The Terrible Meek
February 28th, 1960 @ 8:15 AM
THE TERRIBLE MEEK
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-28-60 8:15 a.m.
You who listen on the radio are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the early morning service entitled The Terrible Meek. It is a message from the third chapter of the Book of Judges. And it is a message built upon the lives of the first three judges. If you will open your Bible to the Book of Judges, chapter 3, verse 7, you can easily follow the morning message. Judges 3:7:
And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and forgat the Lord their God, and served Baalim
– just the plural of Baal. Whenever you begin serving one idol you do not stop; you begin serving idols plural –
and the groves.
– that was another insignia, emblem of their terrible, terrible worship –
Therefore the anger of the Lord was hot (burned) against Israel, and He sold them into the hand of Chushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia: and the children of Israel served Chushan-rishathaim eight years.
And when the children of Israel cried unto the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer to the children of Israel, who delivered them, even Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother.
And the Spirit of Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel, and went out to war: and the Lord delivered Chushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand; and his hand prevailed against Chushan-rishathaim.
And the land had rest forty years. And Othniel the son of Kenaz died.
That’s the first judge. The second judge [Judges 3:12-20]:
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.
And Eglon gathered unto him the children of Ammon and Amalek and went and smote Israel, and possessed the city of palm trees.
– down there in the valley of the Jordan –
So the children of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years. But when the children of Israel cried unto the Lord…
– Isn’t that an unusual thing? Shows how steeped and how compromised in idolatry and iniquity the people had become. It was only after eighteen years of severe oppression that they cried unto the Lord –
And the Lord raised up a deliverer, Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjamite, a man left-handed: and by him the children of Israel sent a present unto Eglon the king of Moab.
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.
And he brought the present unto Eglon the king of Moab: and Eglon was a very fat man.
And when he had made an end to offer the present, he sent away the people that bare the present.
But he himself turned again from the quarries that were by Gilgal, and said, I have a secret errand unto thee, O king: who replied, keep silence
– don’t want these other people around –
And all that stood by him went out from him.
And Ehud came unto the king; and he was sitting in a summer parlor, which he had for himself alone. And Ehud said, I have a message from God unto thee. And he arose out of his seat.
And Ehud put forth his left hand, and took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly:
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 stomach.
– the moral of that is listen to what the gospel says and don’t get too heavy –
Then Ehud went forth through from the porch, and shut the doors of the parlor upon him, and locked them.
When he was gone out, his servants came; and when they saw that, behold, the doors of the parlor were locked, they said, Surely he covereth his feet in his summer chamber.
And they tarried until they were ashamed: and, behold, he opened not the doors of the parlor; therefore they took a key, and opened them: and, behold, their lord was fallen down dead on the earth.
And Ehud escaped while they tarried, and passed beyond the quarries, and escaped unto Seirath.
And it came to pass, when he was come, that he blew a trumpet in the mountain of Ephraim, and the children of Israel went down with him from the mount, and he before them.
And he said unto them, Follow after me: for the Lord hath delivered your enemies the Moabites into your hand. And they went down after him, and took the fords of Jordan toward Moab, and suffered not a man to pass over.
And they slew of Moab at that time about ten thousand men, all
– And there is shÃ¢mÃªn word again. Here it’s translated " lusty," – "obese," I don’t know what was the matter with Moab; they must have lived on whale blubber, but they all were heavy – and all men of valor; and there escaped not a man of them. So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land had rest eighty years.
Now the third judge: "And after him was Shamgar the son of Anath, which slew of the Philistines six hundred men with an ox goad: and he also delivered Israel" [Judges 3:31]. Now that’s the passage. My subject is: The Terrible Meek. So, I thought instead of taking it in the order that I read it, I thought this morning we would just go the other direction; we would take the third one, then the second one, then the first one. So the first one we take up this morning is Shamgar.
Shamgar was a farmer, and somewhere in southern Palestine he was taking care of his little tract of land. Evidently, he was plowing in the field with his oxen. And while he was there in the field with his oxen, he found himself suddenly surrounded by a band of six hundred, or more, Philistines. They were the precursors of an invasion. And this humble farmer who had nothing in his hand but the rude implement of his toil; he had an ox goad; he had a long pole, six or eight feet long and on the end of it fastened a short iron prong.
When this humble farmer named Shamgar found himself surrounded by this band of Philistines, this humble man Shamgar took that ox goad and suddenly attacked that band of uncircumcised Philistines. And so fearlessly and so ruthlessly did he assail them that they turned and fled before him; but he relentlessly and mercilessly pursued them. And when the day was done, there were six hundred of those invaders that lay dead around him. That was a most unusual thing. So much so, that God used him to deliver Israel from a terrible invasion from the land of Philistia [Judges 3:31].
Now, just to mention that is to bring to mind the power latent in these humble and unobtrusive and unostentatious and devoted humble God-fearing people. It’s a remarkable thing what God has laid up in store in just a plain, humble, ordinary man – these terrible meek. I remember as a boy growing up in one of the meanest towns that ever was established on the face of the earth; and the boys in it were just as villainous and sorry and mean as they could be. I remember a bully in that group, and he was constantly picking on another boy. Now these fellows are about sixteen years of age, old enough in a city to be formed into these fighting gangs. And this bully was constantly oppressing and ridiculing and shaming this other lad. And the bully was constantly trying to get him to fight him; and the other boy never would fight. It was just one of those developments in the small town. That other boy was always cowering and always running and always ducking out and refusing to fight.
I want you to know that upon a day, back there in that long ago time, when those pioneers went out there to that far northwestern country, most of them lived in half dugouts. Did you ever see a half dugout? Most of those people lived in half dugouts, and in one of those half dugouts, practically all of the kids of that little town got inside and that bully and that other boy. And they formed a ring around the sides of that dugout and that bully pushed that other boy in the center of the ring and all the rest of the kids in the town were lined up around the sides of that half dugout, and there wasn’t any escape. And that bully doubled up his firsts, after he shoved that boy into the center of the ring, and said, "Now, you will fight!" I want you to know that was the beatenest fight, outside of the second Tunney and Dempsey match, you ever saw in your life! And when the bloodshed was over and they were mopping up the pieces, that little old meek humble boy that went to church all the time and that didn’t want to fight, and was made to fight, I want you to know he beat the stuffing, the insides, out of that bully. It was an amazing thing, and when the thing was over, that bully had two of his eyes closed; he could hardly see. He had his nose mashed all over his face. He was beat up! It’s surprising what you’ll find in these meek, humble people. It’s amazing what they’re able to do – just plain ordinary folks.
And when that band of uncircumcised, blaspheming Philistines came out of the plains of the Mediterranean to humble, to oppress, to overcome, to make conquest of those hillbillies up there in the Judean part of Palestine, the first one they came across was this farmer, Shamgar. And when Shamgar got through with that invading band, can you imagine those that escaped, what they said back home in the camps of Philistia? "Why, we never saw such fighting demons as live up there in those Judean hills." And it says here, "And he delivered Israel" [Judges 3:31].
I take it for granted that God meant by that that this man so overwhelmed them, this humble farmer so beat them until Philistia never dared to invade Israel for hundreds of years. It was not until the time of Saul that you find any record of another invasion of Judea from Philistia. The terrible meek; this plain humble farmer Shamgar with an ox goad in his hand; his battlefield was a country road or a country field. And he didn’t need to be elected to any high office, he didn’t need to be placed on any pedestal; he didn’t need to aspire to any hero’s part to do a wonderful thing for his God and for his country. He didn’t even need to go to the armory to find a bow or a spear or a sword. He took just what was in his hand, an ox goad. And he stood right where God had placed him, out in a country field, and there he did a great thing for his Lord, and he delivered Israel. Why, it thrills your heart just to think about those things – thrills your soul just to recall people like that.
"What is that in thine hand?" [Exodus 4:2]. God said to Moses. It’s a rod. It’s a stick. That’s all God needed to divide the waters of the [Red Sea], to overwhelm the might of the throne of the Pharaohs [Exodus 14:16], to bring the water out of the flinty rock [Exodus 17:5-6]. That’s all God needed to point the way for the whole people of the Lord. "What’s in thine hand?" A sling and a stone said that ruddy faced boy, David [1 Samuel 17:40-50]. That’s all it takes, dedicated to the Lord, to overcome Goliath and those terrible incursions from Philistia, in these hundreds of after years, that’s all God needed. "What’s in thine hands?" Five biscuits and two little fishes, his lot; that’s all God needed to feed the five thousand [Mark 6:38]. "What is in thine hands?" A needle and a thread that belongs to Dorcas, that’s all God needed to magnify His name in the church [Acts 9:36-42]. It’s a marvelous thing and a wonderful thing to find people who are not looking for pedestals upon which to stand, like that cartoon in the daily news: not looking for those hero badges to be stuck all over them. It’s a marvelous thing to find people, who just in their place where God has put them, humbly doing what God has called them to do; the terrible meek.
A Christian ranchman that I knew, on his ranch, the boss-man that he was, made it a rule of his life; every cowboy that worked for him, he’d try to lead him to Jesus. Well, that’s a glorious thing. "It’s a rule in my company, every man that works for me, I try to lead to Jesus." What a precious thing to do and what an earthshaking thing it is! The devil trembles before a man like that; a humble man who has it a rule in his life, "All of my employees, I try to win to Jesus." There’s a service station man in this church. You would think that the service station was a place to fill up the car with gasoline and oil and to check the water and the tires and the battery. His service station incidentally may sell gasoline and oil and give away free air and water, but the real purpose of his service station is to talk to people about Jesus. Why, that’s a wonderful thing, a glorious thing! There’s a lawyer in this church, and he just incidentally practices law up here in one of these skyscrapers. You would think that his office was a private altar, a sanctuary where people came to find God. It’s a wonderful thing to see in a doctor’s office, or in a nurse’s anteroom, or a farmer out on the field, or a ranchman, or a service station attendant, or a housewife; it’s a wonderful thing to see people, humble people, taking what God has placed in their hands and dedicating it to the Lord. These are the terrible meek.
I do not know the name of this quiet English girl, who on the streets found a ragged boy, encouraged him to come to her little Sunday school, and, when the boy was derelict, go after him and bring him back; finally, won him to the Lord. That little boy’s name was Robert Morrison, the founder and pioneer of the great mission endeavor to the East. And through his offices, and the influence of his life, and the example of what he did, and the encouragement of his voice, there were millions who came to know Jesus all over the great Far Eastern Orient. You don’t know what you do – these simple humble ministries dedicated to God by meek and devout people – one of whom was Shamgar.
Now, let us take the second one: "And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord: and the Lord strengthened Eglon" [Judges 3:12]. And Eglon was the king of Moab, and he came across the Jordan and conquered Israel, and they served Eglon eighteen years. Now, what kind of a man is this that delivered Israel out of the hands of Eglon? Well, you had him described here; and I want you to see this man because many times in a translation you don’t get a picture like a living language will describe one of these characters back there.
Now this man Ehud, he was one. Here is the way that the Book describes him: Ehud, Ã®sh," a man," Ehud, Ã®sh, " a man," qÃ¢shar, qÃ¢shar. Now that’s the adjectival form of the verb qÃ¢shar – qÃ¢shar means to shut up, to close up, to bind. So Ã®sh, a man, qÃ¢shar – a man shut up, bound up, impotent, tied up, maimed. YÃ¢d, that’s hand; yemÃ¢no, "at his right side" and that’s the way, now you have it translated here, "Ehud, a man left-handed" [Judges 3:15]. The Hebrew says a man maimed, shut up, bound, at his right side. So Ehud was a man whose right arm was withered or cut off or maimed, or in some way impotent. Well, whatever it was, that right arm was useless, and it dangled at his right side.
You have translated "left-handed." Now, it may mean left-handed. In the twentieth chapter of the Book of Judges, it speaks of seven hundred Benjamites who were all left-handed and could sling a stone with a sling and not miss, it says, a hair’s breadth. Now, maybe it means that – I don’t know. All I’m telling you is that the Hebrew here says that he was shut up, bound down, impotent in his right hand, and I think it means maimed. Ehud had a withered right hand, or, in some terrible accident, it was cut off, and he was maimed in his right hand.
Now, that was the thing that made it possible for him to do this unusual thing of delivering Israel. His strength lay in his maiming; it lay in the impotency of his right hand, and this is the reason, this is the story. Now, I want you to see this: you see, when a man has his right hand, and a dagger at his right side, and he’s your enemy, you’re going to watch that right hand; and you’re going to watch that dagger because as he walks up to you – well, hasn’t anyone of us watched these Westerns? I tell you, when they’re walking, you know just like that , and that hand dangling there, you know, brushing that holster? Oh, there are going to be six men lying out there dead before you know it. You can just see it! And the same way back there; girded around, and a dagger held in that girdle, and that right hand right at the hilt – you would unconsciously watch it, if he was your enemy. On the other hand, on the other hand, if you’re maimed in your right hand and your left hand is the only one that’s good, and when you threw over yourself those Oriental garments, and the garment was gathered on the right side; but the left side was open where you could see the man’s body – open there, nothing hidden, nothing at all, and your left hand dangling there at your opened body, and your right hand maimed to which side gathered that, we call it a toga – those Oriental garments. Well, you’d have no fear of the man at all. He’s perfectly innocent.
Let me illustrate that: do you remember the story of how Joab, the captain of the hosts, murdered Amasa whom David had chosen to take the place of Joab; and Amasa had lead the rebellion under Absalom against David the king? Do you remember that story? When Joab met Amasa, both of them great men of war, Joab was girded around – the outside of his garment was girded all the way around – and the dagger stuck in the right side.
And when Joab walked to meet Amasa, in some way that dagger fell out, and Joab, when he picked it up, picked it up with his left hand. And when Amasa saw it in his left hand, he thought nothing at all, and he ran to salute Joab, and Joab, with his right hand, held the beard of Amasa; and Amasa never thought of that dagger in his left hand. And when Joab embraced Amasa, Joab took that left hand and thrust that dagger under his fifth rib. And Amasa lay wallowing in his own blood on the ground [2 Samuel 20:8-12].
That gave Ehud the great opportunity because nobody was looking for that left hand, and especially when the right was maimed and the clothing was opened on the left side. Ehud put that dagger in the clothing on the right side, and when he came to the presence of this corpulent prince, who in his evil wickedness had oppressed Israel for eighteen years, coming over there, lolling in Judea around the warm springs, and those people, oppressed in slavery, feeding him and his hosts, paying tribute to him, galling under the foreign iron rule of Moab – Ehud, maimed in his right hand, took it upon himself to deliver the people of God.
And I read you the story. When they paid their tribute and brought it to that prince, Ehud said, "I have a word for thee alone" [Judges 3:15-20]. And so the king Eglon, thinking nothing, dismissed his bodyguards. And Ehud said, "I have a message from God unto thee." I tell you some of these things here in the Bible make you tremble, tremble, tremble! "I have a message from God unto thee." It was a message of judgment; it was a message of death; it was a terrible message.
Same kind of a message as God delivered through His prophet Moses to the land of Egypt, "Tonight, tonight, the angel of death shall pass over the land of Egypt, and anyone not under the blood, into that house shall death come" [Exodus 12:12, 22-23]. A message of death – the message of God for Sennacherib, that hasty and bitter Assyrian: "Tonight, 185,000 of thy choicest troops shall lie corpses" [2 Kings 19:35].
"I have a message from God unto thee," the same kind of message that God delivered to that rich fool – who thinking only of himself and of his mortal, mundane pleasures, pulling down his barns to build greater, adding up and pyramiding up his treasures in this world. God said, "I have a message unto thee. Tonight, tonight thy soul shall be required of thee" [Luke 12:18-20]. Ah, these things: "I have a message from God unto thee," one of judgment and one of death.
And when Ehud stood there in front of him and Eglon unsuspecting any such deliverance: Ehud put his hand on the right side and, out of those clothings gathered there, drew that dagger and thrust it into the abdomen of this corpulent Eglon. Then Ehud blew the trumpet; and there gathered unto him, all the people of Israel, and he said, "Follow me" [Judges 3:27-28].
Well, you wouldn’t expect a man like Ehud to deliver Israel. That’s the terrible meek. It will surprise you; it will amaze you; it will overwhelm you! Why, if I had an hour here and you were of humor to listen, we could just name one after another after another in the course of time and of history – when the great heroes and the great delivers have been men from the common humble walks of life – the terrible meek.
Now, just for a moment, may we speak of this first one – Othniel [Judges 3:9]. I’ve heard of him before. You’ll love this man Othniel; you’ll like him. You read about him in Joshua, and you read about him here in Judges. I do not know why this thing is spoken of twice, delineated twice, but it is.
This first judge Othniel: Caleb said, "He that smiteth Kirjath-sepher, that is Sepher, and taketh it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter to wife" [Joshua 15:16]. And for the love of Achsah – wouldn’t you like to expatiate on that? There wouldn’t be a boy or a girl; there wouldn’t be a youth; there wouldn’t be anybody young that wouldn’t thrill at a story like this of Othniel. Othniel, for the love of Achsah, Othniel took a whole city by himself. Isn’t that wonderful?
Have you ever been down in old Mexico City? PopocatÃ©petl on one side and CitlaltÃ©petl on the other side: CitlaltÃ©petl like a maiden lying in the sleep of death, and PopocatÃ©petl, that tremendous nineteen thousand foot high volcano, standing guard over her sleep – have you all heard that story? Well, we need another thirty minutes here to tell the story of PopocatÃ©petl, but it’s a great one and a tremendous one. And all over old Mexico, you will see that picture on calendars, and you’ll see it in art galleries, and you’ll see it on the walls of the humble, that glorious warrior fighting for the hand of the daughter of the king; and her enemies and his enemies say that he’s been slain, and she pines away in death. And when he comes in triumph, CitlaltÃ©petl lies dead before him; and there that great two mountains perpetrating and keeping alive the memory of that lovely couple forever, why, it thrills your heart through those things, the same thing here.
Othniel, Othniel was a humble man, and he fell in love with a wonderful girl. He never had any chance to marry her. He never had any opportunity to present himself as a suitor for her hand. He was a humble man, and she belonged to the very nobility itself. She was the daughter of Caleb! She was the daughter of Caleb, and Caleb was a great man; and Othniel was just a little humble suitor that loved her at a distance.
And Caleb made a challenge, Kirjath-sepher – later known as Sepher, one of the great cities of Israel; nobody can take it. "If anybody could take it, I would give him the hand of Achsah my daughter to wife." And Othniel – ah, Othniel! In bravery, in valor, in courage, alone; Othniel stormed the city and took it by himself [Joshua 15:16-17]. It’s an amazing thing, the terrible meek; what a plain ordinary man is able to do.
And Othniel took it; and Caleb gave to him Achsah his younger daughter to wife. And upon a day, when Israel was oppressed, there this humble man Othniel – the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he stood ready, humble; living under the shadow of a great, great personality [Judges 3:10]. How often do you find that? A man living under the shadow of a great personality – you don’t know anything about Othniel; everybody knows about Caleb. To say "Othniel," would mean nothing to anybody. To say "Caleb," everybody knows of Caleb. But Othniel, his name means "the lionhearted," and what a man of God; ready, unafraid, humble, unknown, but one of the terrible meek.
Well, bless us. It’ll surprise you what you can do with a little class of Sunday school boys, with the Training Union of young people, out there in the daily tasks of the hour. It will surprise you, what you can do, right where you are, with what God has placed in your hands, dedicating that moment and that gift to God. It’s an amazing thing what God can do with a humble man or a humble woman like you, and you, and you, and you, and me.
Such as we have and what we are, dear Lord, it is dedicated unto Thee!
Now in this moment when we sing our hymn, somebody this morning to give his heart to Jesus; somebody to put his life with us in the fellowship of the church, while we sing the song and while we make appeal, would you come and stand by me? "Here I am, and here I come. I give you my hand, pastor; I give my heart to God." Or, "We’re putting our lives in the fellowship of the church, the whole family of us"; as God shall lead the way and make the appeal, would you come, while all of us stand and sing.