Today we started a six-week But-Kickers seminar with a look at what happens when your life is shaken up by something you had nothing to do with. Perhaps you were not even present when the pivotal event occurred, yet you find yourself knee-deep in tragedy with no way out. Feel free to join us here if you can’t make the seminars in person.
Our discussion starts with the story of a soldier and judge named Jephthah, and his daughter. You can meet them in Judges, chapters 11 and 12. And honestly, you’ll have to read this story to believe it.
In Jephthah’s zeal to eliminate the Ammonites, the enemies of Israel, he makes a vow to God saying, “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, 31 whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.” (Judges 11:29)
God enables Jephthah to defeat the Ammonites, and upon his return home, Jephthah’s daughter, his only child, is the first one out of the house to greet him in a typical, parade-like homecoming for a victorious soldier. He is devastated, but his daughter says nothing more to her father than that he should keep his vow, and that she wants to go away with her friends for two months to mourn her unexpected future.
After two months, Jephthah completes his vow.
Some controversy surrounds this passage as to whether Jephthah’s daughter was offered as a burnt offering, or whether her life would be marked by perpetual virginity and childlessness.
There’s plenty of support for both sides, but guess what? For the purposes of this story, it does not matter. A sudden, critical change in a young girl’s future is thrust upon her. She has nothing to do with the how and the why of it, yet she is left to pay the price for someone else’s decision.
As people who know God to be present everywhere, knowledgeable of all things, and powerful and caring enough to intervene, must grapple with the stuff of this story, and come to some understanding of what we can glean from it.
Let’s continue our discussion with any questions that occurred to you in going through this story.
This Post Has 6 Comments
My first thought for why or how Japeth’s daughter responded in obedience is, she could have been thinking, “This isn’t what I planned, but my Dad made a VOW, to the Holy GOd! As much as this isn’t what I want, It is what it is.” I’m not sure how much time passed when she decided to have two months off, or who she talked it over with, but I see OBEDIENCE written all over this story. For Japheth as well. I also think, his vow, was not well-thought threw, and I question where was the Mother in all of this. But as crazy and out-of-control this situation is, I see the father’s complete human emotion of anger, towards himself, and his obedience to God. Jen Page also referenced a quote from Pastor Don from last week.. i thought it was important for me to write it down when he said it. It was, “You are a rebel if you obey ONLY when you agree or understand.”
That’s an excellent point, Mary. It shows maturity and authenticity that’s not easy to get to until you’ve learned how to work through emotions and fury. I love the obedience of Jephthah’s daughter, but something in me also cries to hear something said to her–something like, “I know you weren’t expecting this, but . . . ”
I also agree with PD’s statement about rebels, because nobody needs God to obey when they’re in complete agreement. That’s something that comes naturally to random people who care nothing about what God says is best.
I’ve been thinking of this story a lot this week . . . along with a few situations in my own life where “it’s not my fault.” And how it all fits with Psalm 138:8 – “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me . . .”
The perfect illustration of a great lesson from this story, Sarah!
Sherry – I tend to come to your page in spurts and read several of your blogs at once. I love getting a fill of your teaching – you have such a great way of making difficult biblical passages come alive be resonate in my own life. As you know from reading my book and learning about my life, I have had many, many situations “thrust” upon me due to choices my children made – (kind of the opposite of the story here). Pre-marital sex leading to unplanned children for them – grandchildren for me – being the biggest and hardest because the challenge involves the life of another brand-new human being. So many times dreams, hopes and plans my husband and I had have been seemingly thwarted and shoved aside when we have been required to obediently continue to love a “prodigal” in our midst. I look forward to following the rest of your series.
Thanks so much for visiting, Sue. Your experience with 22 kids has given you a unique glimpse into the heart of God and what he feels like when we do something he would never desire for us. . . Glad you wrote a book–no one would believe me otherwise when I share your story . . .