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Judges Lesson 9 - Unbelievable Grace

Judges Lesson 9 - Unbelievable Grace

by Stephen Davey
Series: Judges
Ref: Judges 11

The unbelievable grace of God does not care about heredity. It is not limited by the social, parental, and environmental factors that men consider determinative. If God can use a man like Jephthah . . . and can use you and I as well!

Transcript

"Unbelievable Grace"

Judges 11

The story of the ninth judge opens in Judges chapter 11.  The chapter moves swiftly through the story of the most colorful, impulsive judge to date.  By the time I finished studying this chapter, the overwhelming theme had to be two words - UNBELIEVABLE GRACE.

You see, Israel had once again walked into the clutches of false gods.  Gideon had died, his son Abimelech massacred and murdered his way through a brief reign; two minor judges had risen with insignificant results. the people of Israel were deeper in idolatry than ever before.

Israel was in need of grace - undeserved favor, and it seems that God chose for them a leader who would, by his very life, reveal that God was indeed a God of unbelievable grace.

God chose the most unlikely leader Israel had ever known - his name was Jephthah.  And what a story he was.

Let's look at the introduction of this man - 11:1  Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a valiant warrior, but he was the son of a harlot.  And Gidead was the father of Jephtahah. 

2.  And Gilead's wife bore him sons; and when his wife's sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out and said to him, "You shall not have an inheritance in our father's house, for you are the son of another woman."

3. So Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob; and worthless fellows gathered themselves about Jephthah, and they went out with him.

The first 3 verses of this chapter were enough to make the religious shudder, the self-righteous to faint, and the proud snobbishly angry, or at least embarrassed that God had not chosen a leader from among the upstanding, educated and well groomed. . .

Jephthah was everything but that, he had a shady past and a gangster like lifestyle in the present.

These first few verses also suggest an incredibly painful background.  Before Jephthah ever stepped up to the plate in Israel, he had not three, but four strikes against him:

Let's take a closer look:

Strike #1 - He was an illegitimate son 11:1.  Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a valiant warrior, but he was the son of a harlot.  And Gidead was the father of Jephthah.

This meant no legal rights or privileges.  He grew up without the benefit of a caring, nurturing family; he was born in a brothel.

Strike #2 - His mother was a prostitute.  We just read that!  Frankly, Gilead was unfaithful to his wife - one evening, he put 20 shillings down and bought an hour of secret sin - only problem was, this young harlot got pregnant.  To make matters worse, she wouldn't keep her mouth shut and eventually exposed this upstanding community man for what he'd done.  Gilead bore the consequences of that one afternoon for the rest of his life.  His home turned into a battleground of hatred and hostility and rivalry.

Evidently, Gilead had taken the newborn son into his own son - the least he could do!

That leads me to. . .

Strike #3 - He was eventually rejected by his adoptive family.

2. And Gilead's wife bore him sons; and when his wife's sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out and said to him, "You shall not have an inheritance in our father's house, for you are the son of another woman."

In other words, when Gilead's legitimate sons became smart enough to think about inheritances, they banished Jephthah since he "obviously" didn't belong!

The famous Scottish preacher Dr. Alexander Whyte knew something of Jephthah's pain.  He had been born out of wedlock, which in his day carried a lifelong stigma.  He had to contend with the mockery of the townspeople whenever they saw him in town.  When Alexander was born, his mother gave him his father's surname.  She reared him in poverty, but with deep spiritual piety.  In time he became apprenticed to a shoemaker and through hard work he was able to study at the universities of Aberdeen and Edinburgh.

Dr. Whyte's preaching was marked by a keen sensitivity to the evils of his day, as well as a profound identification with those who suffered.  In the course of his ministry, he preached on most of the people of the Bible; his popular character studies were put to print; I happen to own a set myself - I thought it would be interesting to read what he had to say about Jephthah.  Listen to what he writes; and notice now Alexander welcomes this man:

Jephthah was the most ill-used man in all the Old Testament, and he continues to be the most completely misunderstood, misrepresented, and ill-used down to this day. . . buffeted about from his birth by his brothers; trampled upon by all men, but most of all by the men of his father's house; called all manner of odious and exasperating names; when a prophet came to dine, he was sent away to the fields to be out of sight.

The iron had entered his soul while yet he lay in his mother's womb; and both his father and his brothers and the elders of Israel helped forward Jephthah's affliction, till the Lord rose up for Jephthah and said, "It is enough; took the iron out of His servant's soul, and poured oil and wine into the lifelong wound.

Wow!  Here is a man who understood!  If there is anyone here who identifies; perhaps enduring the pain of rejection; the consequences of similar sin. . . I want you to know the story is about to change - the grace of God about to reverse the order, and Jephthah will become an encouragement to you that no matter what stains the pages of your past, God's grace can condescend to the deepest pit and pick you up and set your feet on solid ground!  Amen.  Makes me want to loosen my necktie and get undignified!  As far as Israel was concerned, Jephthah was beyond the grace of God!  Before we get there, Jephthah's story only gets worse!

Strike #4 - He became the gang leader of criminals.  3.  So Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob; and worthless fellows gathered themselves about Jephthah, and they went out with him.

worthless - "empty", vain, unprofitable. . . the shady characters of back alleys and pool halls took to Jephthah.  What I find interesting here is that the only people in Jephthah's life who accepted him were the criminals of the day.  A man rejected by everyone who should have accepted him now finds a home among fellow misfits whose also been rejected.

What a life!  Born to a woman who wished he'd never been born; taken into the home of a father who didn't care for you; in fact, who's absence is obvious - evidently embarrassed by the constant reminder of his sin - the boy is left to fend for himself among bitterly angry and selfish brothers without ever any mention of his father stepping in - surrounded by family who ultimately reject you - you're discarded like a piece of trash with the words, "Sorry, we don't want you, and you don't belong here - take a hike!"

One other phrase provides additional insight - 7.  Then Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, "Did you not hate me and drive me from my father's house?"

Imagine - the elders make a trip to Gilead's house - their collars starched crisp and white; buttoned tight; Bibles held tightly under each arm; they knock on the door - parlor, Jephthah can hear the low murmur of voices. . . Gilead - this son of a harlot is an embarrassment to the community - your reputation is at stake - it would be best if you made him leave!

So with his brother's hurling insults; his father weakly apologetic; his mother not even around to say goodbye he heads for Tob - a desolate wilderness home where the unloved lived.

Jephthah becomes here a partial illustration of Christ's own story.  Born amid suspicions of an immoral mother.  He was conceived out of wedlock and grew up to slurs that were later hurled at him by the religious leaders.  He was rejected from his own home town and the entire nation Israel.  His own half brothers did not even believe his claims.  He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief!

We're not given much here in the first few verses, but we're given enough to recognize that Jephthah was an outcast - unaccepted, unloved, unwanted by everyone except those who were also unwanted!  A boy who grew up believing that he was worthless trash - and so he made his home among others who had also been told the same lie.

Ah, the grace of God isn't given to those who think they deserve it. . . it's undeserved favor. . . to people like J.  God is not limited by the social, parental, and environmental factors that men consider determinative.  If Jephthah's life shouts anything here it is the words:  You do not have to be a prisoner of your past - no matter how desperate, no matter how sinful; God's unbelievable grace can save and anoint you to serve.

I attended a Christian school - Paul Harding; unbelievable grace!  Gary Inrig received a letter from a missionary friend in Ethopia.  He told Gary about two men who planted and pastored churches among the unreached tribes - they would never qualify with North American mission societies.

  1. Arshe - 25 with deformed hands - 6 fingers on each; having a 6th grade education; his wife has tuberculosis.  His church is growing - 24 people were baptized in one month.
  2. Indreas, 4th grade education, 4 children - one, a tragically deformed hunch back - his wife a former barmaid - his church is a remote 2 day journey from the nearest town - Gary's friend writes, "The last time I went to his church, I attended the baptism of 88 new believers."

God isn't impressed by the same kind of person we're impressed with.  He works on an entirely different scale!

The next stage in Jephthah's life is the expression of God's grace; he is sought out by those who had sent him away.  Let's find out why = back up to 10"18  Then the sons of Ammon were summoned and they camped in Gilead.  And the sons of Israel gathered together, and camped in Mizpah.

18.  And the people, the leaders of Gilead, said to one another, "Who is the man who will begin to fight against the sons of Ammon?  He shall become head over all the inhabitants of Gilead."

The people are without a strong leader - a fighter with the guts to face the sons of Ammon.

now skip down to 11:4.  And it came about after a while that the sons of Ammon fought against Israel.

5. And it happened when the sons of Ammon fought against Israel that the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob:

catch the irony?!! This is great!! I'll bet there was a lot of stuttering and coughing and staring at the ground. . .

6.  and they said to Jephthah, "Come and be our ch ch chief, that we might fight against the sons of Ammon."

7. Then Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, "Did you not hate me and drive me from my father's house?  So why have you come to me now when you are in trouble?"

Valid question!  Ignored by the elders!

8.  And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, "For this reason we have now returned to you, that you may go with us and fight with the sons of Ammon and become head over all the inhabitants of Gilead."

I would imagine Jephthah responding - "Forget you!  It's your problem and I frankly hope the sons of Ammon wipe you out.  You hated me and kicked me out of Gilead - now I hope you get what you really deserve.  You hate me and I hate you!"

Instead, the most amazing thing happens. . . 11.  Then Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and chief over them.

We do not read of any apology from the elders - "Jephthah, we were wrong about you - we were sanctimonious hypocrites - would you forgive us.  No No. They ignored the issue entirely.

But Jephthah still decides to return and lead the Gileadites to war - risking his own life for those who couldn't care less about his.

You know what this tells us . . . several things:

  • Jephthah at this moment chose to hurdle his past.
  • Jephthah chose to help those who had refused to help him.

His buddies in Tob probably thought he was crazy!  Help you half brothers?!  Let Gilead burn man - they got it coming!  Jephthah chose to show grace to those who had withheld grace.

What made Jephthah big enough to do these things?  The last part of the verse gives it away!  11.  Then Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and chief over them; and Jephthah spoke all his words before the Lord at Mizpah.

You know what this tells us - that although everyone had abandoned him. . . he knew God hadn't.  He had somehow maintained a walk with God that was open and transparent; "Lord, you'll never believe what happened to ma - they want me Lord - they need me - I'll go and fight for your cause oh God and for your name sake!"

Unbelievable grace for God to choose him, unbelievable grace for Jephthah to go!

We're running short on time - we'll reserve Jephthah's vow for another Lord's day - I want to close with another illustration of grace that, like Jephthah's has so much to say to you and me. . .

His name is Mephibosheth - turn to 2 Samuel 4:4

He was the grandson of King Saul, the son of Jonathan.  When Saul and Jonathan were killed in battle, Mephibosheth was 5 years old.  His nurse snatched up the little boy to run from the enemy.  In her haste she dropped him and caused permanent damage to his legs - he was crippled and had to use crutches from then on.

Nothing is heard for 15-20 years . . . David now ascends the throne.  His leadership is refreshing change from Sauls; their is justice and prosperity.  He has never tasted defeat in battle.  There is within his kingdom a chicken in every pot and two chariots in every driveway.

Turn to 2 Samuel l9 - for David's announcement

John Newton - slave trader - harpooned

Three wonders about heaven:

  • The first will be the number of people who are there that I did not expect to see:
  • The second will be the number of people who aren't there that I expected to see:
  • The third and greatest wonder of all will be to find myself there!

Amazing grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.

 

Another beginning:

I attended a Christian school - Paul Harding

It's a natural tendency to write someone off because of their past - we are surprised by God's grace. . . grace is undeserved favor; it is God stooping to bestow on us His forgiveness & blessing.  We tend to forget that we were dug from a deep pit. . . at the foot of the cross the ground is level!  I want us today to take a fresh look at the unbelievable grace. . .

God teaches deep truth by packaging it in the life of a person.  The story of this ninth judge opens in Judges chapter 11.  The chapter moves swiftly through the story of the most colorful, impulsive judge to date.  By the time I finished studying this chapter, the overwhelming theme had to be two words - UNBELIEVABLE GRACE.

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