Has it ever occurred to you that what you believe determines how you behave? What you believe about God affects everything about you. The decisions you make as well as your attitude in life are impacted by your beliefs. They can be glorious or tragic, as we will discover in the life of Jephthah.
"Cross Your Heart & Hope to Die"
Has it ever occurred to you that what you believe determines how you behave! Prov. 23:7 "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." What you believe about God affects everything about you. The decisions you make - your attitude in life - are ultimately related to your personal view of God.
Let me illustrate. Let's take a person who worries about everything; I use him as an illustration because none of us here fit that category. A person who worries about everything is, in reality, a person who has a small God. Paul himself relates the two together when he wrote, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication let your requests (worries) be made known unto God." Stop worrying - what's the key - give your worries to God - Well, He's got to be big enough to handle my worries - I've got a lot of them - exactly.
Let me take this a step deeper.
Truth eventually determines experience. Aren't you glad you came this morning - whole section of glazed eyes over here. . . illustrate.
A man who falls from the tenth story may shout as he passes each window on the way down, "It's okay, I'm doing fine". . . and he may mean it, but eventually the truth will catch up with the experience. It will fashion his experience!
The evils of our society are a happening because society has abandoned truth. . . and it's crashing all around us.
You've been mesmerized by shock at the rioting and violence in LA and around the country. Rioting - nothing to do with verdict.
I saw a picture of three women loaded down with clothes - laughing. I read an interview with one woman as quoted, "This isn't stealing, there's nobody in the story - so it's free."
The problem is not really this woman view of theft (is a problem); the root problem is her view of God - He said it's wrong - and by the way, He hasn't left the store!
GIVE HER A BOOK CONDEMNING THEFT?!
This same root problem exists in the church today. The problem is our generation has become so focused on the experience - "how to behave", rather than "what to believe. The Christian community is chock full of books and seminars that relate to the Christians experience. How to have this and how to be that and how to overcome that; The trouble is, we've ignored the truth - the truth is - What you believe about God will determine how you behave before God.
We'd need a renewed desire to discover the person and character of God. Many of the troubles in our Christian lives are happening because we don't understand God. Person w/cold!
We need to spend less time exploring our experience and more time exploring GOD!
This Book is intended by God, not just to make us smarter, but to introduce us to God Himself - what He's like; what He expects; how He acts. . .when we discover the truth about God; we are able to experience life to it's fullest.
So often God teaches truth through the personal story of some Biblical character. And as He so often does, He teaches us how to do something right by showing us someone who did it wrong.
So I invite your attention to the tragic story of a man who didn't know God well enough - a man who had great zeal for God but not enough understanding of God and as a result he made wrong decisions that affected his life, the life of his family and the nation of Israel.
READ Judges 11:29 Now the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah, so that he passed through Gilead and Manasseh; they he passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he went on to the sons of Ammon.
v 30. And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord and said, "If Thou wilt indeed give the sons of Ammon into my hand.
v 31. Then it shall be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the sons of Ammon, it shall be the Lord's, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.
v 32. So Jephthah crossed over to the sons of Ammon to fight against them; and the Lord gave them into his hand.
v 33. And he struck them with a very great slaughter from Aroer to the entrance of Minnith, 20 cities, and as far as Abel-Keramim. So the sons of Ammon were subdued before the sons of Israel.
v 34. When Jephthah came to his house at Mizpah, behold, his daughter was coming out to meet him with tambourines and with dancing. Now she was his one and only child; besides her he had neither son nor daughter.
v 35. And it came about when he saw her, that he tore his clothes and said, "Alas, my daughter? You have brought me very low, and you are among those who trouble me; for I have given my word to the Lord, and I cannot take it back."
v 36. So she said to him, "My father, you have given your word to the Lord, do to me as you have said, since the Lord has avenged you of your enemies, the sons of Ammon.
v 37. And she said to her father, "Let this thing be done for me; let me alone two months, that I may go to the mountains and weep because of my virginity, I and my companions.
v 38. Then he said, "Go." So he sent her away for two months; and she left with her companions, and wept on the mountains because of her virginity.
v 39. And it came about at the end of two months that she returned to her father, who did to her according to the vow which he had made; and she had no relations with a man. Thus it became a custom in Israel.
v 40. That the daughters of Israel went yearly to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in the year.
Before I dive into Jephthah's vow and what it reveals I need to answer the question, "Did Jephthah sacrifice his daughter on an altar to God."
I know you are a demanding audience; you've made the last two weeks miserable for me! I've read every commentary on Judges that I have along with the footnotes quoting additional authors.
Let me say up front that I do not believe that Jephthah sacrificed his daughter to God. You can disagree; I'll allow you to have your opinion, even though it's wrong.
1) God would have judged Jephthah for violating the law.
I didn't say, "God wouldn't have blessed him. . .Samson!
The law of God clearly condemned human sacrifice!
"Well, maybe Jephthah didn't know. . ." Perhaps, but in the 2 month delay we can be assured that the priests would have informed him!
2) The tragedy in this passage seems to be his loss of future children than the loss of his daughters life.
Notice v. 34 again - "When Jephthah came to his house at Mizpah, behold, his daughter was coming out to meet him with tambourines and with dancing. Now she was his one and only child!
Here's the point - she was his only hope of having grandchildren and great grandchildren - his family influence would die when he died!
That seems to be the emphasis - 37b. She said to her father, "Let this thing be done for me, leave me alone two months, that I may go to the mountains and weep because of my virginity. . ."
3) The normal expression for human sacrifice is avoided in the passage when the time arrives to perform the sacrifice.
Now note carefully the verse that summarizes exactly what Jephthah did - 39. And it came about at the end of two months that she returned to her father, who did to her according to the vow which he had made; and she was burned as a sacrifice on the altar. . .no!. . ."and she had no relations with a man."
One commentator writes, "Jephthah could have vowed that in case of victory, he would dedicate to God for tabernacle service one member of his household. The fact that it turned out to be his daughter, rather than a servant, was tragic for him. Indeed, she was his only child; he could never expect to see grandchildren; and he would seldom, if ever, see her again.
Another commentator adds, "Nothing indicates that Jephthah literally sacrificed his daughter on an altar. The origin of the Hebrew word olah ("burnt offering" meant literally "to ascend"). It signified the smoke that ascended from the altar. In time it became the word used to describe a burnt sacrifice. There is nothing in the narrative to prevent us from concluding that Jephthah's daughter went across the Jordan Valley and ascended the other side where she spent her life serving the Lord in the temple.
One more point and we'll leave this forever.
4) The daughters of Israel went yearly to visit with Jephthah's daughter.
One verse that is often overlooked is verse 40. And the daughters of Israel went yearly to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah. . .
That word commemorate can be translated "to talk with, to praise" the verse says, "They went yearly. . ." Where did they go?
The only logical explanation seems to be that they went to Shiloh and spent time with Jephthah's daughter, talking with her and praising her for her dedication to a life of unselfish service - all for the sake of helping her father keep his foolish vow.
Enough of that!
Now, let me give you two reasons why Jephthah made this foolish vow - and how they are related to his lack of knowledge concerning the God of Israel.
I believe he made two wrong assumptions that led to his foolish vow!
False Assumption #1 - God can not be trusted under fire.
Notice again the text - 11:30. And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord and said, "If Thou wilt indeed give the sons of Ammon into my hand. . ."
This false assumption produces rebellion - because in reality; if we don't trust God, we'll abandon Him under fire!"
Let me pause - our view of who God is, is largely shaped by those who were in authority over us. Fathers play a critical role in this way. The way you as a father live and walk and talk and respond will largely shape your child's view of how God walks and talks and responds.
I know my father wasn't perfect - I use him as an example here knowing he would never want to be the example! I had the privilege of growing up around a father who always told the truth. I could trust his word. I saw him under pressure, I saw him respond to trials - and painful experiences - consistently.
I can remember as a teenager with him on his mission field - downtown Norfolk - passing out invitations to servicemen. I remember a man walking up to my father; appearances suggested either a pimp or drug dealer; my father spoke to him about the Lord. . .suddenly, this man slapped my father in the face; "Do you feel better know?" When the pressure was on - he responded in keeping with his character - I could trust him. . .
Wait a moment - what about Jephthah's father!
- illegitimate son of his father and a harlot
- raised in his fathers house
- ridiculed by his brothers
- advised by the elders to be kicked out of the house
His father couldn't be trusted!! The elders couldn't. . .mother had abandoned him. . .so why should God be trusted? "If thou. . ."
False Assumption #2
God can be bribed and coerced into keeping His word.
Chapter 10 made it clear that God would deliver the sons of Ammon to a repentant Israel. Furthermore, the spirit of God came upon Jephthah in chapter 11 which confirmed God's leadership and power.
But Notice 30b again - "If Thou wilt indeed give the sons of Ammon into my hand
31. then it shall be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the sons of Ammon, it shall be the Lord's. . .
Jephthah's vow was a shallow attempt to obligate God to keep His word. God, I know you really like offerings - tell you what - make sure my team wins and I'll do something really special for you!
This false assumption produces manipulation - God can become someone who responds to the human who gives him the most impressive benefit package. If that is true, then God is for sale! His word can be bought by the highest bidder.
God is sovereign. That means He is not for sale! That also means He can be trusted beyond doubt. The place where you are, the health that you have, the children, the job. . .you can trust His word - He promised to work everything in your life out for your spiritual good! Can you trust Him for that ?!
You've seen or heard little kids out on the playground - one has promised to do something and the other kid isn't really convinced. "You promise?!" "Yea, I promise." "You really. . .really promise, cross your heart and hope to die; stick a needle in your eye." When a kid said that, this was a serious contract!
How many of us try to get God to cross His heart and hope to die - how many of us can simply take Him at His work, because we know Him well enough to know that He can be trusted.
WE MUST RE-DISCOVER THE PERSON OF GOD!
On to have the curiosity of a little kid - they come out so young with questions about God. . .who is God; what's He like; where does He live - what's it like in heaven.
A few days ago, one of my 6 year old sons and I were alone; this boy had been particularly close to his Papa who was now in heaven. He asked me, "Dad, will there be paper in heaven?"
I knew this was a loaded question - "Well, I'd like to think there will be paper in heaven. . .why son?"
"Because Papa was such a good drawer - and when I get to heaven, I want him to draw me some pictures."
Do we color in heaven? Would it make any difference?
Will what we do in haven make any difference in the way we act on earth?! You'd better believe it!
Truth determines experience!
At the dinner table - "Dad, is God married?"
I responded with theological certainty, "No son, God isn't married." "Why not Dad?" "Eat your supper before it get's cold."
I want to close with the words of an 8 year old boy who writes fairly good theology. . .he's come to understand something of who God is, and what God does - he writes things that adults should re-discover as well.
"One of God's main jobs is making people. He makes these to put in place of the ones that die so there will be enough people to take care of the things here on earth. He doesn't make grownups. Just babies. I think that's because they are smaller and easier to make. And that way He doesn't have to take up His valuable time teaching them to talk and walk - He can just leave that up to the mothers and fathers. You shouldn't always think of what God can do for you. I figure God put me here and He can take me back anytime He wants. I think it works out pretty good.
God sees everything and hears everything and is everywhere. Which keeps Him pretty busy. If you don't believe in God, you will be very lonely, because your parents can't go everywhere with you - like to camp - but God can. It's good to know He's around when you're scared of the dark or when you can't swim very good and you get thrown in the deep water by the big kids.
. . .that's what I believe about God."
What's your God like? Is He the God of the Bible - dependable; powerful; sovereign? Do you realize that what you understand about Him affects the way you live for Him.
You struggling with discouragement, temptation, defeat, trouble, and trial; rather than tackle the discouragement, the temptation, the trial - go to this book and begin reading passages that will reintroduce you to why God is.
The bigger your God, the smaller your trial; the greater, more
magnificent your God, the greater your security, the deeper your joy - Oh we need to re-acquaint ourselves like never before with the truth of God!
And that truth, as it relates to your experience will set you free. The truth will set you free.