Today’s Reading: Judges 11:29 – 15:20
Have you ever made a vow to God? Asked him for something special, promising some act or sacrifice if the prayer is answered? A couple months ago I read the story of Louie Zamperini in Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. After a plane crash, while in a life raft adrift in the Pacific Ocean Louie made a vow to God to serve him if he were rescued. Louis was rescued after 47 days. The only other survivor, Russell Allen Phillips, and Louie were promptly placed in a Japanese prisoner of war camp. Three years later after the end of the war they were liberated.
Louie eventually came to know God as his savior and eventually did fulfill his promise. As a matter of fact he fulfills the vow or promise to this day. Louie went on to be a part of the Billy Graham Crusades and eventually started a camp for troubled youth. A recent book by about his story is going to be a movie one day with the recent purchase of the movie rights.
But today’s story includes a vow that goes very wrong. On the verge of battle, Jephthah, makes a rash vow that if God provides victory he will offer a sacrifice to the Lord the first thing that comes out of his house when he arrives home.
Judges 11;29 – 31 NLT
29 At that time the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah, and he went throughout the land of Gilead and Manasseh, including Mizpah in Gilead, and from there he led an army against the Ammonites. 30 And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord. He said, “If you give me victory over the Ammonites, 31 I will give to the Lord whatever comes out of my house to meet me when I return in triumph. I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.”
A victory is had and Jephthah arrives home only to be greeted by his joyous daughter celebrating the victory and her father’s safe return.
Judges 11:35 NLT
35 When he saw her, he tore his clothes in anguish. “Oh, my daughter!” he cried out. “You have completely destroyed me! You’ve brought disaster on me! For I have made a vow to the Lord, and I cannot take it back.”
There is much debate as to whether or not Jephthah actually offers his daughter as a burnt sacrifice. Some say yes, others say she remained dedicated to the Lord as a virgin. Either way I would like concentrate on the vow itself.
There is little doubt that Jephthah was a man of God. He appears just not to be the wisest man of God. He made a quick and ill advised vow. He did not think through the consequences. I found the take that Matthew Henry took in his commentary to be well reasoned, I paraphrase here:
Several important lessons are to be learned from Jephthah’s vow.
1. There will be times of doubt, even in the hearts of true and great believers.
2. Our vows to God should not be as a purchase of the favor we desire, but to express thanks to him.
3. We need to be very well-advised in making vows, being careful to not commit to something that we can not complete.
4. What we have solemnly vowed to God, we must perform, if it be possible and lawful. No matter how difficult, sacrificial or humbling it is.
5. An obedient child honors the Lord.
Louie Zamperini made a vow to Lord, the Lord answered and Louie went on to fulfill his vow. It was a vow that was not ill advised, not illegal or against the Word of God. Jephthah on the other hand made a vow that was definitely a affront to God’s holiness. It violated a commandment and was simply ridiculous.
Have you made some promises to God that remained unfulfilled? Is it time you expressed your thanks to Him?