Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 22 Apr 18:
1. Judges 11:2, 3 — “…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.” How often do we judge others without considering the circumstances that contributed to who they have become and that helped to influence their behavior? If we had experienced their circumstances, are we certain that we wouldn’t have made the same mistakes in life if not worse? And how often does our response to sinners merely drive them into deeper sin rather than lead them toward repentance, reconciliation, and a right relationship with God? God has given us a message of reconciliation before a sinful world. Does our behavior draw sinners towards Jesus Christ or repel them?
– 2 Corinthians 5:17-19 — Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
2. Judges 11:31-39 – Did Jephthah sacrifice his daughter? Jephthah may not have actually killed his daughter, though this is what is usually preached. Jephthah may have committed his daughter to celibate service to the Lord (a living sacrifice). Human sacrifice was forbidden to a Jew (Leviticus 20:2; Deuteronomy 18:10), and the Bible offers substitute (or redemption) for human sacrifice — “And all the firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem.” (Exodus 13:13) Many believe that Jephthah and his daughter did not mourn her looming death but rather the fact that she would never have children:
– “Several contextual indicators support this conclusion. First, the two-month period of mourning that Jephthah granted to his daughter was not for the purpose of grieving over her impending loss of life, but over the fact that she would never be able to marry. She bewailed her virginity (bethulim)—not her death (11:37). Second, the text goes out of its way to state that Jephthah had no other children: “[S]he was his only child. Besides her he had neither son nor daughter” (11:34). For his daughter to be consigned to perpetual celibacy meant the extinction of Jephthah’s family line—an extremely serious and tragic matter to an Israelite (cf. Numbers 27:1-11; 36:1ff.). Third, the sacrifice is treated as unfortunate—again, not because of any concern over her death, but because she would not become a mother. After stating that Jephthah “did with her according to his vow which he had vowed,” the inspired writer immediately adds, “and knew no man” (11:39). This statement would be a completely superfluous and callous remark if she had been put to death. Fourth, the declaration of Jephthah’s own sorrow (11:35) follows immediately after we are informed that he had no other children (11:34). Jephthah was not upset because his daughter would die a virgin. He was upset because she would live and remain a virgin. Hannah made a similar sacrifice when she turned her son over to the priestly direction of Eli for the rest of his life (1 Samuel 1:11). How many are willing to make such sacrifices? Actually, however, these tremendous acts of devotion were no greater than that which God requires of all Christians: to offer ourselves as spiritual burnt-offerings in service to God (Romans 12:1).” — Apologetics Press
– On the other hand, if Jephthah did kill his daughter, it would be no more shocking than other stories we are about to read in Judges. As previously mentioned, Gideon’s personal ephod was a direct affront to God that should jump out as scandalous to the highest degree; the Bible does not specifically call out the point, assuming the reader would clearly understand the nature of the offense. Human sacrifice was common among the Baal worshippers, and we know that God punished the Israelites for practicing child sacrifices as the Baal worshippers did. Archeology has also confirmed that the Jews slipped into child sacrifice associated with Baal worship. There is no limit to the evil of people who have rejected God. Where God reigns in the hearts of men, we have a reflection of Heaven – “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10).” Conversely, were God has been rejected, we will see a reflection of Hell. The Book of Judges is a warning to future generations as to what happens when society turns from God; it is appalling. “Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.” (Luke 10:11)
3. Judges 11:35 — “I have opened my mouth to the LORD, and I cannot take back my vow.” Take your promises to God very seriously — He does, and He demands that you fulfill them, holding you accountable if you don’t. Be very careful not to make promises to God in haste. Having said that, if you have made a vow to sin against God, you must not keep it. You will simply have to bear the burden of your careless words, rather than also the guilt of the act. Remember, Jesus said that we will be held accountable for every careless word that comes out of our mouth.
4. Judges 11:36 — “My father, you have opened your mouth to the LORD; do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth.” Jephthah’s daughter demonstrates incredible faith, surrendering her fate to God while honoring the promises of her father.
5. Judges 12:1 — “Why did you cross over to fight against the Ammonites and did not call us to go with you?” People will hate you simply because God has blessed you. People will also hate you when you receive the reward for doing what was right when they didn’t choose to do what was right. Gideon previously faced the same envy that Jephthah does in this chapter, but Gideon handled it better. The 42,000 Ephraimites who are about to die are a reminder of how destructive envy is and why one should avoid a quarrel before it gets out of hand.
6. Judges 12:6 — “Then say Shibboleth.” This may be the first recorded example of racial profiling. Ephraimites could not pronounce “Shibboleth” but rather said, “Sibboleth.” Anyone trying to escape the battle by crossing the river who was an Ephraimite died that day. This was a real tragedy. Discrimination is not always a bad thing. The word “discrimination” has two definitions: one simply means to distinguish one thing from another by identifying exposed differences, such as distinguishing men from women, tall people from short people, adults from children. This form of discrimination is used by everyone every day, including law enforcement. For example, if a man commits a crime, it would likely be a waste of time and resources to question women too, simply out of some self-induced “fairness” rule. However, men should not be presumed guilty or treated differently simply because they are men. The other definition for discrimination is to make a difference in treatment or favor based upon anything other than individual merit. The Bible strictly forbids favoring or treating people differently by virtue of their natural physical attributes or cultural attributes. However, it is foolish to act as if physical attributes and cultural attributes aren’t used to distinguish one person from another. Observe how many times the Bible mentions that someone was known for a physical or cultural attribute. God made us able to see the difference. The main issue is how you treat people who are different.
7. Proverbs 22:10 — “Drive out a scoffer, and strife will go out, and quarreling and abuse will cease.” Strong teams, churches, or organizations cannot tolerate divisive people.
8. Proverbs 22:21 — “…to make you know what is right and true, that you may give a true answer to those who sent you?” God’s word will give you a true answer.
9. Psalm 47:5-9 — “God has gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet. Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm! God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne. The princes of the peoples gather as the people of the God of Abraham. For the shields of the earth belong to God; he is highly exalted!” If we don’t feel overwhelmed with a desire to praise God today, despite circumstances, it is because we have a wrong perspective of God and the reality of the situation at hand. Joy is an issue of perception and understanding.
10. Psalm 48:13, 14 — “Tell the next generation that this is God, our God forever and ever. He will guide us forever.” One of our greatest responsibilities is to pass our knowledge of God to the next generation.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 22 April: Pray that God will reveal Himself to you in a way that will naturally make praising Him your passion. Throughout the day, recount your many blessings today. Share with others the joy you have in Jesus. Proclaim the goodness of God to as many as you can today but especially to your own family.