We are going to meet the next leader that God raises up for His nation, Israel. Desperation leads people to seek help, doesn’t it? Ever notice how many desperate people showed up in the presence of Jesus: the blind, the lepers, the woman with an issue of blood, Jarius, whose daughter was dying, the nobleman with the sick son, the Canaanite woman with a demon-possessed daughter, the man with the son who had seizures in Mark 9, and the list goes on and on of desperate people . And of course the Apostle Paul pleaded with the Lord three times to remove the thorn in his flesh. Pleading- denotes desperation. Paul who had been through more than his share of suffering had a situation which he pleaded with the Lord for relief. We do not know what this ‘ thorn’ was but it caused him great weakness which Paul believed was a hindrance to his effectiveness for doing the Lord’s work. The Lord , however, had other plans for this ‘thorn’ He had allowed in Paul’s life.
The Lord’s answer to Paul’s desperate prayer was twofold: my grace is sufficient and in weakness my strength is made perfect. Paul realized when he was weak – he was strong. Our strength comes from the Lord. The strength to endure and keep on keeping on in times of adversity. This is when we wholly cling to Jesus, completely trusting him and not leaning on our own understanding and our own strength and intelligence. In Paul’s situation and the case of the man whose son had seizures we see God’s methods. Jesus said to the man in Mark 9: “ Everything is possible to him who believes.” The scripture tells us of this desperate father’s reply: “ Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “ I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief.” An interesting prayer which I wonder have you ever prayed? This man who was desperate prayed for the Lord to enable Him to believe more and to rely completely on Jesus. Help my unbelief admits our faith is weak. Our faith often stops at the point where human reasoning says there is no basis for believing.
In his own hometown of Nazareth, we read: “ And he did not many miracles there because of their lack of faith.” Yet in other places Jesus says – go, your faith has made you whole. Unbelief is a hindrance to the work of the Lord. Are we not seeing the work of the Lord in our nation, our city hindered just as they did not see many miracles in Jesus’ hometown because of unbelief? Have we as Christians not seen our churches dwindling in the last few years? We have seen mainline denominations move away from the absolute truth of Scripture. And where does faith come from? ‘ Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.’ ( Romans 10:17) Now do you understand why the enemy attacks the Word of God? He knows its power- it is the incorruptible seed that brings new life. He wants to choke it out with the things of the world. He hardens the hearts and deceives the mind so the Seed cannot take root.
Satan’s lie is you cannot trust God. The enemy suggests that God does not have your best interest in mind. The enemy keeps the world away from God’s Word where Peter tells us: ‘…through His Divine Promises we have been given everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him.’ ( 2 Peter 1) Jesus said he came to give us life and life more abundant and exposed the devil as one who comes to steal and kill and destroy. ( John 10)
“ For by grace are you saved by faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God not of works, lest any man should boast.” ( Ephesians 2) Saving faith is a gift of God isn’t it? Without this faith it is impossible to please God and those who come to Him, must believe that He is and a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” ( Hebrews 11: 6)
The Christian life is a by grace through faith operation from beginning to end. Listen to what Paul writes in Colossians 2: “ So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than Christ.” The world wants to conform us. It does so through deceptive philosophy which depends on human traditions and man’s intelligence- it manipulates us by appealing to our flesh. The Word of God transforms us by inspiring us. Paul says we are to continue to live in Him, just as we received Him. And we received Him by grace through faith. Notice we are also involved in the process of sanctification which comes from being rooted in Him, and thereby being built up and strengthened by Him. Adversity plays a major role in the sanctification process. Adversity is to our faith what exercise is to our muscles.
How important is this faith and that this faith keep growing? “ This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he/she who believes Jesus is the Son of God.” ( I John 5) Did you come here this morning in defeat or victory? Did you come believing with all your heart that God has saved you – that you are indwelt by the very Spirit of God and yet have areas of unbelief? Then pray with me as the man in Mark 9 did- “ LORD I BELIEVE – HELP MY UNBELIEF!” Pray God will enable you to believe Him more- rely on Him completely – wholly cling to Jesus. For apart from Him we can do nothing. We all are plagued with doubt during stormy times of sickness, of lost loved ones, of uncertain times which all lead us to cry out – Jesus Help Me! I was desperate the day I got saved- I was a man who was desperate to live- so desperate I called on the name of the One whom I had rejected. Oh Thank God He is merciful, kind and forgiving and is not willing that any should perish but all would come to repentance.
Now looking at today’s lesson I see a man of faith. An imperfect man, a flawed man, a man who makes a horrible mistake as one who is a believer in Almighty God. But guess what- this man, Jephthah’s name is found in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11 right along with Samson, Gideon, and Barak.
Now the Word of God is giving us a comparison and contrast between two men of similar background and circumstances: Abimelech and Jephthah. Contrast provides clarity. Think about how the Lord contrasts the two houses built on the two foundations; the two gates, the two ways, the old nature vs the new nature, etc. Here are two men who are the illegitimate sons of two leaders. They are both rejected by their family, their brothers. They are disinherited by their own family. They gather about them a group of men who are nothing more than outlaws. One, Abimelech will be an oppressor of Israel, the other, Jephthah will be the savior of Israel.
In fact, strange as it may seem, there are similarities between Jephthah and Jesus. “Jesus came to his own, but they received Him not.” ( John 1) He was not even believed to be the Messiah by his own brothers. Just as Joseph was rejected by his brothers and sold into slavery where God prepared him to be the savior of his brethren.
First Jephthah is rejected by his brothers and cast out after his father dies. What does the Bible tells us about Jesus- he was the cornerstone, the head stone who was rejected by the builders.
So what happens to those who rejected Jephthah? They are desperate for a mighty warrior- who can deliver them from their enemy the Ammonites. Jephthah had become a mighty warrior in the meanwhile who had gathered about him-“ a group of adventurers who followed him.” He was leader of a band of men and had become known as a ‘ mighty warrior.’ My view of them is they are like Robin Hood and his band of men. Thieves, adventurers, who went out another versions says- ‘ raiding’.
Now those who rejected him are desperate for his ability as a mighty warrior to save them from the Ammonites. Guess what Jepthah does? He reminds them how they rejected him and despised him. Do you know what he is doing? He is exposing their sins. He says I will not help you if I cannot be your head. I will not redeem you if you will not be ruled by me.
Jesus cannot be Savior, if He is not also Lord and Master. And when He comes again as a mighty warrior and assumes His Rightful Throne and His kingdom has come and His will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven- there will be those who will say to Him- “Lord, Lord” but will not enter His kingdom. ( Matthew 7 and Matthew 25 describes the two groups.) Only those who do the will of my Father in Heaven will enter into His Kingdom. And unfortunately- we are told few enter!
Jephthah surprises us as I am sure he surprised those leaders who came to him to save them from the Ammonites. He surprised them with his diplomacy, his knowledge of Scripture and history. He surprised them that he first sought a peaceful solutions for as a mighty warrior he knew about war and its horror. Politicians who never have to go to war- are eager to start wars that others fight- but warriors are reluctant to go to war. Jephthah presents the facts of history of the region. His second argument was theological and scriptural stating the Lord God had given Israel the land. And his third argument was Israel had occupied this land for centuries.
Jephthah sought a peaceful solution. God had rather shed his grace and mercy and love on us than His judgment. We realize as we study Gods’ Word one of the ways He judges our sinful idolatry is to give us more idols. To give us up to our sinful lusts that we might grow sick of them as they eventually let us down. We also realize God uses hardships and adversity to prepare us for the role He has for us. Joseph was prepared in testing time as a slave and a prisoner in Egypt.
Jesus was recognized even by men as learned as Nicodemus as a teacher unlike any of the other teachers. He taught with authority. The learned men of Israel, from the High Priests to the scribes and lawyers could not get the best of Jesus- could not trip him up. Even at the age of 12, they were amazed at his grasp of scripture. His band of 12 that followed him were certainly not a group of intellectuals, theologians or men of noble families. They were a group of fishermen, tax collectors, and commoners who were considered to be of a class of people who were of no power or might. Yet these men turned the world upside down in a generation.
We read in this story of this unlikely leader, Jephthah, of an event we have seen before in those leaders God raised up. We read: “ Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah.” But we also read of something rather strange- a horrible vow Jephthah makes. He vows he will make a burnt sacrifice of whatever comes out of the door of his house when he returns- if God gives him the victory.
I do not know what to make of this vow. Certainly God is against human sacrifice. Deuteronomy 12 confirms this to be against God’s will. “ You must not worship the Lord your God in their way( the way of the ungodly nations) , because in worshipping their gods, they do all kinds detestable things God hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods. See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away.” ( Deut. 12: 31,32)
Jephthah- why in the world did you vow that vow? What were you thinking?
I cannot answer those questions. It is a mystery to me. It is a horrible story.
I do know God did not want him to sacrifice his daughter. I know Jephthah did not have a complete picture of God’s grace and goodness.
I know only this: the only kind of sacrifice God wants from us is self sacrifice. “ Therefore, I urge you brothers in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God- this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will” ( Romans 12) Adrian Rogers says this is a formula for knowing God’s perfect will: P + T = R ( Presentation plus transformation equals revelation.
Notice it is a living sacrifice. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Jephthah had been conformed by the pagan society the world he lived in that believed in offering burnt sacrifices.
Jephthah had a flawed view of God’s character.
Do you have a flawed view of God’s character? Do you view Him as judgmental and harsh or loving and merciful? Do you try to appease God with works in order to get Him to do something for you?
What would happen in your life if you really believed God was completely committed to you to love you and bless you and work out in your life what is best for you?
Could you worry less and rest in Him more?
“ As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out-“ Have mercy on us Son of David!” When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he( Jesus ) asked them : “ Do you believe that I am able to do this?”
“ Yes Lord” , they replied.
Then He touched their eyes and said, “ According to your faith it will be done to you”; and their sight was restored.” ( Matthew 9)
Do you believe He is who He says He is?
Do you believe He can do what He says He can do?
Do you believe you are who He says you are?
Do you believe you can do what He says you can do?
Is His Word active and alive in your life through obedience?
Now let me say as your teacher, I face the same problems with faith you do and the man in Mark 9 did. I am so glad we have that story for it teaches us to pray this prayer: ‘ I believe you Lord, Help my unbelief. I believe you are able to do this!’