Thursday, April 1, 2010

Foolish Promises

Scripture: And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD : "If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord's, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering." (Judges 11:30-31)

Observation: Anyone that's seen a movie or read a fable can guess what happens next: Jephthah will have to sacrifice whatever he treasures most. And indeed that's what happens. His daughter, his only child, is the one to come through the door, and he is made "miserable and wretched" (v. 35) because he has to sacrifice her.

Jephthah's vow is foolish on so many levels. What did he expect to come out of the door of his house? It was bound to be some person—didn't he know how God felt about human sacrifices? And didn't Jephthah understand that God was already with him (v. 29)? Why did he think anything he could promise to God would change what God was going to do?

Application: I hope that my own foolishness is not exposed in such a catastrophic way, but I know that sometimes I treat God exactly as Jephthah did. "If only you'll get me through this situation, Lord, I promise I'll do X, Y, and Z." God doesn't need my promises. He merely asks for my faith, and for me to trust that his will is greater than my own.

Prayer: Lord, I know that I am prone to focus on my own will rather than on yours. When I do that, I'm likely to just make a mess of things. So I pray what your son taught us to pray: thy will be done. Let it be your purposes that guide my life.

Is there any area of your life that you're trying to exert your will ahead of God's?


  1. That scripture stunned me as well. Your thoughts were exactly as mine. What else would come through the door?

    I was torn by two thoughts on this verse. First, how we can often be wreckless with God's belongings(or foolish as you say). Of course, I have many examples from my own life to ponder.

    Second, the devotion that Jephthah showed when he sacrificed his one and only daughter is, quite honestly, greater than I can possibly imagine in myself.

    Thanks, Scott.


  2. There's a lot of debate from theologians on this passage as to whether sacrifice here means that Jephthah 'killed' his daughter. The alternative to killing is usually seen as something like he gave her over to the temple to live her life as a virgin never to be married.

    However you read this, you're right that it was pretty foolish on Jephthah's part, while on the other hand, as Sharon points out, it was also very noble of him to carry out his vow.

  3. Thanks Scott.

    I focused on II Cor 1:3&4 this morning, especially that God "comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God".
    God's comfort to me in the face of life-threatening illness was incredible to the point he gave me peace of mind even though I had a family with two very young children. His comfort has frequently been the basis for my being able to share His comfort with others. It has been a gift from God to be able to pass along the Love of Christ to others. I pray for continued opportunity to share His love in this way with others.