He Too Saved Israel (Judges 3: 15-31)

“Again the Israelites cried out to the LORD [they were subject to Eglon king of Moab for eighteen years), and he gave them a deliverer—Ehud… The Israelites sent him with tribute to Eglon king of Moab.  Now Ehud had made a double-edged sword about a foot and a half long, which he strapped to his right thigh under his clothing. He presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab, who was a very fat man. After Ehud had presented the tribute, he sent on their way the men who had carried it.  At the idols near Gilgal he himself turned back and said, "I have a secret message for you, O king."  The king said, "Quiet!" And all his attendants left him.

Ehud then approached him while he was sitting alone in the upper room of his summer palace and said, "I have a message from God for you." As the king rose from his seat,  Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king's belly... Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in over it.  Then Ehud went out to the porchhe shut the doors of the upper room behind him and locked them.

After he had gone, the servants came and found the doors of the upper room locked. They said, "He must be relieving himself in the inner room of the house." They waited to the point of embarrassment, but when he did not open the doors of the room, they took a key and unlocked them. There they saw their lord fallen to the floor, dead. 

While they waited, Ehud got away. He passed by the idols and escaped to Seirah. When he arrived there, he blew a trumpet in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went down with him from the hills, with him leading them.

"Follow me," he ordered, "for the LORD has given Moab, your enemy, into your hands." So they followed him down and, taking possession of the fords of the Jordan that led to Moab, they allowed no one to cross over.  At that time they struck down about ten thousand Moabites, all vigorous and strong; not a man escaped.  That day Moab was made subject to Israel, and the land had peace for eighty years.

31After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an ox goad. He too saved Israel. (Judges 3: 15-31)

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For some context:

·      Judges 4-5– DEBORAH gets two chapters and a song (Shamgar gets a mention in the song long enough to point out that when he was a judge, things had gotten so bad that caravans and tourism had basically stopped).

·      Judges 6-8  - Gideon gets three chapters

·      Judges 9 -Abimelech gets a chapter (he killed his own brothers)

·      Judges 11 and 12– Jepthah gets two chapters (he sacrificed his daughter)

·      Judges 13-16– Samson gets 4 chapters, and he was hardly a role model.

Then we get some other references similar to the reference to Shamgar:

Judges 10: 1-5 “…a man of Issachar, Tola son of Puah, the son of Dodo, rose to save Israel. He lived in Shamir, in the hill country of Ephraim. He ledIsrael twenty-three years; then he died, and was buried in Shamir. He was followed by Jair of Gilead, who led Israel twenty-two years. He had thirty sons, who rode thirty donkeys. They controlled thirty towns in Gilead, which to this day are called Havvoth Jair.  When Jair died, he was buried in Kamon.”

Now, the beginning of Judges notes that, “whenever the LORD raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the LORD had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them.” 

If you were a judge, God himself had raised you up to save His people, and He was with you as long as you lived.  And some of them have their stories recorded for all the world to read, and some of them get a sentence.  

Let’s say you’re Shamgar; you saved your nation by killing 600 enemy warriors with a big stick with a pointy end, and you basically get an “atta boy.” That’s like saying like giving a history of the NBA, and then saying, “And Michael Jordan also played basketball.”  Or discussing a history of music, and saying of Beethoven, “He too wrote music.”  Or saying of Ohio State, “They too had a football team.” Tola and Jair were raised up by God himself, and all they get is that they lived, they died, and their sons rode donkeys from town to town, which seems like bit of really unnecessary trivia. 

Today, when people are treated like this, they go on TV and say things like, “I’m being disrespected.”  We are a culture that increasingly seems to think that we all deserve our 15 minutes of fame, and if it doesn’t happen naturally, well, there are always reality shows, and YouTube, and blogs. Ashleigh Brilliant once wrote, “All I ask of life is a constant and exaggerated sense of my own importance.”  To whatever degree that’s funny, it’s probably because it is an accurate reflection of the natural human condition.

I think the Biblical narratives of stories like these point us toward a hard reality in the Christian walk:  Sometimes, God will raise us up, and use us mightily, and we will never get the credit we think we deserve.   

Unsung Heroes, by Riva Pomerantz

 I was delighted when my husband bought a beautiful name plaque for our front door... until I noticed the door. Years of fingerprints, remnants of gummy tape, stickers, and I don’t even want to think about what else, had etched themselves onto the once-white door. A quick glance from beautiful nameplate to horrifying door brought me to the only possible conclusion: clean the door. So two hours later, the door was sparkling white and the nameplate was handsomely ensconced in its center. When my kids got up in the morning and saw the complete metamorphosis of the front door, they were—of course—awed.

“Look Daddy!” they told my husband. “They cleaned the door.” My husband told me of their reaction with some amusement.

“They cleaned the door?” I practically yelled. “They is me! I cleaned the door! What do they think? Magic fairies come while we all sleep and clean the furniture, put away the toys, bake cookies...” So in the grand scheme of door-cleaning, I remain an unsung hero.

 Unsung heroes. One of the biggest hurdles to overcome is this role of unsung hero, because we have in us a drive to be noticed, to stand out, to be somebody in the eyes of other people. 

For one, it’s hard for us to watch other people around us be successful when we aren’t.

·      Have you ever been playing a sport, and you are really struggling, but the rest of your team isn’t, and your team is still winning, but you have a hard time being excited because you personally aren’t doing so well?

·      Have you ever gotten upset when people get a lot of attention for the same thing you are doing, while you don’t get any attention…. Like the person who shares a testimony about God saving them from a particular sin or overcoming a tough circumstance in life, and everyone cheers and affirms them, and then invites them to speak in front of other groups, and they become a widely-known role model everyone admires, and you think, “Hey, that’s my story too, but no one knows…”  What about me?

Max Lucado wrote a book It’s Not About Me, and in it he says, “I believe Satan trains battalions of demons to whisper one question in our ears: “What are people thinking of you?” 

But the Bible is clear: There is no room for ego in the Kingdom of God. It is never about us; it is always about God. Jesus said,

"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth; they have received their reward in full. 3But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:1-4)

The point is not that you should never do good deeds in public, and the point isn’t that people who do charity out of selfish ambition are going to hell. The point is that if you do good things for the reward of the praise of people, you will get your reward.  It just won’t be that great. Someone once said, “None are so empty as those who are full of themselves.”

 The applause of people is nothing compared to the rewards of the Father. An example from the Apostle Paul:

2 Timothy 4:17  “The Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion's mouth.”

If Paul were alive today, we would all clamor to read the book or see the movie about his deliverance from lions, we would ask him to be on GodTube for an interview about the lions…but I suspect Paul would quickly lose his “celebrity” status, as he would ignore the lions and talk about the Lord who gave him the strength to fully proclaim the Good News to the world.  If he ever mentioned it, there would be one small comment or one small footnote that would start off,“Around the time I was delivered from lions...”

My hunch is thatPaul knew thata story about Paul being delivered from the lionswas going to become a story about Paul, not about the One who delivered Paul.  And in the kingdom of heaven, if that is the case, why tell the story?  Now, this does not mean that we never share stories of how god moves in the world. The Bible is full of stories of spiritual and physical miracles.  

But I think Paulunderstood what it meant that “He [Jesus] must increase, and I must decrease.” The stories must always point to Jesus. The Bible says that God will share His glory with no one (Isaiah 42 and 48). 

When Paul does talk about himself in the Bible, it is because his audience had become so caught up in Christian Celebrity Worship that Paul basically said, “Okay, if you want to play that game, I win. Here are my credentials.  Now settle down and get back to the things that matter most.”

Another example from Philippians 4:22 – “All the saints send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar's household.”

Who converted a lot of Caesar’s household after Caesar threw him into jail in the Preattorian barracks attached to the palace? That would be Paul. How easily Paul could have written, “All the saints send you greetings, especially those Iconverted from Caesar’s household in spite of intense persecution to my personal self.”  But the story is not about Paul. There was no need for him to worry about whether or not people knew about what he did.  God knew, and that was enough.

  Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 2:5-6: “You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else…”

A.W. Tozer said: “The meek man… knows well that the world will never see him as God sees him and he has stopped caring.”

So the question today is this, “Can I live my life with no regard for the glory and recognition of others, but with complete focus on faithfulness and obedience to Christ?”

Are we willing to take the time to let God help us build our character –to address sin in our lives, and character flaws, and quirks that are maybe hindering our relationship with God and others – are we willing to do that when maybe no one will ever really notice?

Are we willing to work really hard to be a godly spouses and parents – setting priorities on our time, putting the needs of our spouse and kids above our wants, doing whatever we can to steward our household – are we willing to do that because Jesus has raised us up for our family, and to do that even if nobody holds us up as a role model?

Can we go out of our wayto volunteer – here at Sunday School or nursery or music ministry or committee work; in the community at Goodwill or Meals on Wheels or Habitat or the homeless shelter - - can we do that even if nobody sees us?

Can we love the people who seem unlovable, embrace the people who seem unembraceable, forgive those around us who have done things that seem unforgivable…that’s hard enough, but can we do it knowingwe might never get a pat on the back on this side of heaven?

Can we live lives of sacrifice, without thought of the rewards that this life has to give?

Can we be broken, and spilled out, in the service of Christ, for our spouses, and our kids, and our friends, our neighbors, our co-workers, those people who make us take up a cross…Can we do that even if the only time we hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant” is on the other side of the grave?

What does a life look like…what does the world look like…when we embrace this view of the kingdom of God? Maybe all that history will say about them, is that “They, too, cooked food and traveled,” but what a difference it made in the lives of the people they loved.  That is what the Kingdom of God looks like. 

Maybe your life will be written in lights. And if so, and it was God who wanted your story known, then tell your story to the glory of God.  It’s not like Deborah and Gideon were bad people because their story was told. And I’m not suggesting we don’t try to give people honest recognition for their kindness and service. 

It’s just that that won’t happen to everybody, and maybe the record of your life will be of the “He too saved Israel” variety.

Maybe “She, too, overcame addictions,” will be the most people say about you, which will never capture how hard the struggle was.

Maybe “He, too, had a family,” is the most that will register with people, which will never capture the self-sacrificial love that was necessary to make your family a success.

Maybe “He, too, overcame a difficult past,” is the most people will know about you, which will never do justice to the pain you experienced, and the long, slow process of healing that God has taken you through.

Maybe “They, too, were in ministry,” is all that people will note about you someday, which will never reflect the years of your life spent in quietly helping those who so desperately needed Jesus.

But in the Kingdom of Heaven, all of us who “oh-by-the-way-saved- Israel” have a Heavenly Father who is waiting for the day when we will enter into His presence.  And on that day, millions of unsung heroes will hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant” as they enter into their reward.