Summary: An inspiring look at a believer in God who went from being a zero to a hero in the eyes of his family and neighbors.
Hebrews 11 is called the “Faith Chapter” because its primary subject is the importance of faith. Its also called the “Faith’s Hall of Fame” chapter because it talks about men and women of the Old Testament who became spiritual heros and heroines because they trusted God and obeyed Him…they demonstrated faith.
After mentioning many famous personalities, in verses 32-34, Paul says, “And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.”
Now, many folks have heard of Gideon, Sampson, David and Samuel…. But very few have heard of Jephthah. That’s too bad because his story is pretty inspirational. We find his story told in Judges 11. It’s a story of a young man who went from being a zero, in the eyes of many, to becoming a hero.
The background to the story is actually told at the close of Judges Chapter 10. Israel had sinned against God. As punishment, God had allowed the Israelites to be oppressed by the heathen Ammonites. The Israelites were suffering badly and their sufferings brought them to their senses. They decided to return to God. Verse 15, “And the sons of Israel said to the Lord, ‘We have sinned, do to us whatever seems good to Thee; only please deliver us this day.’"
Verses 17-18 states, “And the sons of Israel gathered together, and camped in Mizpah. 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 Israelites needed a leader to help them defeat the Ammonites, but didn‘t seem to have a candidate for the job. In their desperation, they vowed that whoever would lead them to victory, they would make that man head of all the inhabitants.
Chapter 11 begins the story of Jephthah.
Jephthah “was a valiant warrior” but he was not considered for the job of leader because of his background. His father was Gilead but his mother was a harlot.
Even though he had no choice in choosing who his mother was, Jephthah was treated as a reject. His step-mom and his half brothers looked down on him and treated him cruelly.
His step-brothers told him, as we read in verse 2, "You shall not have an inheritance in our father’s house, for you are the son of another woman." Thus, Jephthah was driven away….not only from his father’s house but from the entire homeland.
I can only imagine what a painful childhood Jephthah had. Your family are supposed to be the people that love you and accept you even if no one else does. To be rejected by your own family is one of the most painful things anyone can experience. I bet Jephthah felt pretty worthless.
One of the reasons why Jephthah became “a valiant warrior” was that he had to in order to survive. He had to become tough inside and out to just be able to survive in his cold world.
Jephthah did find acceptance. Verse 3 says that some other misfits and outcasts rallied around Jephthah. Together they formed a gang and lived, for some time, as raiders and plunderers of Israel’s enemies.
Something pretty ironic happened.
As time passed, Jephthah developed a reputation as being quite a leader. His military exploits caught the attention of the Israelites, especially the Gileadites.
Soon, the very people who had rejected Jephthah and treated him worse than scum, came crawling back to Jephthah and begged him to come help them defeat their Ammonite oppressors. Verses 6-7, “and they said to Jephthah, ‘Come and be our chief that we may fight against the sons of Ammon.’ 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?’"
Verses 9-10, “So Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, ‘If you take me back to fight against the sons of Ammon and the LORD gives them up to me, will I become your head?’ And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, ‘The LORD is witness between us; surely we will do as you have said.’"
To make the story short, Jephthah sought the Lord’s assistance. Verse 29,32-33, “Now the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, so that he passed through Gilead and Manasseh; then he passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he went on to the sons of Ammon… So Jephthah crossed over to the sons of Ammon to fight against them; and the LORD gave them into his hand. And he struck them with a very great slaughter from Aroer to the entrance of Minnith, twenty cities, and as far as Abel-keramim. So the sons of Ammon were subdued before the sons of Israel.”