by Gary Inrig

Day 34

Read Judges 11:29-40

Jephthah's vow (Judges 11:30-31) may have been the prayer of a sincere heart, zealous before God, but it was totally wrong. His ultimate problem was the ignorance of God's Word. Zeal without truth is dangerous, and dedication without biblical understanding produces fanaticism that destroys.

Ignorance of God's Word not only robs us of many of God's blessings, but can also have tragic consequences

We have seen Jephthah negotiating with various groups, and now we see him trying to strike a bargain with God. For the promise of victory, he vows to sacrifice the first living thing that emerges from his house when he returns from battle. This is an attempt to manipulate God, and is a long way from the prayer of faith. Although Scripture does not specify what living thing Jephthah was offering, most scholars agree that he meant a human sacrifice. This betrays the extent to which Israel had assimilated Canaanite beliefs. Such sacrifices are prohibited in God's Word, and the practice is utterly pagan. Jephthah's vow, made in a time of apostasy and ignorance, is a hideous vow that contradicts the clear teaching of God's Word.

Jephthah's sincerity was destructive because he had a false view of God. He believed that God had to be bargained with and bribed. He could have claimed God's promises and rested in His grace, but he thought he could buy God's help with a human life. He also believed that God was sadistic and delighted in making His people unhappy. And he feared that God might abandon him halfway through the job, despite being empowered by the Holy Spirit (v. 29).

Many Christians falsely perceive God in the same way. They believe God is stern, sadistic, and legalistic; that He delights in the unpleasant and must be bargained with; that His favour must be earned; and that His presence cannot be counted on. But that is not the God of the Bible. When God gave Israel a stunning victory (vv. 32-33), His blessing was not the product of Jephthah's bargaining, but the gift of His grace.

There is one positive feature of Jephthah's action (vv. 35, 39) that challenges us today: despite the agonising personal cost-sacrificing his only child-he took his commitment seriously. How often do we make pledges to God that we do not honour?

Yet there were other options. Leviticus 27 explains that when a person is committed to the Lord, his life could be redeemed by the payment of a certain amount of money. If only Jephthah had known God's Word, he could have paid the ransom price and spared her. While there is some disagreement over what happened to her, it is most likely that she was sacrificed. Ignorance of God's Word not only robs us of many of God's blessings, but can also have tragic consequences. Enormous evils have resulted because men and women have not understood the character of God as revealed in Scripture. Faith needs to be both sincere and understanding.

Think through:

Think about your perceptions of God. How do they compare with what the Bible says about Him?

How can we correct other people's false perceptions of God in an encouraging, non-confrontational way?




About Author

Dr. Gary Inrig has been serving Trinity Church since 1992. A native of Canada, he has been in pastoral ministry for more than thirty years and has served in Christian Ministry for over forty years. With an extensive conference ministry in the United States and Canada, he has spoken in countries on each of the continents. Gary is the author of ten books, including Pure Desire, The Parables, True North, Whole Marriages in a Broken World, Forgiveness, and Hearts of Iron, Feet of Clay. Gary and his wife, Elizabeth, have three married children, Janice, Stephen, and Heather; and eight grandchildren.

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