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Bible Pathways 03/26/2002

March 26

Read Judges 10 -- 11

In Today's Reading:

Two more judges join the list. Only about 50 words are used to define each's life; yet God saw fit to record them in His Book. What can we learn from them? After each dies, Israel sins again. This time God proclaims: Go and cry to the gods which you have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation (Judges 10:14). The next judge is Jephthah, who makes a vow that, if God will give him victory, he will dedicate his best to God.

Verse for Today:

Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valor, and he was the son of an harlot (Judges 11:1).


Tola, then Jair, judges Israel; Israel forsakes the Lord and worships idols; Israel severely oppressed by Philistines and Ammorites for 18 years; Ammon makes war against Israel; the Spirit of God gives Jephthah victory over Ammonites; Jephthah's daughter dedicated to God.

Jephthah was not a true Israelite since his mother was a harlot (11:1). Jephthah had experienced tragic childhood rejection by his family and by the people of God. He was cast out by his father's family and fled from the land of promise. But, when the children of Ammon made war against Israel, his military valor and leadership were recognized and the elders of Gilead went to fetch Jephthah to be their captain (Judges 11:5-6).

Jephthah vowed a vow to the Lord, and said, If You . . . deliver the children of Ammon into my hands, Then . . . whatsoever comes forth from 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 as to what his sacrifice would be in the Lord's hands. God answered his prayer and gave him a great victory over the Ammonites.

Everything that happened was of God, Who, in His providence, arranged that Jephthah's daughter should be the first to emerge from his house. 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" (11:34-40). This could not have meant a 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 and evil practice of heathen worship to false gods (Leviticus 20:2-5; Deuteronomy 12:29-31; 18:10-12). How could it be imagined that Jephthah would cut the throat of his daughter, burn her on a altar as an offering to God? To do that would have made God, as well as this man of faith, responsible for a horrible murder, since it was the Spirit of the Lord that came upon Jephthah. . . . and the Lord delivered them into his hands (Judges 11:29). 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 that would please the Lord.

How Jephthah fulfilled his vow becomes clear as we consider all of the facts. First: She was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter (11:34). The Lord had long ago declared that the firstborn was to be "sanctified" -- not sacrificed: The firstborn are Mine (Exodus 13:2; Numbers 3:13). In keeping nothing back for himself, Jephthah ended his bloodline by the perpetual celibacy of his daughter. 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 mountains 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 to the Lord. Undoubtedly, Jephthah's daughter became one of the servants of God in the Tabernacle at Shiloh.

When Jephthah was rejected by his family and forced to leave his country, many people in his circumstances would have become bitter when asked to join their fight against the Ammonites. Jephthah could have responded: "Serves you right, I hope you lose." But his faith was in God and the Ammorites' battle was against the Lord's people.

When God brings His children into circumstances they do not understand, there is a tendency to react as though they are being controlled or even punished by men. But our Heavenly Father permits these things -- not to punish us, but to mold us, to strengthen our faith, and to prove that His grace is sufficient for all of life's trials.

In the Book of Hebrews, God proclaims His highest honor upon Jephthah of David also, and Samuel and the prophets who through faith subdued kingdoms as one who wrought righteousness (Hebrews 11:32-33).

A Thought from Psalms: It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn Your statutes (119:71).

Christ Portrayed:

By Jephthah's only child as she submitted to her father's will (Judges 11:34-40). Jesus also fully submitted to His Heavenly Father's will when He said: Nevertheless not as I will, but as You will (Matthew 26:39).

Word Studies:

11:3 vain men = reactionaries, outcasts, renegades; 11:37 fellows = female virgin companions; 11:40 lament = commemorate in honor.

Prayer Needs:

Government Officials: Justice Sandra O'Connor, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (CA), and Sen. Lincoln Chafee (RI) · Pray for your Pastor · Country: Afghanistan (26 million) in central Asia · Major languages: Pastu and Afghan Persian (Dari) · Hostile to Christian evangelization. For a Muslim to convert to Christianity is automatic execution · Prayer Suggestion: Bless the Lord for your redemption (Psalms 103:4).

Optional Reading: John 17

Memory Verse for the Week: Matthew 5:16

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