Judges 11: Jephthah

I’m not going to talk about Jephthah’s daughter.

Not because I don’t think her story is worth telling, but because chapter 3 of Rachel Held Evans’ excellent book, “A Year of Biblical Womanhood,” does it way better than I ever could.

I want to talk about those pesky little things in the Bible that I so often miss. Here’s three I found in Judges 11.

Jephthah or God?

Let’s play a game. I will can you spot which quotes are about (or said by or directed to) Jephthah or God?

  1. “Nevertheless, we have now turned back to you so that you may go with us . . .”
  2. “Go and cry to the gods whom you have chosen; let them deliver you . . .”
  3. “We have sinned; do to us whatever seems good to you; but deliver us this day!”
  4. “Are you not the very ones who rejected me? . . . So why do you come to me now when you are in trouble?”

It’s not as easy as you might think.

Does anyone else think it strange that Israel treats Jephthah the same way they treat God?

God has become a means to an end. They reject him but when they are in trouble, they turn to him and he bails them out. In the same way, they exiled Jephthah but called him back when they needed help.

So, the way you treat God influences the way you treat people. Hmmmmmmmm.

Things Could Have Been Very Different

Sometimes when we are talking about God and faith and all that, we get very fatalistic. We can be casual about it . . .

“Everything happens for a reason.”

. . . or we can be all theological about it.

“God has preordained everything from the foundation of creation.”

But in the pages of Scripture, it is difficult to stay that way. Take Jephthah’s letter to the king of the Ammonites, who is accusing him of stealing the Ammonites land. In it, Jephthah points out that not only is there a story attached to Israel’s occupation of the land, but that things didn’t have to end up the way they did.

Way back when Israel was making their way to the Promised land, they asked certain kings if they could pass through.

“Edom would not listen.”

“Moab . . . would not consent.”

“Sihon did not trust Israel to pass through his territory.”

God responded by giving Israel Sihon’s land.

What would have happened if Sihon had let them through? I believe that things could have been very different.

Our choices matter. They affect us. They change the future. We know this. It happens every day. So why are we sometimes so reluctant to admit that we have a say in the outcome of the future?

When The spirit Comes Upon You

“Then the spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh. He passed on to Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he passed on to the Ammonites.”

God’s spirit moves.

And when it comes upon you, it will move you.

We do not have a sedentary faith. It’s mobile. It moves. It goes out and about like the wind.

So if you have the spirit, get movin’!

What did you notice in Judges 11? Did any of these three things connect with you? How?

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