"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
October 7, 2015
(Story found in Judges chapter 11)
Jephthah was a great warrior. He was the son of Gilead, and his mother was a prostitute. Gilead was married (to another woman) and his wife had several sons, and when these half brothers grew up, they chased Jephthah off the land. "You will not get any of our father's inheritance," they said, "for you are the son of a prostitute." So Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob.
At about this time, the Ammonites began their war against Israel. When the Ammonites attacked, these same brothers who had forced Jephthah to leave, now sent for him. "Come and be our commander! Help us fight the Ammonites!"
But Jephthah said to them, "Aren't you the ones who hated me and drove me from my father's house? Why do you come to me now when you're in trouble?"
"Because we need you. If you will lead us in battle against the Ammonites, we will make you ruler over all the people of Gilead."
Jephthah answered, "Let me get this straight! If I come with you and if the Lord gives me victory over the Ammonites, will you really make me ruler over all the people?" Somehow I don't think he trusted his brothers too much.
"The Lord is our witness," his brothers replied, "we promise to do whatever you say."
So Jephthah went with his brothers, and the people made him their ruler and commander of the Army.
Jephthah sent messengers to the king of Ammon asking why he had come to fight against them. The king replied back that is was because when the Israelites came out of Egypt, three hundred years earlier, they stole his land, and he wanted it back.
Jephthah then sent a lengthy message to the king detailing what had happened when his ancestors, the Israelites, had tried to cross the land and was denied permission. There was a battle that ensued, and the Lord gave Israel the victory. One of the points he made in his dissertation was, "So you see, it was the Lord, the God of Israel, who took away the land from the Ammonites and gave it to Israel. Why, then, should we give it back to you? You keep whatever your god Chemosh gives you, and we will keep whatever the Lord our God gives us." But the king of Ammon paid no attention to Jephthah's message.
At that time, the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah and he led an army against the Ammonites.
Jephthah made a vow to the Lord. He said, "If you give me a victory over the Ammonites, I will give to the Lord whatever comes out of my house to meet me when I return in triumph. I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering."
So Jephthah led his army against the Ammonites, and the Lord gave him victory.
When Jephthah returned home, his daughter came out to him him, playing on a tambourine and dancing for joy. She was his one and only child; he had no other sons or daughters. When he saw her, he tore his clothes in anguish. "Oh, my daughter!" he cried out. "You have completely destroyed me! You've brought disaster on me! For I have made a vow to the Lord, and I cannot take it back."
She said, "Father, if you have made a vow to the Lord, you must do to me what you have vowed, for the Lord has given you a great victory over your enemies, the Ammonites. But first let me do this one thing. Let me go up and roam in the hills and weep with my friends for two months, because I will die a virgin (she would never marry or have children)."
"You may go," Jephthah said. And he sent her away for two months. She and her friends went into the hills and wept because she would never have children.
When she returned home, her father kept the vow he had made, and she died a virgin. Jephthah judged Israel for six years, until his death.
There are several things about this story that stood out to me and made me think. First of all, being born the son of a prostitute, then being raised in his father's household as the only illegitimate son must have been tough. I'm sure his brother's didn't treat him well, and he probably didn't have a real strong relationship with his step-mother. I don't know what type of relationship he had with his father. Did his dad love him as much as he did his other sons, or did he make a difference between the boys? Did his dad bring him into his home because he loved him, or because he felt obligated to take care of him? Was his step-mother kind to him, or did was she humiliated because of the shame he represented that her husband had had an affair with a prostitute? He very likely grew up knowing that he was the outcast, not the legitimate son with a rightful place within the home.
Then, perhaps it was after their father's death, his half-brothers decided that they didn't want him around anymore and that he didn't deserve a share of their father's inheritance. I don't know how that whole scenario played out, but his brothers chased him off the land. Did they even let him pack his belongings first, or did they send him on his way with nothing? But Jephthah left and went to another land to live. Did he even know anyone in the land he went to, or was he a foreigner in a strange land and having to start all over again?
I am assuming that Jephthah already had a wife and daughter at this time, because it doesn't seem as if a whole lot of time goes by before his brother's homeland is threatened and they send after him. His daughter seems to be approaching a marriageable age around this time; but there are no specifics given on time and how long it took this story to play out. If so, then he had the responsibility of knowing he had to look after and care for his wife and daughter. He was taking them away from everything and everyone that was familiar to them. Perhaps, he was taking his wife away from her family and his daughter from her grandparents, aunts and uncles.
When an enemy threatens Gilead, these half-brothers remember that they had sent away their best warrior. They perhaps realize that they can't win this battle against the Ammonites without the leadership and skill of Jephthah; so they go find him and ask him to be their ruler and leader of their army.
Jephthah has a hard time believing that they really want him as their leader, and that they will keep their word. Perhaps he was a tad concerned that he would go lead them into battle and God would give them a victory; then his half-brothers would send him away again. He may have wondered if they were only going to use him for his military expertise, then when they are finished with him, chase him out of the country again. But after their assurance, with God as their witness, he went with them and led them into victory over the Ammonites.
This is what I find especially heart-breaking in this entire story. Jephthah makes a vow to God, promising if God gave him victory over the Ammonites, then whatever came out of his household upon his arrival back home, he would sacrifice unto the Lord as a burnt offering.
Before Jesus came and died on the cross as our atonement and as the ultimate sacrifice, men offered burnt offerings as sacrifices unto the Lord at various times. They would go to the temple and offer sacrifices for the atonement of their sins. They would offer burn offerings as a sign of thanksgiving unto God. That was their custom and the law and how God ordained things, before sending His Only Son to earth. It's hard for me to completely comprehend and understand, because I didn't live back then and was born under the dispensation of grace, after Jesus sacrificing His life, so that burnt offerings and sacrifices are no longer needed.
I cannot imagine what was going through Jephthah's mind as he walked down the road towards home. Perhaps he was wondering if it would be a sheep that would run out of his home, or a servant, or a neighbor...... but apparently he was not prepared for the sight of his one and only child.
As he saw his daughter come dancing and twirling into the yard, rejoicing that her daddy had brought about a great victory over the enemy, I cannot even comprehend the sorrow and grief that must have entered his heart and mind. Did he have that fleeting thought of, "No, God! I cannot do this! I cannot sacrifice my only child. It's too much!!" He tore his clothes and his daughter saw the horror and despair on her father's face. He told her that he had made a vow to God and couldn't take it back.
His daughter told him that he must do that thing that he had vowed to God, knowing that it involved her life. That's a lot of love and a whole lot of faith! She went away for two months, and when she came home, her father paid the vow that he had made and offered her as a burnt offering unto God. That must have been the hardest thing he had ever had to do in his life; much more difficult than facing the enemy, who wanted to destroy and kill him.
I'm not sure that we really realize how important God takes the vows and promises that we make to Him. It's easy to say words when we're wanting God to answer a prayer or do something specific or give us a miracle; but then when it comes time to pay that vow, we often try to weasel our way out of it, or think, "God understands that in my heart I was willing to do what I said, so that's good enough." But when we make a promise to God, He expects us to follow through and do it.
Ecclesiastes 5:4-7: "When you make a promise (vow) to God, don't delay in following through, for God takes no pleasure in fools. Keep all the promises you make to Him. It is better to say nothing than to make a promise and not keep it. Don't let your mouth make you sin. And don't defend yourself by telling the Temple messenger that the promise you made was a mistake. That would make God angry, and He might wipe out everything you have achieved. Talk is cheap, like daydreams and other useless activities. Fear God instead."
When we make a promise or vow to God, it's important that we realize and remember what we say; and then follow through and keep our word. When we or a loved one is sick with a serious disease or we think someone close to us may die, it's easy to pray and make promises to God. When we are facing a difficult situation or are worried about our spouse or child or sibling or parent, we often will pray and make God some type of promise if He will intervene and answer our prayer. "God if you will heal them or let them live just a while longer..... or if you will save my loved one so that they will fully commit their heart and life to you... or if you will bless me with a great job where I don't have to worry about finances.... (etc..); then I promise to go to church every Sunday, read my Bible and pray every day, witness, pay my tithe, be nicer to people, not let my temper get out of hand and be more careful of my attitude and words, teach a Sunday School class........." But when God answers, we put off fulfilling our promise/vow, and then talk ourselves out of it or justify why it's okay for us to not do what we told God we would do.
Offering his only child, his daughter, up as a burnt offering had to have been so heartbreaking -- I'm sure that's not even a strong enough word to describe what he felt -- for Jephthah. I'm sure it would have been much easier for him to say, "God, I'll offer up myself in place of her! Please, don't make me do this! I'll give my life for hers!" But he had made a vow, and knew that since God had intervened and given him a great victory over the enemy, then he had no choice but to do that thing that he had promised to do, no matter how difficult it was. He was faithful to do what he had vowed to God; no matter what it cost him or how difficult it was.
Giving His only Son for our sins, wasn't easy for God to do. Having His Son to leave His throne in heaven to humble Himself and become human flesh, was not something that was done lightly. God knew that Jesus would suffer, be humiliated, be mocked, laughed at and scorned, rejected, beaten, and ultimately would have to die on a cross. Yet, He had made a vow that He would send a Savior, a Messiah, to earth to make the ultimate sacrifice and atonement for our sins. No matter how difficult it was for Him, God had to fulfill the promise that He had given to mankind from the very beginning of creation. I'm so thankful that God kept His vow and sent Jesus to earth to die for our sins!
May we all realize that whether it's making a promise to God or a promise to a family member or to a friend or to a co-worker, we need to take that seriously and fulfill our word!
I really don't understand the last half of this story. It just raises more questions in my mind than answers, and I can't claim to have any kind of insight. I understand that when we commit to put God first, that means that nothing else can come first, and we have to be prepared to give up anything else. But to give up his daughter would have been much easier than to sacrifice her.
I know a lot of people can't handle not understanding. There are even people who argue that God can't exist because they don't understand His thinking. This is one example where I just can't understand God's thinking. But my understanding isn't required.
Make-Ahead Muffin Melts
12 whole hard-boiled eggs, peeled & chopped
2 cups grated Cheddar Cheese
1 cup (real) Mayonnaise
12 slices Bacon, fried & crumbled
1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
3 dashes Worcestershire Sauce
6 whole English Muffins, split
Peel and chop the hard-boiled eggs. Mix the eggs with the other ingredients, other than the muffins. Fold together gently. Cover and store in refrigerator, if using the next day; or you can use immediately.
Spread the mixture on the English muffin halves,then broil for 3-5 minutes or until hot and bubbly. (Don't set them too close to the heating element in your oven.) Serve immediately.
This mixture is not only delicious served on the English muffins for breakfast, but is also delicious served on bread/rolls as egg salad sandwiches.
I'm pretty sure, if we would be honest and admit it, we've all had embarrassing moments when we've made body noises or had wardrobe malfunctions. Might as well laugh about it, because it happens!
I've had both occur!! One time we had had a special dinner and speaker for the women at the church where I was attending. The women's ministry leader hadn't been attending our church for very long and at that time I didn't know her very well; although we later became really good friends. Afterwards, the two of us were the only ones still left at the church and were finishing up the clean-up. We were visiting and getting better acquainted. We were standing close together and I bent over to pick something up when low and behold, it sounded like a horn tooting! Yes, I "passed gas"!! And yes, she definitely heard! What to do, what to do?!?! It wasn't like I could just ignore it like it hadn't happened. I stood back up and laughed and said, "Oops! Sorry about that!!" She laughed and it was a definite ice breaker.
Another time I had bought a new undergarment and was wearing it for the first time to church on a Sunday morning. It had a front-closure, and I had never had a brassiere that fastened in the front. The church was full that morning with probably 150 or so in the congregation. I was the church pianist and during the congregational singing that morning, I was just playing and enjoying the music. Suddenly....I had a huge oops! The front fastener came undone!! I couldn't just get up and leave in the middle of the singing. I sat there, and moving as little as possible, finished playing and prayed that the pastor would hurry and get up to preach so I could leave the platform. Our church didn't have a side entrance to the stage, but I had to walk down the side aisle to the back of the church (with arms crossed!) to get to the restroom. That was the one and only time I wore that particular undergarment!! It went into the trash as soon as I got home.
More recently, I was wearing a skirt -- which I don't often wear a dress during the week... or any other time. The sidewalk in front of Walmart wasn't completely even with the asphalt of the parking lot. I wasn't paying attention and was gawking around when my shoe caught on the sidewalk and I lost my balance and did the little walk/run thing for several feet trying to get stopped. I lost that battle, and ended up falling flat on my hands and knees right in front of the entrance doors. I have no idea if my skirt went flying over my head or not! I jumped up as fast as I could and tried to pretend nothing was wrong. It didn't help that a young mother came running over asking if I was okay. I assured her I was; although I wasn't quite that fine. I went in and stood by the coolers in the produce section to cool off because I was feeling a tad light-headed; but I was not going to admit that to anyone! I broke a toe and had some scrapes and bruises. Not one of my finer moments!
Things happen! Sometimes you just gotta laugh at yourself and know that these little "oopsies" happen to the best of us!
A smart person knows what to say. A wise person knows whether or not to say it. - unknown
We love you!
Loretta & Jon