Lessons from a prostitute’s son

Judges 11:1 Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior. His father was Gilead; his mother was a prostitute. 

Okay now, I don’t really know what to say about this chapter today. Quite frankly, I didn’t like it.  Well, that’s not really true, but the end result wasn’t very fairy tale if you know what I mean.  Here’s the scenario: You’ve got this guy Jephthah.  It seems that it was worth mentioning that his mother was a prostitute.  So for obvious reasons, he is shunned from the rest of his family.  Things get rough, however, and they come find him and ask for his help.  The Spirit of the Lord comes on him and he does some pretty good damage on the enemy.  This I like.  I like the fact that God isn’t really concerned with where we came from.  He is concerned with where we are going.  And that was almost enough for me today.  I wanted to write all about that.  But I just couldn’t avoid the content of the rest of the chapter.

You see, Jephthah makes a vow before God that he will sacrifice whatever comes out his door when he returns home from his victory.  Now I am not sure what he was hoping for, maybe a sheep or one of his wives.  Regardless, it’s a really strange vow to make.  Low and behold, his only child comes out the door.  He’s pretty torn up about it too.  The last thing he wants to do is kill his daughter.  He let’s her go dance in the hills for a couple of months, but then he does it.  The crazy thing is this: nowhere do I see God asking him to do this.  Instead, he made a vow and stuck to it.  And to me that is frustrating.  Now I am a man of my word, so I get the inner conflict.  But maybe be a little more careful with what you are promising here.

So what can I get out of this?  There are two things that this brought to mind.  The first is this: when you make a stupid commitment, why not ask for mercy?  I don’t really understand why he didn’t go to God and ask for release from this promise.  I can’t imagine that God really  wanted him to kill his daughter.  So why didn’t he get on his  knees before  God and beg for mercy?  Why not tell God that he messed up?  I see Moses and Joshua both pleading before God.  God’s pretty merciful in that way.  That I just don’t understand.  I think we can get the same way.  We stick to our guns out of principle without asking God for help.  Even Jesus asked God to pass the cup from Him.  Now in that case, God didn’t – but at least He asked.  Maybe sometimes we need to ask God if we can be released for the stupid thing we got ourselves into.

Secondly, I think we need to take seriously the things we are saying to God.  We sing worship songs that say, God I lay down my life.  Do we mean it?  We pray prayers telling God we will do anything, go anywhere.  Will we?  We need to think about what we are saying before we say it.  Let’s be ready to follow through with what we promised we would do.  And I guess I can admire Jephthah’s character when it comes to that.  He was willing to do a really hard thing.  Maybe, just maybe, we should take God seriously too.  Or better yet, maybe we should live a life that God can take seriously.   After all, we can count on His promises to us, but can He count on our promises to Him? 

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