Jephthah’s day of victory has a surprising and sad twist to it. When he came to his home to celebrate the defeat of the Ammonites, he was greeted in the doorway by his daughter, his only child. Jephthah had made a vow to the Lord that he would sacrifice to Him the first thing that met him when he came home in triumph. He cried out in agony, never anticipating that his daughter would be the first to greet him. The daughter’s dreams of getting married and raising children were abruptly ended. In fact, she said, “Give me two months to roam the hills and weep with my friends, because I will never marry” (Judges 11:37). Jephthah made a hasty vow that he never should have made. This ended in a tragic result for his whole family. However, we can also say that it was an amazing demonstration of faithfulness to God both by Jephthah and his daughter. In great integrity, he held to his word and committed his daughter in service to the Lord.
We see great faith in the heart of his daughter. Upon hearing what her father did, she immediately responded: “My father, you have given your word to the Lord. Do to me just as you promised, now that the Lord has avenged you of your enemies, the Ammonites” (Judges 11:36). I am amazed at her incredible commitment to the Lord. I am not sure I would have reacted the way she did! Certainly, it would be easy for her to bitterly cry out against her father and tell him and the Lord that it was not her vow, and she would not give up her life dream of marriage. But instead, she honored the word her father had given to the Lord. This shows incredible reverence and commitment to God. The Israelites recognized her faith as well. Every year, for many generations, the young Israelite women would go out for four days to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah. She became a model of faithfulness. In a sense, she became a hero of faith to the young women of Israel.
Today, we often take our commitments to the Lord too lightly. We make a vow or promise to Him, but then when it gets difficult to fulfill our promise, we back out. We think that God will understand and that we can go back on our word. This passage is a warning not to make promises flippantly. When we tell God that we will do something, we see from this passage that He expects us to fulfill our commitment. Not once did God step in and tell Jephthah, “Don’t worry about it; you do not have to fulfill this vow. After all, you did not expect your daughter to be the one to come out and greet you.” In fact, we see God honoring Jephthah and his daughter as heroes of faith because they trusted God and kept their word.
Have you made any commitments to the Lord? How about your marriage commitment to remain faithful to your partner until death parts you? Have you ever told God that if He answered a certain prayer that you would make a particular commitment to Him? Have you kept your promises (vows) to Him? Be careful before you make a vow to the Lord. If you make a promise to God, be faithful to your word. Remember, we in the church reflect to the world Christ’s unfailing and unchanging commitment to His promises.
Today’s Bible Reading: Judges 11:29-40; Matthew 5:33-37