Summary: A look at lessons we can learn from the life of Jephthah from the book of Judges
I. Introduction: Israel is in bad shape again (story)
This is the story of Billy Sunday, pro-baseball player and then evangelist. Until Billy Graham, no American evangelist preached to so many millions, or saw as many conversions—an estimated 300,000.
In Billy Sunday’s autobiography he said “I never saw my father” You see his father had died of pneumonia in the Civil War five weeks after Sunday's birth. In fact, his early childhood in an Iowa log cabin was enveloped by death—ten deaths before he reached the age of 10. His mother was so impoverished, she sent her children away to the Soldier's Orphans Home. Sunday survived only with the support of his brother and his love of sports, especially baseball.
His professional baseball career began with the Chicago White Stockings in 1883, he moved to the Pittsburgh Pirates, and in 1890, to the Philadelphia Athletics, where he was batting .261 and had stolen 84 bases when he quit.
Ever since his conversion to Christianity at the Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago in 1886, he had felt an increasingly strong call to preach. The YMCA finally convinced him to leave baseball to preach at their services (which meant a two-thirds cut in pay). He moved on to work with two other traveling evangelists, then was invited to conduct a revival in Garner, Iowa. From then on he was never without an invitation to preach, at first holding campaigns in Midwestern towns and then, after World War I, preaching in Boston, New York, and other major cities.
Because of Sunday’s rough past his preaching style was as unorthodox as the day allowed. His vocabulary was so rough especially when dealing with evolutionist: Christian leaders cringed, and they often publicly criticized him. But Sunday didn't care: "I want to preach the gospel so plainly," he said, "that men can come from the factories and not have to bring a dictionary.”
Sunday was master of the one-liner, which he would use to clinch his practical, illustration-filled sermons. One of his most famous: "Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile." And “If ever there was a jubilee in hell it was when lager beer was invented."
This final quote of Sunday’s would have been good for last Sunday’s sermon on sin: "I'm against sin," he once said. "I'll kick it as long as I have a foot. I'll fight it as long as I have a fist. I'll butt it as long as I have a head. I'll bite it as long as I've got a tooth. And when I'm old and fistless and footless and toothless, I'll gum it till I go home to Glory and it goes home to perdition." (Christian History.net)
II. Who is Jephthah? Why was he not a normal choice
Well today’s Judge, like Billy Sunday, came from a rough past. Our text this morning is Judges 11, but the story really starts to take shape in chapter 10 and once again here goes the broken record. Israel had sinned again in God’s eyes and God had allowed them to be oppressed by the Ammorites. After years of being oppressed they realized they needed to turn back to God. Judges 10:15 states: But the Israelites said to the Lord” we have sinned. Do with us whatever you think best, but please rescue us now. The next verse goes onto say they got rid of their gods and served the Lord. The end of the chapter ends with the Israelite people assembling their army to fight the Ammorites, but they were asking who was going to lead them. The Israelites needed a leader to help them defeat the Ammonites, but didn‘t seem to have a candidate for the job.