In Judges, the judge that God selected to have temporary rulership over the people was Jephthah. Jephthah came from a pretty difficult upbringing, but God positioned him as a man to be a leader. Jephthah confronted the Ammonites. The Ammonites were looking to expand their kingdom and put their sights on Gilead Jephthah’s home (Judges 11:4-6)
Jephthah sent word to the Ammonites explaining that they were not welcomed and the lie that the Ammonites were spreading — that they were the rightful inhabitants of that land — did not have any basis in truth. They refused to even listen to messenger that Jephthah sent to let them know about their lie, instead, they geared up for war (Judges 11:14-27).
Judges 11:29-31 (MSG) says: God’s Spirit came upon Jephthah. He went across Gilead and Manasseh, went through Mizpah of Gilead, and from there approached the Ammonites. Jephthah made a vow before God: “If you give me a clear victory over the Ammonites, then I’ll give to God whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in one piece from among the Ammonites—I’ll offer it up in a sacrificial burnt offering.”
Jephthah was filled with God’s Holy Spirit and he went out to confront the Ammonite army with his own. Jephthah was so dependent on God to give him the victory that he made a promise to do something in return for the victory—he vowed to give to God whatever comes out of the door of his house when he returns in victory and offer it up as a burnt offering.
When he returned from the victory (Judges 11:32-33), which God gave to him, as he approached his house, his one and only daughter ran out to greet him. She was filled with joy and played a tambourine and danced and rushed to him (Judges 11:34). For her, this was a time for celebration.
As he watched her come closer he realized that it was her and he ripped his clothes. In this culture, the tearing of one’s clothing showed utter desperation for whatever situation they were in. He knew that he made a mistake and making a vow to God. He never thought that his one and only daughter would be the first to meet him.
Jephthah was filled with the Spirit of God and yet, he made a disastrous commitment. Just because you have the Spirit of God living inside you doesn’t mean that you will always make the best decisions. Jephthah made a commitment to God that God never required from him. God does not accept human sacrifices and even though I don’t believe that Jephthah planned on offering up a human sacrifice, he made a decision without consulting the Spirit that was upon him.
The Holy Spirit is not our servant, He doesn’t do what we say to do. Instead, the Holy Spirit is our counselor, the person that we turn to and say, “What’s do you want me to do next?” Jephthah struck a deal, an equal give and take. In the end, it cost him the life of his one and only daughter.
It is so great to know that our God does not require human sacrifices from us, but does require us to live up to the words that we speak especially when it comes to Him.
Living in light of Jesus, the One and Only Son of God, I can’t help but see parallels to how God showed us His love by requiring the life of His Son. Jephthah dedicated his daughter as a sacrifice after he received the victory. God dedicated his one and only son as a sacrifice AS the victory. Jephthah spoke without understanding the future and this negatively impacted his future. God saw the future and planned the future death and resurrection of Jesus and this positively impacted everyone’s future.
Jephthah fulfilled his vow to God and even though her name is not recorded in scripture she is forever known in Scripture.
God wants us to learn that we should be cautious when we make a promise or commitment to God! He desires that we let the Holy Spirit guide us into how we are to live our lives and where we should go. It’s okay to make plans, have goals and even be committed to a purpose, but be open for God to make changes to that plan and don’t make deals with God.
Jesus said, “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” Matthew 5:33-37 ESV
“But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.” James 5:12 ESV
Jephthah made a promise to God that was no from His Holy Spirit and he fell under the condemnation of his oath. He serves as an eternal lesson of how someone can be filled with the Holy Spirit and if not yielded to the Spirit, can make terrible decisions.