Ehud On War Part 2
© 6.15.05 By D. Eric Williams
"Then Ehud reached with his left hand, took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly. Even the hilt went in after the blade, and the fat closed over the blade, for he did not draw the dagger out of his belly; and his entrails came out." Judges 3:21-22
When we read a Bible story such as the tale of Ehud (Judges 3:12-30), it is important for us to remember that all of the history recorded in the Bible is metaphor. I'm not suggesting that the Scriptural historical accounts are myth; every historic detail in the Bible is factually true. At the same time, we need to recognize that God superintended the events of the past and He has insured that the central core of human history as recorded in the Bible is useful to as metaphor as well. In other words Bible history is a factual record of past events that also tells us something about the "greater reality" of the kingdom of God.
For instance, one of the things that we see in the story of Ehud is the ugliness of sin and its consequences. It is no accident that Eglon was a very fat man. Nor is the description of the assassination a haphazard detail; "the fat closed over the blade, for [Ehud] did not draw the dagger out of his belly; and [Eglon's] entrails came out." This is an unpleasant detail. It is a necessary detail but unpleasant nevertheless. Moreover, it is not the sort of Bible passage you'll hear sermonized on a Sunday morning at your typical North American feminized church. However, it does teach us something about the nature of sin (and that is something we should hear preached once in awhile). In short, sin is ugly; the consequences of sin are ugly; and ridding our life of sin can be an ugly process.
Likewise, our battle against sin is characterized by violence. I'm not talking about physical violence (remember, history as metaphor means that facts are also figurative, illustrating a wholly different experience). Instead I'm speaking of the form of violence that Jesus referred to in a positive sense; "And from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of God suffers violence and the violent take it by force" (Matt:11:12, cf. Luke 16:16). The Greek words here biazetai (biazetai) and biastees (biasths) describe that which is under attack and the attacker.1 Speaking in a natural human fashion, Jesus used figurative language to describe the manner of those who would not be denied a place in the kingdom of God.
Now, according to Jesus, John was the last of the old covenant prophets. Indeed, He tells us that John was the greatest man who had ever lived during the entire old covenant era. Even at that, John was not as great as the lowliest member of the kingdom of God.
You see, those who lived before the time of Christ were under the governorship of angels and the tutelage of animals.2 Truly it was an inferior arraignment (Heb. 8:7), which anticipated the restoration of the proper order of things in the Son of Man, Jesus Christ. The Son of Man "having become so much better than the angels" (Heb. 1:4), perfectly fulfilled the terms of the covenant and ascended to a position of power and authority in the new age (of the Son) of Man (Heb. 2:5). Thus those who lived under the old order were prevented from rising to the glory God intended for mankind. In the old covenant, a righteous follower of God was surrounded by constant reminders that his covenant head, Adam, had surrendered his rightful place to the lower orders of creation. Daily he would see the sacrificial animals, daily he would see the blood, smell the burning flesh. Each time he read the Scripture or heard the Scripture read he would be reminded of the angelic hosts who had authority over him (Deut 33:2, compare Acts 7:38, 53, Gal. 3:19, Heb. 2:2). All of this would have turned his attention to the coming Messiah who would one day restore the kingdom to Israel.
Thus, when the Messiah arrived and fulfilled His purpose, rule and dominion was once again placed in the hands of Man – the Son of Man, Jesus Christ. And, anyone who is willing to repent of their sin and submit to the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, is likewise given the right to become a son of God and reign in the heavenlies in Christ (Eph. 1:3, 2:6). Is it any wonder that when Jesus began to preach the kingdom, discerning listeners began to break down the doors to be part of the new order? However, as I mentioned above, entrance into the new age required repentance and submission - a barrier to even the most enthusiastic recruit. This brings us back to Christ's words concerning the violence suffered by the kingdom of God and the violent men passionate to seize it. His meaning is that the work of the Spirit in creating a repentant heart is an act of creation – and creation is attended by great violence.3 He means that once one has a new heart - a repentant heart - one must come under the authority of the king Jesus. This runs contrary to the imprint of the old nature that is left behind in the newly created life. Hence, the need for great effort, violence if you will, to overcome the flesh and live in submission to Christ.
(Having written that line I leaned back and glanced around my office. My eye fell upon Charles Spurgeon's commentary on the Gospel of Matthew wherein we read: John had aroused an unusual earnestness which had not died out. Men were eager for the glories of the kingdom of heaven. Though they misinterpreted it, they were on fire to seize it. John himself, in his excess of eagerness, had sent his two disciples to our Lord with an impatient question. Our Savior does not blame his intense inquiry; but says that so it must be. A holy violence had been introduced by John, and they had just seen it in his question, and our Lord would have all those who would obtain the kingdom capture it by the same passionate eagerness. The time was come to end indifference, and put on an holy resolution as to the things of God).4
Really Jesus is making the same point here that he made when he declared that we should gouge out our eye or cut off our hand rather than miss the kingdom. He isn't telling us that we may achieve moral purity by maiming ourselves. He is using figurative language again to impress upon us the tremendous importance of living in submission to His rule. We cannot allow anything to distract us from our duty to serve our Lord; we must be prepared to do whatever it takes to purge sin from our life and walk in submission to His rule. Remember, "if we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord" then we shall be saved (Rom. 10:9a). We accept Him as the sovereign Lord of our life and live in obedience to Him. Indeed, by this we know that have come to know Him: that we keep His commandments (1 John 2:3). And that is no easy task. It is only accomplished by the power God (Phil 2:12-13).
Ehud's tale of courage and violence informs us concerning the nature of the task. He did not strike an uncertain blow. His attack against the forces of darkness was carefully thought out and executed. Why is it that so many Christians fight a haphazard battle against sin? The stakes are much higher for us than they were for Ehud.
More on this later.