Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior. Judges 11:1
Jephthah was a mighty warrior, but he was also the son of a prostitute. His brothers, by his father Gilead's legitimate wife, kicked him out of the house and wanted nothing to do with him until they needed a mighty warrior to lead them into battle. Funny how those things work.
But before an important battle with the Ammonites, Jephthah did a foolish thing. Instead of depending on God to fight for Israel, he made a bargain with God. Jephthah promised that if God would secure the victory, he would sacrifice as a burnt offering whatever came out of the front door of his house upon his return. Unfortunately, when he arrived, out came his daughter dancing to the tunes of a victory song. Jephthah was devastated.
One commentator wrapped up the story this way, "Thus all [Jephthah's] efforts to assure for himself a position of power in Israel by manipulating God backfired. God will not be used!" Jephthah's tragedy is a lesson for us all. Trying to manipulate God always backfires. He will not be used.
Father, forgive us for making deals with You as if Your care and protection can be bought. Forgive us for trying to bargain for the things we want. Remind us often of the truth that Your ways are founded in unconditional love, and You always have our best interest at heart. In Jesus' name. Amen.