” And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord, and said, “If You will indeed deliver the people of Ammon into my hands….” (Judg. 11:30)
Our text this week from Judges 11 introduces us to an individual many can identify with, Jephthah. He was the son of an Israelite called Gilead and an unnamed prostitute. After his father’s death, his half-brothers forced him out of the family home because he was a son of another woman. Once out of there, a group of misfits banded around him and he became their leader (Judg. 11:1-3). This is not your ideal introduction of a’ judge of Israel’! God was horning his leadership and fighting skills during his time as a bandit! The point is that God can and does use people of even the most extreme of backgrounds.
Jephthah was such a gifted “warrior,” that when the Ammonites threatened Gilead, “the elders” of his tribe put aside their personal dislike for him, humbled themselves, and begged him to defend them. They even made him their leader! (Judg. 11:4-10) in life, the gifts that God has given us make room for us (Prov. 18:16). We do not need to manipulate or cheat to make it. We just need to learn to trust and obey God. He will make a way. Remember, whoever/whatever gets you to the top has to sustain you there!
Jephthah did not rush into battle, but wisely tried to peaceably settle the Ammonites’ grievance with Israel. His approach reveals his humility as well as his wisdom. Most men would have wanted to demonstrate their prowess in battle, in order to impress the ones who had expressed confidence in them, and to guarantee their future security with a victory. He tried appealing to the king of Ammon logically using his knowledge of scripture and the history of Israel in an effort to show him that the invasion of Israel was unjust, uncalled for and doomed to fail (Judg. 11:12-28).
Heb. 12:14 implores us to “make effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy”. Making peace does not mean compromising God’s standards. In fact, it is the very opposite.
EMPOWERED BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD
On the eve of battle, the Spirit came upon the already battle-hardened, experienced Jephthah and empowered him to lead Israel against the Ammonites (Judg. 11:29). This teaches us the important lesson that “natural ability is not enough to accomplish the work of God”. Only the Holy Spirit is sufficient to accomplish it. Jephthah’s military prowess, ability as a leader and natural wisdom were not enough to the work of God, neither is our natural ability. We need the Holy Spirit to realize God’s work.
After being empowered by the Holy Spirit, but before going into battle, Jephthah made a vow. In Israel, vowing to God was not uncommon and it was always voluntary. God never required a person to make a vow to Him. Jephthah did not need to make this vow. The presence of the Spirit of God with him was a guarantee of success. Nevertheless, he promised that if the Lord would give him victory, he would give God “whatever” came “out of the door” of his house when he returned from the battle. He would offer that person or animal, either as a sacrifice of dedication to the Lord, or as a burnt offering of worship (Judg. 11:30-31). His only daughter was the first to welcome him on his return from battle. As a result of his vow, he ‘lost his inheritance and future’.
Jephthah’s belief that he needed to bargain with or bribe God, in order to get Him to bless His people, was unfortunate. His vow reveals that he had a rather unenlightened concept of God. His commitment to the Lord was strangely strong, but his understanding of God was not based on God’s Word. He had a poor revelation of who God is!
Each one of us is different. Some have been rejected because of their family situations or backgrounds. However, God can still use us all. God prepares His “tools” throughout their lives, and uses everything in their backgrounds to equip them to conduct a unique ministry for Himself. He then provides the Holy Spirit to enable them accomplish this work. It is futile to try and impress God with a vow or an offer of a sacrifice. We do not need to give God reasons to bless us. God’s blessings come by His grace and grace is unearned favor. So, if blessing is by grace, then to try and earn blessing is fruitless. God Bless You.