Pericope: Judges 11:29-31
If anyone seriously studies through the book of Judges, they will come across some serious problems that should bother them. Israel seemed like a bunch of idiots, and I get tense as I can imagine the Lord’s frustration with His people. (It is amazing that He did not completely wipe them out!) Of course I have to chill a little because I know that I have probably tested the Lord’s patience with me in my own foolishness. Jephthah is the character in this particular passage that really seems to symbolize the leaders and people of Israel as a whole. He may have been Israel’s judge for 6 years, and God’s Spirit may have come upon him. But that does not mean much. Baalam’s donkey spoke through God’s Spirit too! Jephthah reflects a man who is wallowing in the stench of a wicked culture. He was the son of a prostitute and was a hooligan who lead a team of bandits. His view of God was severely twisted. It was sick. His view of God is the natural outcome of a people who did what was right in their own eyes, who did evil and prostituted themselves to foreign gods. So it is not at all surprising that Jephthah made a foolish vow to sacrifice a human in exchange for military victory, even though this was forbidden in Torah and is described as detestable and something God hates. So was it God who lead Jephthah? YesNo! Yes, in the same sense that God was leading Pharaoh and using Balaam’s donkey. God was not absent in this story. No, because God detested such wickedness as the foolish vow Jephthah made. In Judges, and in this particular story, what we see is a fulfillment of God’s promises in Deuteronomy. Israel was unfaithful, so God’s hand was not upon them. He, in a sense, is a distant God in the book of Judges. This is a time when God is allowing Israel to suffer in the muck of their choices so that they could eventually repent and come back to him. Israel was a sick community outside of the presence of God. An application to this is that we must be careful in how we allow culture to shape our view of God. God is transcendent to any culture. We must be careful of allowing our culture to lead us into wickedness and calling it “good.” We must be careful to destroy the opportunity for polluted world views and distortions of what God wants for our life. This means we ought to be in fellowship with other believers. We ought to be students of God’s word. If there has ever been a time when we are at risk as a community of Christ, it is now when our culture is much like that of Israel in the book of Judges. It is critical for the Church to evaluate and see where we have prostituted ourselves to foreign gods and ideas imputed by a godless culture. And then we should cut off and destroy any idea and opportunity that offends the name of Christ. Otherwise, we will be in the same boat as Israel. We will elect leaders (in the church and culture) who will appear to save us, and we will think that God is with them. But in the end, God will be distant allowing for the muck of our choices to lead us to repentance. And that does not sound particularly fun to say the least. If we wish to have a close Lord who is near to our hearts and actively blessing our lives, then we must become a healthy community of Christ followers. True spiritual health is found by living in pure devoted community with the God through Christ by the power of the Spirit working in us.