Posted in jephthah, oath, promises of god, vow

Making rash vows

Yesterday I wrote about Jephthah’s daughter. Her father had been pressed into military duty to oppose the invading Ammonites. It was a time of high apostasy for Israel and the cycle in Judges of repentance-drifitng-apostasy-repentance was well underway. Jephthah accepted the call of duty, but bargained with God.

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.” (Judges 11:30-31).

I’d said in the essay yesterday, that his daughter was the one who came out of the house first. The LORD was punishing Jephthah for his rash vow, his distrust of the LORD and his presumption to bargain. Further, his daughter had a better handle on how to worship the Holy God of Israel than her father did. Jephthah offered herself up, allowing her father to retain his honor and fulfill his promise to God.

The bible verses in that passage make it clear that Jephthah had no other children.

She was his only child; besides her he had neither son nor daughter
. (Judges 11:34b)

With his daughter’s death, his only solace would be gone, as well as his genealogical line dying on the vine.

Do we bargain with God? Do we suppose that God needed an offering of a virgin in order to succeed against the Ammonites? That the slave or daughter that exited the house first would be THE necessary ingredient to ‘help’ God solve the Ammonite problem?

Or do we distrust God in His sovereignty, making bargains as if we are full partners with Him? “God if you get me out of this, I’ll…” Or, “If You do this, then I’ll…” Foxhole theology is no theology at all.

Promises made to God, usually in the context of worship or religious practice. There was no requirement on any Israelite to make vows, but once made, they were binding and had to be kept. Manser, Dictionary of Bible Themes

Jesus said to pray this way:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
(Matthew 6:9-10)

Or as Mary did,

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:38)

Or this:

And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
(Luke 1:46-55)

We exalt Him, knowing His plans are to the good of those who love Him. He has all strength, all omniscience, all power to purpose His plans to fruition. He does not need us nor does He want us to make ‘If…then” statements which limit and qualify our love and devotion to Him.

Lyndon Johnson swearing the oath of office
aboard Air Force One after Pres. Kennedy’s assassination

Let’s look at the reverse of Jephthah’s vow. He’d said that IF the LORD gave the Ammonites into Israel’s hand, THEN Jephthah would deliver the first person exiting his home. What if God had not delivered the Ammonites into Israel’s hand? Would Jephthah’s faith had been shaken? Would he have thought God was smaller than He is? Or that He hadn’t been listening? Or that Jephthah didn’t pray hard enough or with enough faith (as Joel Osteen would say)

God is sovereign! HE decides when the breath of life goes out of a man!

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
2“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
3Dress for action like a man;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.
4“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding. (Job 38:1-4)

John Calvin said of vows involving life and death,

For example, when the assassins, of whom mention is made in the Acts, vowed “that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul” (Acts 23:12), though it had not been an impious conspiracy, it would still have been intolerably presumptuous, as subjecting the life and death of a man to their own power. Thus Jephthah suffered for his folly, when with precipitate fervour he made a rash vow (Judges 11:30). … In such perverse conduct they must not expect God to be their helper; let them rather remember the words, “Ye shall not tempt the Lord your God” (Deut.6:16).

Israel, Hannah, and Jacob famously also made vows, also including “If…then” promises. The difference with Jephthah’s vow is that

In contrast to Jacob, the Israelites, and Hannah, who gave back to the Lord something that they had gained from their vows, with Jephthah there is no direct relation between the two sections of the vow. (Source)

We make a lot of oaths throughout life. Boy Scout oath, Marine oath, police oath, work oaths and promises, Civil Servant oaths. But believers, be careful about vows, oaths, covenants, and promises you make to the Lord. Especially be careful about bargaining with Him. I know it’s tempting when in severe distress to say something like, “Lord, if you let my child live…” but Jephthah learned the hard way about the consequences of rash vows. We never know if we will be able to keep the oaths we swear. James said in chapter 5:

But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation. (James 5:12)

Matthew Henry said of the James verse,

The sin of swearing is condemned; but how many make light of common profane swearing! Such swearing expressly throws contempt upon God’s name and authority. This sin brings neither gain, nor pleasure, nor reputation, but is showing enmity to God without occasion and without advantage it shows a man to be an enemy to God, however he pretends to call himself by his name, or sometimes joins in acts of worship. But the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. In a day of affliction nothing is more seasonable than prayer.

Amen! Prayer, and resting in the promises God has made to US is the eternally gratifying way to peace under His sun.

Posted in abraham, isaac, jephthah, jephthah's daughter, jesus

Two dirty words of the new Millennium

I suppose the Millennium isn’t new anymore, now being in its second decade. However in this day and age we see the words obey and submit as increasingly maligned.

We usually see the kerfuffles on social media and played out in small, sometimes heated, discussions among people in real life of the words obey and submit when applied to wives. Here are a few of the verses which command wives to do both.

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. (1 Peter 3:1-2).

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:22)

Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. (Colossians 3:18)

Today I will focus on children. Not just husbands or wives, but children are supposed to obey and submit, too. The Fifth Commandment speaks to this, and it is the first commandment with a promise, interestingly.

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. (Exodus 20:12)

Lest one balk that these are just “Old Testament” commands and argue that they’re passe, old fashioned, or outdated, look at what Jesus said several times in the New Testament:

For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ (Matthew 15:4)

honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 19:19)

AND see what Paul by the Spirit:

“Honor your father and mother”–which is the first commandment with a promise— (Ephesians 6:2)

Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. (Colossians 3:20)

In that last verse, Paul was speaking about the family structure, with husband/father as head, submitting to Jesus, mothers/wives are to submit to husbands, and children are to submit to and obey parents. As long as the persons within the family structure follow these commands, everything will flow smoothly, spiritual blessing will come, and the Lord’s promises will be delivered. This is because the Godly family is the foundation block of society and one of the ways to illustrate God’s standards and His strength to a dark world.

Biblical Filial Obedience: Jephthah’s daughter and Abraham’s son

Genesis 22:1-19 records the story of Isaac’s obedience to his father, Abraham. (It records the incident for many other reasons, too, but we’ll look at Isaac in this scenario). God told Abraham to journey to the top of Mt. Moriah and to sacrifice Isaac, his only son, whom Abraham loved, at the altar there. Isaac was no babe. He was no mere tot, nor a child. Though the bible does nor record exactly how old Isaac was, he was anywhere from between the age of 13 to 37. He was his own man, or nearly so. Isaac was obedient to his father all his days- not just when he “had to” as a kid.

Sacrifice of Isaac, by Caravaggio

First, Isaac journeyed with his father. When Abraham announced the lengthy journey, Isaac didn’t argue, roll his eyes, stamp his foot, or demand that he be allowed to go to the prom instead. He went.

In addition, he willingly was a beast of burden for his father. When Abraham laid the bundle of wood on Isaac’s back for the offering, Isaac carried it. He didn’t whine, he didn’t groan, and he didn’t complain.

Third, and of course this is the most meaningful one, is that Isaac allowed his father to tie him and lay him on the altar. Isaac isn’t recorded as balking even when Abraham raised the knife to “slaughter” his son.

Of course I do not mean that children are to be passive tools of abuse. I don’t accept that they are to be dealt with violently. The scene in Genesis was an extraordinary scene, mirroring the one and only scene of the Father of Lights glorifying His Son whom He loved as He allowed Him to be slaughtered by sinful men for our sins as the sacrifice. Abraham and Isaac had a unique and vivid relationship with the LORD. However, the point is that Isaac trusted His father Abraham. When Isaac asked where the sacrifice was, and Abraham said the LORD would provide it, Isaac knew His LORD and he knew his father knew his LORD. At the root of obedience is trust in God.

As for the gals, we have Jephthah’s daughter. Judges 11 has the story. Jephthah was a mighty warrior. When it looked like the Ammonites were going to attack, the men besought Jephthah to be their general and lead them into victory in the LORD’S name. He accepted the call of duty, and the Spirit of the LORD was upon Jephthah. (Judges 11:29). But just because the Spirit was upon him does not mean that Jephthah was making all the right decisions, as his tragic vow in the very next verse demonstrates.

The Return of Jephtha, by Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini

Jephthah made a vow to the LORD and said, “If You will indeed give the sons of Ammon into my hand, 31then it shall be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the sons of Ammon, it shall be the LORD’S, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.” (Judges 11:30-31)

The LORD did give the Ammonites into the Israelites’ hand, and satisfied, Jephthah went home. He loved his daughter, his only daughter, as the bible records. He had no sons. Despite being an old and mighty warrior he was tender toward her. That is why he was horrified to see that the first person exiting his house upon his return was…his daughter. The LORD was punishing Jephthah for bargaining with Him, not having enough trust in Him to deliver the victory, and for making a vow to sacrifice a person – which is forbidden.

Jephthah accepted her father’s vow and only asked for two months to go into the mountains to bewail her misfortune in never being able to bear children, the high point of life for a Hebrew maiden. It also means that her father’s line would be ended, thus nullifying the possibility that their genealogy would be included in the Messianic line.

The Daughter did indeed return at the appointed time and indeed the burnt offering was carried out. (Judges 11:39).

The daughter’s obedience actually indicated a deeper worship and knowledge of the LORD than her father’s.

Her answer was most heroic. There were no resentful or rebellious tones in it. She shed no tears, nor shook with despair after her father with a crushed heart spoke of his vow. There was the quiet acceptance of the tragic fact that she was to be the burnt offering her father had promised. Only known by the simple title of “Jephthah’s daughter,” this most commendable maiden may not have had the gifts and talents of some other women of the Bible, but she will ever remain as the incarnation of willing sacrifice. “My father, if thou hast made this promise to the Lord, do to me according to the promise.” If there is a quality for which a woman is supreme, it is sacrifice, and in this virtue the obedient daughter of Jephthah gave what was nobler than gifts—she offered herself. (Source Bible Gateway)

The two examples here, Isaac and Jephthah’s daughter, show that they were either prepared to or actually did submit themselves unto death for the glory and honor of the name of the LORD. There is no greater filial obedience humanly possible, except for Jesus’ sacrifice in willingly following His Father’s plan to die for our sins.

In today’s times, we are not called by our parents to sacrifice ourselves unto death, but we are called to be living sacrifices by our spiritual Father, Jesus Christ. These two examples of filial obedience are worth mulling. We see the pale shadow of obedience of today’s youth and adults, and we know that in the future that obedience will be non-existent. (2 Timothy 3:2, 1 Timothy 1:9).

Jephthah accepted her fate, asking only for time to mourn and prepare. Today’s daughters pitch a fit when dads ask them not to text at the table. Isaac humbly carried the firewood up the mountain for his dad, asking only where the sacrifice was. Today’s sons roll their eyes and diss their dad when asked to take out the trash.

We are all called to Godly obedience. Ephesians 6:1 says

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.

Bible Exposition Commentary by Warren Wiersbe says,

When a person becomes a Christian, he is not released from normal obligations of life. If anything, his faith in Christ ought to make him a better child in the home. To the Colossians Paul enforced his admonition with “for this is well pleasing unto the Lord” (Col. 3:20). Here is harmony in the home: the wife submits to the husband “as unto Christ”; the husband loves his wife “even as Christ also loved the church”; and the children obey “in the Lord.”

Children, youth, young adults, older children of aged parents, submit and obey. They are not dirty words but are blessed words which in brings blessing when lived out. When you’re asked to do something against which you rebel, whether it be anything from taking out the trash, to being denied access to the family car at the moment you want it, all the way to refraining from porn or protecting your virginity, think of the honor Jephthah’s daughter brought to the Lord’s name and how Isaac’s submission is still talked of today. Love, honor, and obey your father. After all, Jesus did.

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:8)