadcast from August 13, 2016.
Ehud, A Fearless Deliverer
The book of Judges speaks directly into our culture today. Without strong leadership, both politically and spiritually, we can expect to see everyone doing what is right in their own eyes. This was the case in Israel as well, as the overall message surrounding Judges shows how the lack of spiritual direction and leadership in Israel produced an apathetic nature toward the things of God. Join Chris as he begins a mini-series on the book of Judges and shows us how God in His mercy heard His people’s suffering and sent Ehud to them.
Steve Conover: Thank you for joining us for the Friends Of Israel Today. On this episode, we begin airing from the archives a two part series on the book of Judges. We'll look at how fear can cripple us and keep us from living a full life. We know this timeless message will help you handle what causes you to fear and find the freedom to trust God more.
Welcome to The Friends of Israel Today where we teach biblical truth for changing times. I'm Steve Conover. We'll join our host and teacher, Chris Katulka in a moment. Today we begin a mini series on the Old Testament book of Judges. Before the time of the judges, Israel had relied on the capable leadership of Joshua to bring them into the land and before that Moses to bring them through the wilderness. Here they find themselves without a leader, a time where there was no king, and as the book of Judges tells us, everyone did what they thought was right in their own eyes. By God's grace, there was a cycle of deliverers, or judges, that he used greatly between the time of Joshua and the time Israel would have a king. We focus on two of these judges today, first Ehud, and second Gideon. Now let's join Chris.
Chris Katulka: Hi folks. Welcome to the program. I'm your host, Chris Katulka, and I'm really excited to begin a new series here. A series on the book of Judges, as Steve said earlier. The book of Judges speaks directly into our culture today because the overall message surrounding judges is how the lack of spiritual direction and leadership in Israel produced in the Israelites an apathetic nature toward the things of God. And I'll be even more specific. It created an apathetic nature toward their God, not just the things of God, but toward their God, and they became apathetic to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and started following false gods. And up to the book of Judges, Israel has had some strong spiritual leadership. Just think about it. Moses led the people of Israel through the wilderness and he not only physically led them, but he spiritually fed them as well.
He reminded the people of Israel to always have a heart and mind that was devoted to the Lord. Moses said to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 6:5, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all of your might." Joshua was next in line to lead the people of Israel into the land. He led the people physically into the land, but he also led by example, trusting the Lord. He was commissioned to be strong and courageous in the Lord. And I love when Joshua tells the Israelites not to be partial about the Lord. And he says to the people, "You might choose to serve false gods, but as for me in my house, we will serve the Lord." Again, a strong spiritual leadership, drawing the people away from the false gods of the day, setting an example and compelling them to worship the Lord.
And then you get to the book of Judges after Joshua dies. And there was no one to step up, no one to lead the people of Israel anymore. And with no strong spiritual leadership, the writer of the book of Judges says everyone did what was right in their own eyes. Judges 2:11 and 12 says this, "And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served Baals", which are false gods. And listen to this, it says, "And they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers who brought them out of the land of Egypt." You get this sense that the Israelites just abandoned the Lord like a car that broke down on the side of the road. Now the one thing that you see as you read through this Old Testament book is that there was a true crisis of leadership in Israel.
God was angry with the Israelites. It says that the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel because they dropped the Lord like a bad habit. But here in the grace of God, it says, "The Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them." This is just amazing. Here, the people of Israel abandoned the Lord, so the Lord judges them by allowing other nations to rule over them and use them. But then He hears the Israelites crying out and He sends judges to judge those nations for abusing the Israelites. You know God didn't have to do that. God didn't have to respond. He could've just packed up and abandoned them who abandoned him. But God in His mercy responds to His people and He speaks directly into their suffering. And He does this by sending a judge, hence the book of Judges and a judge is more like a deliverer, someone who God calls to deliver Israel. Both from their enemies and from themselves. In many ways, breaking the cycle of sin that plagued them.
What's interesting about the judges is that not only do we see the ugly side of Israel in the book of Judges, but we also see the ugly side of each judge too. And let me just say this before we look at our first deliverer, our first judge from the book of Judges. I believe history has the ability to repeat itself just as we'll see over and over again in this book. Without strong leadership in our own country today, not only strong leadership coming from Washington, but strong spiritual leadership as well. What we can expect to see is everyone doing what is right in their own eyes. You know, truth, which comes from the Word of God, it's rooted in the Word of God, becomes a flexible, bendable, malleable word that becomes relative to the individual's feelings for that day. And this is exactly what we're seeing in our culture, people who are doing what they consider to be right in their own eyes.
So let's move to the judges. The first of the two judges I want us to look at are Ehud And Gideon, these two judges are very different from one another like night and day almost. Ehud's story is incredibly short. It's just a little more than a half a chapter in chapter three, while Gideon's story is two chapters long in the book of Judges. One judge operates fearlessly in the story, but within the realm of deception, while the other judge is gripped completely by the fear of God abandoning him in his call as a judge.
Ehud's story starts with Israel's sin, like every judges story, it will start with Israel's sin. And it says that Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and God strengthened the Moabite King Eglon against Israel. Now Eglon the Moabite King, defeated Israel and took possession of the City Of Palms, it says in the scriptures, which is Jericho. And the people of Israel, it says served Eglon for 18 years.
That's when God raised up Ehud. Ehud was a left handed Benjamite it says, and whenever you see little phrases like that to describe someone in the scriptures, you always want to pay attention. Because this is an interesting play on words because Benjamin literally means "son of my right hand" and Ehud is a Benjamite who is a lefty. Now, we don't think much of left-handed people today, but in the ancient world, a left handed person could have been somebody that someone didn't trust or they didn't really have much confidence in. It says that he was bound in his right hand. Now remember it says the people of Israel served Eglon, so they had to pay tribute or taxes to him. The people of Israel decided to use Ehud to deliver their taxes to this foreign king. This tribute. This is when Ehud made himself a double edged sword, a two edged sword according to the text and hid it under his right thigh. And Ehud went and dropped off the Israelites taxes to Eglon, and then him and his friends walked away.
And he seemed to walk into the neighboring town of Gilgal when he passed by these idols. And every Israelite should know that an idol was an abomination to the Lord. And that's when Ehud returned to the Moabite King. And I love this, he says this, "I have a secret message for you, oh king." And Eglon said, "Be quiet." And so all of Eglon's attendance left. When Ehud approached him, he was sitting in his well ventilated upper room all by himself. And Ehud said, "I have a message from God for you." When Eglon rose up from his seat, Ehud reached out his left hand, pulled the sword from his right thigh and drove it into Eglon's belly. As Ehud went out of the vestibule, he closed the doors of the upper room behind him and locked them. Ehud escaped and led the people of Israel to battle against the Moabites, defeating them.
And he screamed along the way, "Follow me for the Lord has given your enemies the Moabites into your hands." Ehud knew the source of the Israelites deliverance for the Moabites. It was the Lord. And as a result, the land had peace. The land had rest for 80 years. Now Ehud, he was a man of few words, and his story is short and sweet and to the point. But the impression he leaves you with is that of bravery and fearlessness in the face of mounting opposition. Ehud was not a spiritual leader like Moses, but he was certainly a leader of conviction and direction. As he guided the Israelites back to the source of their protection and guidance, the Lord himself. The moment he saw those idols, literally hand carvings, he went back to finish the job he was called to do by the Lord.
And as a result, the land found peace and rest. 80 years of it. And this story is still speaks to us today. My friends, a leader must have conviction an unwavering conviction. And not just any old conviction that they feel that day, but a conviction that comes from God's word. Remember, it was God who chose Ehud and Ehud followed God's call to do this act. When Ehud passed by those idols, he was reminded why he was sent to Eglon to begin with. God cannot stand when his people accept false gods and idols of this world. A leader must stand against the cultural currents of this world, which calls us to do whatever we want and encourage his people to stand with him and to stand in God's word. And Ehud did that. Now listen, when we return, we're going to look at the stark contrast to Ehud, which is Gideon, a judge who let's fear stand in his way from following God.
From beginning to end, the book of Judges chronicles a very depressing moment in Israel's history. The people lost sight of the God who promised them rest in peace in the land of Israel, and instead they worshiped false idols. God, unwilling to let us people wallow in their sins, sent imperfect judges to rescue them from their enemies. Journey to the time of the judges and examine the lives of four deliverers found in Hebrews Hall of heroes, Barak, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson, in Elwood McQuaid's book, "Not To The Strong". Steve, we've talked about this book and I know you had a lot to say about it. What was it about this book that impacted your life?
Steve Conover: Yeah, Chris, "Not To The Strong", may be my favorite book by Elwood McQuaid. And the influence that had on my life was the reminder of how God uses flawed, imperfect, weak people that are simply obedient to his call and put their faith in God's plan and provision. This book showed me that things like doubt in my life, things that would prohibit God's work, that He could use them for His glory, "Not To The Strong" is really practical and I can't say enough about it.
Chris Katulka: to get your copy of the book, "Not To The Strong" visit our website FOIradio.org, or you can call our toll free number, (888) 343-6940 to order your copy of "Not To The Strong".
Welcome back, my friends. We started a new series on the book of Judges and in this first series we're looking at both Ehud and Gideon. And we just looked at the conviction of Ehud. And once again, the leadership in Israel fell off the rails and with it went the people as well. As Judges chapter 6 opens, the people of Israel once again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. With no good strong leadership the people lost their way. Because the Israelites left the Lord and stopped trusting in the Lord, the Lord raised up the Midians, who overtook them. And this is when the Lord called Gideon to be a judge or a deliverer for Israel. Yet contrary to Ehud which we just heard about, Gideon is going to need some serious convincing that God is on his side.
Just listen to what the text says here. "An Angel of the Lord appears to Gideon and tells him, 'The Lord is with you, oh, mighty man of valor. Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian.'" This shows that God sees something in Gideon, and Gideon was probably a man of high standing in his community. Gideon questions his own ability to take on the Midianites and he complains to the Lord and he says, "You know what, God, I don't think I could do this. I'm from the weakest of all the tribes and I'm really the smallest in my family." And he's complaining to the Lord that he's inadequate, and the Lord had to remind Gideon, "I'm going to be with you. It's okay." But that wasn't enough for Gideon. Gideon wanted a sign. He wanted something tangible that he could hold on to, that God was with him. And he'll do this a couple times in his story.
He will want God to prove that He is present in the midst of this battle. Most famous of Gideon's requests is the one where he asked the Lord to prove that he will be with him in battle by causing the fleece to be full of dew in the morning. And then everything else that's around the fleece that he lays out, will be dry. And you know what? God does that for him. Yet again for Gideon, it's not enough. Gripped by fear, Gideon again asks God to do this little miracle. And so Gideon says, "I'll lay the fleece out, but this time make the fleece dry in the morning and everything else have dew on it. And God again, does what he asks. You know, Gideon's fear here compared to Ehud, is borderline debilitating. It prevents him from fully trusting in God's word. And you know he... Gideon needs to have a sign, and God's word isn't enough for Gideon.
Fear in a leader can have a profound effect on the direction they're taking their people. Like in Gideon's case, he's never certain he's doing the right thing by simply listening to God's call. Gideon is stopped dead in his tracks until he has proof. He needs hard evidence that he's doing the right thing. And you would think when God calls on a man of valor, you would know he's on your side. But again, Gideon is paralyzed by fear. I believe fear is one of the biggest enemies of the church today. Satan leverages fear to prevent great men and women from serving Him. When a Christian has an idea to fulfill the greatest commandment, which is to love God and to serve others, or to work out the great commission, which is to make the gospel known, this is a seed that God plants that could give great reward. And yet oftentimes our biggest obstacle to accomplishing that goal is the fear that it won't work or it's not going to succeed. Or the fear of failure. So this whole thing just never happens.
Instead of taking the step of faith, fear, like Gideon, clouds our spiritual judgment and prevents us from going forward. Or even worse, we begin to act like Gideon, we start to beg God for signs. "I want proof God, show me this is you. Show me proof." And the reality is one sign is never enough. God may give you a sign, but then we get addicted to signs instead of trusting in God's word. Now God will challenge Gideon's faith, trusting in the Lord and following His word doesn't always produce what we want it to. God will dwindle Gideon's army from 22,000 men down to just 300. but God does this for His own glory to show men like Gideon. It's not your size, it's not your stature. It's not your smarts or your strength that wins in the eyes of the Lord.
But really the one characteristic the Lord is looking for is the faith you have in His ability to accomplish the task that He's set before you. And let me say this as well, we'll never escape fear. Fear is written in our DNA, but it's what you fear that changes everything. See, Gideon feared for his own life and I'm sure what others would think about him as well, and this paralyzed Gideon, and it can paralyze us as well. Where the scriptures say the only healthy fear, is fearing the Lord. And this is where we'll find not only the wisdom, but the freedom to trust him.
Remember this all goes back to Israel's failed leadership, failing to point the people of Israel to the Lord, the true King of Israel. The job of a leader, a spiritual leader is to stand fast on their conviction of the word of God and to fear the Lord and to seek his wisdom, pointing people to the source of our strength, the Lord himself.
Steve Conover: Israel on the verge of becoming a state, a teenaged Holocaust survivor arrives on her shores alone. His name is Zvi Kalisher. Little did he know his search for a new life in the Holy Land would lead him to the Messiah. Zvi, enthusiastic to share his faith, engaged others in spiritual conversations, many of which can be found in our magazine, "Israel My Glory". While Zvi is now in the presence of his Savior, his collected writings from well over 50 years of ministry continue to encourage believers worldwide. Now, "Apples of Gold" a dramatic reading from the Life of Zvi.
Mike Kellogg: One recent morning I went to a market in Jerusalem and I saw a long line of people in front of one of the stores. When I asked what was being sold, Someone cautiously whispered, "A great righteous man is coming here, he can help people solve their problems and he has performed many miracles." I asked, "How much do have to pay for such a miracle?" He replied, "Only 280 shekels." I asked, "Who gave him the power to do the work of the devil?" The man was surprised at my question then dashed off shouting, "Wait here, I will be back." He returned with too overly confident men. One of them fired off a series of questions. "What do you want, why do you care what is happening here?" I answered, "If I say nothing, I will be guilty. This is my obligation before God and man." After a long discussion, one of the men asked, "Do you want us to close this place and send everyone home on your orders?"
"No, my friend," I replied, "I have read to you the orders of God himself. I am just his insignificant servant." I then read the continuation of the command in Ezekiel, "Nevertheless, if you warn the wicked to turn from his way and he does not turn, he shall die in his iniquity, but you have delivered your soul." One said, "Because you read from the Bible, we know you are a Christian. If you do not leave this place quietly, things will not go well for you."
But I was not afraid. I continued to warn others waiting in line. I had told them about false teachers and read Jeremiah 23:25, "I have heard what the prophets have said, who prophesied lies on my name." I told them "This man is prophesying lies in God's name. If you except his false teaching, you will not only pay with your money, you will also pay with your lives and your souls."
Some said they were there because they had many troubles. I told them, "We're not living in a paradise on this earth and we never will. However, the Lord is preparing a paradise for us when we leave this earth, but we will never get there by asking wicked people like the one coming here today to bless us. To enter God's paradise, we must come to Him as He has prescribed in his word. God alone can give us true blessings and solutions to our problems."
Some of the people were uncertain about me. No doubt they suspected I was a Christian. One man asked, "Are you a Jew?" I replied, "I am, but we have only one God and he does not care about nationalities. He's concerned with people's hearts of worship. I am not trying to hide anything. I believe in the Lord Jesus as my Messiah and Savior and therefore I have to warn you against following false teachers like the one you are waiting to see now."
Many accepted my witness graciously. Some even left the line to speak further with me about the Lord. At the end of our conversation, I gave them New Testaments. I prayed they will recall our conversation, read the New Testament, come to the knowledge of the truth. Then they will not need to seek out false teachers. They will be able to take everything to the Lord who was able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all we ask or think.
Steve Conover: As we close, I'll remind you once more about Elwood McQuaid's classic book on Judges called "Not To The Strong". This book has been a great personal encouragement to me over the years and I'm sure it will be for you as well. To purchase a copy call our listener line at (888) 343-6940. (888) 343-6940 or you can write to us at FOI Radio, PO Box 914, Bellmawr, New Jersey, 08099. Or simply visit us on the web at FOIradio.org. Again, that's FOIradio.O-R-G. Our host and teacher is Chris Katulka. Our associate producer and engineer is Tom Gallione. Mike Kellogg read Apples Of Gold, and our theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong. I'm Steve Conover, executive producer. If you would prayerfully consider supporting the ministries of the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. You can find a donate link on our website to learn more about the ways you can support us. Again, that's FOIradio.O-R-G. The Friends Of Israel Today is a production of the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We are a worldwide Christian ministry communicating biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah while fostering solidarity with the Jewish people.
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Since going on air in 1991, our hope here at The Friends of Israel Today is to proclaim Jesus the Messiah to all people. We believe this program is unique because it highlights the fact that God still loves Israel and the Jewish people and that they still matter. How do we know that? Because God’s Word says it does!
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Gideon, A Fearful Deliverer
Once again leadership in Israel fell off the rails and with it went the people as well. As Judges chapter 6 opens, the people of Israel once again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and lost their way. This is when the Lord called Gideon to be a judge or deliverer for Israel. However, contrary to Ehud, Gideon is going to need convincing that God is on his side.
Not to the Strong
By Elwood McQuaid
Most failure among contemporary Christians is not caused by Goliath-sized problems. We are inclined to stumble when believing God and obeying the simple dictates of His Word are neglected. In Not to the Strong, Elwood McQuaid takes believers into the arena where their persistent foes are met.
Apples of Gold: Around the Corner
As Zvi saw a long line of people in a Jerusalem market waiting to be healed by a great righteous man, an opportunity became available to share the truth about Jesus the Messiah. Hear how the people responded.
Zvi’s story is available in Elwood McQuaid’s book, “Zvi: The Miraculous Story of Triumph over the Holocaust,” available at our online store.
More stories from Zvi are also available in his book, “The Best of Zvi,” available at our online store.
The Friends of Israel Today and Apples of Gold theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.
Also heard on this week’s show:
»Know No No No’s (Doctor Turtle) / CC BY 4.0
»Around the Corner (Greg Atkinson) / CC BY 4