Friday, May 30, 2008

Judges 11:30,31

“30 And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD and said, "If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, 31 then whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering."

[ JUDGES 11:30,31 ]

        We often read passages in the bible and are immediately and completely taken aback. This passage is no exception. We think to ourselves, “Is this really the same God?”, “How could he allow this?”

        Jephthah offered his daughter as a burnt offering.

        Yet as we read, it wasn’t God who asked this of Jephthah but Jephthah himself that made this vow.

        This is when we ask, “What was he thinking?” or we say “What an idiot!” His if-then statement was a vow that was contingent upon the Lord coming through for His people. “If you will give…?” Was he trying to bargain with God? What did he anticipate would come out from his doors to meet him? A goat? Did he not know that his only daughter or another human being would be the one to welcome the victorious warriors home?

        From a human standpoint this whole scene seems wrong. It hurts our gut. It wrestles with our values. It makes us pause and question.

        Did we really just read that? He just offered his daughter as a burnt offering to the Lord.

        Yet from her words we can tell that she loved the Lord and was willing to follow Him no matter what that meant. She knew that her father had made a vow to the Lord and she would rather have seen that vow fulfilled; her father honor his promise to God than save her skin.

        Yet we find consolation in believing that this life is temporary and that the coming glory is far more supreme than the sufferings of this world.

        But the consequence of Jephthah’s rash vow was still his daughter’s death.
        So we see that what matters more is honoring that vow rather than what seems right.

        Sometimes we make those same rash vows today. “God, if you … then I will …” But we should stop and think before making those vows. Psalm 50 tells us that God lacks nothing and does not need to ask for anything. What he desires more than these sacrifices is a contrite and thankful heart. He shouldn’t have to do anything for our affection and devotion.

        Do we need to make these vows? It seems that these vows are more for our benefit and our motivation, than it is for God.

        We need to put away these senseless vows because they are conditional vows. If-then.

        Our devotion to God should not be contingent upon how much He does of what we want Him to do for us. Our devotion to Him should however be out of a thankful heart because of what He has done and what He promises to do.

        Past grace through Christ on the cross and future grace with Him in heaven. Remembering what He saved us from; why He did it; what he is going to do.

        Christ died and rose for our sins. He took our place. He saved us form hell. He promises us eternal life and an everlasting inheritance as children of God. He lets us into His family.

“Oh, but if you do this for me God, then I’ll follow you.”

He did it already. We don’t need to vow anything to Him. Our acts of obedience need to stem from a heart of thankfulness and joyful anticipation. If we do them because God did something that we asked Him to do, then our obedience becomes conditional. What if He didn’t fulfill our expectations. What if His answer was ‘NO’?

Let’s make our motivation Christ. Not how God measures up to our expectations or requests.

Let’s remember what he has already done.

Because to do otherwise is ridiculous.