But Jephthah asked them, "If you take me back to fight the Ammonites and the LORD gives them to me, will I really be your leader?"
I. THE VALUE OF A TRUE FRIEND IS SEEN IN THE TIME OF ADVERSITY. Jephthah was hated by the elders of Israel in prosperous times, but when trouble came he was discovered to be their best friend. The wise man will endeavour to cultivate the friendship of the good and great. It is foolish to let valued friends pass away from us through negligence or slight offence. There are few forms of earthly riches more valuable than that of a treasury of friendships. We may be careless of this in circumstances of ease; but if so, trouble will reveal our mistake. Christ is a Friend who sticketh closer than a brother, too often neglected in prosperity, but found to be the one needed Helper in the hour of darkness (Isaiah 32:2).
II. THE BEST FRIEND IS NOT ALWAYS THE MOST POPULAR. He may be poor, unpretending, eccentric, or dull It is foolish to choose our friends by the superficial attractions of social amusement. The boon companion may prove a shallow friend. Sterling qualities of fidelity, self-denying devotion, etc. are not always accompanied by brilliant conversational gifts and such other pleasing characteristics as shine in festive scenes. Christ, the best of friends, was despised and rejected of men. It may be that the very excellency of the friend is the cause of his unpopularity. He will not lend himself to low pursuits, and so is considered morose; he refuses to flatter our weakness, - perhaps bravely and disinterestedly rebukes our faults, - and is therefore thought censorious and offensive; he aims at raising us to what is worthy of our efforts, and is voted "a bore." The time of trouble will destroy this unjust estimate, but it would be more wise and generous in us to value our friends at all times for their best qualities, even though the sobriety of them may appear dull.
III. THE TRUE FRIEND WILL NOT REFUSE HELP IN NEED, ALTHOUGH HE MAY HAVE RECEIVED UNWORTHY TREATMENT IN PROSPEROUS TIMES. Jephthah naturally reproaches the elders of Israel, but he is too noble to refuse to come to their help. True friendship is generous, unselfish, and forgiving. It does not stand "on its rights," "on its dignity." It is more concerned with the welfare of those in whom it is interested than with their deserts. The patriot will not let his country suffer because he is personally piqued at the conduct of its leaders. The Christian should learn not to injure the cause of Christ through the pride and offence which the wrong conduct of responsible persons in the Church may excite. Israel is larger than the elders of Israel. The Church is greater than her doctors and ministers. Jephthah is a type of Christ, who does not refuse to help us though we have rejected him in the past. - A.
I have opened my mouth unto the Lord, and I cannot go back. I.
WHAT WE HAVE DONE. "I have opened my mouth unto the Lord."
1. We have opened our mouths before the Lord, first, "by confessing our faith in Jesus Christ."
2. We have also avowed and declared before the living God that we are Christ's disciples and followers.
3. We have opened our mouth to the Lord, next, because as we believe in Jesus Christ, and take Him to be our Master, so we "have admitted the Redeemer's claims to our persons and services, and have resolved to live for Him alone in our days." We have made a dedication of ourselves to His service, declaring that we are not our own, but bought with a price.
4. We have cast in our lot with His people.
II. WHAT WE CANNOT DO. "I cannot go back." Having once become Christians, we cannot apostatise from the faith. We cannot go back, even by temporary turnings aside.
1. If we did go back, we should show that we have been altogether false until now.
2. We should incur frightful penalties. To go back is death, shame, eternal ruin.
3. It would be so unreasonable. If you give up the religion of Jesus Christ, what other religion would you have? If you were to give up the pleasures of godliness, what other pleasures would you have? "Oh," says one, "we could go into the world." Could you? If you are a child of God you are spoiled for the world.
4. I have no inclination to go back. The man who is married to a good wife thinks to himself, "If I had to marry again to-morrow morning, she should be the bride, and happy would we be." And so, if we had our choice to make again, we would choose our dear Lord over again, only with much more eagerness and earnestness than we did at first.
5. We have opened our mouth to the Lord, and we cannot go back because we are so happy as we now are. A man does not turn his back upon that which has become his life and his joy; he is bound to it by the bliss which he derives from it. Can the Swiss forget his country when he listens to the home-music which he heard as a child amidst his native hills? Does not the home-sickness come over him so that he longs to be among the Alps again? Does not the Englishman, wherever he wanders, whether by land or sea, feel his heart instinctively turn to the white cliffs of Albion, and does he not say that with all her faults he loves his country still? Who would cease to be that which he loves to be?
6. And then, besides that, we cannot go back from what we have said, for Divine grace impels us onward. There is a secret power more mighty than all other forces called the force of grace, and this has captured us.
III. SOMETHING WHICH WE MUST DO. If there is a present sacrifice demanded of us, we must make it directly. If there is anything in your business, and you cannot be a Christian if you do it, abjure it at once and for ever. If you are to do this, however, you must ask for more grace. One other admonition to Christian people is this — burn the boats behind you. When the Roman commander meant victory he landed his troops on the coast where he knew there were thousands of enemies, and he burned the boats, so as to cut off all chance of retreat. "But how are we to get away if we are beaten?" "That is just it," said he; "we will not be beaten; we will not dream of such a thing." "Burn the boats" — that is what you Christian people must do. "Make no provision for the flesh." Let the separation between you and the world be final and irreversible. Say, "Here I go for Christ and His Cross, for the truth of the Bible, for the laws of God, for holiness, for trust in Jesus; and never will I go back, come what may."
"We have opened our mouth unto the Lord." It is not what we promised the Church, though in becoming members of it we have promised to fulfil the mutual duties of Christians. It was not what we promised to the minister, though, in the very fact of becoming members of a Church of which he is the pastor we have a Christian duty towards him. It was not what we promised one another, though we all owe something to each other. But we have opened our mouth to the Lord. If a man must trifle, let him trifle with men, but not with God. If promises to men may be lightly broken — and they should not be — yet let us not trifle with promises made to God. And if solemn declarations ever can be forgotten — which they should not be — yet not solemn declarations made to God. Beware, oh! beware of anything like levity in entering into covenant with the Most High.
Do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouthNever in any age, or among any people, was there a more ready or thorough sacrifice of the world to high principle and duty than was made by the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite. It was made, too, in most trying circumstances. If ever the world seemed bright to her, it must have been when she went forth with timbrels and dances to meet her father. The land of Israel they had so longed for was to be their home — they were to dwell there in peace and honour, high in rank, great in power. It would seem to the daughter of Jephthah as if life were but beginning; the night seemed past and the morning breaking — a morning without cloud. She could not but anticipate a long bright day for her father and herself; and it would be all the more welcome that they had sighed for it so often, and watched for it through a night so dark and so long. It was in these most trying circumstances that the daughter of Jephthah heard from her father's lips that he had opened his mouth unto the Lord and could not go back. Yet without one word of reproach or complaint, and without hesitation, she said unto him who had vowed that rash vow, "My father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the Lord, do to me," etc. Think of her, that child of an outcast — brought up in a heathen land and in a camp — think of her, how pure, how unworldly, how unselfish, how noble in spirit! Think of her patriotism, think of her self-sacrifice, that you may abhor all that is mean and selfish, and worldly and untruthful; and that you may cease to grudge the sacrifices your Father in heaven requires in love and wisdom, and for your own deliverance and safety.
Let me alone two months, that I may.., bewail my virginityIt is this wail of Jephthah's daughter that rises from every generation of this world's history. What we are all of us called upon to see with our own eyes, and judge with our own hearts, is a similar, or much more grievous waste of all that is good in human nature, of devotedness to country and family, of fine feeling, of the best intellect. Again and again, in our own society, we see the most splendid mental abilities squandered in the quest of what can never be discovered, the truest eloquence and highest moral feeling consecrated to a cause that is not worth lifting a finger to defend. Who has not seen the most precious human feelings wasted, you would say, on worthless people, while they might have fertilised and enriched responsive natures — the noblest devotedness sacrificed to a mere lie, or deception, or mockery? Two months was not too long to weep over the dreadful misguidedness of human actions, and the consequent waste or outward unprofitableness of what is best in human nature. Still, there is a compensating element even here. These companions who sympathised with their friend, and at last decked her as if for her bridal, and gave her into her father's hands, must no doubt have felt to the close of life that a world in which anything so tragic could happen was a blighted, melancholy world. Still, as they themselves passed through the various womanly duties that fell to them, and felt still the hold that event had taken; as they told the story of the noble maiden to their own children, and found how it moved and controlled them, and how many, through that example, were urged to more self-sacrificing deeds, and to higher thoughts about what is beautiful and good in life; must not these women sometimes have thought that possibly the real children of Jephthah's daughter, those who had truly succeeded to her nature, were more and better than could have been hers, had she lived? If then by family circumstances, or in any other way, we are called upon to sacrifice our own will to what seems a very needless, provoking, and rash plan, what we have to do is to seek to have something of the spirit of Jephthah's daughter, and accept our position without a murmur; knowing that, though we do not see how, any more than she did, this may, and will, by God's blessing, result in such development of our own character, and such enlargement of our usefulness, as could not otherwise be attained.
Did with her according to his vow
Homilist.In Jephthah's vow we see two things —
1. A good feeling overcoming the judgment.
2. A sense of right leading to an enormous crime.
I. JEPHTHAH SACRIFICED HIS DAUGHTER TO THE TRUE GOD. But what are many modern parents doing? Why, offering up their children to false gods!
1. The god of idleness. Indolence is ruin.
2. The god of worldliness.
3. The god of ambition.
II. JEPTHAH SACRIFICED ONLY THE BODY OF HIS DAUGHTER. But parents in these modern times are found immolating the souls of their children; they are made to prostrate their powers, and to yield the Divine sentiments of their nature to idleness, pelf, vanity, fashion.
1. Soul immolation is more gradual.
2. Soul immolation is more mischievous. It is the ruin of the whole man.
III. JEPHTHAH SACRIFICED HIS DAUGHTER FROM A NOBLE IMPULSE. No such high feeling prompts parents in these days to sacrifice the souls of their children even to the false and ignominious divinities. They do it either from the spirit of custom, vanity, greed, or ambition. It is a cold-blooded, soulless immolation. If there is any feeling, it is the mere lust of the eye and pride of life.
IV. JEPHTHAH SACRIFICED HIS DAUGHTER WITH A TERRIBLE REGRET. But modern parents lay the souls of their children on the altar of worldliness, vanity, and sin, not only without any compunction, but with an utter indifference. They see the souls of their daughters running into grubs, butterflies, swine, and heave no sigh of regret.
V. JEPHTHAH SACRIFICED HIS DAUGHTER WITH HER FULL CONCURRENCE. Were worldly parents to say to their daughters at the dawn of their intelligent and moral life, "We intend to take all the innocency from your young loves — all the sensibility from your young consciences — all the religious poetry from your young natures — and to make you the dolls of fashion, the devotees of a sham life, the victims of a pampered animalism, and thus rifle you of your birthright as immortals" — this would be honest; this would bring the question so thoroughly home to the young heart as would, we think, rouse opposition to the fiendish plan.
()To Jephthah and his daughter the vow was sacred, irre- vocable. The deliverance of Israel by so signal and complete a victory left no alternative. It would have been well if they had known God differently; yet better this darkly impressive issue which went to the making of Hebrew faith and strength, than easy, unfruitful evasion of duty. We are shocked by the expenditure of fine feeling and heroism in upholding a false idea of God and obligation to Him; but are we outraged and distressed by the constant effort to escape from God which characterises our age? And have we for our own part come yet to the right idea of self and its relations? Our century, beclouded on many points, is nowhere less informed than in matters of self-sacrifice; Christ's doctrine is still uncomprehended. Jephthah was wrong, for God did not need to be bribed to support a man who was bent on doing his duty. And many fail now to perceive that personal development and service of God are in the same line. Life is made for generosity, not mortification; for giving in glad ministry, not for giving up in hideous sacrifice. It is to be devoted to God by the free and holy use of body, mind, and soul in the daily tasks which Providence appoints. The wailing of Jephthah's daughter rings in our ears, bearing with it the anguish of many a soul tormented in the name of that which is most sacred, tormented by mistakes concerning God, the awful theory that He is pleased with human suffering. The relics of that hideous Moloch worship which polluted Jephthah's faith, not even yet purged away by the Spirit of Christ, continue and make religion an anxiety and life a kind of torture. I do not speak of that devotion of thought and time, eloquence and talent to some worthless cause which here and there amazes the student of history and human life — the passionate ardour, for example, with which Flora Macdonald gave herself up to the service of a Stuart. But religion is made to demand sacrifices compared to which the offering of Jephthah's daughter was easy. The imagination of women especially, fired by false representations of the death of Christ, in which there was a clear Divine assertion of self, while it is made to appear as complete suppression of self, bears many on in a hopeless and essentially immoral endeavour. Has God given us minds, feelings, right ambitions, that we may crush them? Does He purify our desires and aspirations by the fire of His own Spirit and still require us to crush them? Are we to find our end in being nothing, absolutely nothing, devoid of will, of purpose, of personality? Is this what Christianity demands? Then our religion is but refined suicide, and the God who desires us to annihilate ourselves is but the Supreme Being of the Buddhists, if those may be said to have a god who regard the suppression of individuality as salvation. Christ was made a sacrifice for us. Yes; He sacrificed everything except His own eternal life and power; He sacrificed ease and favour and immediate success for the manifestation of God. So He achieved the fulness of personal might and royalty. And every sacrifice His religion calls us to make is designed to secure that enlargement and fulness of spiritual individuality in the exercise of which we shall truly serve God and our fellows. Does God require sacrifice? Yes, unquestionably — the sacrifice which every reasonable being must make in order that the mind, the soul may be strong and free, sacrifice of the lower for the higher, sacrifice of pleasure for truth, of comfort for duty, of the life that is earthly and temporal for the life that is heavenly and eternal. And the distinction of Christianity is that it makes this sacrifice supremely reasonable because it reveals the higher life, the heavenly hope, the eternal rewards for which the sacrifice is to be made, that it enables us in making it to feel ourselves united to Christ in a Divine work which is to issue in the redemption of mankind.
()Jephthah paid his vow. At a frightful sacrifice he gave up what he had promised. When he gave up his daughter he gave up his all. Did Jephthah open his mouth unto the Lord? and have not you who are parents — have not you dedicated your children to the Lord, and vowed that they shall be His? Not rashly, not hastily, but with due deliberation you did so, and that in a holy ordinance appointed by God for the very purpose. Your vow is registered in heaven; is it to be forgotten on earth? You have opened your mouth unto the Lord; will you go back? God asks your children to be presented to Him not as slain, but living sacrifices. You have vowed; are you paying your vows? Do you pray for your children? Do you teach them to pray? Do you speak to them of God and of Jesus, and lead them in the way of holiness? And when your vows require that you should exercise discipline, and when faithfulness to God requires that you should lay upon your children what for the present is not joyous but grievous, do you shrink from it? To spare your feelings, do you shrink from it? Oh, remember Jephthah when you are thus tempted; and think, if you were under such a vow as he was, how you would act. And you children, think of Jephthah's daughter. Let her spirit take possession of you. Think how she lived above her own personal and selfish interests; think how she honoured her father and honoured God.
()If he did not offer her as a burnt-offering, then he did not do with her according to the vow. Moreover, why all this wailing and anguish if, after all, all that was going to happen to her is what happens to thousands who seem to stand in little need of compassion? Then, again, why did she ask for the one favour of a respite of two months to bewail her virginity, if she was to have thirty or forty years with leisure for that purpose? And, lastly, if the mere fact of her remaining unmarried fulfilled even that part of the vow which specified that she was to be the Lord's, then what objection can we make to other young women giving themselves to the Lord in the same way? If Jephthah's daughter became a nun, and if this was judged a fulfilment of his vow, if by being a virgin she was somehow more the Lord's than by being a married woman, a stronger foundation need not be sought for the establishment of nunneries.
()Two men are very foolish or stubborn who fulfil an agreement which they both see to be disadvantageous, and wish to fall away from. No duty whatever compels them to fulfil it, and if they do so they are justly the laughing-stock of their acquaintances. Now, this is precisely the case in which a man finds himself who has vowed to God what turns out to be sinful, for God can never wish him to fulfil a contract which, he now sees, involves sin. A man swears to do a certain thing because he thinks it will be pleasing to God, but if he discovers that, instead of being pleasing, it will be hateful to God, to perform his vow, and do that vowed but hateful thing, is to insult God. By the very discovery of the sinfulness of a vow, the maker of it is absolved from performing it. God shrinks much more than he can do from the perpetration of sin. Both parties fall from the agreement.
()See in the tragic tale a foreshadowing of the Cross of our Lord Christ. He took upon Himself our human nature, and having vowed it as the ransom of the guilty world He never hesitated, despite the awful cost, to keep His vow. Gladly did He make voluntary oblation of His own spotless humanity, a vicarious sacrifice to set the whole race free from the spiritual children of Ammon, the followers of the evil one. That it was a costly sacrifice He offered we know full well from the story of Gethsemane; nevertheless He did only cry, "Not as I will, but as Thou wilt," then held His peace. Do we think it is true that He bewailed His virginity with His fellows on the mountains before His death? Yet we know that from the human standpoint our Lord's ministry of three years and a half was almost fruitless. Multitudes followed Him to see His miracles; they crowded about Him bringing their sick folk to be healed; but they did not become His disciples, and accept heartily His Word. To His human nature this must ever have been a grief and sore trial. Once He said to the Twelve, "Will ye also go away?" We know that not even His own relations believed on Him.
PeopleAbel, Ammonites, Amorites, Balak, Chemosh, Israelites, Jephthah, Manasseh, Sihon, Zippor
PlacesAbel-keramim, Ammon, Arnon, Aroer, Edom, Egypt, Gilead, Heshbon, Jabbok River, Jahaz, Jordan River, Kadesh-barnea, Minnith, Mizpah, Moab, Red Sea, Tob
TopicsAmmon, Ammonites, Bene-ammon, Bring, Deliver, Elders, Fight, Gilead, Gives, Home, Jephthah, Overcome, Really, Responsible, Sons, Suppose, Taking, War
Outline1. The covenant between Jephthah and the Gileadites, that he should lead
12. The treaty of peace between him and the Ammonites is in vain
29. Jephthah's vow
32. His conquest of the Ammonites
34. He performs his vow on his daughter.
Dictionary of Bible ThemesJudges 11:1-11
7266 tribes of Israel
LibraryWhether a Vow Should Always be About a Better Good?
Objection 1: It would seem that a vow need not be always about a better good. A greater good is one that pertains to supererogation. But vows are not only about matters of supererogation, but also about matters of salvation: thus in Baptism men vow to renounce the devil and his pomps, and to keep the faith, as a gloss observes on Ps. 75:12, "Vow ye, and pay to the Lord your God"; and Jacob vowed (Gn. 28:21) that the Lord should be his God. Now this above all is necessary for salvation. Therefore …
Saint Thomas Aquinas—Summa Theologica
Of Vows. The Miserable Entanglements Caused by Vowing Rashly.
1. Some general principles with regard to the nature of vows. Superstitious errors not only of the heathen, but of Christians, in regard to vows. 2. Three points to be considered with regard to vows. First, to whom the vow is made--viz. to God. Nothing to be vowed to him but what he himself requires. 3. Second, Who we are that vow. We must measure our strength, and have regard to our calling. Fearful errors of the Popish clergy by not attending to this. Their vow of celibacy. 4. Third point to be …
John Calvin—The Institutes of the Christian Religion
A Cloud of Witnesses.
"By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, even concerning things to come. By faith Jacob, when he was a-dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff. By faith Joseph, when his end was nigh, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.... By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they had been compassed about for seven days. By faith Rahab the harlot perished not with them that were disobedient, …
Thomas Charles Edwards—The Expositor's Bible: The Epistle to the Hebrews
Jesus Works his First Miracle at Cana in Galilee.
^D John II. 1-11. ^d 1 And the third day [From the calling of Philip (John i. 43). The days enumerated in John's first two chapters constitute a week, and may perhaps be intended as a contrast to the last week of Christ's ministry ( John xii. 1). It took two days to journey from the Jordan to Cana] there was a marriage [In Palestine the marriage ceremony usually began at twilight. The feast after the marriage was at the home of the bridegroom, and was sometimes prolonged for several days (Gen. xxix. …
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel
Importance in Luke's History of the Story of the Birth of Christ
IT needs no proof that Luke attached the highest importance to this part of his narrative. That Jesus was indicated from the beginning as the Messiah -- though not a necessary part of his life and work, and wholly omitted by Mark and only briefly indicated in mystical language by John -- was a highly interesting and important fact in itself, and could not fail to impress the historian. The elaboration and detail of the first two chapters of the Gospel form a sufficient proof that Luke recognized …
Sir William Mitchell Ramsay—Was Christ Born in Bethlehem?
For the understanding of the early history and religion of Israel, the book of Judges, which covers the period from the death of Joshua to the beginning of the struggle with the Philistines, is of inestimable importance; and it is very fortunate that the elements contributed by the later editors are so easily separated from the ancient stories whose moral they seek to point. That moral is most elaborately stated in ii. 6-iii. 6, which is a sort of programme or preface to iii. 7-xvi. 31, which constitutes …
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament
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