Jephthah’s Story (Judges 10-12)

We continue our study in Judges with the story of Jephthah, a fella with a rough background, a dysfunctional family and the humility to overcome it all.

Humility to overcome trials? Yup.

Usually we think of strength and tenacity when we talk of victors, but not this time. A major point in Jephthah’s story is how he overcame by obedience to God. He didn’t use privilege, excuses, power or force. God used Jephthah because of his humble availability and faithful submission. Jephthah serves as an example of fully trusting God’s sovereignty despite our circumstances, our fears or even our hopes for the future.

Before I get into details and applications, I encourage you to read the entire text of this week’s focus: Judges 10-12. We can talk all we want, but we must start at the Source.

Here we go again.

  • Judges 10:10—16

God is awesome. That fact simply cannot be missed in this section of Scripture.

He appears here as the merciful, gracious, long-suffering Father. He has already rescued the Israelites again and again. I’m not talking about Egypt, Moses, the Red Sea or even wandering in the desert or conquering Jericho. He has rescued them dozens of times just here in the book of Judges! God’s faithfulness is matched in consistency only by human forgetfulness. In this passage, the Israelites cry out to Him again.

I must admit, I like seeing God close to the end of His patience here. As a parent, I struggle to be long-suffering with my kids, and, frankly, while reading the book of Judges (after reading the years of complaining in Joshua and before), I’ve grown short on patience with the Israelites, too.

On the other hand, I am exceedingly grateful that our God offers second chances. And third chances. And one-hundred-ninety-seventh chances. How amazing is that??

His grace extends to those who are forgetful and to those who are faithful. Like Jephthah.

Jephthah                                                              

  • Judges 11-12
  • Hebrews 11:32

The son of a prostitute disowned by his half-brothers, Jephthah came from a dysfunctional family. He likely had a rough childhood that led to a difficult adulthood. But he didn’t use those as fodder for a victim mentality. Instead he stood up as a man of faith, one willing to serve God even for the benefit of those who had betrayed and abandoned him. It reminds me of Joseph back in Genesis.

Before rising up to save those family members who had harmed him, Jephthah made a vow to God. Most people in this situation would like make a vow that if God helped them win, they would lord it over all those annoying brothers and their families for all time. Not this guy. He vowed that the first thing to come out of his house upon a victorious return would be given to God. So instead of securing his own glory and future, Jephthah promised to greater glory to God. Unfortunately for Jephthah (and his family), the first thing to greet him was his only child, his unmarried daughter.

Now it may have been a foolish vow, but he made it anyway. More importantly, after conquering the Ammonites, Jephthah chose to keep that vow, even at great personal sacrifice. He could have backed out or tried to manipulate God (as if that were possible) with some excuse of “But I didn’t know!” Rather than seeking a loophole, Jephthah kept his word. He was a man of honor, one who trusted that God completely.

  • What in my background or my present do I use as an excuse for not fully following God?

God is our merciful Father, but He is also the Great Reverser of fortunes. When Jephthah kept his vow, he surrendered his future. His security. By all human expectations, that should have been the end for him. He should have been forgotten upon his death. But a thousand years after his death, he was still remembered. Not just remembered, but listed in the great Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11.

“For this is what the Lord says: ‘For the eunuchs who observe my Sabbaths and choose what pleases me and are faithful to my covenant, I will set up within my temple and my walls a monument that will be better than sons and daughters. I will set up a permanent monument for them that will remain.”
— Isaiah 56:4–5

Through those who are faithful, God can build an everlasting legacy greater than anything accomplished through mere human efforts. He’s not limited to human understanding or means.

So Jephthah never had sons. He had a God greater than sons and his faithfulness to this God secured his future. An everlasting future.

  • What great reversals have you witnessed?

Talk to me!

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