Scripture: Judges 11:
29Then the Spirit of the LORD came on Jephthah. He crossed Gilead and Manasseh, passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from there he advanced against the Ammonites. 30 And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD: “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, 31whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the LORD’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.”
32 Then Jephthah went over to fight the Ammonites, and the LORD gave them into his hands. 33He devastated twenty towns from Aroer to the vicinity of Minnith, as far as Abel Keramim. Thus Israel subdued Ammon.
34When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of timbrels! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter. 35 When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, “Oh! My daughter! You have brought me down and I am devastated. I have made a vow to the LORD that I cannot break.”
Observation: It is a useless endeavor to bargain with God.
Before I get into the application of this scripture today I have to say this is a tough story for me and I struggle with it, and I continue to struggle. Thus today’s journal entry is going to be posted quite a bit later than normal. As I pondered the teaching that is here, I sought council from one of my oldest friends and brother Ronald Strong, pastor of Double Springs Church of Christ in Cookeville TN. Thanks Ronald for your insight and council. Much Love to you! (Isa 1:18)
It must be a good week for movies for me because this made me and Ronald think of another great comedy. In the 1978 Movie “The End” Burt Reynolds is intent on suicide, the final scene is really funny. Burt swims out into the ocean to the point of exhaustion, its then that he decides that his life is truly worth living, so he starts swimming back but doesn’t think he can make it. He starts bargaining with God. “Lord get me out of this and I’ll give 80% of my income to the Church from now on.” As he gets a little closer the amount shrinks, “Lord just help me make it to the shore and I’ll be sure to give 50% to the Church, I’m talking gross here Lord!” A little further and it becomes “Lord, I’ll be sure to pay my tithes and go to Church every Sunday.” By the time he reaches the shore he has reduced his part of the bargain to where he’s not even promising to listen to the preachers on T.V.
Let me get one thing out there right away. I don’t really like Jephthah. He is a brutal man, who rose to power by the might of his sword, and who I believe had severe problems integrating the Mosaic laws into his faith because of pagan influences in his youth.
God’s Spirit had already come upon him so that the resolution of the battle which lay ahead was a foregone conclusion. God intended for Israel to defeat the Ammonites, it was going to happen. But in spite of God’s spirit being on and with Jephthah, he felt it was necessary to further insure the victory by making a reckless vow to sacrifice whatever came through the door of his house to meet him on his triumphant return.
And who should it be but his only daughter who comes out singing and dancing to meet him.
Unlike Burt Reynolds, Jephthah carries out his vow. There is some arguments among scholars as to whether he actually sacrificed her (which would have been an abomination to God according to Mosaic law) or if he gave her over to the temple priests as a servant of God and she lived out her life in a manner that we might reccon to that of a celibate Nun. Personally I think that he killed her and offered her as a burnt offering. Either way her life was sacrificed because of this reckless and unnecessary vow.
So now here is the struggle… What is the teaching we are to gain here? Well for starters I think we can say, as I have in the observation above, that it is of no use to bargain with God. I have been guilty several times in the past of attempting to offer something to God in exchange for a favor. “Lord if you’ll just _____, I will ______.” Or more commonly I think, “Lord if you will just _____ I’ll never _____ ever again.” We fill in the blanks with many different things, but it all boils down to bargaining with the Almighty God.
What we have to realize is that God doesn’t need anything from us. There is nothing we can ever do, or give, or offer to God that will improve his life, mood, love, or existence in any way shape or form. God is ALL-IN-ALL and has no need for anything we could provide as a bargaining chip.
Usually I try to keep these journals limited to one quick insight so that they are easy and quick to read, but I have one more here that I think is important. I’ll keep it short.
Secondly I told you before that I don’t really like Jephthah. I don’t think he was a good man. But I have to recognize that he is included in the New Testament as one of the patriarchs of the faith which the world was not worthy of. (Heb 11:32) But this shows me that God uses imperfect people, and even people I would never think of as good to accomplish His perfect will for us. So just because I don’t like a person, or think of them as good, that doesn’t mean that God isn’t actively involved in their lives, and that He isn’t using them to do His work.
I continue to struggle with this story, but I thank God today for the wisdom and insight He has provided.
Prayer: Heavenly Father,
As I struggle with the Holy Scriptures, I ask that you continue to send your spirit of wisdom and help me to recieve it as I should and apply it to my life in the ways you would have me to. Thank you for your love and grace and for providing me with friends who I can turn to and who help me to come to an understanding of the mysteries of your wisdom.
Yeild: I do not have to understand everything completely in order to know that God is in control and working all things toward a fuller realization of His will.