Several years ago, author Joshua Infantado (on the becomingchristians.com website) had published an article entitled “5 Powerful Lessons from the Life of Jephthah”. As I have just finished preaching on Jephthah, I thought it would be good to reference the five points or lessons learned from the life of Jephthah that Infantado put forth. He started with these words, ‘Among the most difficult stories to understand in the Bible is the story of Jephthah. Though an obscure figure in the Bible, Jephthah attained honor to be mentioned in the “heroes of faith” chapter in Hebrews 11. However, if we read Jephthah story summary and the seemingly harsh sacrifice of her daughter, we might immediately question the wisdom of having him listed in Hebrews 11. Some critics of the Bible would even seize the life of Jephthah as an example of God’s unreasonable sense of justice and mercy. For these reasons, we need to take a deeper look at the story of Jephthah. Did Jephthah really have a very sinful life that should have disqualified him from entering the Kingdom of God? Did his story really reveal God as a God who is bloodthirsty and devoid of mercy? Let’s find out today as we learn the lessons from the life of Jephthah.’
And then, Infantado went on to point out the following five lessons to learn from the life of Jephthah:
Lesson no. 1: Keeping your word. Jephthah’s story is found in Judges 11 to 12 in which he made a rash, unwise vow to God in exchange for a military victory.
God granted Jephthah’s request and now it came time for Jephthah to fulfill his vow to God. As difficult and heartbreaking this has been to Jephthah, he still chose to keep his vow to God. One of the characteristics of the people who would dwell with the LORD are the people who keep their words. This is certainly what describes Jephthah and this should also be the same thing that should be said about us Christians. Never make promises that you are not able to fulfill. When you don’t keep your word, you lose credibility. Christians are expected to be keepers of their word. Can people trust us with our words? Are they able to believe us when we say something? Are we truthful with the words we say? Christians are supposed to be a living testimony and example to unbelievers and believers alike. If our words and actions do not coincide, how would we be able to influence others? How will they see the character that God wants us to develop? How will they seriously take the truths we say? It is very clear that God expects us to be truthful.
Lesson no. 2: Jephthah did not sacrifice his daughter as a burnt offering. Most skeptics and enemies of the scripture use the story of Jephthah to prove that we are serving an illogical and unreasonable God. Not only that, but some people even have a hard time writing a Judges 11 commentary because of this difficult scripture. A quick examination and deeper investigation will reveal to us the real truth about Jephthah’s sacrifice. What we thought to be a story of human sacrifice is actually a story of a man full of faith in God’s mercy and justice. (Perhaps), he offered his daughter for the service of God, just like Hannah devoting Samuel to the work of God. The point of the story is about a man’s faith and the keeping of promises.
Lesson no. 3: Understanding the faithfulness of Jephthah. Jephthah made it into the faith chapter of Hebrews 11 in that many people were affected by Jephthah’s vow. The vow’s effect was not just on Jephthah but to the many people around him. While it is very obvious that Jephthah’s vow was hasty and unwise, he nevertheless kept his vow to God. Jephthah knows about the importance of paying one’s vow to God (Deuteronomy 23:21-23). Jephthah kept his promise even if it was to his own hurt (Psalm 15:4). With this in mind, we can see that Jephthah’s keeping of his vow was an act of faith! Jephthah used his eyes of faith to capture the vision of a better hope of God’s promises which is GREATER than all what he had hoped for during his physical life. This is the true testimony of Jephthah’s faith and we can see here the reason why he was included in the faith chapter. “Therefore, we can conclude that Jephthah lived a life of courage, faith, integrity, and vision.”
Lesson no. 4: We may suffer because of the sins of others. Jephthah’s mother was a prostitute. This wacertainly an act of infidelity on the part of his father. His father sinned and Jephthah came into the world with the fact that he is an illegitimate son. At a very young age, Jephthah has to deal with the result of his father’s sin. When his half-brothers grew up and it was time to divide the inheritance of their father, Jephthah was rejected by his brothers. His half-brothers considered him to be an illegitimate son and therefore, should not receive any inheritance. The main lesson here is that people can suffer because of the sins of others. It is wrong to automatically assume that people suffer because of their own sins. As Christians, we must always remember that our sins will not just affect us, but also the people around us. However, that son, Jephthah, did not allow that rejection to control his life. Instead, he became a mighty warrior and a man of valor. We can all be Jephthah in this regard. Instead of lamenting the suffering we experience because of the sins of others, we need to realize that there is always hope. God allows certain things to happen because He puts more importance on building your character instead of enjoying a comfortable life.
Lesson no. 5: We must be close to God not only during the bad times. We are called to develop an intimate and wonderful relationship with God. Our relationship must be constant and not conditional. We must be close to God both during the good and bad times of our lives. Sadly, we see people who can easily forget God when they lack nothing. They are too proud to call on the Lord, bend their knees, and pray to God because of the many blessings they enjoy. But when things get too difficult and all else fail, they turn to God as the last resort. God is not a spare tire that we only notice when we have a flat tire. We must have a close relationship with God to the point that He is the center of our lives. He is a powerful and majestic God and yet, He calls us His children and we can intimately cry out to Him, “Abba, Father!” This is the most magnificent and spectacular truth that we must all recognize. It is better to live a life constantly close to God rather than just remembering Him when tragedies strike. Remember, a time will come when you will seek God and He will no longer be found (Isaiah 55:6).
Final words: Jephthah was a rejected son of a prostitute woman. He stepped up to the challenge and became the judge of Israel. Though his life was not perfect and we can certainly list some of his faults, God still used him to fulfill His purpose. There were a lot of messages on Jephthah that we can learn from his story. We can be faithful like Jephthah and we can certainly be sure that God will be there in every step of the way!’