Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Judges 10-11 - Jephthah the Judge

LINK: Judges 10-11

Probably the biggest question out of these two chapters is, "What happened to Jephthah's daughter?" Did he kill her? Although some theologians would argue that Jephthah took his daughter's life, I think not. First of all, God strictly forbade the Israelites to sacrifice their children. Second, God made a provision for difficult vows such as Jephthah's in Leviticus 27. Third, there was a standard way of redeeming a child dedicated to the Lord, such as the firstborn. If an animal had been the first to come out, then Jephthah would have given it as a burnt offering. But since it was a person who came out, the sacrifice would have been performed just as the dedication of the firstborn son -- a price would be paid to redeem the child. And fourth, the text here emphasizes the fact that she remained a virgin as a result of the vow and never mentions that she was killed.

I think it's significant that Jephthah kept his vow even though it was very difficult. His daughter was his only child, so he brought an end to his family line by offering her to the Lord.

Israel's "confession" in Judges 10:10 was not sincere repentance. They seemed to view God as their "magic genie" and if they just rubbed the bottle the right way, God would do whatever they asked. If they said the magic words, "We have sinned against Thee," God would listen and rescue them from their oppressors. But God saw through their false repentance and refused to deliver them (vs. 13). In fact, he taunted them saying they should seek aid from the gods they had chosen (vs. 14). When Israel really repented, there was action to back up their words (vs. 15-16). They put themselves at the mercy of God, got rid of the foreign gods, and served the Lord. Then God heard their pleas and delivered them.

How often do we ignore the Lord when things are going well and only call on him for help when we find ourselves in a difficult situation? Do we treat God like a magic genie? Is he there for my benefit? Is his purpose simply to be available when I need rescued? Do I serve other gods -- wealth, fun, self-gratification -- and then expect God to get me out of trouble simply because I ask?

God desires a relationship with his children. He wants me to belong to him, and him alone, every single day. He wants me to spend time with him and grow in him. I can't ignore him and go on my merry way until I hit a roadblock and then suddenly expect him to rescue me. I must decide to put away the other gods of selfish pursuit and serve him only.

Lord, we are often deceived and think we can have both the treasures of this world and your way. But we must choose which master we will serve. I want to commit all I have and all I am to you for your use. And when difficulties arise, I will know that you are right there with me to guide me in your way, because I will be with you on a daily basis. I know you are my God and there is no other. Amen.
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