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Making Good out of Bad

Making Good out of Bad
Judges 11:1–12:15
God is renowned for working through unlikely means with the most unlikely people. During the period of the judges, there were few candidates less likely for God’s work than Jephthah himself: “Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior; he was the son of a prostitute, and Gilead was his father” (Judg 11:1). The man is the son of a prostitute and an adulterer who had other sons with his wife (compare Judg 11:2). It can seem odd that details like this are included in the Bible. This one is there because God is about to do something unexpected.
When Jephthah is told that he won’t inherit anything from his father, he flees and assembles a motley crew of other outlaws (Judg 11:3). If you’ve seen The Magnificent Seven, you might be tracking with this Wild West story: “After a time the Ammonites [a threatening nation of strong warriors], made war with Israel [a small nation with a reserve army at best]. When the Ammonites made war with Israel, the elders of Gilead went to bring Jephthah from the land of Tob. And they said to Jephthah, ‘Come and be our commander’ ” (Judg 11:4–6). Just like in The Magnificent Seven, the fates are about to turn: the misfit rebels will rise to the defense of the people who don’t understand them.
Jephthah goes to war against the Ammonites and wins, but he makes an impulsive and tragic mistake in the process (Judg 11:29–40). God had prepared him for this great work, but he fumbles—resorting to the types of vows made to foreign gods. He rebels against Yahweh and ends up killing his daughter as a result of his mistakes.
Although Jephthah was unexpectedly called to a great purpose, he didn’t respond to that call with a proper of understanding of God. Jephthah could have repented from his rash vow, for God would not have wanted him to do such a thing as kill his daughter, but instead, he chose to view Yahweh like every other foreign god that demanded child sacrifice. In return, the life of Jephthah’s daughter was lost, and the spiritual life of Jephthah and the people he led was compromised.
What can we learn from Jephthah and his tragic mistake? Follow God’s calling, even when it’s unexpected. But in doing so, we must understand and embrace who He is and how He is working among us.
What does God want to do through you? How can you obey with a proper understanding and knowledge of Him?
John D. Barry


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