32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.
Is isn't likely that Jeph is credited with all of these- but he is a misunderstood and misrepresented hero. Indeed, my experience has been that any fighter of faith is often misunderstood.
Jeph was a mighty warrior. He had a troubled childhood as a son of a prostitute, run off from his family, and ran with a 'gang of scoundrels'.. getting the picture? (All of this is in Judges 11).
But when his tribe needed help fighting, they knew who they should call.
I love his response- "Didn't you hate me and drive me from my home? And so now that you are in trouble, you need me to fight your battle?"
The Gilead's response- Yep....but we have no other option... but do this and we will make you our leader.
And then an amazing response back from Jeph. "If THE LORD gives me the victory. Will I really be your head?"
And the Gilead's reply: "The Lord is our witness.... we will certainly do as we say."
In verse 11 we have another key verse "And he repeated all his words before the Lord in Mizpah."
He first tries diplomacy with the Ammonites. He has very articulate arguments. He offers peace. He always mentions the Lord.
Then (to borrow a phrase from a recent new friend) - Jephthah 'opened a big ole can of Jesus on them'.
Verse 29: THEN THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD CAME ON JEPHTHAH.
And what did he do?
Did he sing kumbaya and hold hands?
Did he pray for them and say 'Oh Well.... God's will'?
NOPE... He went to fight and the Lord gave them into his hands- he devastated 20 towns!
#1 And this is my first point: We have lost the idea in this passive culture that faith is often a fight and men are often required to fight righteous battles against evil.
This week we have had Mr Paul Coughlin at our school teaching our students about bullying. One of his key points is that we have to expect our students to show courage... do the right thing, scared. It isn't enough to agree that something is wrong- we have to be willing to ACT.
When a stand beside bully protector (even 2 is better) goes up to a bully and aggressively says "STOP, leave him alone." It is powerful.
But to our parents, he lamented at how we have trained such passive kids in this culture. When our children don't fight or see us backing down.... they shrink in their capacity to have compassion and do justice and mercy.
I see more cowardice today than courage... and it is killing the church and not inspiring the next generation.
The bottom line: evil does not negotiate- it has to be killed.
#2 WARRIORS ARE VERY OFTEN MISUNDERSTOOD- ADMIRED HEROES IN WAR AND DISLIKED IN PEACE.
I have blogged on this before. I will re-paste some of it here.
These quotes are from an excellent book by Max Hastings, Warriors
Every army, in order to prevail on the battlefield, needs a certain number of people capable of courage, initiative or leadership beyond the norm.”"Warriors are unfashionable people in democratic societies during periods of peace ... [But] in times of war, fighting men are suddenly cherished and become celebrities.“In civil life, people with a penchant for fighting are deemed at best an embarrassment, at worst a menace.”A greek or roman soldier was required to engage in hours of close quarter combat with edged weapons capable of hacking through flesh.Part of the nobility of the warriors calling stems from in part from his acceptance of the risk of losing his own life while taking those of others.In every society on earth, the most durable convention, from ancient times until very recently, has held physical courage to be the highest
For thousands of years, in nations dominated by the warrior ethic, this quality was valued more highly than intellectual achievement or moral worth.
Many celebrated warriors are detested by their contemporaries.
All armies need a handful of soldiers who possess an extravagant warrior spirit to fight alongside a majority of other soldiers who threaten the success of such army by their eagerness to preserve their own lives.
Successful warriors are often vain and uncultured- but their nations in hours of need have had cause to be profoundly grateful for their virtues, even if they have sometimes been injured by their excesses. For all their social limitations and professional follies, the warrior is willing to risk everything on the field of battle and sometimes to lose it, for purposes sometimes selfish or mistaken, but often noble."
Read my devotional on this topic here: Warning to Warriors
If you are a man's man and have grown up fighting for what you get- look out- this culture will not accept you with great comfort.
#3 Jephthah was a man whose bond was his word.
I hope you will spend some time studying the theories around the vow he made which resulted in him keeping a vow he made by sacrificing his daughter. It is about 50/50 among conservative scholars about whether this was a human sacrifice. I tend to believe it fulfilled as a vow of celibacy.
See an interesting video on the subject here: Jephthah's Daughter: William P. Holding
But the main point, regardless of the interpretation is that Jephthah was going to keep his promise and he expected others to do as well. How many of us are that committed to keeping promises?
#4 The Leader has Strength and TACTICS
Now we are finally in Judges 12. We have already looked at this in terms of the Men of Ephraim (my last post) but we see this warrior's tenacity and his blending of strategy and force.
#5 Brief but Significant Rule.
Jephthah only lasted 6 years. A very short stint.
But he made his mark..... and it made it to the Faith Hall of FAME.
I wonder what I would choose?
A long, insignificant earthly life where I never stood for anything?
Or a brief, brilliant campaign where a man of faults blazed in glory for the King?
I want a nervous heartbeat with my hand on the sword and the danger of the dragon standing in my way.
That is the faith that will inspire the next generation!