Wednesday, August 21, 2019

2019.08.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ Judges 10:17-12:7

Questions for Littles: What people are giving Gilead problems (Judges 10:17-18)? What was the problem with Jephthah’s origin (Judges 11:1-2)? What was the problem with Jephthah’s occupation (Judges 11:3)? But to whom do the elders feel like they have to turn when things are going badly against Ammon (Judges 11:4-8)? What do they have to agree to, in order for him to deliver them (Judges 11:9-11)? What argument does Jephthah have with the king of Ammon in Judges 11:12-23? Whose land does Jephthah point out they have actually taken, and by Whose power? What land does Jephthah “encourage” (mockingly) them to possess in Judges 11:24? Whom else had Israel not fought (Judges 11:25, cf. Judges 11:15)? How long has Israel possessed the contested land (Judges 11:26)? Whom does Jephthah call to judge the case (Judges 11:27-28)? Who comes upon Jephthah in Judges 11:29? What is the result in Judges 11:29-31? What is the result of the battle (Judges 11:32-33)? What is the result of the vow (Judges 11:34)? What additional information makes her being offered up more tragic? How does Jephthah respond in Judges 11:35? And how does she respond in Judges 11:36? What do she and her friends bewail in Judges 11:37-38? What is the result of him carrying out the vow in Judges 11:39? What does Jephthah get from her instead of descendants (Judges 11:40)? What is Ephraim upset about in Judges 12:1? What point does Jephthah make in Judges 12:2-3? What did Jephthah do in Judges 12:4? Why—who had forced the issue? What did the Gileadites do to keep the Ephraimites who had attacked them from escaping back west across the Jordan (Judges 12:5)? How did they sort out who the ‘foreign’ invaders were (Judges 12:6)? How long did Jephthah judge Israel (Judges 12:7)?
Things are getting darker in the book of Judges, and they will get extremely dark indeed by the time we are done. From Judges to 2 Kings, the theme that builds is that no deliverer or king will do for God’s people but Jesus.

Jephthah has the wrong pedigree (his mother was a prostitute) and the wrong profession (basically a land-pirate). And yet the Lord chooses to save Israel from the Ammonites through this thug. At least he is a Yahweh worshiper (Judges 11:29), who gives Yahweh credit for Israel’s past successes (Judges 11:23), and trusts that Yahweh will judge in the end (Judges 11:27). He has even taught his daughter to trust in Yahweh (Judges 11:36) and that vows to Yahweh cannot be broken (Judges 11:35-36).

We are shocked, then, that the text tells us about his vow; but let us be careful even before calling it a rash vow. The passage does seem to connect the Spirit’s coming upon him in Judges 11:29 to the vow in Judges 11:30. And although he vows to offer her as “an offering that goes up” (the literal meaning of the word translated “burnt offering”), it is her virginity that she and her friends bewail, and her knowing no man that is the summary statement of the carrying out of the vow in Judges 11:39. This produces a tragic symmetry with the account of his mother. She had “known” all sorts of men in her wickedness; but just as Jephthah had no ancestry to trace backward, he would have no descendants forward either, for his daughter was an only child.

The text presents the ironic irritation of Ephraim, and Jephthah’s response of extermination, without comment. Rather than have us pass judgment on any of his actions, the Scripture here is just pressing into us how ugly and tragic it is when the Lord bears with a sinful people and saves them by the hand of sinful men. It leaves us crying out for a Deliverer and King who is not only sinless Himself, but who can do something about His people’s sin!
In what merely human sinners are you tempted to trust? How do you resist that?
Suggested Songs: ARP146 “Praise the Lord” or TPH146 “Praise the Lord! My Soul, O Praise Him!”

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