Summary: Jephthah had everything going against him from the beginning of his life, yet he become one of the Judges of Israel. A review of his life offers encouragement to anyone who imagines they have everything against them and nothing going for them.
“Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior, but he was the son of a prostitute. Gilead was the father of Jephthah. And Gilead’s wife also 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.’ Then Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob, and worthless fellows collected around Jephthah and went out with him.
“After a time the Ammonites made war against Israel. And when the Ammonites made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to bring Jephthah from the land of Tob. And they said to Jephthah, ‘Come and be our leader, that we may fight against the Ammonites.’ But Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, ‘Did you not hate me and drive me out of my father’s house? Why have you come to me now when you are in distress?’ And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, ‘That is why we have turned to you now, that you may go with us and fight against the Ammonites and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.’ Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, ‘If you bring me home again to fight against the Ammonites, and the Lord gives them over to me, I will be your head.’ And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, ‘The Lord will be witness between us, if we do not do as you say.’ So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and leader over them. And Jephthah spoke all his words before the Lord at Mizpah.”
Contemporary Canadians excuse almost every failure on the basis of victimisation. Everyone is a victim in contemporary society; failure seems always to be the fault of someone else or result from circumstances beyond our control. One of the most common avenues of excuse for failure is to claim a poor start in life. By 2002, one in four children was being raised in a one-parent home, virtually ensuring a poor start to life. Married families had a median income of $64,800, whereas single-parent families reported a median income of only $29,500. Consequently, poverty—frequently self-imposed by parental choice—is commonly used as an excuse for crime, for academic failure, and for low achievement in life.
Throughout the years of my service to the people of God, I have witnessed the transformation of society into a culture of victimisation. Drinking to excess is not the fault of the drunk—he is sick. The drug addict can’t help herself—there is too much stress in life and she can’t cope. The thief can’t really be held accountable—she has been deprived of life’s pleasures. The rapist is not responsible for acting on his impulses—women dress in a provocative fashion. The homosexual can’t be responsible for his choices—God made him that way.
Whatever the deficit, whatever the aberration, someone else is always responsible. Politicians may be blamed for creating much of this mess, but it was preceded by retreat from the biblical injunction to accept responsibility for our choices. Tragically, culture has invaded the churches, so that rather than serving as salt in the midst of a decaying world, the rot of the world has invaded the churches of our day. Repentance is an unknown concept among contemporary churches. Consequently, there are few leaders within modern ecclesiastical life who are willing to say, as did David, “I have sinned” [see 2 SAMUEL 2:13]. Nor did David merely confess sin when he had failed morally. When he sinned by doubting the LORD, his confession was “I have sinned greatly” [see 1 CHRONICLES 21:8]. Even when exposed in egregious moral failure, too many of the professed saints of God excuse moral and ethical lassitude by blaming lousy teaching, by appeal to a poor start in their Christian walk, by attempting to blame someone else for their failure.
As background to the account before us, listen to JUDGES 10:17, 18. “The Ammonites were called to arms, and they encamped in Gilead. And the people of Israel came together, and they encamped at Mizpah. And the people, the leaders of Gilead, said one to another, ‘Who is the man who will begin to fight against the Ammonites? He shall be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.’” The year is 1089 B.C. Israel is suffering another of the frequent invasions from the surrounding peoples that resulted from their wandering from the commands of God. The elders of the land were desperate, and they sought someone who would deliver them from the invaders. They turned to a most unlikely individual name Jephthah.
A POOR START IN LIFE — The first three verses are a flashback, introducing a man from the very place now suffering so horribly. The text informs us that he was the son of a prostitute and a man named Gilead. Perhaps that is not so important in this day, but throughout history, parentage has been very important. To say that Jephthah was hindered in life is understatement.