Title: “Jephthah was Not an Idiot”
In my younger years as a minister, I have preached on this text. I entitled my message, “Jephthah’s Foolish Vow.” And so it seems at first glance.
In the heat of the battle, Jephthah makes this vow to God, “If you help me obtain victory over the enemy, I will sacrifice to you the very first thing that comes out of the door of my house.”
God gives Jephthah the victory. Jephthah returns home. It is his daughter, his only child, that comes out, through the door of his home. She greets her father with timbrels and dance. She is to be sacrificed.
As I studied for the message, I went to sermoncentral.com on the internet to read what other ministers were saying about this passage. Every minister that I read, came out against Jephthah. One minister even called him an “idiot!”
I also read several commentaries on the passage. Again, every commentary that I read came out against Jephthah.
It is a very hard thing for me to do, but I feel compelled to come out against them all! Certainly, “flesh and blood” did not reveal the following truth to this Pastor. But, I do believe that I have the mind of the Lord concerning this passage.
The only way to correctly understand Judges, Chapter 11, is by studying this passage in the context of Judges Chapter 10.
In Chapter 10, the Children of Israel cry aloud for the Living God for help.
Once again they are threatened by the enemy. Once again, they look to God to deliver them. However, God gives this message to them, “I will deliver you no more.”
His reasoning? “I have delivered you time and time again, and immediately after every deliverance, you fall right back into the sin of idolatry. Trust in your heathen gods to deliver you, but I will deliver you no more!”
The people of Israel repent and seek God. They continue to be much grieved by their enemy. And God is also grieved because he cannot deliver them. God is a God of his word. God has made the vow, “I will deliver you no more!”
Yet, in chapter 11, God delivers Israel. Has God lied? Has God gone against his word?
“Houston, we have a problem!”
It is with this in context that we can now enter into the 11th Chapter on the book of Judges. God will draw an exact picture of his heart through the story of Jephthah.
It is God who calls Jephthah a “mighty man of valour.”
His father is a notable man in Israel, Gilead, but his mother was a harlot. The ligament sons of Gilead expel Jephthah from their family. They want nothing to do with him. He cannot have part of their father’s inheritance.
Then the Amorites come and surrounds Israel. Now, they are in trouble. They need a leader. There is only one man capable of leading them into victory. It is the brother of whom they have cast out, Jephthah!
They make him a promise, if you bring us deliverance over our enemy, we will serve you as our King.
Jephthah agrees to help on that condition.
He leads the nation of Israel. In the midst of the battle, he knows that he needs God’s help. He also knows that this victory will require the sacrifice of something special, and something personal. He also knows that he has only but one child. When he makes the vow concerning whatever comes first through the door of his home he would sacrifice unto God, it would come down to either his wife or his child. Think about it.
Now, here is where we must again look back to Judges, Chapter 10. Remember the vow that God made to Israel in this Chapter? How could he promise not to deliver them in Chapter 10, and then go ahead and deliver them in Chapter 11?
The answer: In order for a person to be released from their vow, they would have to die. Think about it.
Abraham said to Isaac in Genesis 22, “God would provide himself a sacrifice.”
Consider this: the only way that a holy God could bring deliverance to mankind regarding their sin was to have his only begotten Son to die as the sacrificial offering. In this way, God would be released from his vow in Judges, Chapter 10. The eternal sacrifice of his only begotten son, would allow him to do so!
And so you see, Jephthah’s vow was not so irrational after all.
I am not sure that Jephthah realized the eternal picture that he was portraying at the time of his vow, but I am sure that God knew of it. God always paints with stories and word pictures. Jephthah’s vow pictures the redemption of mankind.
There are three very important points that I want you to consider after reading these two chapters of the Bible.
1. Sin grieves the heart of God.
Consider how it hurt the heart of Jephthah when his own brethren forsook him. Now consider also how much it hurt the heart of Jephthah when he had to put to death his only begotten daughter.
Can you clearly see how much our sin has caused grief to the heart of God!
2. God wants to be your abiding King.
Just as Jephthah was promised to be the King over Israel, should be win the victory on their behalf, God too, desires to be your abiding King.
How sad when people seem to only use God as a spare tire. How sad when the only time that some people seem to come to Church is on Christmas and Easter. How sad that many of God’s people fail to have a daily walk with Him!
3. Finally: Love is not enough!
Jephthah realized that love was not enough. Deliverance for Israel would come at a price. That price would be the death of his only begotten child.
Consider John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son….” Love was not enough for God to save the world. Our salvation would require the death of God’s only begotten son. The death of God, would allow God to be free from his vow that “the soul that sinneth, it would die.” (Ezekiel 18:4)
It would take the death, burial, and the resurrection of Christ, to set us free from the law of sin, death, and the grave!
Love is not enough. I am not going to Heaven simply because God loves me. I am going to Heaven because Jesus died on the cross and saved my soul from the eternal condemnation of the law!
The next time that the electric company sends you an electric bill, try writing them a nice thank you letter, explaining that you really love the people at the electric company, but you simply do not have any money to pay them for the use of their electricity.
Love is not enough. Even though the people at the electric company may love you in return, you are still going to have your lights turned off!
The electric company wants you to “show them the money.” The electric company wants to be paid in full!
When you consider the plan of God in its’ entirety, God seems to be foolish.
Why would God vow the death of his only begotten Son?
Perhaps now you understand.
Perhaps now you will understand too, why Jephthah was not an idiot after all!