After Joshua died, the people lacked a strong, readily identifiable leader. They drifted away from God again and began to worship false gods. As had happened in the past, when they wandered into sin, God sent discipline, usually in the form of an oppressor, to draw them back to Himself.
Once the people grew weary of their oppression, they cried out to God and He sent a deliverer in the form of a judge. These judges were sometimes the most unlikely of individuals.
Ehud was one such judge. The sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord (Judges 3:12) and Eglon, the king of Moab, moved against them. He defeated Israel and occupied the City of Palm Trees.
For eighteen years, Israel served Eglon. Finally, the people cried out to God for deliverance and He raised up an unlikely deliverer.
Ehud was from the tribe of Benjamin, one of the smallest tribes and, therefore, one of the weakest. It is an example of God's grace and power being "perfected in weakness". (2 Corinthians 12:9) He was also a left-handed man with a mission. (Matthew Henry suggests he had a weak or damaged right arm, so that he was especially unlikely as a deliverer.)
Ehud made a two-edged sword that may have been more like a long dagger than the sword with which we are familiar. He bound it on his right thigh under his cloak before he headed to Eglon to pay the tribute due from Israel.
Eglon was an incredibly fat man, and clearly a pampered man, as well.
Only God could have worked this next part out. Ehud met Eglon in his roof-top cool room, presented the tribute, and said, "I have a secret message for you, O King."
Eglon looked at this strong young man and decided he wanted to hear the secret. It wasn't a sensible move, but this king sent everyone out of the room except Ehud, his sworn enemy.
Ehud stepped up close to Eglon. "I have a secret message from God." He pulled the sword out of its scabbard and stabbed the wicked king in the belly. He was so large that the fat closed in around the weapon and Eglon died instantly.
Thus, Ehud, the unlikely left-handed man, delivered Israel.
After Ehud died, Israel did evil again. Finally God sent Deborah, a prophetess, to judge Israel. She called Barak and told him God had commanded that he lead an army to deliver Israel from Sisera. Barak wouldn't go without Deborah.
"Okay, I'll go, but you will not be able to claim this victory because God is going to give the victory to a woman." (Judges 4:9 Leanna Paraphrase)
They went. Sisera escaped Barak and went to the tent of Heber the Kenite and his wife, Jael. The woman invited Sisera inside, covered him with a blanket, and gave him some milk to drink. Sisera was so comfortable that he went sound asleep.
Jael saw her opportunity and took it. She grabbed up a hammer and a tent peg and hammered the wooden spike through Sisera's temple and into the ground. He died instantly.
Thus Jael, the unlikely woman with a tent-peg, delivered Israel.
These unlikely warriors did one daring thing for God and single-handedly delivered Israel. They were able to succeed because God sent them, God empowered them, and God equipped them.
There was nothing particularly remarkable about either of these deliverers.
They weren't especially strong. They didn't have military might or power. They hadn't done numerous other brave and daring deeds. They didn't even have a great army to help them.
What Ehud and Jael had in common was their availability to God.
He said go, and Ehud went. He said to shelter Sisera, and Jael sheltered him. He said hammer, and she hammered.
We, too, are ordinary people who serve an extraordinary God. We, too, can do incredible deeds for God, if we will.
It's easy to think that someone as common as cornbread can't make a dramatic difference for the Lord, but that's not true. Look at Jael. She never left her tent or her cooking fire, yet she delivered an entire nation.
I grew up reading stories of unlikely heroes. Maybe you did, too. I've always longed to do something brave and good. My reality, though, is that I'm no longer a young woman. I live in a town of less than 500 people. I'm not a warrior. I don't have any of the skills or attributes that we expect in a deliverer.
There's good news. God delights in using the unlikely to do the incredible.
We don't begin to do a mighty work by grabbing a sword or a tent peg. We begin, right where we are, by drawing close to the Lord and sharpening our figurative sword, The Word of God. We begin by saying yes to God in the small things.
One simple act of obedience at a time prepares us for that one-more-act-of-obedience that can change a nation.
The most amazing thing of all is that no sword or hammer is required. Only our availability to God. We can change our nation on our knees. Humility. Repentance. Prayer. Those are the only weapons required to make a difference, and we can all wield them.
Today, let's bend our knees, pick up the Sword of the Word of God, and begin to change the world through our prayers.
"If My people which are called by My name..." 2 Chronicles 7:14
One man or woman, wholly available to God, can make a greater difference than we can imagine. Let's be that one.