Walk in Wisdom – Gleanings from the Scripture
Judges 11.30 – “30 And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD and said, “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, 31 then whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering…34 Then Jephthah came to his home at Mizpah. And behold, his daughter came out to meet him with tambourines and with dances. She was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter. 35 And as soon as he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you have become the cause of great trouble to me. For I have opened my mouth to the LORD, and I cannot take back my vow.”
Our text today contains one of those very enigmatic portions of Scripture. A man, seeming to want to do well, makes a promise to God and then carries it out – resulting in his daughter’s death. A sacrificial death at that. How are we to look upon such accounts?
First, we need to note that there are some things we simply should never bind ourselves to. Jepthah’s oath was contrary to God’s Law. Human sacrifice was forbidden. He had no right to even make such an oath, and therefore should have repented of his foolishness rather than buying into some twisted form of
integrity, and carrying out an oath that was so heinous.
Second, Proverbs 6 gives us the remedy for such foolish acts. “1 My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, have given your pledge for a stranger, 2 if you are snared in the words of your mouth, caught in the words of your mouth, 3 then do this, my son, and save yourself, for you have come into the hand of your neighbor: go, hasten, and plead urgently with your neighbor. 4 Give your eyes no sleep and your eyelids no slumber; 5 save yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the hand of the fowler.”
Third, it is wise to remember that it is very tempting to make oaths and vows to God when we are in tight places, hoping to influence Him by our consecration. In fact, it is really only manipulation. And you can’t manipulate God. It has a wrong presupposition as its starting point. God is NOT impressed with outrageous and foolish promises. He will not be bribed, baited, have His arm twisted or allow Himself to be otherwise constrained by such nonsense. It was right for Jephthah to ask for God’s aid in routing the enemy, and that in and of itself was sufficient. Our prayers are sufficient – without some sort of trying to get God act favorably by sweetening the pot. It makes God out to be weak and bribable. It is an insult of the highest order. And ultimately it is an attempt to be more powerful than, or to exert power over, God. It is the same process as black magic: Push the right buttons, get the desired result.
Fourthly, Jephthah bought into a thought system many of us have also fallen into. Not taking into account that God had His own agenda for dealing with Israel and their enemies, Jephthah made a one-for-one correspondence between his wicked vow, and his subsequent victory. Thinking God HAD taken the bribe, he now thought he had to pay it. It apparently never dawned on him that God was at work period. That these enemies needed to be defeated, and that Jephthah had been raised up for that very purpose.
Beginning with himself rather than God, he failed to take into account God’s plan and purposes, and left himself the victim – or more properly his DAUGHTER the victim – of a theology that did not consider God as God.
No doubt, many of us have been down this very same road, though to lesser degrees. All of us have so wanted, needed, God to act in a certain way – that we’ve made really foolish vows, oaths, commitments or promises we shouldn’t have kept even if we could have. Those are times to confess our foolishness to be relieved of the vow. To step back and examine why it is we thought God could be bought period, let alone so cheaply. And then to put our trust in the God of glory based upon His mercy, grace, love and promises – and not in clever schemes. We have not because we ask not, not because we didn’t make the right deal.