Read Judges 10:6-12:7
Known as a mighty warrior, Jephthah’s leadership skills attracted others.
When his half-brothers banished him because he had a different mother, Jephthah went elsewhere and became a leader in his own right. But when his brothers came into war against the Ammonites, they un-banished and begged him to lead them to victory. He finally agreed. Before the Lord.
Jephthah agreed before the Lord. ( See Judges 11:11) This man did not take words lightly.
By faith he used words to remind the Ammonites that it was Almighty God who had given His people this land (Judges 11:24). But the messages and words made no difference to the Ammonites. So the two sides went to war.
“Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah. He . . . advanced against the Ammonites” (Judges 11:29).
He didn’t just go, however. He also made a vow. Jephthah waited on God’s Spirit to move him into war, but then went ahead of God’s Spirit and spoke words on his own.
“If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return . . . will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering” (Judges 11:30-31).
I can’t imagine what on earth made Jephthah make such a promise. Clearly he hadn’t thought it through. What did he imagine coming out to meet him? A cow? His dog? We will probably never know.
When Jephthah got home after the Lord gave him the victory, we can imagine his horror when his daughter, his only child, came out to meet him, dancing around celebrating the success. But the horror he felt did not take precedence over the power of his word that he had given to the Lord. The vow he took.
The Lord had given him the victory. Jephthah had given the Lord his word.
And the victory Jephthah saw was overshadowed by grief and unimaginable regret.
If we look through eyes of faith, however, we see Jephthah’s heart for God. His first thought was not, “how can I get out of this vow?” but rather “I cannot break my vow to the Lord!” I’d be willing to bet the thought after that might have been, “What was I thinking?!?”
It’s a difficult story to handle whether we wear faith glasses or not. It speaks of rash vows, regret and sorrow. But it also tells of the power of our words and the importance of a vow. From here, the view of Jephthah’s faith is blurred by his reckless vow.
Then again, faith is being certain of what we cannot see.