Judges 3:12-30 The people of Israel sinned against the LORD again. Because of this the LORD made King Eglon of Moab stronger than Israel. (13) Eglon joined the Ammonites and the Amalekites; they defeated Israel and captured Jericho, the city of palm trees. (14) The Israelites were subject to Eglon for eighteen years. (15) Then the Israelites cried out to the LORD, and he sent someone to free them. This was Ehud, a left-handed man, who was the son of Gera, from the tribe of Benjamin. The people of Israel sent Ehud to King Eglon of Moab with gifts for him. (16) Ehud had made himself a double-edged sword about a foot and a half long. He had it fastened on his right side under his clothes. (17) Then he took the gifts to Eglon, who was a very fat man. (18) When Ehud had given him the gifts, he told the men who had carried them to go back home. (19) But Ehud himself turned back at the carved stones near Gilgal, went back to Eglon, and said, "Your Majesty, I have a secret message for you." So the king ordered his servants, "Leave us alone!" And they all went out. (20) Then, as the king was sitting there alone in his cool room on the roof, Ehud went over to him and said, "I have a message from God for you." The king stood up. (21) With his left hand Ehud took the sword from his right side and plunged it into the king's belly. (22) The whole sword went in, handle and all, and the fat covered it up. Ehud did not pull it out of the king's belly, and it stuck out behind, between his legs. (23) Then Ehud went outside, closed the doors behind him, locked them, (24) and left. The servants came and saw that the doors were locked, but they only thought that the king was inside, relieving himself. (25) They waited as long as they thought they should, but when he still did not open the door, they took the key and opened it. And there was their master, lying dead on the floor. (26) Ehud got away while they were waiting. He went past the carved stones and escaped to Seirah. (27) When he arrived there in the hill country of Ephraim, he blew a trumpet to call the people of Israel to battle; then he led them down from the hills. (28) He told them, "Follow me! The LORD has given you victory over your enemies, the Moabites." So they followed Ehud down and captured the place where the Moabites were to cross the Jordan; they did not allow anyone to cross. (29) That day they killed about ten thousand of the best Moabite soldiers; none of them escaped. (30) That day the Israelites defeated Moab, and there was peace in the land for eighty years.
Isaiah 2:1-5 Here is the message which God gave to Isaiah son of Amoz about Judah and Jerusalem: (2) In days to come the mountain where the Temple stands will be the highest one of all, towering above all the hills. Many nations will come streaming to it, (3) and their people will say, "Let us go up the hill of the LORD, to the Temple of Israel's God. He will teach us what he wants us to do; we will walk in the paths he has chosen. For the LORD's teaching comes from Jerusalem; from Zion he speaks to his people." (4) He will settle disputes among great nations. They will hammer their swords into plows and their spears into pruning knives. Nations will never again go to war, never prepare for battle again. (5) Now, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light which the LORD gives us!
So this interesting story.
Ehud – taking tribute to the King of Moab and he devises a cunning assassination plan.
He is left handed while the majority are right handed.
And so he makes a short sword which he conceals on his right leg so that when he is searched going into the Kings presence his left leg will be frisked but not his right.
Pays the tribute, leaves, returns, he says with a private message for the King and alone with the King he treacherously stabs him and the detail is given in explicit language!
Gets away rouses the fighting men of Israel and what results is a massive slaughter of men and the ensuing grief that would result.
We read that day they killed about ten thousand of the best Moabite soldiers; none of them escaped. And this is a supposedly give glory to God victory. Right? or .. wrong.
And what I read so often in the Bible – the history of this people that God has set apart to be a light to the nations and through whom all nations would be blest is instead brutal and savage war, and politics.
So what happened to being a blessing?
Some will say, well Jesus was the blessing to the world – that is what is meant.
I believe that long before from the outset the people of God were to be a blessing to the nations.
And as brutal and violent some of these stories are through all this mayhem and murder there is a heard what I like to call, The Silence of Hope.
If you’re a child growing up in a fractious angry household lying in bed at night often in fear when there is a loud argument going on there comes a time when there is a silence and you hope the silence continues.
And when it does, you rest in peace.
We read where a truce was called at Christmas during the first world war and men heard a silence. A silence of hope.
Or when the war was ended and it was said, the guns were silenced.
A silence of hope.
And so through this battle filled history of Israel came the words of the prophets who saw the evil of war and there came the longing that one day the sound of war would be silenced.
“They will hammer their swords into ploughs and their spears into pruning knives. Nations will never again go to war, never prepare for battle again.”
In God’s house there will be peace.”
This was what the prophets understood was the heart of God.
And while the makers of war, the arms manufacturers, the greedy. the brutal said bring war on, for God is with us, the prophets were saying.
No – if you were with God there would be no war.
For the heart of God is reconciliation it is overcoming division.
It is making all things, all relationships, all that has been fractured, thrown apart new.
This is what you have been called as a nation to lead the way for.
This is what this new people the children of Abraham were all about.
So you have these two themes.
On the one hand leaders saying – God is a God of war and he leads us to destroy our enemies and on the other hand, the prophets who I like to think of as the thinkers the contemplatives, those with a desire to know the heart of God actually no – this is not what God is about, on God’s mountain, in God’s place there is safety and non-violence.
So what is the book of Judges all about as so many of the other books where war is glorified?
Especially in the light of the One who taught: Love your enemies and ask God to bless them, then you will be like your Father in heaven.
And if, as Jesus taught and lived out this compassionate nature of God who makes his sun shine on the good and bad alike, what do we make of all the violence?
What is being taught here?
I’ve struggled with this since my teens.
And people would say to me well that was a more violent society that was the norm of the day.
Then why was there a longing in the hearts of the prophets for a time of peace?
It may have been the norm for many but there were those enlightened ones who taught that this was all contrary to the will and purpose of God.
So first – let me suggest that often we ascribe to God what should never be ascribed to God.
I believe that’s the meaning of – You shall not use the name of God for vain purposes.
And in primitive cultures you always asked the gods to bless your endeavours whether it was crops or victory in battle.
And if you lost your crops or your battle it was because your god was asleep at the time or you hadn’t offered the right sacrifices.
And so Israel – they are a becoming people and much of their natural wild barbarism was part of who they were just as the other nations.
And is it possible they simply ascribed victory in war to God.
Given that throughout the last 2 thousand years – the years of our Lord the church has carried out wars in the name of Jesus claiming God to be on their side.
Something which is a contradiction in terms.
No one must be killed in the Name of Jesus.
And to use the name of Jesus as justification for war is true blasphemy.
So if the reality may be that God was not behind or gave his backing to all this slaughter and intrigue, why is this history recorded often in graphic detail?
I would suggest they are recorded to let us know in no uncertain terms that war, revenge, hatred, slaughter – all the evils of fallen humanity never result in peace.
That we call these writings, the Word of God because they show us what happens when a people lose their way and forget their true calling.
Rather than being God’s stamp of approval on violence it is God saying to us: revenge, violence, war, the breaking down of relationships whether it’s national, international, or family, is not my way.
And it never results in peace!
And then, we believe, one day, in the fullness of time this vaguely known God, this God we ascribed all manner of evil to, becomes incarnate, a person. The apostle Paul would write:
Philippians 2:7-9 He became like a human being and appeared in human likeness. (8) He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death--- his death on the cross. (9) For this reason God raised him to the highest place above and gave him the name that is greater than any other name.
For all those people who believe in a wrathful, vengeance seeking God.
Life between nations and families is dominated by a sense of need for revenge for power for control.
When Jesus surrendered to all the evils of crucifixion there was never a mention of revenge.
Never did his disciples suggest they should avenge His death.
It was the norm in those days.
He lived and died outside the norm.
For us the rule of revenge finished in Jesus.
And with the end of revenge – the need for war.
The call to follow Jesus is the same as the call to Abraham.
Live a new kind of life, be a blessing to the nations, be a blessing to our families, be a blessing to our communities.
Like Israel we’ll get it wrong and our human nature will tell us all kinds of lies like, we are being used or taken advantage of.
All the usual garbage.
Just remember – true love can never be taken advantage of.
May we as a congregation persist in our age old calling.
God will bless you that you may be a blessing.
Would you like to share in our purpose and mission? We believe that good relationships, open discussion and a genuine desire to seek God’s calling allows us to grow as people and a community together.