Jephthah is a double-sided puzzle to me…
On one hand, Jephthah showed extensive knowledge of Israel’s history and seemed to have faith in the God of Israel. But on the other hand, he made a rash vow which resulted in the sacrifice of his own daughter. The law provided an “out” for rash vows (Lev. 5:4-6), so it is unclear why Jephthah would do something so horrible as child sacrifice.
I think Jephthah’s story illustrates the consequences of idolatry and apostasy on the human heart. The heart becomes duplicitous – double minded.
I wonder what Jephthah and Israel would have thought of Jesus’ words…
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? (Luke 9:23-25).
Jesus’ words are convicting… Because just like Israel, I make compromises and look to modern-day idols to fill my longings. It always amazes me to read of God working on behalf of his adulterous people. Even though God did not “raise up” Jephthah, He still used him to defeat Israel’s oppressors. But Jephthah’s half-heartedness led to horrible personal consequences. The nation also suffered for their idolatrous hearts… as Judges 12 describes civil war in Israel.
What do we do with a passage like this? I know what I do… I’m more thankful for Jesus! I’m thankful that my sin has been forgiven. I’m thankful that the Holy Spirit convicts and equips me. I’m thankful for Jesus’ life of compassion and grace. And I’m thankful to be swept up in a relationship with the living God.
Oh God, help me live a life worthy of the calling I have received. Help me to love and obey you with a whole heart!
**For commentary on other significant parts of Luke 9, such as Jesus’ first prediction of his death and/or the Transfiguration, see “Day 24: Setting the Stage”.