Summary: Today’s sermon is about snobby brothers, a son rejected by his family and community but ironically asked to lead those who rejected him, a nation on the brink of war, fake news, and a foolish father who messes up his daughter’s life. Here is how it happened.
The Social Outcast Who Saved Society
1. One definition of the word irony is, “a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often amusing as a result.”
• It is ironic, for example, that the most shop-lifted book is the Bible.
• Every year ABC cuts down A Charlie Brown Christmas—a movie about the over-commercialization of the holidays—to make room for more commercials.
• Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone but refused to keep one in his study. He feared it would distract him from his work.
• The first man to survive going over Niagara Falls in a barrel died after slipping on an orange peel.
• Duct tape is never supposed to be used to seal ducts. It melts and puts out dangerous fumes. [source:rd.com, altered]
2. It is ironic when someone like the church’s leading persecutor, Saul of Tarsus, becomes its most influential leader and defender.
3. The Holy Spirit and God’s Sovereign hand make for many instances of irony. Today’s text contains a number of ironies, but its emphasis is upon God using less than perfect people.
Main Idea: Spirit-empowered leaders are especially appreciated in a crisis, but even they have their failings, some of which may be significant.
Today’s sermon is about snobby brothers, a son rejected by his family and community but ironically asked to lead those who rejected him, a nation on the brink of war, fake news, and a foolish father who messes up his daughter’s life. Here is how it happened.
I. Jephthah Was Another UNLIKELY Leader Used of God.
A. Israel’s PREDICAMENT was their own doing (10:6-17).
1. They worshipped all the regional pagan gods.
2. God sent the Philistines and even more so the Ammonites (Jordanians).
3. They lacked a strong military leader.
4. They were at a point where both armies were camped and ready for war.
B. The very people who needed Jephthah’s leadership had made him an OUTCAST (11:1-3).
1. He was the son of Gilead and a prostitute.
2. His brothers cast him out so they could have more of an inheritance.
3. Apparently the community leaders approved of this.
4. Jephtha relocated to another town and became the leader of the riff-raff, the worthless fellows, some version translate it as scoundrels.
C. In desperation, these same people ask Jephthah to be their GENERAL. (11:4-11).
1. Jephthah scolds them and demands that they vow to make him their leader, even after the battle is over.
2. They agree.
D. Jephthah tried to solve the crisis DIPLOMATICALLY (11:12-28).
1. This is always the best place to start when it comes to conflict.
2. He wanted to know how the king of the Ammonites was justified his attempts at conquest.
3. In war or politics, there is a real agenda, and then there is the pretext.
The agenda is what someone has in mind to accomplish, whether good or bad. The pretext is the justification for the agenda so that the agenda appears to be good, sensible, and right.
4. The King of Ammon tried some fake news, which Jephthah refuted by recounting the actual history of how Israel got the land it possessed: it was not taken from Ammon.
5. When the king could not win the argument, he withdrew the pretext. Verse 28 states it simply.
6. Sadly, Jephthah’s diplomacy also failed in chapter 12, which describes a civil war … but we are not going to cover that.
E. The SPIRIT came upon Jephthah. He led Israel to victory but made a foolish VOW (11:29-33).
1. The Spirit came upon the various judges to empower them beyond their humanity.
2. Jephthah makes a vow to the Lord to sacrifice whatever enters his doorway when he returns home.
3. His attempt at piety was not the result of the Spirit; ponder that.
4. God gives Israel the victory, and Ammon becomes a problem no more.
F. Jephthah’s only child, his DAUGHTER, walks through the threshold of the door (34-40).
1. Joy turns to bitter sorrow.
2. The daughter encourages Jephthah to keep his vow.
3. What did the vow entail?
4. Would she be killed as a sacrifice, in contradiction to the law, or would she be dedicated to serve the Lord as one of the women who danced and sang at the entrance to the tabernacle? The emphasis is that she never married.
5. Sadly, Jephthah is remembered mostly for his foolish vow, not his leadership.
Spirit-empowered leaders are especially appreciated in a crisis, but even they have their failings, some of which may be significant.
II. The Jephthah Narrative Offers a Wealth of APPLICATIONS.
A. We must not hold someone’s family BACKGROUND against them.
1. Leaders can be found in unlikely places.