31st March 2023
Read - Judges 11:29-40 & Hebrews 11:32-38
Message Alan Burke
Today we get to the vow of Jephthah and as we do remember that he was a man of faith who is listed among the heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11. Jephthah made a vow to the Lord (v30-31) While I may not like what Jephthah does, there is a sense in which I understand what he is doing. I know it’s not to the same extent, and I’m not trying to justify Jephthah when I say this, but how often do we fall into the trap of bargaining with the Lord God. What I mean is that we say, Lord I’ll do that for you if you’ll do this for me. Lord get me out of this scrape, sort out my son, help my daughter, heal me from this illness, take this burden away from me Lord, sort my financial problems, it could be any number of things, and we say do this Lord, and if you do this Lord I’ll do what ever you want.
After the vow comes the account of the victory in v32-33. What is striking is the brevity of the victory is given to us, we are not given details of battles, of how the victory was won or achieved, the twenty towns that Jephthah was given victory over empowered by the Lord instead we are simply told that he did and “Thus Israel subdued Ammon”. The Lord the God of Isreal who Jephthah had faith in gave his people victory over the Ammonites, it was not the vow that Jephthah made that brought the victory, it was the Lord who brought the victory by his grace. Jephthah had faith in the Lord God but now the reality of the foolishness of the vow he had made comes into sharp focus, the tragedy of it all as the focus then returns to the vow that Jephthah had made, while he had the victory over the ammonites it would be a bitter one as Jephthah returns home (34).
The vow Jephthah had made earlier was a foolish one, for us when we read of Jephthah’s daughter running out we are left in dismay. Jephthah had said “whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph.” There is only interpretation open to us when he made his vow, he wasn’t expecting an animal, he was expecting a person, he was saying, if the Lord gives me this victory there will be a great cost, bravado in the midst of it all, this is a man who no doubt would have been familiar with the moral law of God that human sacrifices was forbidden (Lev 28:21, 20:2-5, Deut 12:31, 18:10) but then don’t forget that Jephthah was a man who when we were introduced to him was living as an outcast, one who lived among adventurers, vile worthless men, some would argue that Jephthah did not sacrifice his daughter but I don’t think that the text allows that interpretation, rather what we have is a man who would have known enough about the law of God, knowing that what he proposed to be wrong, this is tragic.
We are told in v36 of how indeed Jephthah did as he had vowed.
Jephthah, this man, is one who is listed among the heroes of the faith and he murdered his own daughter over a foolish vow, his actions show how even among the people of God, those who had faith that they had embalmed much of the pagan culture around them, rather than falling to his knees, confessing his sin, repenting Jephthah did as he had vowed.
Whether we want to accept it or not, there is far to much of Jephthah in each of us, why it is because we are sinners. There are many days that I feel more like a scoundrel than a saint. If we have faith in Jesus Christ then we are saints, we are his holy people, we are sanctified throughout yet we all know that we are imperfect in this life for there is still abiding some remand of corruption in every part of us. For there is a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh. We all know it to be true and there are days that our sin leaves us burdened, the Devil accuses us and we find it hard to hold our heads up high, we find it hard to know that we are indeed forgiven, redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified and saved. Often the reason is because if the shoe were on the other foot we would find it hard to forgive a sinner like us. What is so amazing about grace is that it is not dependant on us but on Christ Jesus.
Q8 How doth God execute his decrees?
God executeth his decrees in the works of creation and providence.