March 26

Read Judges 10 -- 11

After 18 years of suffering (Judges 10:8) because they worshiped many false gods, the children of Israel said to the Lord, We have sinned. . . . And they put away the strange gods (foreign idols) from among them, and served the Lord (10:15-16). When the Ammonites made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to fetch Jephthah . . . to be their captain, that we may fight the Ammonites (11:5-6).

Jephthah prayed: If You shall without fail deliver the children of Ammon into my hands, Then it shall be, that whatever comes forth out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace . . . shall surely be the Lord's, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering (11:30-31). Jephthah left the outcome in the Lord's hands as to what his sacrifice would be. His greatest joy came as God answered his prayer and gave him victory over the Ammonites.

Everything that happened was of God, who, in His providence, arranged that Jephthah's daughter should be the first to meet him. It was as if God were saying: "I have given you all you asked, your restoration, your leadership, and the freedom of Israel from oppression; now I ask you to give Me your only child in return" (11:30-40). This could not have meant human sacrifice, as some have supposed. Jephthah knew the Scriptures well, as expressed in his messages to the Ammonites (11:12-27). Human sacrifices were condemned as an abominable evil practiced in heathen worship (Leviticus 20:2-5; Deuteronomy 12:29-31; 18:10-12). How could it be imagined that he would cut the throat of his daughter to offer her as a burnt offering upon an altar? To do that would have made God, as well as this man of faith, responsible for a vile murder, since it was the Spirit of the Lord who gave Jephthah his victory (Judges 11:29,32). Obviously we must interpret Jephthah's statement: I will offer it up for a burnt offering (11:31) to mean something acceptable under the Law.

How Jephthah fulfilled his vow becomes clear as we consider all the facts. First: She was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter (11:34). The Lord declared that the firstborn were to be "sanctified" -- not sacrificed: The firstborn are Mine (Exodus 13:2; Numbers 3:13). And his daughter's response to Jephthah's vow made the outcome unmistakably clear. She asked for two months to go up and down the valleys to bewail my virginity (Judges 11:37) -- meaning to "bewail that I will never marry" -- not to "bewail my death on an altar." And, to remove all possible doubt, we read that he did with her according to his vow which he had vowed: and she knew no man (she never married) (11:39). She was dedicated to serve the Lord in lifelong chastity, even as Hannah dedicated Samuel as a "spiritual" burnt offering unto the Lord. Undoubtedly, Jephthah's daughter became one of the servants of God in the Tabernacle at Shiloh.

The writer of Hebrews declared: Time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthah; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness (Hebrews 11:32-33).

Christ Portrayed: By Jephthah's only child as she wholly submitted to her father's will even as Jesus wholly submitted to His Father's will (Judges 11:34-40; compare Matt. 26:39).

Word Studies: 11:3 vain men means worthless renegades; 11:37 fellows means female virgin companions; 11:40 lament means commemorate.

Prayer:

Government Officials: Justice Sandra O'Connor, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (CA), and Sen. Lincoln Chafee (RI) · BPM Staff: Pam Pendergrast · Pray for Barbara Waddell, Chair Emeritus, Ohio National Day of Prayer · Pray for the Bible Pathway International Radio broadcast in memory of Rev. Dewey Conley · Country: Brazil (171 million) in South America · Major languages: Portuguese and Spanish · Religious freedom · 87% Roman Catholic; 7% Protestant; 4% various forms of spiritism · Prayer Suggestion: Pray and thank God for all His blessings (Psalms 68:19).

Optional Reading: John 17

Memory Verse for the Week: Colossians 2:11