“‘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…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.'” Judges 11:24,27
Jephthah, a ‘mighty warrior but son of a prostitute,’ is outcast by his half-brothers until help is needed by the elders of Gilead to fight the Ammonites. He agrees to be their head and exhibits strong leadership by not negotiating with the king of the Ammonites. “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. 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.’” (Judges 11:29-31) What was he thinking? His rash vow, his bargain with God, while expectantly confident and full of gratitude, was capricious. After the Ammonites were subdued, his daughter, an only child, was the one to walk through the door.
I’ve always reeled at this tragic account, and chastised Jephthah for his foolishness, yet with this story am regretting more than one recent decision I have made. It seems all too easy to have holy resolve and mental sharpness in the morning, and slip into impulsive decisions later in the day that disregard the big picture and ignore consequences. How can thoughtful surrender so readily become thoughtless choice? Thank You, Father, that You do not leave us there.
I saw a starfish on the beach yesterday, one of its legs broken off, but regenerating, and thought how like that creature I am. I cannot always undo, but in Christ my sin can be removed and I can re-do. I can learn and come into a fuller understanding of God’s forgiveness, mercy, and power.
Lord, You rebuild, You renew. You bore not only our bad choices, but our regret and the fallout from them on the cross. Grace, contrition, returning, are all of You. When Your Spirit brings righteous regret, see it through in me to genuine repentance and full return to You. Keep sway over all of me. (Mark 10:26-27; Jeremiah 24:6; Acts 15:16)