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“How To Become a Hitman” – When Exemplary Preaching Doesn’t Work

February 7, 2011

Ehud. What do we do with him?

A left handed assassin, who uses not a little trickery to wangle a private audience with a foreign despot. Alone with the unsuspecting monarch, Ehud plunges the dagger into the king’s fat belly.

Applications anyone?

  • “How to become a hitman in 5 easy steps.”
  • “Guard evasion 101.”
  • “How to craft short swords.”

Silly isn’t it? Yet how many other Old Testament characters do we preach in precisely this way? “Joseph resisted temptation and so should we.” “Daniel prayed three times daily, and so should we.”

Of course, it all works fine so long as the biblical characters are playing nice. But then we come to Ehud.

I’m not saying that there can never be an exemplary value in Old Testament characters. But perhaps we are always on safer ground when we ask “what is God doing?” in the narrative, rather than assuming that the primary value of texts is in the human characters.

I might be wrong, but I think the main point we’re meant to derive from Ehud is theological. God saves his people on the one hand, and judges his enemies on the other.

In itself, the assassination is besides the point.

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4 comments

  1. A timely post as I prepare to preach on this very passage this coming Sunday! I totally agree. Given – Othniel aside – all of the Judges have ‘flaws’ of one nature of another, I’m having to work hard at seeing what each episode specifically adds – to avoid too many sermons all saying the same thing. With Ehud, I’m wondering if it’s to do with the surprising nature of God’s rescue… (work in progress…)


  2. Thanks for this Colin. I sometimes refer to typical messages along the lines of ‘The man/woman God uses’ – which miss the point about the strangeness of the people God uses. The fact that Ehud was a left hander is also interesting – God using what is normally regarded as weak to destroy the strong.


  3. You might enjoy Greg Gilbert on Ehud. Good stuff.

    http://www.thirdavenue.org/listentosermons/?sermon_id=268

    T-


  4. When we were youth group leaders we had a game where we would start a story in the Bible and then give options as to what they thought it could happen. The story of Ehud was one of those that the kids did not expect. I found it interesting in commentaries for Judges that being left handed was so uncommon which gave him an advantage (http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/judges-3-21.html)



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