Friday, January 22, 2010

January 24th - Jephthah and His Daughter

Prayer Requests
Pastor Aaron Preaching
Jordan Return from South Carolina
Superbowl Missions Trip
Dave and Brooke and Eden
Haiti, especially Brittany going to Haiti

Text – Judges 10:6-11:40

I want to step out of First Peter for a week since I didn’t know how many students we would have today. Next week we’ll continue our discussion on the difference between the external person and the internal person. Invite a friend next week because while every section of the Bible is important, this is something I really think it is important and something that for some reason really goes unstated in Christianity, unfortunately.

One real quick correction before we get into today’s lesson, and we have a lot of information and not a lot of time to get through it, so we need to get moving.

Last week I made the point that in Christianity the husband owns his wife and the wife owns her husband. This isn’t the same way that you own a car or a TV or any object. A husband couldn’t just randomly sell his wife, this is a permanent ownership. In the Song of Solomon it says, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” I wanted to make sure you understood this distinction and didn’t think of it as an object; this is a life-long commitment, or in the case of Christ and his church, it is an eternal commitment. Just as God told Adam and Eve that the husband and wife would become one flesh, the ownership isn’t materialistic, it’s more like these are my eyes, or my ears, or my heart; separation from any of these would be painful, just as would be separation from a spouse. Instead of thinking, “Who does this truck belong to?” It’s more like, “Who does this arm belong to?”

The story we’re going to look at today is in Judges 10 and 11, it is one of the greatest redemptive stories in the Bible, Old or New Testament. This story is very controversial, and as such is mistranslated in a lot of points. I want you to know that your Bible is properly translated in practically every point, but I can’t lie to you and say it is perfectly translated. This is why I have no problem that we have several different Bible translations in this class, and when I prepare I usually read the passage out of at least three different translations, as well as doing my best to look at the original languages. The ESV, NASB, NIV, KJV and HCSB are usually good translations, but this story is less of a translation and more of an interpretation. For that reason it doesn’t get taught a lot, but it such a good story that I think we’ll benefit a lot from reading it.

Some background, in this story the Israelites have been in Palestine for about 300 years, they’re still under the Judges, which is before the Kings, and there is a constant rise and fall of godliness. The judge before now was a godly dude named Jair, but he died and godliness died with him. This is a huge problem that under a godly leader, the church is godly, but when he dies so does the church. There is a powerful lesson in this that Jesus is our Judge and King, and though he died once to sanctify his people, he is not going to die again, so in Heaven our godliness and holiness is assured forever with no waning.

So instead of reading this whole thing at once, lets do it like we did Ezekiel and go verse by verse. Listen to the list of gods in the first verse of this narrative,

Judges 10:6 The people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth, the gods of Syria, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites, and the gods of the Philistines. And they forsook the LORD and did not serve him.

They served every false god of all of their neighbors and the only God they didn’t serve was the real one. This is a major problem today in America, people are all about every god except for the real one. Karma, horoscopes, positive thinking, astrology, reincarnation, yoga; all of these are totally anathema beliefs but America is into them. So what is the result of serving other gods?

Judges 10:7-9 So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of the Philistines and into the hand of the Ammonites, and they crushed and oppressed the people of Israel that year. For eighteen years they oppressed all the people of Israel who were beyond the Jordan in the land of the Amorites, which is in Gilead. And the Ammonites crossed the Jordan to fight also against Judah and against Benjamin and against the house of Ephraim, so that Israel was severely distressed.

God sent the Philistines and the Ammonites, from the South and from the East, to crush Israel. For 18 years the Israelites on the outskirts of Palestine were oppressed, then the Ammonites decided they wanted all of Palestine, and they crossed the Jordan.

At this point, finally after 18 years, the Israelites realized that they were in trouble and needed to do something, because they couldn’t fight so many enemies by themselves, and especially without a judge in charge.

Judges 10:10-14 And the people of Israel cried out to the LORD, saying, "We have sinned against you, because we have forsaken our God and have served the Baals." And the LORD said to the people of Israel, "Did I not save you from the Egyptians and from the Amorites, from the Ammonites and from the Philistines? The Sidonians also, and the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you, and you cried out to me, and I saved you out of their hand. Yet you have forsaken me and served other gods; therefore I will save you no more. Go and cry out to the gods whom you have chosen; let them save you in the time of your distress."

God is still angry, he brings up all of the times he saved Israel in the past, and yet they still sinned against him, forsaking him and following other gods. His response is, “I’m done saving you. See if the false gods you have chosen can save you.” This is by far the worst thing that God can possibly say to you. The Burger King slogan, “Have it your way,” is exactly the opposite of what you want. Pay attention to verse 14, “Go and cry out to the gods whom you have chosen; let them save you in the time of your distress.” It is going to be the main theme of the end of the next chapter.

Judges 10:15-16 And the people of Israel said to the LORD, "We have sinned; do to us whatever seems good to you. Only please deliver us this day." So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the LORD,

This is the best example of godly repentance in the Bible. God didn’t make a deal with them, he didn’t say, “If you repent, I’ll save you.” He pretty much said “it doesn’t matter what you do, I’m not saving you,” and yet the people repent anyways. In America salvation has become a contract or a compromise between men and God, saying pretty much I’ll repent if you’ll save me. We need to repent whether or not God will save us, because it is the right thing to do.

Paris Reidhead talks about the invitation method of today like this, “‘Accept Jesus so you can go to Heaven! You don’t want to go to that old, filthy, nasty, burning Hell when there is a beautiful Heaven up there! Now come to Jesus so you can go to Heaven!’ And the appeal could be as much to selfishness as a couple of men sitting in a coffee shop deciding they are going to rob a bank to get something for nothing! There’s a way that you can give an invitation to sinners, that just sounds for all the world like a plot to take up a filling station proprietor’s Saturday night earnings without working for them.”

Reidhead really puts it well when he sums up why we repent, “Lord Jesus, I’m going to obey you, and love you, and serve you, and do what you want me to do as long as I live, even if I go to Hell at the end of the road, simply because you are worthy to be loved, obeyed, and served; and I’m not trying to make a deal with you.”

So that is what the Israelites did, with no incentive to repent other that God is worthy to be served whether they perished under the Ammonites or not. And look at how God responds,

Judges 10:16 and he became impatient over the misery of Israel.

He is about to respond, even though he told the Israelites he wouldn’t save them, he is going to respond to their repentance.

We’re not going to look at many other verses, but check out 2 Chronicles 7:14,

2 Chronicles 7:14 If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

Now for the bad news for Israel,

Judges 10:17-18 Then the Ammonites were called to arms, and they encamped in Gilead. And the people of Israel came together, and they encamped at Mizpah. And the people, the leaders of Gilead, said one to another, "Who is the man who will begin to fight against the Ammonites? He shall be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead."

The Ammonites are going to take over Israel, and Israel doesn’t have a military leader nor a judge, and they need one. So they start looking around.

Judges 11:1-3 Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior, but he was the son of a prostitute. Gilead was the father of Jephthah. And Gilead’s wife also bore him sons. And when his wife’s sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out and said to him, "You shall not have an inheritance in our father’s house, for you are the son of another woman." Then Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob, and worthless fellows collected around Jephthah and went out with him.

Jephthah is my hero, he is a mighty man of God;

Hebrews 11:32-34 For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.

We see how bad things must have been in Israel that Jephthah’s dad had a wife but also had a son of a prostitute. This is an important point that someone doesn’t have to have a perfect lineage to do great things for God. God can and does use everyone and is able to redeem someone out of the wickedest of circumstances.

Jephthah’s brothers rejected him and wouldn’t let him have any land or money or livestock, and they drove him out of Gilead to Tob. Tob is probably East of Galilee, although we’re not totally certain. This area was constantly at war with somebody, so Jephthah was able to learn the art of war and had a band of mercenaries who followed him around and fought with him. Now, in their hour of distress, his brothers and all of Israel needs him;

Judges 11: 4-8 After a time the Ammonites made war against Israel. And when the Ammonites made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to bring Jephthah from the land of Tob. And they said to Jephthah, "Come and be our leader, that we may fight against the Ammonites." But Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, "Did you not hate me and drive me out of my father’s house? Why have you come to me now when you are in distress?" 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."

Just as Jesus was hated and driven out, so was Jephthah, but afterwards they came and sought him to save them. This is practically the exact same thing that happened when Christ was crucified then many in Jerusalem were saved on Pentecost.

We see how desperate they are, that if they win they promise Jephthah he can be over all of Gilead. They probably know Jephthah is a pretty godly dude already, something he is going to prove here and in his negotiations with the Ammonites.

Judges 11:9-11 Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, "If you bring me home again to fight against the Ammonites, and the LORD gives them over to me, I will be your head." And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, "The LORD will be witness between us, if we do not do as you say." So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and leader over them. And Jephthah spoke all his words before the LORD at Mizpah.

One little hitch, the son of a prostitute shouldn’t have been able to be a judge, so he is clear to leave it up to God to put him in charge. He relies on God, that if God gives him the victory, then he will be over Gilead. Then he goes and swears his allegiance before God.

Judges 11:12-13 Then Jephthah sent messengers to the king of the Ammonites and said, "What do you have against me, that you have come to me to fight against my land?" And the king of the Ammonites answered the messengers of Jephthah, "Because Israel on coming up from Egypt took away my land, from the Arnon to the Jabbok and to the Jordan; now therefore restore it peaceably."

The Ammonite king says the reason he is attacking Israel is because Israel stole his land 300 years ago. This is patently false; the land was taken from the Canaanites, not the Ammonites. Rewriting history happens a lot in today’s society, everything from misrepresenting Jesus Christ to saying that America was not founded by Christians. When you know history, you’ll be all the better for it. One way that revisionists do away with history is by making it so boring that nobody cares. This is a major thing to watch out for in school, history should be entertaining and enjoyable and you should learn something applicable from it, either good or bad. Making you memorize dates and names and places is way less important than knowing what happened. For example, I could give you the exact date of this passage, 1096 BC, but if that were the only thing you took away from this then I would be a failure in discipling you.

So realize that the Ammonite king has just totally made up history and is attacking Israel on a lie, his real reason is because he wants the land.

Jephthah knows his history surprisingly well, he knows that the Ammonite king is outright lying;

Judges 11:14-27 Jephthah again sent messengers to the king of the Ammonites and said to him, "Thus says Jephthah: Israel did not take away the land of Moab or the land of the Ammonites, but when they came up from Egypt, Israel went through the wilderness to the Red Sea and came to Kadesh. Israel then sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying, 'Please let us pass through your land,' but the king of Edom would not listen. And they sent also to the king of Moab, but he would not consent. So Israel remained at Kadesh. Then they journeyed through the wilderness and went around the land of Edom and the land of Moab and arrived on the east side of the land of Moab and camped on the other side of the Arnon. But they did not enter the territory of Moab, for the Arnon was the boundary of Moab. Israel then sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, king of Heshbon, and Israel said to him, 'Please let us pass through your land to our country,' but Sihon did not trust Israel to pass through his territory, so Sihon gathered all his people together and encamped at Jahaz and fought with Israel. And the LORD, the God of Israel, gave Sihon and all his people into the hand of Israel, and they defeated them. So Israel took possession of all the land of the Amorites, who inhabited that country. And they took possession of all the territory of the Amorites from the Arnon to the Jabbok and from the wilderness to the Jordan. So then the LORD, the God of Israel, dispossessed the Amorites from before his people Israel; and are you to take possession of them? 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. Now are you any better than Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he ever contend against Israel, or did he ever go to war with them? While Israel lived in Heshbon and its villages, and in Aroer and its villages, and in all the cities that are on the banks of the Arnon, 300 years, why did you not deliver them within that time? I therefore have not sinned against you, and you do me wrong by making war on me. The LORD, the Judge, decide this day between the people of Israel and the people of Ammon."

This is a fantastic recounting of history, Jephthah has studied up on his Old Testament history, and he concludes by saying pretty much, “If this is your land, why has it taken your people 300 years to want it back? Obviously you’re a liar and we’re going to fight, so lets leave it up to God, the ultimate Judge, to determine who is telling the truth.” This is another really important point, that even though Jephthah is the judge of Israel, he points all of his authority at God in Heaven. He is a godly dude.

Judges 11:28-29 But the king of the Ammonites did not listen to the words of Jephthah that he sent to him. Then the Spirit of the LORD was upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh and passed on to Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he passed on to the Ammonites.

So they go to war, and Jephthah definitely wants God to be on their side, and he knows that Israel has really sinned against Heaven, so he gives a promise to God to wholly devote someone to him if they win;

Judges 11:30-31 And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD and said, "If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, then whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering."

Here is some controversy, many people think that he meant a goat or a bull, but animals don’t come out to meet people. Jephthah fully intended to devote a person, not to be sacrificed like a lamb or goat, but to be a living sacrifice. Where it says, “Burnt-offering” is the Hebrew word Holocaust, which means a total sacrifice. It is likely that Jephthah had a very specific person in mind, a slave or a priest; I believe probably a slave because this would relieve them from their duty from their master and put their affections solely on Heaven. I have other reasons for believing this, but time is short. Leviticus 27 is all about this and I’m sure Jephthah knew it well.

Judges 11:32-33 So Jephthah crossed over to the Ammonites to fight against them, and the LORD gave them into his hand. And he struck them from Aroer to the neighborhood of Minnith, twenty cities, and as far as Abel-keramim, with a great blow. So the Ammonites were subdued before the people of Israel.

They didn’t just win a little, they rocked the Ammonites and sent them home in tatters. So the nation of Israel has repented towards God and returned to him. Remember they had repented from outright paganism. Now the story gets a little more personal. All of Israel would know about this victory and so everyone would be awaiting the victory parade, but remember the vow Jephthah had made, that the first one out would be given to God, so they had to wait for that specific person who was chosen.

Judges 11:34 Then Jephthah came to his home at Mizpah. And behold, his daughter came out to meet him with tambourines and with dances. She was his only child; besides her he had neither son nor daughter.

Someone else was supposed to come out first, but here comes Jephthah’s daughter running out to meet him. There is a lot of evidence to say that she is rather spoiled and disobedient, and here she fails to obey her father. She is Jephthah’s only daughter, and since her mother is never mentioned, it is likely that she is dead. In the Mosaic law a woman could receive the family inheritance if there are no sons, and so Jephthah’s daughter is his only chance for a continued lineage. Here is some probable syncretism, or when you mix one religion in with another: A priest and temple servant in Judaism can get married; the Apostle Paul said that the Christian ought to be married if they cannot stay single. In many pagan religions, especially during the time of Jephthah, a priestess was seen as being married to God and therefore couldn’t marry a man, so Jephthah’s daughter sees this as her never being able to have children. It's strange that it would happen this way, but it is possible that this is contained within the oath, and that this is much stricter than the law required.

Judges 11:35-36 As soon as he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, "Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you have become the cause of great trouble to me. For I have opened my mouth to the LORD, and I cannot take back my vow." And she said to him, "My father, you have opened your mouth to the LORD; do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, now that the LORD has avenged you on your enemies, on the Ammonites."

Tearing of clothes is symbolic of grief, Jephthah realizes that his lineage is dead. Why he can’t have more children is not told, but probably a war wound or some other reason has rendered him unable to have any more children. A vow to God is binding, and God upheld his part, so Jephthah has to uphold his part.

Remember what God told Israel to do at the beginning of this passage? He told them to go call out to the gods they had chosen to see if they could save them. Here is what the girl asks,

Judges 11:37-38 So she said to her father, "Let this thing be done for me: leave me alone two months, that I may go down the mountain and weep for my virginity, I and my companions." So he said, "Go." Then he sent her away for two months, and she departed, she and her companions, and wept for her virginity on the mountains.

Here is one of the very bad translations, when it says something like "up and down the mountains" or "out on the mountains", the Hebrews actually says, “Let me go down the mountain.” This is a contextual proverb referring to religion, something that has a deeper meaning that what it seems to mean. When someone got close to God, they ascended the mountain, they went up, or as Pastor Aaron sometimes says, they have a mountaintop experience. Jephthah’s daughter, in asking to go down the mountain, is asking to return to her pagan religion, her and her other pagans, maybe witches, to see if the gods of her youth can get her out of the vow that her father has made. They didn’t actually go anywhere, but spiritually they abandoned the God of Israel.

So we see what happened, all of Israel did a U-Turn, but she remained a pagan, she kept going straight on her path to destruction. For two months they sought deliverance from pagan deities, then verse 39;

Judges 11:39-40 And at the end of two months, she returned to her father, who did with her according to his vow that he had made. She had never known a man, and it became a custom in Israel that the daughters of Israel went year by year to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in the year.

She repented of her paganism, she became a servant of God for the rest of her life, and her return to the true God became a source of spiritual commemoration and an example for the girls of Israel. Some translations say "lament", but there is no reason for them to relent; the readers would know what they did because at the time of the writing this ceremony would still be going on; this is vital in determining what the Bible says is knowing what it said to the original readers. I'm sure this is what happened, because Jephthah, as a great man of God, would have known that he couldn't sacrifice a person, and even if he wanted to, he needed a priest to do it, and no priest would have sacrificed a person. She was wholly devoted to ministry, serving God, and worshipping him.

So your application is that God is a saving God, he can redeem someone out of every sin, every uncleanness, and from every false religion. Jephthah could have forced his daughter to follow his religion, but she would have done it unwillingly, but because he gave her option to seek Heaven on her own, she came to the knowledge of the truth. You can’t force someone to become a Christian, sometimes they need to be told to go see if the gods they have chosen can save them. Unfortunately for many, they will find out in Hell that their gods are totally unable to save. For the fortunate ones they will see this before they die and return to the Living God and repent, and he will redeem them.

A major application is that God saves both individuals and nations. Just because someone is in a Christian nation doesn’t make them a Christian, and each and every person must seek after God on their own.

Third, knowing God and history is vital for discernment. You need to know your Bibles, you need to know the God whom it refers to, and you need to have an understanding of the history of at least the church and your country.