Text: Judges 10-12; Psalm 71
The story of Jephthah is very challenging. He is another leader whom the Lord calls to deal with enemies of Israel. He comes from an outcast’s childhood, and is called when he is basically leading a bandit gang (“worthless fellows collected around Jephthah…” Judges 10:3). The Lord establishes him as the military leader, the Holy Spirit comes upon him (11:29) and grants him victory.
However, in the midst of the story, Jephthah makes a terrible vow. In 11:30, we read,
“And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord and said, “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, then whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.”
After the victory in battle, it is his only child, his daughter, who greets him. Faced with a terrible dilemma, Jephthah chooses to be faithful to the vow he made to the Lord. The girl is sacrificed. What an awful choice. To make us even more confounded, Jephthah is celebrated in Hebrews 11:32 as a man of great faith.
What to make of that? Sometimes Scripture is difficult and mysterious. So, we must struggle to make sense of it. Jephthah here was fully surrendered to the Lord. That’s good. He also made a rash vow. That’s human. Our ethical dilemmas are often found in that place – our human failing meets our commitment to the Lord. What would I have done? I don’t know. But I do get the message here that the making of oaths is discouraged by Scripture with good cause. Just trust Him. No need to barter with Him for an outcome. He will give victory whether we promise Him some token or not.
in Him, Mike