If I were to teach a Bible lesson on July 4th, I think it would have to start with this verse:
John 8:33-36 They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
On the 4th of July, we celebrate breaking free from an abusive nation and establishing our freedom as a country. In the spiritual realm, we have a greater freedom to be concerned with. We may think we are choosing our own way and doing what we want to do, but any sin slowly slides around our wrists and becomes shackles that take us toward an eternal separation from God.
Our only hope of independence is to place our trust in Jesus Christ. He died on the cross to pay the punishment for all of the wrong things that we have done. The only thing we have to do is believe Jesus did that for us, and then, the “Son” will make you “free” from that sin.
A Story to Match: Ehud
Almost all of my lessons have been to kids, and choosing a good story seems to work well. Probably all of the stories from Judges work well, but I chose Ehud. You can find his story in Judges chapter 3:12-30.
The amazing thing about John 8 is the Pharisees’ statement: “We … were never in bondage to any man”. Well, what about King Eglon? Does this verse sound like they were never in bondage?
Judges 3:14 So the children of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years.
Furthermore, In John 8, Jesus makes it clear that He is talking about our sin holding us bondage rather than any physical leader. Well, Judges makes it clear why the Israelites where in physical/national bondage. They had forgotten to serve God, and did evil:
Judges 3:12 And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the LORD.
A Story to Match: American Independence
Our Independence isn’t a perfect fit or parallel, but it does have some parallels. You can read the Declaration of Independence, and I think that you’ll get the feeling that we were a nation in bondage. I don’t know that you can say that we had necessarily forgotten God to bring us to the point of bondage, but many of our people did move to our country to get away from religious persecution.
Of course, we all are in bondage to sin. We all need Jesus to set us free from that bondage.
Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
Paul uses the word bondage in Galations when describing our situation in sin:
Galations 2:3-5 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
Also, just like the Israelites, when we forget God, He will do something that will bring us back to Him:
Revelation 3:19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
Introducing the Story
One of the key elements to Ehud’s victory was the fact that he was left-handed. You can ask the kids how many are left-handed. You could play a little game to see how many know their left hand from their right hand, and how well.
Another left-hand right-hand game you can play is to set up a maze with the chairs and elements in the room. Blindfold a kid and have another give them verbal directions through the maze. See if they can use left and right to make it through the maze.
Also, the gross part of the story can be used to peak kids’ interest.
Here’s the outline of the story:
- Israelites disobeyed God and did evil
- God strengthened Eglon, king of Moab
- Eglon allied with the Ammonites and the Amalekites
- Israel served king Eglon for 18 years
- God sent Ehud to deliver them
- Israel chooses Ehud to bring the tribute to the Eglon
- Ehud makes a dagger
- Ehud straps the dagger hidden on his right thigh
- In Moab, Ehud gives the tribute to the people and has them take it away (gets rid of some of the people)
- Ehud tells Eglon he has a secret message (Eglon dismisses everyone else in the room)
- Ehud says he has a messsage from God and stands up out of his seat
- Ehud pulls the dagger out with his left hand and runs it into Eglon’s belly
- The blade went in so far it got stuck
- Ehud left and locked the doors behind him to slow anyone from finding out
- The servants thought he was using the bathroom since the doors were locked
- The servants waited a long time before getting the key and opening the doors
- Meanwhile, Ehud escapes to the Israelites
- Ehud gathers an army and attacks Moab
- Israelites kill 10,000 Moabites and gain freedom
The Bible says that Eglon and his allies attacked “the city of palm trees”.
Judges 3:12 And he gathered unto him the children of Ammon and Amalek, and went and smote Israel, and possessed the city of palm trees.
With a cross reference, we can tell it is probably talking about Jericho
Deuteronomy 34:3 And the south, and the plain of the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, unto Zoar.
As best I can tell, this is the location on the map showing Ammon and Moab attacking Jericho:
Credits: section of “Twelve Tribes’ Israel” in the Epiphany Maps Sword module, red circles and arrows added by me.
The Bible says that Ehud’s sword was one cubit long. According to Wikipedia, that is about 20 inches long.
Judges 3:16 But Ehud made him a dagger which had two edges, of a cubit length; and he did gird it under his raiment upon his right thigh.
Another point that stood out to me was that Ehud made the dagger himself.
I also like the fact that Ehud practically calls the sword a message from God.
Judges 3:20b And Ehud said, I have a message from God unto thee. And he arose out of his seat.
Ehud’s Secret Weapon
The Bible makes a special point to tell us that Ehud was left-handed. As a result, he strapped his dagger on his right hip. When he pulls it out, the Bible again reminds us that he used his left hand to pull it off his right hip. I think the point is that if the Moabites were to check for a weapon, they would assume him right-handed, and check only his left side.
In telling the story, I imagine the Moabites frisking Ehud several times. First, as he enters the gates to the city, the guard would probably check him. Then, as he enters the palace, another guard would probably check him. I can imagine the adrenaline rush that Ehud would have as guards inspect him, knowing he had a hidden weapon.
I couldn’t find much information about Eglon, but here are a few facts:
First, we know he was king of Moab. Moab is mentioned throughout the Bible. For example, Ruth came from Moab.
We know that Elgon was extremely fat. That’s significant because it required Ehud to make a large enough sword to cut through the fat.
The Enemy Nations
The three nations that came against Israel where Moab, Ammon, and Amalek. Here are some resources:
One the the fun parts of this story, is the disgusting nature. The Bible indicates that the contents of Eglon’s bowels came out as the sword got stuck in his fat.
Judges 3:22 And the haft also went in after the blade; and the fat closed upon the blade, so that he could not draw the dagger out of his belly; and the dirt came out.
I think this is a great attention-getter. Warning the kids that we have a gross story for the boys will peak their interest. You could even suggest that the girls cover their ears as Eglon gets stabbed. I think their curiosity will make them cover their ears in a way that they still can hear.
While it is fun to play with the gross part of the story, it is also important to point out that it was real, and that death is never fun. It was caused by sin. Sin is serious and never pretty. The grossness of the story is the result of sin, and a nation who did not worship God. The act had to be done because the Israelites had forgotten God, and needed to be reminded how much they needed Him.
There are a number of things that you can learn from this story. I think that it is important to apply the story as you tell it. If you apply it at the end, the audience may turn you off.
Most importantly, sin places us in bondage. Just as Ehud had to go through a disgusting act of war to free the Israelites, Jesus had to go through a painful death to pay the punishment for our sin.
God is in control. The Bible makes it clear that God strengthened and allowed the Moabites to oppress the Israelites. God also chose and used Ehud.
We can’t afford to forget God. The Israelites made that mistake over and over throughout Judges. The result was bondage to other nations. We can be sure that even as Christians, if we forget God, we will be bound by sin. Nothing can take away our gift of eternal life, but sin can weigh us down.
God uses peculiar people. Is it possible that Ehud was made fun of because he was different? Obviously left-handed people were not common. The Bible makes it clear that Ehud’s left-handed trait was the key to his success. What we may see as odd and different, God can use for His glory.