Summary: Our past does not define us, God redeems us. Our mistakes do not define us, God teaches us. Our faith in God defines us, God uses us.
All of us have them. Some of us have more than others.
• There are those who are crippled by them, others can rise above them and continue to live with confidence. But all of us have them.
• What am I talking about? Flaws and failures. Our imperfections and mistakes.
Flaws are the imperfections – the weaknesses we are born with, bad experiences we had, unfortunate backgrounds we come from.
• These are not what we would have chosen. They are being thrown at us. We have no choice. They are not under our control.
Failures are the mistakes we made in life. We chose them wrongly and foolishly.
• We struggle and we suffer, because we made wrong decisions.
But remember this, flaws and failures in life don’t define us, ultimately.
• We need not stay as victims of the past, nor victims of our flaws and failures.
• In Christ, we are a new creation. God is the One who made us and is capable of remaking us. He can make everything new.
If our flaws and our failures don’t define us, what does? Faith does.
• Our faith in Jesus Christ. Our faith in God changes everything.
• That’s what we can learn from Jephthah, the judge in Judges 11.
I’m going to divide his story into 3 parts. We are going to look at…
• his flaw - his unfavourable past, then
• his failure, the unfortunate vow he made, and lastly
• his faith, his simple yet unflinching faith in God.
[Read Judges 11:1-11]
His past is something Jephthah cannot change. His birth. His background.
• He is an illegitimate child. Born to a prostitute. His father sinned and he was the result.
• Although his father Gilead brought him home, he wasn’t really a part of the family.
Gilead’s wife and her sons rejected him. They said, “You are not going to get any inheritance in our family.” (11:2) Obviously he is not!
• And this was likely said because their father Gilead has died. No one left to defend him. No one in the family can now speak out for him.
• So the sons drove Jephthah away.
Jephthah is an outcast, not just to the family, but also to the society as well.
• According to Mosaic Law, Deut 23:2 “No one born of a forbidden marriage nor any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD, even down to the tenth generation.”
• He is a despised man. That explains why he ended up with a “group of adventurers” (worthless crooks and villains).
• He became a gang-leader, hanging around with fellow outcasts. He’s the “robin hood” of his time.
This is his unfavourable past, something that he cannot change, something that is beyond his control. But that doesn’t define him.
• Our past doesn’t define us, always remember that. We can be affected by it, influenced by it, we cannot ignore it, but it does not define WHO we are.
OUR PAST DOESN’T DEFINE US. GOD REDEEMS US.
As a matter of fact, we all come to God with a past. Who doesn’t?
• But if we hold on to the past, if we believe in the past, if we are hindered by our past, then our faith is not in God. Our faith is in “FATE”.
• We are believing then in a “force” over our lives that is greater than God. There is no such thing.
The past does not make us WHO we are; God does. In Christ, God redeems our past.
• He does not take away the past, undo the past, ignore the past; He REDEEMS the past. He takes our brokenness and do something with it.
• In fact, He makes use of our past and make something new out of it. God uses our past to prepare us, refine us, teach us, and mould us into who we are today in Christ.
Look what happened to Jephthah. After some time, the elders of Gilead come looking for him. This is the grace of God.
• The Ammonites made war on Israel and the elders wanted him to lead the fight.
• Jud 11:7 Jephthah: “Didn’t you hate me and drive me from my father’s house? Why do you come to me now, when you’re in trouble?”
• They have no answer. Jud 11:8 “The elders of Gilead said to him, "Nevertheless, we are turning to you now; come with us to fight the Ammonites, and you will be our head over all who live in Gilead.”
Favour comes upon him because God was gracious to him, that’s why.
• 1 Cor 1:28 “28He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things - and the things that are not (the nobodies) - to nullify the things that are…”