You may well have never heard of this hero of faith, or if you have you will probably know very little about him. So allow me to introduce you to Jephthah, the forgotten hero!
He did not have the best start in life because he was the son of a prostitute, and despite being a “mighty warrior” was later rejected by his own family and people. Yet when a national emergency occurred, Jephthah was nominated by the elders of his people to lead them into battle against the marauding Ammonites.
Maybe like Jephthah you have not had the best start in life having experienced a shed load of rejection. You have never had your basic need of acceptance met or fulfilled. If so, then be encouraged that God accepts you (Romans 5 v 8) and like Jephthah can use you.
Before going into battle Jephthah tried diplomacy first, but when this failed he was forced to muster the troops. Having done so he then began to have serious doubts about whether or not God would grant him victory, and so in the heat of the moment he made a vow. Not that vows were unusual, having been made by the following Biblical characters:-
Jacob (Genesis 28 v 20); Hannah (1 Samuel 1 v 11); King Saul (2 Samuel 14 v 24); Ittai (2 Samuel 15 v 21); Micaiah (1 Kings 22 v 14); King Herod (Mark 6 v 22 – 23) and the Apostle Paul (Acts 18 v 18.)
But the thing that marked out Jephthah’s vow was its crass stupidity! See what you think – “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering” (Judges 11 v 30.)
Victory achieved; guess who came running out of the house to meet the returning hero? You’ve got it, Jephthah’s daughter, whom without apparent objection was duly sacrificed!
The incident begs the obvious question – Why did Jephthah nor break such a stupid vow? After all it violated the sanctity of life by breaking the 6th Commandment (Exodus 20 v 13.) Perhaps it was because such a vow carried the force of a written contract (Deuteronomy 23 v 21 & 23.) But surely it would have been better to break a vow than sacrifice your own daughter? Had he not heard of the principle of “the lesser of two evils?” Obviously not!
Pause 4 Thought.
We may not sacrifice our children as burnt offerings, but do we sacrifice them for example on the altar of a vow made to career ambition by robbing them of our time?
What then does Jephthah have to teach us about faith?
The thing that strikes you about the story of Jephthah is that it is continually permeated with the phrase – “the Lord.” It is “the Lord” who gives victory (v 9), who witnesses agreements (v 11), who judges disputes (v 27) and who equips for the battle (v 29); reminding us that it is the Lord who must always be central to a healthy faith.
Challenge – How central is the Lord to your faith?
Theme: “The forgotten hero of faith”
Reading: Hebrews 11 v 32 & Judges 11 v 1 – 11 & 28 – 39
Preacher: Chris Hughes
Led by: Bev Sills