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A Tragic Vow

Published 11/13/19

Read Judges 11:30-31

"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.'"


What parts of your daily life do find it easy to worry about? Do you ever find yourself making little bargains with God for these things?

Have you ever been in a tight situation and prayed, "God, if You get me out of this, I promise to go to church every Sunday for the next year"? Has anyone ever taken these promises seriously? Jephthah did. And in his life we see the danger of making promises like this.

In the years before Israel had a king, the country was governed by a series of judges. Though they were called judges, they functioned more like military leaders. Jephthah, because he was the son of a prostitute, was shunned by his father's family and forced to live as a kind of mercenary on Israel's frontier land. Here he learned how to fight and also about the God of Israel. And when the Ammonites attacked Israel, Jephthah was the perfect man to lead the attack.

We know that God approved Jephthah in this role because the Bible tells us, "the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah" (Judges 11:29, NLT). Because of this alone, he would have been successful. But Jephthah takes it a step too far:

"And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD. He said, 'If you give me victory over the Ammonites, I will give to the LORD the first thing coming out of my house to greet me when I return in triumph. I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering'" (Judges 11:30-31, NLT).

You can probably already see what's coming. Jephthah won the battle. And "when Jephthah returned home to Mizpah, his daughter--his only child--ran out to meet him. . . . When he saw her, he tore his clothes in anguish" (Judges 11:34-35, NLT).

Jephthah had no choice but to honor the promise he had made to God. If Jephthah ignored his vow, he would essentially be telling people, "God's not worth the sacrifice." Maybe you're asking, "How could God be so barbaric as to demand Jephthah's daughter." Well, that's the point. God didn't demand anything of Jephthah. God had already promised victory. Jephthah though he would bargain with God and found that it was totally unnecessary.


Lord Jesus, thank you for your promises in Matthew to provide for me and to take away my worries. Help me see how I can live each day for you and your kingdom. Amen.


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