And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD, and said, “If You will indeed deliver the people of Ammon into my hands, 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.” (Judges 11:30-31)Oxymorons are figures of speech that express opposites. For example, we refer to jumbo shrimp, the same difference, pretty ugly—and honest politicians. It is sad when we associate politicians with broken promises. In Judges 11, there is a politician who kept his promise—a man named Jephthah. His entire life is an oxymoron—a study in contrasts. He is listed in the rollcall of faith champions in Hebrews 11, but in Judges 11 he evidences several character flaws. His greatest triumph led to his greatest tragedy. It fits the narrative in Judges, however, for the book is filled with heroic successes and horrible sins—often in the same chapter and by the same character!
Jephthah’s past was filled with difficulty (v.1-3). His mother was a prostitute. He carried the stigma of illegitimacy. How sad it is that children are often born into a hard situation—not because of their choice, but the consequences of adult sin. That was true of Jephthah and we see much of it today. Worse than any mockery he might have known outside the home were the taunts of his family. Where he should have found shelter and acceptance, he had strife and anger. Having his fill of it, he ran away from home. He was a survivor. The difficulties shaped him into a leader. Jephthah attracted a number of other malcontents, and they became mercenaries. The valor of Jephthah became renowned. The reality is—by the grace of God—we can rise above our past. A poor upbringing can be turned from a hindrance to a help. Instead of it being a fire inside to consume us with rage, it can be a fire inside to ignite us to rise!Jephthah’s resume’ would not have impressed someone looking for a leader. God, however, delights to reach into the garbage dump, bring out a discarded and battered tool, clean it up, and make it useful again. Most of us are reclamation projects (read 1 Cor.1:26-29). When Israel needed help, they sought Jephthah to lead them in battle. When God uses people like this, He gets all the glory. The man did not seek the position, but the position sought the man. It is your duty to prepare yourself for service and God’s responsibility to place you in service.
The Ammonites had declared war on Israel. Jephthah tried to negotiate peace, but when that was rejected, he called the people to battle (v.12-28). It was then that this politician made a promise he would keep, but one that he should never have made (v.29-40). Jephthah had the Spirit of God with Him, and that was all He needed! He was chosen by God and that was enough. Instead, he makes a rash vow that will lead to the death of his young daughter. God did not condone his action, Scripture simply records the folly of it. He should have prayed what we need to pray, “Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.” (Ps.141:3) Jephthah had enough faith to lead an army, but too much folly to control his tongue. ' May the Lord help us!