Summary: God does not want to bargain with us. He's looking for our faithfulness, not our deals.
Judges 11:4-5, 29-37
Well I certainly picked out another one of those pick me up stories for you this morning, now didn’t I.
“Hey what’d you talk about in church today?”
“Oh the usual...a guy killing his daughter for God.”
“Your pastor is kind of a fruitcake isn’t he?”
Which I don’t appreciate you telling people by the way. It’s better not to ruin the surprise for when they actually get to meet me.
But today’s Scripture is another one of those Scriptures that leaves you scratching your head thinking, “what in the world.”
And it’s also another one of those Scriptures that it is vital to understand everything about it before coming to any conclusion.
Because on the surface it looks like a cut and dry case.
Jepthath is fighting a war against the Ammonites, and he needs God’s help to win it.
So Jepthath makes a bargain with God.
He says, “hey God, if you give me this victory...then I’ll sacrifice to you the first thing that comes out of my house.”
Jepthath wins the victory, goes home to celebrate...and low and behold his daughter comes running out of his house first to greet him.
Jepthath is horrified, but he knows what he has to do...so he sacrifices her to God just like he promised.
Cut and dry. Guy makes a deal with God, God accepts the deal in exchange for the life of his daughter.
And by all appearances...God is the bad guy.
And I’m sure that a lot of people have read this section of Scripture and come off with that exact conclusion.
But you’ve got to go back a little bit further, and think it through a little better before you can come to an accurate conclusion.
Now we won’t get into the whole back story of Jepthath, but here’s what you need to know.
He has been made the leader of Israel’s army, and what he says goes.
And he is battling against their enemies of this moment, the Ammonites.
And they’ve exchange pleasantries, and the time for words has ended.
So Jephthath is about to lead his troops into battle, and what happens.
Verse 29 says, “Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah. He crossed Gilead and Manasseh, passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from there he advanced against the Ammonites.”
Now this is a very important phrase for you to recognize. “Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon him.”
Have you ever heard of that phrase before?
You hear this phrase used in the life of Samson.
In the Scripture, right before Samson was about to have a major victory...the Spirit of the Lord came on him.
It happened before he ripped the lion apart with his bare hands. It happened before he defeated an entire army with the jaw bone of a donkey.
It came over Gideon before he defeated an entire army with just 100 men.
Every place that the Spirit of the Lord came over someone before battle, what happened? (they won)
And not only did they win, but they had decisive victories.
So the Spirit of the Lord comes over Jepthath. And Jepthath just like everybody else could feel this.
And he knows that God has just promised to grant him victory.
So what does Jepthath do in immediate response to this promise?
God gives Jepthath the sign that he will be victorious, so does he respond by going right into battle, does he respond by telling his troops that God has guaranteed them victory?
He can feel God's Spirit in him giving him victory and Jepthath responds by saying this “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, (which he knows is going to happen) whatever 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.”
Is there something wrong with this picture, or is it just me?
It’s like going to a car dealership to buy a car.
And they want 10,000 for it. So you tell them that they’ll give you 7,500.
Surprisingly they say yes, and ask you to come inside to sign the paperwork.
And your response to them is, “fine you drive a hard bargain...I’ll give you 12,000.”
If this sounds like you at a car dealership...then boy do I have a car you need to look at.
Nobody in their right mind is going to offer more for what they’ve already been given.
If you have it, then it’s yours. You don’t need to make any deals.
God’s filling of Jepthath with His Spirit sealed the deal.
It was God’s promise that Jepthath would be successful in this battle.
But God’s promise wasn’t enough. He didn’t trust that God would do what He said.