More Than Anything, Part 2

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Saturday, January 14, 2017 0 comments

by Nathan Buck

Have you ever wanted something so badly, that you would do “anything” for it? There used to be a commercial for Klondike ice cream bars that asked, “What would you do for a Klondike bar?” And there was always some silly or outrageous thing someone would be willing to do on camera to get one.

That’s funny for a commercial, but chasing desires with wild abandon or big promises doesn’t work so well in real life. Last week we took a look at the leader Jephthah, from the Bible, and how he bargained with God. Read last week’s blog post by clicking here. This week, we are going to see how his vow to God turned out. Read Judges 11:34-40.

So, in hot pursuit of the enemy, Jephthah promises to sacrifice whatever comes out of his tent when he gets home. Obviously, it would be a living thing that would be coming out of his tent. We are not certain if Jephthah had someone in mind, or if this was just a moment of irrational passion for victory at any price. What we do know is that it was his daughter that came out to meet him.

I don’t know about you, but as a father this would crush me. Anyone from my family coming out that door would be an agonizing reality check for my arrogant promise. Jephthah, being an honorable man of his word, would keep his vow to God. And why God didn’t stop him, we are not privileged to know. But we do know it was Jephthah who created the situation, and the consequence is soul wrenching.

Now, did he need to kill her? Was it a greater sin to keep his vow, or to break it? Well, it is a sin to break a vow to God, but also a sin to murder a person. Jephthah made a foolish vow and we do not see God correcting or intervening, He lets Jephthah own his vow and work out the consequences.

What I find interesting is Jephthah’s daughter’s response. She didn’t mourn for her life or accuse her father of being foolish. She honored her father and honored God so highly that she saw her life as a reasonable price for the tremendous victory. She only mourned that she would never marry. This is amazing to me, the faith this young woman had. It makes me uncomfortable because of what happens to her, and because it reveals the shallowness of my faith. I am not certain I could have respected my father or resisted questioning God - in fact just reading the story I wrestle with God’s inaction.

But what should we take away from this encounter? Even in a foolish vow, BOTH Jephthah and his daughter wanted to honor God more than anything else. Even though Jephthah’s vow seems foolish to us, and even though he should have just trusted God for the victory, he still fulfilled his vow because of His desire for God’s blessing more than anything else. Jephthah’s daughter likewise submitted herself to death to satisfy her father’s vow, so that both she and her father would be right with God.

I can wrestle with the morality of this situation all I want. I can even declare that Jephthah made an unwise vow that he shouldn’t have kept. But I am embarrassed by the faith and devotion he and his daughter have in the face of a shortsighted and perhaps even selfish promise.

It reminds me of a young man I knew when I worked at UPS. In hiring new employees, the manager had inserted occasional weekend delivery driving in as a requirement for new associates. Others who started before this young man did not have that requirement, and it was only briefly discussed in his interview. He was a great employee and worked extraordinarily hard. The center manager asked him one day if he could start training for weekend driving. Because of commitments he had on the weekends, he couldn’t. The center manager was upset and had one of his usual temper tantrums. The center manager said, “It was in the job requirements when you were hired, I am sick and tired of people starting here and telling me they can do this, and then not being willing to do it.” He stormed up to his office.

We all knew this would blow over, and we knew the center manager valued this employee. We also knew that management could not require union employees to work hours outside their officially scheduled duties, and some loophole made it impossible for the center manager to enforce Saturday driving. There was actually no real job requirement problem, just the center manager’s broken expectations.

This young man came in the following day and turned in his resignation. We were all in shock, including the center manager, who begged him to stay. But the young man said, “I prayed about this and considered what you said. If I agreed to drive on Saturdays when I was hired and I cannot fulfill that, then I need to resign. I am a man of my word, and I cannot in good conscience continue here if I am breaking a promise.”

There are many who questioned the sanity of this young man, but no one questioned his faith or his integrity.

If I can offer two pieces of advice from this blog post, it would be these:
1. Be wise and trust God. Don’t make foolish promises, vows, or seek signs - whether for selfish things or noble ones.
2. Have the faith and integrity to stand by your word. If you make a promise, carry it out. Your integrity is direct reflection of God’s, and He keeps His promises. (He also doesn’t make them lightly).

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