“Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valour, and he was the son of a harlot: and Gilead begat Jephthah.”
“We All Have A Past”
“I am drunk on yesterday. Its murmuring is preserved with every pounding of my blood, Preserved its joys, its sorrows; lasting within me, within me.”
What effect have events from my past had on my present life?
“It is not that I belong to the past, but that the past belongs to me.”
The Promised Land
“The past is part of the present which becomes part of the future.” Lee Krasner
One of the great blessings of the Scripture is that we who live today, and are able to study God’s Word, have the ability to look back over the lives of the individuals whose stories are contained in heaven’s treasure chest. The benefits we enjoy from looking at the past, present and future of individual lives provides us with a map that should help us forge a journey which avoids some of the same pitfalls that entrapped those who traveled before us.
This is one of the main reasons I find the book of Judges such a valuable instructional manual. Every life and example that we have looked at has underscored the importance of making right choices and following the guiding hand of God.
From the depth of the spiritual life and perseverance of Caleb to the courage of women like Deborah and Jael, we have witnessed the power available from God to finite humans to do for Him what they never imagined.
Today, however, our journey in the book of Judges goes from stories of those who chose to follow God to those who chose to do their own thing. Here’s where a whole new set of problems enters the picture. For when we choose to do things our own way, problems arise that we are not capable of dealing with effectively, be they problems from our past, present or even unknown challenges in our future. When my vision is tinted by the color of my own glasses – I tend to come up with supposed solutions to my problems that match the visual image I have of them. However, if I allow God to be the guide on my journey and if I choose for Him to clear the way before me, the challenges of my past, present and future become His to solve. And for all of us, this can be a huge relief. Especially as we try to navigate through the wreckage which is often scattered throughout our lives from a past that has left us spiritually and emotionally disabled.
Perhaps you’re thinking your past wasn’t so bad and praise God if this is your situation. But nearly everyone I know, including myself, has a past that is littered with the disappointments and failures of broken relationships, crushed dreams and unfilled longings.
For many of us, just when we think those old memories and buried heartaches have been put away forever, a remembrance comes back to haunt us and as we stumble over the debris we thought was cleared from our paths, we find ourselves being sucked into a dark and painful well filled with what we hoped we would never revisit again. For many people, paying a call on our past is not desired nor is it even a pleasant thought.
If alone, without God’s guiding hand upon our lives, we try to take on the effects caused by our past. Our solution may get us into even more trouble in the present as well as the future. This is exactly what we see happening in the life of Jephthah, the person whose life we will study next.
Let me go on record as saying that just because Jephthah was called a man of valour does not make him virtuous or honorable. Valour meant he was strong and indeed we find out he was a mighty warrior. But here’s where Jephthah’s past caught up with his present.
Jephthah’s dad, a man named Gilead, decided, as did Gideon, that having a sexual relationship with a harlot was behaviour fitting a man of God. While historians tell us that leaders and wealthy men at that time were offered women as rewards for their success, no where in Scripture do we see God agreeing with this ill-conceived notion. This wasn’t God’s plan – period! As you would expect, when our behaviour veers off the track of God’s ideal, trouble ensues. This is what happened with Gilead, whose son Jephthah, was born as a result of his affair with a harlot.
One might say that Gilead “did the right thing” for he claimed the child as his own and even brought his son to live in his home among the Israelites.
However, time doesn’t stand still and Gilead got old and died. That meant there was an estate to settle. Gilead’s other sons, considering themselves his “real” children, didn’t want Jephthah to share in any part of their inheritance so these half-brothers told Jephthah to get out of town. The words the Bible uses to describe the behaviour of Gilead’s sons was, “they thrust out Jephthah.” In Hebrew, the word “thrust” means throw out or if Jephthah had been a woman, it would have meant “divorced.” Obviously, Jephthah got the hint he wasn’t wanted anymore so he moved to the land of Tob. Biblical historians tell us that in this new land, where he was wanted, Jephthah gathered around himself what we would call a “mercenary army.” Soon his military prowess became legendary. Some writers have surmised that Jephthah’s battle expertise became overcompensating behaviour so he could show-up those family members who in his past had disrespected him.
This is quite likely, for without God’s control and cleansing of a painful past, our response can easily turn pain into revenge, or heartache into hopelessness, or failure into despair. And when this happens, the misery of a failed past can turn into hopeless resignation and we fail to live up to the potential God has for each of our lives.
As we will see, a past given into the hands of our loving Father is used by Him to mold us into the vessels that will contain the blessings for our lives in the present and the future. God’s handling of my past and yours should give us nothing to fear for the future and everything to hope for today.
“The past isn’t useful until its place in the present is found.”
“A Prayer For The Past”
“All sights and sounds of day and year,
all groups and forms, each leaf and gem,
are Thine, O God, nor will I fear to talk to Thee of them.
Too great Thy heart is to despise,
whose day girds centuries about;
from things which we name small, Thine eyes see great things looking out.
Therefore the prayerful song I sing may come to Thee in ordered words:
Though lowly born, it needs not cling
In terror to its chords.
I think that nothing made is lost;
That not a moon has ever shone,
That not a cloud my eyes hath crossed
But to my soul is gone.
That all the lost years garnered lie
In this Thy casket, my dim soul;
And Thou wilt, once, the Key apply,
And show the shining whole.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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