Smooth Move Sherlock
The story of Jephthah could have been such a wonderful story of rising above the circumstances of your birth, of fulfilling a destiny set by God. Instead he was a short-lived flame that burned itself out. He was certainly useful, but sadly also lamentable.
Jephthah was the son of Gilead and an unnamed prostitute. As such, his father’s family wanted nothing to do with him. Can you imagine the chip on his shoulder? He was probably in a lot of fights as a boy. As soon as dad was dead and his brothers were old enough they chased him away.
So Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob. Soon he had a large band of rebels following him. – Judges 11:3
Why would a large band of rebels follow anyone? Um, because their leader is one too.
Then opportunity knocks.
When the Ammonites attacked, the leaders of Gilead sent for Jephthah in the land of Tob. They said, “Come and be our commander! Help us fight the Ammonites! – Judges 11:5-6
Of course Jephthah is suspicious. But he sees and opportunity and takes it. He has a chance to be someone.
The Ammonites have a god by the name of Chemosh. This god likes human sacrifice. Note, there are only two gods. There is God who created the heavens and the Earth. And there is Satan, who was created by God and rebelled. Chemosh is just another manifestation of Satan on this earth.
Jephthah, in his reply to the king of Ammon said the following.
You keep whatever your god Chemosh gives you, and we will keep whatever the LORD our God gives us. – Judges 11:24
Sounds good. And it is true, in a sense. But, essentially he just challenged Satan – openly.
Now, if he had truly sought the Lord and relied upon Him for all decisions and actions things probably would have gone well. Sadly, Jephthah’s hot-headed nature takes over.
And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD. He said, “If you give me victory over the Ammonites, I will give to the LORD the first thing coming out of my house to greet me when I return in triumph. I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.” – Judges 11:30-31
What, do cows and sheep regularly come out of his house to greet him? What in the @#$% was he thinking? Maybe he wanted to get rid of Mrs. Jephthah. Smooth move Jephthah.
After Israel wins the battle, his only child, his daughter runs out to greet him, dancing for joy… Cue the regret music and chortling of Chemosh.
He does what any normal person would do in the situation, he burns her alive. Yes, he really did it. But no, he was not a normal person. His stupid rash vow clearly violated God’s word and will.
I want you to be merciful; I don’t want your sacrifices. I want you to know God; that’s more important than burnt offerings. – Hosea 6:6
However, there was a god who was quite pleased on the day the sacrifice was made… Chemosh. Jephthah’s victory turned to ash.
In case you think that I’m being harsh on Jephthah by calling him a hot-head, look at his response to an insult by the leaders of the tribe of Ephraim.
The leaders of Ephraim responded, “The men of Gilead are nothing more than rejects from Ephraim and Manasseh.” So Jephthah called out his army and attacked the men of Ephraim and defeated them. – Judges 12:4
He slaughtered forty-two thousand of his fellow Israelites over that insult! No wonder God only left him around for six years.
Jephthah was Israel’s judge for six years. When he died, he was buried in one of the towns of Gilead. – Judges 12:7
Cue another judge.
Lord, how often do I do things without consulting you? Please forgive me. I need to learn to wait, to listen, to not move outside of your will. Thank you for your patience with me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Time for a cool drink in the shade. Jan