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Southpaw Savior

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
June 7, 2022 9:00 am

Southpaw Savior

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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June 7, 2022 9:00 am

Through the Isrealites’ example, we’ll discover how to overcome our fears and choose faith instead.

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Today on Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. He crushed his people's enemies through his own weakness like Ahub crushed Eglon. Just as Ahub's victory was a surprise to Eglon, so Jesus's victory came as a complete surprise to the forces of evil.

They literally didn't see it coming. The book of Judges shows you that God is going to send salvation in a way that nobody is expecting and a lot of people are going to miss. Welcome to Summit Life with pastor, author, and theologian J.D.

Greer. I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch. Today we're venturing into the book of Judges where God exposes the Israelites for their lack of courage. Has that ever been you?

Sure, we've all been a bit exposed in this way at one time or another. And through this example, we'll discover how to overcome our fears and choose faith instead. J.D. has chosen an unusual title for today's message, Southpaw Savior, and you'll see why in just a moment.

Now, if you missed any of our series so far, you can catch up online free of charge at jdgreer.com. Grab your Bible and let's get started. Just out of curiosity, how many lefties do we have? How many Southpaws? Raise your left hand.

That's the right one. There we go. Let's see, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, or Barack Obama had been in the audience.

They would have had their hand raised at this point. Several of our pastors got into a big discussion the other day as to whether it is, in general, an advantage or disadvantage to be left-handed. One guy on our team who is himself a lefty says the disadvantages are pretty obvious. He said we live in a right-hand world.

There's just no way around that. He said, as a kid, when I had to learn to write, it was always smearing ink across the page. Most scissors felt really awkward in my hand and still do. And he said, good luck finding a golf club that works. He said, are things that you right-handed people just take for granted?

You never think about. He said, like when I hold my playing cards, I can't see the numbers on the edge of the playing cards because they're made for people holding them in the right hand. Or a loaf of bread, when you're trying to cut a loaf of bread, you never think about it.

But it's you cutting it from the right. He said, we have to cross our hands. Multiple choice test.

I cover up the answers as I'm trying to check what multiple choice I want to choose. He said, are zippers? You've never thought about this, right? He said, when you zip your pants every morning, there's a little flap that makes it nearly impossible for a left-handed person to zip up their pants without it being awkward. He got so animated about it, I said, I think you're a little bitter.

I think we need to do some counseling. The advantages are not as obvious, but they are there. Lefties are more likely statistically to be geniuses. You have a greater chance of having an IQ over 140 if you are a lefty. What is the correlation?

No one has any idea. But it is true. In most sports, opponents are not used to the movements that a southpaw brings, so it introduces an element of surprise.

This is what made Rocky Balboa great as he was. Seeing underwater. Not kidding. I have no idea why, but left-handers can see much better underwater than right-handed people. So if you're going to play underwater hide and seek, choose a left-handed person to be on your team. Throughout history, it's pretty undeniable that left-handedness has been considered to be a weakness.

How people have treated this has ranged from the comical to the cruel. The Latin word for left is sinister, which also means evil. The French word for left is gauche, which means awkward. Even the English word left comes from an old English derivation that means weak. When I lived in Southeast Asia, when parents there would have a kid that was left-handed, whenever they'd use their left hand, they'd always smack their hand and say, which means don't use your left hand.

Now to us, that seems absurd. So you look back through history and you see that at various times, left-handedness has been seen to be a weakness. Obviously that's not true, but believe it or not, that concept of left-handedness plays an important role in teaching us how God works in the world. One of Israel's first judges was a Southpaw. The story that we're going to look at today is about a man named Ahud.

Ahud. Do you have a Bible? Judges chapter three contains his story, so begin to open it there. As you're opening, before I really jump into his story, I want to show you a little phrase that the author of Judges uses to set up these stories because it shows you how God wants you to interpret these stories and how they apply to your life. So he introduces the stories of the judges like this in Judges chapter three, verse one.

Watch very closely. Now these are the nations that the Lord left to test Israel by them, that is, all in Israel who had not experienced all the wars of Canaan. You remember Israel had come in and there was all these Canaanites there and God had promised to give them the land, and when Joshua died there were still some left. Verse two, it was in order that the generations of the people of Israel might know war, to teach war to those who had not known it before. What is the answer to the question of why God had left all these pockets of Canaanites in the land? Well, in one sense, the answer was that first generation of Israelites had not believed God enough to drive them out, right?

That's what we saw last week. But did you see him? There's verses, a couple of other reasons why he did. Verse one, do you see that?

He left the nations there to test them. Verse two, it was in order that new generations might learn to fight wars in God's strength. Imagine that you were an Israelite child and you'd just gotten back from Sunday school, or I guess Sabbath school. And so you asked your dad, you said, dad, today we learned that God had promised to give the Canaanite land to us. And your dad says that is correct, but dad, there are all these pockets of Canaanites still in our land, why are they still there? And your dad says, well, that first generation, grandma and grandpa and great-grandma and great-grandpa, they didn't believe God enough to drive them out, that's why they're there.

And so you as the inquisitive child responds, you say, but dad, that's not our fault. Their sin is not our fault. It's not our sin. So after our great-grandparents, grandparents died, why didn't God just drive them out for us?

Like through swarms of tracker jackers or hurt a wild billy goat or something like that. And the answer, if the dad knew, Judges 3.1 would be, he did that to test us, to see if we would choose God, to see if we would learn to trust Him to fight for us. Let me ask you, do you ever wonder why God doesn't just cure us from sin the moment that we are saved? I know some people that when they become Christians, it's like whatever they were addicted to, bam, just gets turned off.

But more people I know continue to struggle sometimes for the rest of their lives against these same temptations. Why does God do that? Why doesn't God make us immediately pain-free?

Why not go ahead and take us to heaven? According to Judges 3.1 and 2, it is to teach us to rely on His grace, to teach us to fight in His strength. The Apostle Paul said that God leaves trials and weaknesses in our lives to keep us humble. Sometimes, listen to this, God will allow you to struggle with a lesser sin, like anger or lust, in order to keep you from a greater sin, maybe the greatest sin, and that is pride. Because if God suddenly cured all of your sinful tendencies in one kind of way, in one kind of fell swoop the moment you got saved, you would probably get really proud and think that you just dripped with spiritual awesomesauce and that you were really something that people ought to admire. So God allows you to continue to struggle because He wants you to learn throughout your life that you are not saved because you became morally perfect.

You are saved as a gift of grace and God will allow these things to continue to plague you so that you will grow ever more dependent on grace because that's what spiritual growth means. John Newton, the writer of Amazing Grace, wrote a letter to a friend 300 or so years ago. He was in his mid-80s when he wrote the letter and what he said to his friend was, he said, now in my mid-80s I always thought that by this point in my life I would have been much farther past these sinful temptations that I dealt with in my 20s and 30s. He said, but I look at my life now in my 80s and these temptations, many of them have gotten worse, not better. He said, if spiritual progress is measured by you being free from temptations, he says, I'm actually spiritually regressed, not spiritually progressed. He said, but I realize now that what real spiritual growth is, is growing with an ever greater sense of wonder at the grace that God has used to save you. And I know that God has allowed these temptations to continue in my life so that I would till my dying breath know that I am saved by amazing grace.

How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. Do you understand that about your life? Do you understand that's what spiritual growth is? Is continuing to learn that God's grace is what you are crediting the victory to and that God allows you to struggle that way?

Sometimes I, one of our pastors, pastor Rick Langston, he's in his mid-50s. We were talking this week and he said, I was cleaning out my attic and he said, I came across a thing of journals that I'd written when I was in my 30s. He said, and I started to read back through them and remembered why I quit journaling. He said, I quit journaling because every year I just rewrote the same struggles over and over again.

So my last entry is see previous year for the future. He said, you ever feel like that? You ever feel like it just continues to cycle? That's because God is wanting to humble you and teach you what it means to fight in his strength and rely on his grace. I've told you before that our first years, told you last week, our first couple of years of marriage, there were some rough spots to say the least in my marriage. And, you know, I couldn't figure out why that was happening because I thought, you know, well, hey, I know God, I love God. She loves God.

We should just have a perfect marriage. And from this point, now I realize looking back, but one of the things God was doing is he was humbling us, humbling me because he knew that one day when I would talk to some of you in marriage problems, he didn't want me standing up here on stage thinking, well, you just don't know enough of the Bible and you're not awesome like me. And that's why you struggle. He wanted me to know that my sinful flesh is the same thing as your sinful flesh. And that what I really needed is God's grace and to boast in his grace and not in my strength. So God allows us to go through these chapters so that the glory will be his and not ours. That's what sets up the story in chapter three. So if you'll look down in verse 12, you'll see the story of Ehud. Again, the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord. And because they did this evil, the Lord gave Eglon king of Moab power over Israel. Now, Eglon was a bad man. His name just sounds bad, doesn't it?

Eglon. That just sounds evil to me. For 18 years, he raped, pillaged, and murdered the Israelites. Again, the Israelites cried out to the Lord and he gave them a deliverer, Ehud, a left-handed man. Literally, it says in Hebrew, he could not use his right hand, which means he was probably disabled. His right hand maybe had been crushed or was just born withered.

Now, this was a society even more cruel to disabled people than our own. So to have a guy whose right hand was useless would have meant that he was thought of as useless. Yet Ehud, Ehud, was brave and he was a man of faith. He volunteered to deliver a tribute payment of gold to Eglon. So he loads up his wagon with all this tax money and tribute money and extortion and he heads off to Eglon, but he packs a little surprise. Verse 16, now Ehud had made a double-edged sword, about a cubit long, 18 inches or so, which he strapped to his right thigh under his clothing.

This was a concealed carry knife. He presented the tribute to Eglon, who was a very fat man. Now, that seems like an irrelevant detail, doesn't it? A gratuitous insult?

Actually, it's not. Verse 18, after Ehud had presented the tribute, he said, your majesty, I have a secret message just for you. And Eglon was like, ooh, a message, a secret message.

This is like a hidden map on the back of the Declaration of Independence written in invisible ink. He was excited about it. So the king said to his attendants, leave us. And they all left. Maybe he was hoping that Ehud had brought him a snack and he didn't want to share it.

I don't know. Verse 20, 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. Now, Eglon literally did not see this coming. Remember, Ehud had a withered right hand, so Eglon would not have seen him as a threat. If he had seen him as a threat, he would never have let him in his presence unattended. But this is a disabled guy. He doesn't even have a strong right hand.

So he's no threat. Verse 22, even the handle sank in after the blade and his bowels discharged. Now the NIV is actually being, the NIV that I'm reading from is actually being a little bit polite there. Literally in Hebrew, it says, and the dung came out. That's pretty disgusting, right? It gets even better.

Ehud did not pull the sword out and the fat closed in over it. Meditate on that verse. Make that your scripture memory verse for the week. I don't even want to imagine what that was like. There was this loud sucking sound and then the blade disappeared. You're listening to Summit Life with Pastor J.D.

Greer. You know, sometimes we have big questions about life, about faith, about God and the Bible. And we need to know how to give solid answers for these difficult moments. In our newest resource, Pastor J.D. quickly answers some of those questions that keep us up at night. A couple of examples are, is it okay to get divorced?

And is there such a thing as unanswered prayers? You may recall volume one of this book called Honest Questions, Quick Answers from two years ago. We have some copies of that first book available as well if you missed getting it. And we'll send those resources as our thanks for your gift to the ministry right now.

So give us a call at 866-335-5220 or check it out at jdgreer.com. Now let's get back to our teaching. Here's Pastor J.D. Then Ehud went out to the porch. He shut the doors of the upper room behind him and then he locked them.

After he had gone, the servants came and found the doors of the upper room locked. And they said he must be relieving himself in the inner room of the palace because that's what it smelled like, right? See previous verse.

Verse 25, they waited to the point of embarrassment. At first, they, you know, made a few jokes. Hey, you guys hear any movement in there?

No, but I smell one, you know. But then it got weird. Then it got weird. You can take the boy out of a job of youth pastor. You will never take youth pastor out of the boy, okay. So when he did not open the doors of the room, they took a key and unlocked them. And there they saw their Lord fall into the floor dead. Well by now Ehud is safely away from the palace and he rallies all the tribes of Israel who amass their armies. They rise up as one against Moab. And verse 30, that day Moab was made subject to Israel and the land had peace for 80 years. Well again, believe it or not, some of the most essential keys for spiritual victory are found in this rather colorful, slightly off color, somewhat disgusting story. Let me start with the most important.

I have five of them. Number one, this story teaches us that God's savior would come in weakness. God's savior would come in weakness with Ehud. A very important trajectory has just been established in the book of Judges and it is a completely unexpected one. The book of Judges, you see, is preceded by the book of Joshua. Joshua had been a mighty general. He led a strong Israelite army. He is exactly what you would think of when you think the ultimate warrior leader.

If I were going to choose someone to play him in a movie, I would choose Russell Crowe from Gladiator. Yet even after a leader in success like that, Israel is still not faithful to God. So just a couple chapters into Judges, the first major story of a judge that we come to after Joshua is Ehud, a left-handed, crippled leader. And at first he doesn't even fight with an army. He kills Eglon all by himself.

It's only later that the army joins him to fight. If I were casting for Ehud, I would probably use Nicolas Cage. The next judge is going to be Deborah. Deborah is obviously a woman. She is a story that we're going to get to in a couple of weeks. She partners up with a somewhat cowardly man named Barak.

For this, I would choose Meryl Streep and Ben Affleck. This story is fascinating in how it elevates women, which I'm going to show you, but it shattered, I mean, at the very least we see it shatters common Israelite conceptions of strength. That's what they're not thinking of is the replacement for Joshua. And whereas Joshua and Ehud lead all the tribes into battle, you're going to see that Debbie and Barak only lead two tribes.

The 10 of them stay at home and only two go. After that, we come to Gideon, who is a rather timid leader at first and has to be persuaded by God continually to actually go do it. And then after he does, he takes an army of 32,000 and God says, I'm going to whittle that army down from 32,000 to 300. And with 300, he defeats the entire army of Midianites. For Gideon, I would choose Bradley Cooper. Then we have Samson who fights all by himself.

He is morally a scumbag. And then he, when he comes down to fight, it's just him. And he whips an entire Philistine army with the jawbone of a donkey.

For him, I would recast Nicholas Cage because that man is a national treasure. After the book of Judges, we come to David. And David, when we were introduced to him as a scrawny shepherd boy who writes poetry and sings songs and plays a harp and defeats a giant with a slingshot.

Of course, for that, we would choose Justin Bieber. Do you see the trajectory going from Joshua to Judges to 1 Samuel? It's a very clear one. We're going from strength to weakness. We're going from Israel winning battles under the direction of a great warrior leader and to the strength of their army to God using a small, weak shepherd boy who defeats the enemy by himself while Israel stands on the sidelines and watches. And this points the way for the most unexpected and the most left-handed, if you will, of all persons, Jesus Christ. Jesus was an unlikely savior, despised, in fact, and rejected by men. You would never have looked at Jesus and thought, there, there is the savior of the world. I hate to burst your bubble, but he probably didn't look like Jim Caviezel. He was poor.

He was probably not tall, not great looking, didn't have a commanding presence. And he achieved the victory all alone, just like David did on behalf of his people who did not lift a finger to help him. He crushed his people's enemies through his own weakness, like Ahud crushed Eglon. Just as Ahud's victory was a surprise to Eglon, so Jesus's victory came as a complete surprise to the forces of evil.

They literally didn't see it coming. The book of Judges shows you that God is going to send salvation in a way that nobody is expecting and a lot of people are going to miss. The way that Paul said this in the book of 1 Corinthians is Jesus was a stumbling block, is a stumbling block to both the Jews and the Greeks because neither of them saw him coming.

You think stumbling block, something that's in your path, you don't see and you trip over it. He said that's what Jesus was. They didn't see him. He was there, but they didn't see him because when the Jews thought about salvation, they were looking for a mighty warrior king who would rise up like Joshua. That's what his name, Jesus and Joshua had the same name by the way in Hebrew. He was going to rise up and pull together the armies and overthrow all the Roman oppression.

Greeks were looking for a philosopher king who would educate and enlighten the world and dazzle them through his ability to come up with pithy statements and insight. Nobody expected a savior who would not even own a home and be executed as a criminal in shame. Today people miss him because we're looking for a different kind of savior.

I heard Bart Ehrman who is the skeptic over at UNC Chapel Hill who teaches New Testament. Someone asked him in a debate one time, what would it take to get you to believe in Jesus? His response, had he ended all suffering. Had he ended all suffering, I would believe in him.

In other words, Jesus is too politically weak to be a real savior from God. But here's the question, what if Jesus had a different way of defeating evil, a surprising way? Because what if our main problem was not suffering on earth? What if our main problem was separation from God? What if the real tragedy was not that we suffer with cancer, but that we die in the first place? And what if Jesus saved us by removing that curse, by suffering that curse in our place on the cross, and then stabbing death in the heart with his resurrection so it would never have power over us again. And we would look at the grave and we would say, death, where is your victory?

Grave, where is your sting? Because the sting of death is sin and the curse of sin is the law and Jesus has abolished them both. Listen church, the entire Bible points to Jesus, the whole thing, every single story. When people ask me why I believe and trust in the Bible, a lot of times what we point to is prophecy. Prophecy means things in the Old Testament that were written about Jesus before we ever got here. Now there are two kinds of prophecy that are really convincing to me.

The first kind is what you traditionally think of with prophecy. That's where you get these exact details about Jesus coming. Things like the fact that he would die on a cross and he'd be buried with rich people, Isaiah 53. The fact that he would come into Jerusalem riding on the fall of a donkey, Zechariah chapter 9. That he would be betrayed by 30 priests of silver, Zechariah chapter 11. That he would be born of the tribe of Judah, Genesis 49.

That he would be born in the city of Bethlehem, Micah 5 2. And like 290 some others that are really impressive when you put them all together. I mean they are very convincing. I heard one mathematician say the odds of all 300 prophecies just kind of randomly coalescing on one guy is one in 10 to the 20 something power. He said to put that in perspective, he said cover the entire states, the land area of North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia in silver dollars six feet high and paint one of them randomly red and just you know out of all the millions that are in there, billions, trillions.

He said then take a blind man and kind of catapult him in there from somewhere in Maryland and let him choose one of the dollars, silver dollars. The chances of him choosing the one red silver dollar are the same as the chances of all 300 of these prophecies just kind of randomly occurring on Jesus Christ. So yes it is very impressive when you see the specificity of prophecies but even more impressive to me to be honest is this kind of prophecy. Where you see that every page of the bible is telling the same story. One that is completely unique among religions and that is that our salvation isn't going to come through strength.

It's going to come through weakness and surprise and substitution not strength and conquest. That is completely unique among religions and it is told on every page of the bible and fulfilled to the letter in Jesus Christ. You're listening to Summit Life with pastor and bible teacher J.D.

Greer. Today's message is titled Southpaw Savior. Pastor J.D., after we spend the entire month of June in this teaching series, what should we walk away seeing as the common thread here? During our month in the book of Judges we're going to see so much violence and abuse, judgment, war, but when God's people call out to him in the midst of those things he sends a deliverer to bring peace.

Now these deliverers end up being very broken people and we find that there's no earthly deliverer that can give us the peace, the security, the satisfaction that our hearts yearn for. So we're going to see this incredible theme of God's mercy and how every earthly solution ultimately fails and the solution we need is found in Jesus Christ. One of the things we thought would be helpful with this series is to provide you a resource that would help you answer some of the crazy questions that people in our culture are asking.

So we've taken 16 of the most difficult questions that we get asked as Christians. We put them into a second volume of honest questions, quick answers. You can get any of these. They're all available right now at jdgreer.com with a generous donation that you make here to us at Summit Life that would help us be able to keep Summit Life on the air and ministering to others in your community. We can get you a copy of the most recent volume of honest questions, quick answers today with our thanks when you donate to support this program. You can also request to add on volume one if you missed it a couple of years ago. Give today and remember to ask for volume two of honest questions, quick answers.

Call 866-335-5220 or you can donate and request the pair on the pair online at jdgreer.com. I'm Molly Vidovitch. Be sure to listen again Wednesday when you'll hear more from Pastor J.D. Greer's message called Southpaw Savior here on Summit Life. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-08 08:59:28 / 2023-04-08 09:10:55 / 11

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