Today’s reading: Judg 11:1–12:15, Phil 3:1–11, Ps 68:15–35
Today’s theme: God cannot be manipulated
We learn many lessons from the troubled life of Jephthah, the most important lessons is that no man or process can manipulate God because God is not a machine, force, law or man, He is God and cannot be manipulated by anyone. Instead we must seek to do His will and enjoy His grace.
Hurt people, hurting people
Then Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob, and worthless fellows collected around Jephthah and went out with him. Judges 11:3 (ESV)
Jephthah came from a very dysfunctional background, his mother was a prostitute, he was rejected and disinherited by his family and then he became the leader of a gang.
He became someone who was hurt, angry, bitter, ambition driven, manipulative, ignorant of God’s Law, abusive of his daughter, lacking boundaries, contentious, reactionary, revengeful, and doing what seemed right in his own eyes, for his own gain.
God wants to help hurting people so that they stop hurting people. Only a knowledge of God’s Word can break the bonds of sin and oppression, and the cycle of hurt people hurting people.
Note the great contrast with the Lord Jesus, He too was despised and rejected. Even those in His only family thought He was mad. He had to contend with prideful Pharisees. He was betrayed, abandoned and crucified with common criminals. The Lord Jesus serves as a model for overcoming dysfunctionality. Luke 4:18
Seek God’s guidance
And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “That is why we have turned to you now, that you may go with us and fight against the Ammonites and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.” Judges 11:8 (ESV)
The elders of Gilead did not seek the Lord in making Jephthah their leader, they were reacting to the situation with the Ammonites. They later pay God some lip service but they were driven by selfish motives and ambitions just like Jephthah, as we will see later.
The lesson for us here is that we need to seek God for His guidance, especially in the time of trouble. Thank God for the Spirit of Truth who guides and leads us into all truth. John 16:13
Think right about God
Will you not possess what Chemosh your god gives you to possess? And all that the LORD our God has dispossessed before us, we will possess. Judges 11:24 (ESV)
Theological accuracy is important. What we think about God is important. Wrong thinking about God can lead to much larger problems and is itself the root of heresy. Job’s friends are examples of those who argued like Jephthah, with great articulation, logic, and emotion, they were sincere, but in the end they were wrong about God.
Jephthah reveals his bad thinking about God by comparing God to the false god, as if they were equals or opposing forces. This is played out tragically in the next scene where Jephthah commits human sacrifice, something Yahweh never demands. Jephtah is mixing up the true God with the ways of the false gods.
In today’s world, theology matters. The worth of theological soundness has been depreciated in the church over the years, but we must hold firmly to the core truth and creeds of our faith and seek to know the truth of God’s word so that we might know God. See Jude 3
God cannot be manipulated
And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD and said, “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, Judges 11:30 (ESV)
Jephthah is so arrogant that he attempts to manipulate God into giving him the victory, to fulfill his own selfish ambition of ruling over his brothers.
True faith in God understands that God is in sovereign control and rash vows portray a lack of faith in God and instead show a desire to control and manipulate God.
Our faith should on one hand, seize the initiative to act in reliance on God and on the other, be willing to wait on the Lord. However when we try to manipulate God (who will not allow himself to be manipulated by anyone because He is God), we and those around us will suffer for our single-minded, selfish ambition.
Jephthah so desperately wanted to rule over his clan that he fulfilled the horrific and unnecessary vow, showing how callous he really was to anyone or anything standing in the way of his goals.
Our lessons here are; to avoid selfish ambitions, have faith in God and do not attempt to manipulate God as though He were a machine for your convenience.
I deserve it, not
The men of Ephraim were called to arms, and they crossed to Zaphon and said to Jephthah, “Why did you cross over to fight against the Ammonites and did not call us to go with you? We will burn your house over you with fire.” Judges 12:1 (ESV)
The “I deserve it” mentality is everywhere in the west and we must guard against it. We see this in the people of Ephraim, so blinded by their felt needs and demands that they seek to go to war with their own people over it. Jephthah is no better than them, in fact he sacrificed his own daughter because of a manipulative vow that also has its roots in the “I deserve it” mentality.
Jephthah shows his callous, self-orientated mentality again, by entering into civil war and killing his own countrymen rather than seeking reconciliation.
The lesson here is that we must avoid the “I deserve it” mentality and follow the example of the Lord Jesus, who showed us that we should pray that God’s will be done, not our own.
We will experience frustrations in our relationship with God until we realise that God is not obligated by our actions to do anything on our behalf. Whatever God does is on the basis of His grace, because we do not deserve it. James 3:14–18
Knowing Jesus is everything
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. Philippians 3:8 (ESV)
The one thing worth more than anything in the world is knowing Jesus. We should mediate on that today – what is our greatest treasure, our soul’s greatest desire? it should be this.
Trust God for salvation
Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation. Selah Our God is a God of salvation, and to GOD, the Lord, belong deliverances from death. Psalm 68:19–20 (ESV)
We can trust God for salvation, we do not need to manipulate Him, He desires to save us.
Most of the above post is a copy of the original notes from the same date in 2014.
Desiring God on Philippians 3