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Men For The Hour - Part 11

"Jephthah, The Reject"

by David Legge | Copyright © 2006 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com

'Preach The Word'Now we're turning again this morning to the book of Judges, this time chapter 11 - and, ironically, it is the 11th study we have made so far these Sunday mornings in our series on the characters of the Judges entitled 'Men for the Hour'. We're looking at a new character - we have spent several weeks, I think five in total, looking at Gideon - and this week we're going to do, hopefully in one session, a study of Jephthah. The title is 'Jephthah, The Reject'.

How many times has this story been repeated in history? Imagine it, a child born under some cloud of shame, or into a dysfunctional family, and as they grow that cloud seems to hover over them and grow larger and larger

We begin at verse 1 of Judges 11: "Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valor, and he was the son of an harlot: and Gilead begat Jephthah. And Gilead's wife bare him sons; and his wife's sons grew up, and they thrust out Jephthah, and said unto him, Thou shalt not inherit in our father's house; for thou art the son of a strange woman. Then Jephthah fled from his brethren, and dwelt in the land of Tob: and there were gathered vain men to Jephthah, and went out with him. And it came to pass in process of time, that the children of Ammon made war against Israel. And it was so, that when the children of Ammon made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to fetch Jephthah out of the land of Tob: And they said unto Jephthah, Come, and be our captain, that we may fight with the children of Ammon. And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, Did not ye hate me, and expel me out of my father's house? and why are ye come unto me now when ye are in distress? And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, Therefore we turn again to thee now, that thou mayest go with us, and fight against the children of Ammon, and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead. And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, If ye bring me home again to fight against the children of Ammon, and the LORD deliver them before me, shall I be your head? And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, The LORD be witness between us, if we do not so according to thy words. Then Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and captain over them: and Jephthah uttered all his words before the LORD in Mizpeh".

Then verse 29 of the same chapter: "Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and he passed over Gilead, and Manasseh, and passed over Mizpeh of Gilead, and from Mizpeh of Gilead he passed over unto the children of Ammon. And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD's, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering. So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon to fight against them; and the LORD delivered them into his hands. And he smote them from Aroer, even till thou come to Minnith, even twenty cities, and unto the plain of the vineyards, with a very great slaughter. Thus the children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel. And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter. And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said, Alas, my daughter! thou hast brought me very low, and thou art one of them that trouble me: for I have opened my mouth unto the LORD, and I cannot go back. And she said unto him, My father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the LORD, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth; forasmuch as the LORD hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, even of the children of Ammon. And she said unto her father, Let this thing be done for me: let me alone two months, that I may go up and down upon the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I and my fellows. And he said, Go. And he sent her away for two months: and she went with her companions, and bewailed her virginity upon the mountains. And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed: and she knew no man. And it was a custom in Israel, That the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year".

Scandal had been rumored in Ramoth-Gilead. It was said that one of the village's leading citizens had become involved in an illicit sexual affair with a local woman of the street. In Ramoth-Gilead few secrets were held, like any village or town even in our own province, and bad news travelled fast. One can just imagine the local gossips going early to fill their waterpots at the public well, and lingering long in order to savour every sordid morsel as it came to light. It soon became evident that the rumour was true. Gilead, this man in the city of Ramoth-Gilead, that was his name, had been publicly named as the father of a child that was being carried by a common prostitute. Unlike many men who walk away from offspring born under such circumstances, Gilead, to his credit, we find takes full responsibility for his act. When the infant was born, he takes it into his home and effectively raises it as one of his own family.

Scandal had been rumored in Ramoth-Gilead. It was said that one of the village's leading citizens had become involved in an illicit sexual affair with a local woman of the street

It's all conjecture, reading between the lines, but we must wonder what his wife must have felt with that child in the home, knowing the failings of her spouse. But we read from God's word that in process of time other sons were born to Gilead of his true wife, and those sons would have taken their place in the family circle and hierarchy. We find that it wasn't long after those sons were born until they grow, and they look down on this son of a prostitute and their father, and they begin to see him in a different light. They played with him as any other of the children when they were toddlers, but as they grow and as they become aware and conscious of these weightier matters in life, they realise that this one - as far as they're concerned - is unworthy of the family name, and certainly unworthy of the family privilege.

As the animosities between these young men heighten, Gilead's health begins to decline and eventually he dies. Now, with Gilead's restraining hand away from this situation, the smouldering resentment between these brothers and Jephthah comes to the surface. When the issue of the will, the inheritance of their father, comes to be settled, Jephthah's illegitimacy is thrown in his face by his half-brothers. You can just imagine it: 'You're not even one of our family! How can you expect to have anything in our father's will? You're only a son, an illegitimate son of a harlot!'. Eventually we find in chapter 11 and verse 2, that it came to the brothers driving Jephthah out of the home: 'Gilead's wife bare him sons; and his wife's sons grew up, and they thrust out Jephthah, and said unto him, Thou shalt not inherit in our father's house; for thou art the son of a strange woman'. In other words, what they were saying is: 'Jephthah, you don't belong! Whatever the reason was our father brought you into our home and treated you like another son, you don't belong. He's gone, and you need to get up and go!'.

Now it is apparent that Jephthah made an appeal to the elders of the city, which of course was to no avail. Verse 7, when he comes to the fore in this whole situation in the land, we read that he says to these elders who have requested his return: 'Did not ye hate me, and expel me out of my father's house? and why are ye come unto me now when ye are in distress?'. As leaders and elders in the town, they should have been the ones to protect those who were vulnerable. But like many, even in our own day, they fell into the trap of making a child pay for the mistakes of its father. One writer has said: 'In so doing, they joined the sanctimonious village snobs in opposing a youth who was guilty of nothing except being born'.

How many times has this story been repeated in history? Imagine it, a child born under some cloud of shame, or into a dysfunctional family, and as they grow that cloud seems to hover over them and grow larger and larger, and others delight in pointing out its presence over their head and reminding them of their shameful past. There are many like that in our society. Whilst we do not take personal responsibility away from any, the fact of the matter is: there are those who, by nature of their birth and the prejudice that comes to them because of their birth, aren't given a chance in their family or in general society. They're rejected without trial by those around them. There are many, if we broaden out this example, many who have been wronged through no fault of their own. Because of something that someone else has done to them, they seem to be destined to live under the mantle of the transgression of another.

Many who experience rejection do exactly what Jephthah did. What was that? They react to rejection by running away

We could all sum it up in one word: rejection, whether rejection as a child, rejection as an adolescent, as a teenager, as a young adult, rejection as a spouse, rejection as a father or a mother. We could go on and on and give myriads of examples, but the fact of the matter is: many who experience rejection do exactly what Jephthah did. What was that? They react to rejection by running away. That's what he did. We read in verse 3: 'Jephthah fled from his brethren, and dwelt in the land of Tob: and there were gathered vain men to Jephthah, and went out with him'. He ran away, he drifted, essentially, from bad to worse; and we find that he found himself in bad company - and, as the saying goes, 'Birds of a feather flock together', and I imagine that a lot of these same young men came from similar backgrounds and may have been outcasts and rejects from their own home and society.

So Jephthah goes to Tob, a city north-east of Ramoth-Gilead, and he becomes a leader of this group of outlaws, bandits. He's a kind of Robin Hood figure. He's essentially not bad in and of himself, but he is the victim of his own circumstances that have been foisted upon him, and he lands in amongst all this other group and becomes a natural leader of them. Let me say, before we look any more Jephthah, that I believe that the author of the book of Judges is trying to depict for us in Jephthah's personal circumstances, Jephthah's rejection, how Israel, God's people, had rejected their God, covenant God, Jehovah. Now, I believe this is evident, if you look at it - we don't have time to read the verses in chapter 10 verses 6-18 - but we see again the shameful account that has been a cycle right throughout this book. God's people find themselves under the oppressive hand of another nation attacking them - and what do they do? They call to God, and God tells them that they are under this discipline of punishment because of their sin, because they've gone after Baal and Asherah, false gods of other nations. Then they cry unto God, it would seem, in genuine repentance - even though we have found out at times it is superficial - and God answers them in mercy. Peace reigns in the land because a Judge, God's saviour and deliverer for that period of time has come and been raised up by the Almighty to bring peace to the nation. But when that Judge dies we see over and over again that they go back to their old ways.

Here we see this typified, if you like, for us in the life of Jephthah. The nation is powerless before their enemies, the Philistines and the Ammonites, because they have sinned against God once again. In verses 10 to 16 of chapter 10 we see that they cry out to God, and God refuses their first plea. He doesn't answer them, and He cites several instances of past deliverances, and reminds them that after each of them they had turned away - verse 13 of chapter 10: 'Yet ye have forsaken me, and served other gods: why should I deliver you any longer?'. Of course, God wanted to see within their hearts true repentance. That's why, at first, He doesn't listen to them until, as we see in verse 16, He is sure that they have put away their idols: 'And they put away the strange gods from among them, and served the LORD: and his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel'.

He wanted to make sure that the repentance was not superficial, it was genuine; and the evidence would be in the works that outflowed from it - in other words, that they put these gods away from them for good, and then He would have compassion upon them. Now here is an elementary lesson not only regarding salvation, but the Christian life, and it's this: God is not mocked, and whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. God knows whether repentance is genuine or superficial, and God is angry, and God disciplines even His people when they play fast and loose with Him; when they think that they can just get away with sin, and in the next breath confess and repent of their sin it would seem, and God just forgives them and restores them to fellowship - and then they go through this Israelite cycle again of sin and shame.

He wanted to make sure that the repentance was not superficial, it was genuine; and the evidence would be in the works that outflowed from it

I wonder is there anyone here this morning that's playing fast and loose with the Almighty? I think it's interesting that Jephthah agreed to be the people's saviour, as we will see in a few moments, but he only agreed on the condition that he would be their Lord as well. In verse 9 of chapter 11, if you look at it, it reads: 'And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, If ye bring me home again to fight against the children of Ammon, and the LORD deliver them before me, shall I be your head?'. He was wiser than many children of God today, he realised that you can't have your cake and eat it. You can't have Christ as Saviour, and then say: 'Well, I'm going to be in charge of the rest of my life. I'm on my way to heaven in a boat, but Christ is not going to have my life'. Jephthah knew that if this was going to work he would have to have charge of them. If your Christian life is going to be - and I use this term advisedly - a success, victorious, and fulfil the purpose for which God saved you and Christ died, you've got to realise that it's not all about getting your sins forgiven and getting a free ticket to heaven, it's about being surrendered to Jesus Christ as Lord. So, what an elementary lesson.

Then we see also in the same way, the elders who once rejected Jephthah, and ejected him out of the town, are now requesting that he returns as saviour. I just wondered as I was studying this, whether or not Jephthah felt used. Do you ever feel like that? Maybe people who have rejected you return to you and they're wanting a favour, wanting you to do something, and you feel like saying: 'Aye, you're only interested in me when you're looking for something'. Here we have it here, but it led me to the question: I wonder, as we see this as a mirror example of what Israel was doing to God, I wonder did God ever feel used by Israel, His people? I know we have to be careful in trying to guess the thoughts of the Almighty, but the mirror image is here, isn't it? How many times do we come to God, and I say it reverently: you use Him like some kind of divine salvation slot machine - we put our prayer in and we hope to get the results out! We almost expect it as a right, don't we? He's obliged to do it.

But the point, really, that I want you to focus on this morning is that when God again wanted to deliver Israel from this awful predicament that they'd brought themselves into, who did He choose? He chose a reject. I love this verse in verse 1: 'Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valor', and in the same sentence, almost without blinking, the author says, 'and he was the son of an harlot'. The plainness of Scripture, he was a reject from his family and his society. He was the underdog - could we say: he was the despised and the rejected of men? I think it is plain to see the parallels in this saviour with the great Jehovah's Saviour in the New Testament, our Lord Jesus Christ. When you consider that there was a shadow over His birth, of course He was virgin conceived, and that is the truth of the miracle of Christmas time that we've just celebrated - but nevertheless people levelled at Him the fact that He was of illegitimate birth, they rejected Him on that ground. The society in Israel, His brethren in the religious establishment, but also His kith and kin round about Him rejected Him and effectively ejected Him from Jerusalem. John 1:11: 'He came unto his own, and his own received him not'.

When we turn to the book of the Acts we find that it is written there, as Peter preaches this sermon to the religious council in chapter 4 and verse 10, he says: 'Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth', a despised town, 'whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved'. This Jesus Christ of Nazareth that you despise, that you crucified, God raised from the dead - it was God raised Him! He was the stone rejected by you, but you've got to realise that there isn't salvation in any other - do you see the parallel? Jephthah had been rejected because of his birth, he had been thrown out of the city, and now after a period of years the elders are coming cap in hand, tail between their legs: 'Could you come back and help us?'. They had realised that there was salvation in none other.

He was a reject from his family and his society. He was the underdog - could we say: he was the despised and the rejected of men?

I don't know what reputation he had got as he was in Tob with this band of no goods, outlaws. He had probably got a reputation for bad, but nevertheless they knew he was a fighter, they knew he had been successful in what he was doing there, and he was a Gileadite so he could help them. It's the same with our blessed Lord Jesus Christ, isn't it? Because we read in Zechariah and chapter 12 that there's a day coming, yet future, when Israel will look upon Him whom they have pierced, the One who they rejected and ejected and crucified, they'll look upon Him and they'll say 'Baruch Ha Ba B’Shem Adonai', 'Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord'. 'Baruch Ha Ba B’Shem Adonai', 'Come Lord Jesus, and be our Saviour'. The poet put it like this:

'They cried for God to send a man
To slay cruel Ammon's hand.
He made his boast and then
Swept down to claim Jehovah's land.

Their hero by design must know
Bold courage, virtue, truth,
Be of the proper heritage,
Twice blessed with strength and youth.

God made His choice, and shocked them all
When He revealed His aim
To use a harlot's outcast son,
One Jephthah was his name'.

This is a tremendous character, Jephthah the reject, because if you're a reject today for one reason or another - maybe it's questionable birth, and it has haunted you right throughout your whole life. Maybe it's family dysfunction that you have been born into, or that your own family has known. Maybe it is the sense of being forsaken by another. Maybe you have been orphaned or divorced through no fault of your own. Maybe you have been abused, mentally, emotionally, sexually, or in a mere physical way. The result of this has been that you live day by day with an inferiority complex that has been foisted upon you. Do you know what can often happen? When a person with that type of background becomes a Christian, they think that because of their past they are disqualified from doing anything for God or being anything for God. They feel a real underdog in the things of God.

Now I would have to also say that sometimes Christians - yes, that's right, Christians - can reinforce this attitude, this perception in their minds. In effect, sometimes you hear them saying words in kind: 'Now you know that because of your past, you'll not amount to anything in the church. Maybe we'll spring on you some night when we're looking for a good testimony, but don't you think that you'll be able to do too much because of the baggage that you have'. Christians often have a canny knack at keeping their rejects at arms length. I even heard a brethren man say on one occasion - and the brethren have a lot of good to say, but this is what he said: 'A person can be fit for heaven, but not fit for the assembly'. Now I know there's church discipline, and I know there's rules and regulations, and I'm not saying that we open up the boundaries of church fellowship to everyone and anyone, of course not. But that attitude that keeps rejects from families and societies at arms length could not be further from the truth, and I believe that the devil would love to keep people in that pathetic state of mind - but here we have the Almighty God choosing an unlikely saviour, if there ever was one, a son of a harlot! If you look into the law, we don't have time, into Deuteronomy; you'll find that the son of a harlot was prohibited from the congregation of Israel. You work that one out, I cannot.

God chooses what men reject - is that not an encouragement to you, if you find yourself as one of life's rejects?

The lesson that we have is simply: God chooses what men reject - is that not an encouragement to you, if you find yourself as one of life's rejects? I don't use that disparagingly, I'm not trying to enforce you in that type of mindset, I'm trying to let you see that God chooses what men reject. God chose this man Jephthah, and we read in the New Testament in 1 Corinthians 1 and verse 27: 'God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are'. First Peter 2 talks about the Lord Jesus as being that stone that was rejected of men, but was chosen of God.

There are more rejects in the Bible than Jephthah. There are the other Judges - what a band of a motley crew they are. There's Joseph in the book of Genesis, you know the story, rejected by his brothers - and then what happened to him? He eventually became their saviour, their deliverer! When we read the story of David we find it took him seven years to gain the full support of the twelve tribes of Israel, he didn't have it all on a plate right away - he was rejected, and then he became the greatest king ever. Even Paul the apostle, when he was converted to Christ, was rejected by his former companions in Judaism and then by the Christians, who he had come to as a brother, he is held in suspicion. For three years he's on his own in isolation in Arabia, and God reveals to him many of the mysteries of the New Testament there - but he was a reject! God chooses what men reject!

You may not know that Alexander Whyte, who was a well-known minister in the Free Church of Scotland, St George's Edinburgh in the late 19th century, an outstanding preacher and writer - many of his character studies are wonderful - but many do not know that in 1836 Janet Thompson brought him into this world out of wedlock. But that didn't matter to God, because God chose. Jephthah found, like many rejects before him, that through a period of isolation he was undergoing, maybe unconsciously, a process of preparation. In verse 4 of chapter 11 we read these wonderful words: 'And it came to pass in process of time'. He had been rejected, he was in isolation, but he was being prepared because, being faithful to God in the waiting time, he found out not only that God chooses what man rejects, but God uses what men reject. The big question that I want to pose to you this morning, particularly if you're one of those in the category of being rejected, is: what is your attitude to your rejection? God doesn't hold it against you, and if He doesn't hold it against you, why should you let it hinder you from being used of God?

Now we didn't have time to look at Abimelech, who you'll remember was Gideon's son who turned out to be a real bad egg - but when you compare Abimelech to Jephthah we find that their circumstances were similar to begin with. Abimelech was the son of a concubine of Gideon, but Abimelech brought shame to Israel; yet Jephthah brings joy and glory and blessing to Israel, though he was the son of a harlot. What was the difference? I can only imagine that the difference is his attitude to his rejection. He was not going to allow his past to burden him in such a way that he would not be faithful to God in the small things, and when he remained faithful to God his hour came when God chose him as God's man for the hour. My friend, I'm saying to you today that if you accept and embrace the rejections of your life, bring them to God but embrace them and accept what they are with a positive attitude, your opposition will one day turn to opportunity. As Psalm 27:10 says: 'Though mother and father forsake me, the Lord will take me up' - for what man rejects, God chooses.

The only problem with the Jephthah story is it doesn't end happily ever after, because after the great victory that God gave him over the Ammonites and Philistines, he experienced anything but happiness

Jephthah is a kind of Cinderella story, the reject elevated to a place of honour and authority. The only problem with the Jephthah story is it doesn't end happily ever after, because after the great victory that God gave him over the Ammonites and Philistines, he experienced anything but happiness. We read about that in verses 29 to 40 of chapter 11. Before he went into battle we were given a glimpse of what he said to God, he made a rash vow that he would devote to the Lord whatever first came out of his doors. Verse 31, look at it: 'It shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD's, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering'. The Lord gave him victory, and as he returned to the house, to his horror and ours as we read the narrative, who trundled out but his only daughter whom he loved with all his heart!

What lesson can we possibly learn from this? I was sharing this with Barbara during the week, and she said 'How can you apply that one today?'. Well, it's simply the opposite to what we've already said: God chooses what men reject, but God rejects what men choose. What am I talking about? Well, Jephthah was no more immune to danger in victory than his predecessors were in the book of Judges. Like them, his personal strength became his weakness.

As we read his story we find out that Jephthah was an expert negotiator, and I'm assuming that because I can't imagine how else he could keep a band of no goods together up there in Tob - he must have been great at debating and keeping peace among those thieves and criminals. When we come to his conversation with the King of Ammon in verse 12 of chapter 11, we find that he asked the question: 'Why are you invading us?'. The reply comes from the King of Ammon: 'Because Israel took away my land at the time of Joshua, so I want you to return it peacefully'. The King of Ammon made an accusation: 'Israel has taken my land and I want them to return it', and so Jephthah negotiates, and he argues first of all from history, and he tells them: 'We didn't take the land from the Ammonites but from the Amorites' - verses 15 to 22. Then he argues from theology, he says: 'The Lord gave us this land, we can't surrender it to you', verses 23 to 25, 'We didn't take it, the Lord give to us, and we didn't take it from you'. Then thirdly he argues from reason, he tells them for 300 years they have lived in the land, yet they haven't come to claim it until now, and it's too late to make land claims now. What skill he had as a negotiator!

But do you know what he does? That was his strength, and now we see he overplays his hand, and in a momentary attempt at a pious bargain with God to get the victory over Ammon, he effectively bargains with God and says: 'If You give me victory, whatever comes out of my front door when I return home I'll sacrifice it to You as a burnt offering'. Now God rejected that: what man chooses, God rejects. God rejected it as a basis for victory - don't you think for one minute that God gave him the victory because he made this vow! Far from it. You see, God's word had been given to Jephthah, and that was enough. But you say: 'God made Jephthah honour his vow', He did, and do you know why He made him do it? Out of discipline. Jephthah decided to vow this vow to the Lord, and I use that word 'decided' because this was something that God did not require of Jephthah. It was in a moment of overzealousness with the prospect of victory in his head that caused him to make this hasty vow, but it was the promise of God that mattered more for victory - not anything that Jephthah would do for God. Victory would be based on God's word and God's power, not on some bargain that Jephthah made, bending God's arm up His back.

First Samuel and chapter 15 and verse 22 I think is a great commentary on this event. You remember God said to Saul through the prophet Samuel: 'Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams'. Have you ever considered that obedience doesn't just mean doing all that God has asked you, but not doing more than God has asked you? The tragedy of the story is in the fact that although this was not required of God, indeed it was rejected; because he had vowed a vow to the Lord, God required him to keep his word. Deuteronomy 23:21 says: 'When thou shalt vow a vow unto the LORD thy God, thou shalt not slack to pay it: for the LORD thy God will surely require it of thee; and it would be sin in thee'.

What a warning that is to all of us, not to make any commitment to God carelessly or thoughtlessly

A vow in the Old Testament was a purely voluntary act, but once the vow was made you were committed before God, and for that very reason God warns against taking vows in a rash or thoughtless way. Because he had opened his mouth to the Lord, in verse 35 he says: 'I cannot go back, I can't take it away'. What a warning that is to all of us, not to make any commitment to God carelessly or thoughtlessly. Solomon said in Ecclesiastes: 'It is better that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay'.

Now there is considerable disagreement as to what Jephthah did to his daughter. One view is that he killed her and sacrificed her, and offered her as a burnt offering - and that is probably the most obvious initial reading of the text before us. However the idea of human sacrifice in the Bible is repulsive to God, He condemns it in the law in Deuteronomy 18. Jephthah would have known God's law, he was no country bumpkin. The other common interpretation is that Jephthah gave his daughter to be a perpetual virgin in the service of Jehovah. Whatever came forth his doors, the sense of verse 31, if you look at it your margin may render it this way: 'Whatever comes out of the doors shall surely be the Lord's, or I will offer it upon the altar for a burnt offering' - the word could be 'or' rather than 'and'. As we go down the passage, we find that she requests to bewail her virginity on the mountains, and all these daughters of Israel go with her. We find in verses 37 to 39 that it's commemorated from this day on in Israel, of how she bewailed her virginity in this way. I believe the meaning was this: she was dedicated to the Lord, probably to the service of the tabernacle as a perpetual virgin. She couldn't marry and Jephthah wouldn't have any children and progeny to his name.

Whatever the meaning is, what is the lesson? We should never make rash promises and vows to God. If we open our mouth, God will require us to pay what we have said. There are great consequences when we vow to the Lord. Let me share in closing what the consequence of overzealousness was for Jephthah. Do you remember his background? He was treated with cruelty, he experienced gross injustice by his brothers and townspeople. He had been forced to bear the consequences of an act which he was completely innocent of. Others decided his fate for him, condemned him to it whether he agreed with it or not - and then what happens? In a moment of overzealousness Jephthah does precisely the same thing to his own daughter that had been done to him. She became the sufferer of the lot of the consequences of her father's ill-advised act.

How often it happens to the best of us, Satan seems to take great delight in manoeuvring us into positions where we impose on others the very things that have been great sources of trial to us. Are we guilty like that? Guilty of enforcing on people standards that we set for them, and we forget at times how we chaffed under the impositions that we felt were unfair in bygone days. Maybe we're parents and we make the mistake of attempting, without any explanation, to impose things on our children that we ridiculed and resented when our parents did them towards us. Apart from those things: here we see in Jephthah a fallible saviour, and a saviour who perpetuated upon his descendants his own sin and fate. But isn't it wonderful today that we have a Saviour in Christ Jesus who followed the will of God perfectly, who knew the mind of God completely, who displayed the power of God fully - and He now has made His descendants, in the Spirit, more than conquerors through Him who loved us; so that we, as Hebrews says, have a Great High Priest who can be touched with the feelings of our infirmities - why? Because He was tested in life in the flesh in all points as we are, apart from sin.

Isn't it wonderful that though we are a reject today in man's eyes, God chooses what man rejects. Let us be careful not to make a choice that God would reject in our lives, and impose upon others the rejection that we have found - but let us rejoice in our wonderful Saviour, in whom we have full complete and eternal salvation. May God bless His word to our hearts.

Father, help us all to realise this morning that it doesn't matter who has rejected us if we are accepted in the Beloved. Father, let none make the false conclusion that because men have rejected them for no fault of their own, that God has rejected them for His choice and His use. May we all realise today that there is a work for Jesus ready at our hand, it is a work the Master just for us has planned, may they haste to do His bidding, yield Him service true. May they say today: 'Lord, forgetting the past, I press on for Your call'. Bless this word to every heart we pray, and may it make a difference, for Jesus' sake, Amen.
 
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Transcribed by:
Andrew Watkins
Preach The Word.
January 2006
www.preachtheword.com

This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the eleventh recording in his 'Men For The Hour' series, entitled "Jephthah, The Reject" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.

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