The opening words of Judges 11 are bittersweet:
Judges 11:1 (NKJV) “Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valor, but he was the son of a harlot…”
A mighty man of valor would be needed in Israel, a man of heroic courage; but to be the son of a harlot says something about his biological father, and would lead to his brothers expelling him.
But time and circumstance have a way of changing things. This mighty man of valor was needed when the Ammonites made war against Israel. The elders of Gilead enlisted the services of Jephthah and promised to make him judge if he and his men would lead them in battle.
It’s commendable to see the way Jephthah tries to reason with the king of the people of Ammon and how Jephthah knows his history, he knows the truth, he knows the Scriptures, it seems as if he knows the LORD. Israel hadn’t seized any land from the Moabites or the Ammonites in aggressive fashion – they didn’t even walk through Edom because they weren’t given permission. Israel DID gain the land of the Amorites (east of the Jordan) because King Sihon attacked Israel – was that the land Ammon was now trying to gain? That wasn’t their land, it was land given to Israel by the LORD.
Bible Knowledge Commentary, “Jephthah also argued that Balak…king of Moab, to whom part of the area in question used to belong, had consented to Israel’s right to this area. In fact, Jephthah claimed, the land at the time of the Ammonite invasion had been Israel’s for 300 years without any surrounding nations contesting it. Thus Jephthah denied any wrongdoing on Israel’s part against Ammon. Ammon was in the wrong by warring against Israel.”
But Jephthah’s attempt at diplomacy failed, since the king of Ammon paid no attention to his message.
The Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah and he attacked the Ammonites, he advanced (ran) to the battle – but then he makes a rash vow:
Judges 11:30–31 (NKJV) “And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD, and said, ‘If You will indeed deliver the people of Ammon into my hands, 31 then it will be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.’”
God did indeed deliver the people of Ammon into Jephtha’s hands, but the first person to come out of his doors when he returned, was his daughter, his one and only child. Jephthah tore his clothes and fell to the ground. Why make such a vow to begin with?
Jephthah’s vow was probably not fulfilled by sacrificing his daughter in death. The following explanation from Thomas Howe and Norman L. Geisler’s, “Big Book of Bible Difficulties,” explains:
“…for several reasons, it is not necessary to assume that Jephthah that ever offered a human sacrifice.
First, Jephthah was aware of the law against human sacrifice, and if he had intended to offer a human sacrifice, he would have known this would have been a blatant rejection of God’s law.
Secondly, the text does not actually say he killed his daughter in a sacrificial offering. This is simply inferred by some from the fact that he promised that whatever came out of his house first “shall surely be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering” (11:31). As Paul indicated, human beings are to be offered to God “as a living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1), not as dead ones. Jephthah could have offered his daughter to the Lord as a living sacrifice. For the remainder of her life, she would serve the Lord in the temple and remain a virgin.
Third, a living sacrifice of perpetual virginity was a tremendous sacrifice in the Jewish context of that day. As a perpetual virgin dedicated to the service of the Lord, she would not be able to bring up children to continue her father’s lineage. Jephthah acted as a man of honor and great faith in the Lord by not going back on the vow that he had made to the Lord his God.
Fourth, this view is supported by the fact that when Jephthah’s daughter went out to weep for two months, she did not go out to mourn her impending death. Rather, she went out “and bewailed her virginity” (v. 38).”
The men of Ephraim were offended – saying Jephthah had not invited them to the battle and threatened to burn his house down. Jephthah’s story was different, saying the men of Ephraim were not there for him when he needed them. It’s too bad it didn’t end at that, for what ensued was a sort of civil war between Ephraim and Gilead, and forty-two thousand Ephraimites were slain, simply because they were of that “family.”
After Jephthah judged Israel (6 years), there was Izban (7 years), Elon (10 years) and Abdoni (8 years).
As we read through the Gospel of John you’ll notice it is unlike any other of the Gospels. The other three (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) are called “Synoptic Gospels” because they describe events from a similar point of view. John’s content is different and contains 90% unique material, it completes the picture the Holy Spirit wanted to give us of Jesus. It was written by the Apostle John, somewhere between A.D. 60–90. According to tradition, John wrote this gospel while in Ephesus.
Matthew presents Jesus as King, written with the Jews in mind. Mark presents Jesus as Servant, written with the Romans in mind. Luke presents Jesus as the Perfect Man, written with the Greeks in mind. And John presents Jesus as God, written with the world in mind.
The Gospel of John emphasizes the deity of Christ. As a matter of fact, the very first verse is a proof-text that Jesus is God. “In the beginning,” reminds us of the first verse of the book of Genesis, that time before time, and there’s the Word (Greek = Logos) He already existed. The Word is with God, but John writes that the Word IS God! So, either there are two Gods (but we know that’s not true, that would be polytheism) or there are multiple “Persons” within the Godhead – which is exactly what the Bible teaches, “One God in three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
Cults falsely claim that Jesus was made by the Father, but if He were made, He would not be God, and John 1:3 tells us that, “All things were made through Him (Jesus) and without Him nothing was made that was made.”
John 1:10 tells us that the world was made through Him, but it did not know Him. John 1:11 tells us that He came to His own (the Jews) and (generally speaking) they did not receive Him. So we read:
John 1:12 (NKJV) “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.”
We read back in John 1:1 about the Word who is God, face-to-face with God the Father, but then we read in John 1:14 that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory – full of grace and truth. This is the Christmas story, when God took on human flesh. He would be born, to show us God and to die for our sins. Jesus was born to give us light in the darkness and spiritual life to the dead (we’ll see those two words repeatedly throughout the book).
The religious leaders questioned John the Baptist – why was he preaching? Why was he baptizing? He hadn’t been approved by them, but John had been called by God, and that’s all that matters. John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus Christ, the voice in the wilderness, as prophesied in Isaiah 40:3 – his ministry was to prepare the people for the coming of the Christ.
In many ways I think Christians today are called to a similar ministry as John the Baptist. We are called and commissioned to tell others to get ready for the coming of the Christ. Let’s do our utmost to point people to Jesus.
As we begin the Gospel of John I’d like to recommend a visual experience. This movie is WORD-FOR-WORD the entire Gospel. Perhaps you’ve seen movies on the life of Christ, but there aren’t many which are word for word! This movie uses the Good News Bible, which is a solid version, easy to understand. So, maybe you can watch it and get a visual as you journey through the book
This Psalm seems to describe the rule of David in his home, and at the same time in his palace. This Psalm reveals David’s heart in ruling, and in many ways reveals God’s heart.
What a great goal, to walk within our homes with a perfect (right/mature) heart (Psalm 101:2).
I love the declaration in Psalm 101:3, “I will set nothing wicked before my eyes.” Although the scope is much broader and deeper, this passage would be good to put in the vicinity of our televisions.
David was deeply grieved over the backsliders, the perverse in heart, the slanderers, the prideful, the liars – these would not be a part of his “house,” his administration. David knew all too well that the land of Israel, and the city of Jerusalem, would be influenced by the administration he chose…and even the way he lived life personally.
Psalm 101:6 (NLT) “I will search for faithful people to be my companions. Only those who are above reproach will be allowed to serve me.”
V. 13 – The NLT puts it this way, “Laughter can conceal a heavy heart, but when the laughter ends, the grief remains.”
This is why we gotta get real; don’t settle for anything less. Some people mask the pain, they hide the reality with the comedy. Don’t hide it, and don’t hold it in – give it God. He can mend our broken hearts, but we need to give Him all the pieces. Open up to others – God often uses His people to comfort the hurting.
In this world, and especially in the world of entertainment, laughter and tears go hand in hand. When a comedian commits suicide after years of battling depression, the irony becomes even more palpable.
V. 14 – It is possible to appear to be going forward, but in our hearts we’re going backward – this verse describes the backslider in heart (see also Acts 7:39).
Charles Bridges, “A man may be thought of as an eminent saint but may be a backslider in his heart. A secret cancer of unwatchfulness, conformity to the world, neglect, or indulgence has imperceptibly sapped his strength. He was once pressing forward. Now his prayers are formal and hurried. He is lukewarm.”
…but a good man will be satisfied from above.
Colossians 3:2 (NKJV) “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”
Charles Bridges, “God feeds the good man from a stream that flows from a higher spring.”
Proverbs 13:25a (NKJV) “The righteous eats to the satisfying of his soul…”
If you have any questions or comments on today’s reading, or you’d like to share something the Lord showed you, feel free to leave a reply below. I’d love to hear from you as we grow forward in 2021.