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Jephthah for President

Judges 11



This 9th judge of Israel was a man of impeccable character and integrity.  He stood out among his brethren because they had little or no character.  And oh how people of character stand out in our society today, even in Congress and other leadership positions...because they are so rare.  This is possibly because they often are seen as oddballs, radicals, and out of the 'mainstream'.


We need more statesmen of character.  As we said last time, a statesman makes decisions based on what's best for the next generation...a politician makes decisions based on what's best for the next election.


Where are the people of principle, with core values which cannot be blown about by the winds of the polls and popular opinion?


Jephthah is a great example for us all...

Hebrews 11:32
32 And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:


Jephthah had character in the face of difficulty, and courage in the face of danger.


1.     Character in the face of difficulty.

v. 1-3       If anyone had an excuse to blame their failure on their past or their upbringing it was this guy.  The illegitimate child of a prostitute.  Really there is no such thing as an illegitimate child, just illegitimate parents.  Abortion says, "this child is not wanted, so this child is not valuable."  But the circumstances in which a child is conceived does not determine the value of the innocent child.  This is why we as Christians reject abortion even in the extreme cases of rape or incest, because it's all about the child, not the parents.  In the case of rape you don't kill the child, you kill the rapist, according to the Bible!


But because of the circumstances of his birth, Jephthah was branded from birth with a stigma, was excommunicated, ostracized, and exiled by his own half brothers.


v. 2          "You're not welcome here...we disown aren't part of this family", and they threw him out.


v. 3          He departed to another place, got with the wrong crowd, and became what we might call a 'gang leader.'  He's leading this band of criminals and desperados. 


So he's the son of a harlot, ostracized from his family, a gang leader, and yet in the end he's named to God's hall of faith!  Only God can do such a thing.


And your past does not have to determine your future!  You can be unshackled from your past, you can rise above your past, you can get past your past.  You may have no control over the character of your ancestors, you can determine the destiny of your descendants.


Stop making excuses and blaming your circumstances for your lack of achievement.  Stop assigning fault and start taking personal responsibility.


All Jephthah ever knew was failure, rejection, and poverty.  But if he were in America today he would be viewed as a victim...oh, poor Jephthah!  He would easily be diagnosed w/ some made up syndrome and be on disability drawing welfare!  Now I'm not unsympathetic toward those w/ real needs, but you know what I'm saying is true about what's wrong w/ the overall system today.


We do people a great disservice when we allow them to use their background as an excuse for failure.


Some of the most influential people in history were folks who refused to be shackled by their past.


ill.--Helen Keller, the deaf/blind girl who learned to communicate, was taught by Anne Sullivan.  How did she teach her?  Especially when at age 5 Anne had an illness that left her nearly blind.  A few years later her mother died, and 2 years later she was abandoned by her father.  She was sent to an orphanage.  In those days they didn't have programs for her, so they fed her and let her sit and rot.  But she longed to go to school and learn like the other children. 


Her persistence caught the attention of a visiting man, a state inspector.  His heart was gripped, and he paid personally to send her to the Perkins Institute for the Blind, in Boston.  She learned to read using Braille, and she graduated at the top of her class.  A few months later she had a surgery which restored some of her sight, and a couple years later she became the caretaker for little 6 year old Helen Keller.  She used to be Helen for all practical purposes, and now she's her teacher!


Up to that time Helen's family had let her live like an animal, walking around the family table just grabbing food off their plates and shoving it in her mouth.  There was no discipline, no control, and no efforts to teach or train her.  But Anne Sullivan gave her time, her love, and her heart to train and nurture Helen to the point she could not only communicate but get a college education, and eventually travel worldwide speaking w/ Mrs. Sullivan, raising millions of dollars for the American Association for the Blind.


Now there's 2 ladies who refused to let their past control their future!


And you can overcome your past, no matter what it is, with God's help.


By the way, are we sure that we want to start down the slippery slope as a nation of having 'panels' making our health decisions, deciding who is worthy or not and what their potential is?


Another illustration:  We no longer have drunks in America, just people who have been stricken with the disease called alcoholism.  Well if alcoholism is a disease, then it is the only disease... sold in bottles / advertised on TV / self inflicted by the will of man / has licensed outlets to spread it / produces revenue for the government / brings violent deaths on our streets and highways / has no germs or viral cause / propels one's health to self destruction / increases crime.

        We don't do a drunk a favor when we tell them they have a disease...for then we relieve them of personal responsibility.  The same is true for perverts, we say they were born with an "alternate proclivity."  Were they really born that way?  The Bible says yes in a way, we are all born with a sin nature, we all make behavioral choices, and we need to take responsibility for it, get God's help with it, and get victory over it!  But if you never get the right diagnosis you can never find the right cure.


Certainly our environment can influence us to make bad choices, but the lesson of Jephthah is that you can rise above that and make the right choices!


Jephthah could have qualified as a victim, but he didn't go that route. 


If your birth wasn't a good one, take courage, you can be born again.  God's grace is plentiful, His forgiveness is free, and His strength is sufficient for your future!  And even if your background is dark, God can use that as a black velvet background on which to display you as a diamond of His grace!


1.     Character in the face of difficulty...


2.     Courage in the face of danger.

v. 4-11     The Ammonites are now attacking the nation of Israel.  And Jephthah has the reputation as a bad dude...a tough guy, and a leader of his people who rejected him before. 


v. 7          What the people in Gilead did to Jephthah is what our nation has done to God.  We only turn to Him when in distress. 


ill.--During the Korean War an atheist soldier was in a foxhole and bullets were flying above him.  Some of his comrades were fallen in the field nearby, and were not dead.  His Commanding Officer ordered him to leave his foxhole and rescue some of his comrades.  When his CO turned his back he hunkered down and looked at his watch.  2 others in the foxhole watched and wondered why he wasn't obeying.  A few minutes later the CO returned and said, "Hey boy, didn't I tell you to get out of this hole and help your fellow soldiers?"  "Yes sir, will do!"  The CO walked away, and he again hunkered down and looked at his watch.  His buddies in the hole wondered if he was sick or afraid or what.  The 3rd time his CO appeared again, this time livid, and repeated his command along with the threat of punishment if not followed.  The soldier apologized, and acted like he was leaving the foxhole as his CO moved along to others.  But again he looked at his watch for about 2 minutes.  Then, like a bolt of lightning he fired out of that foxhole and went out where the battle was raging and by the time it was over he had successfully rescued several of his fallen comrades.

        When it was all over one of his buddies asked, "I noticed that you waited so long to obey that command, and kept looking at your watch.  Why?"  The young atheist said, "I'm ashamed to tell you why.  I don't believe in God, but my mother does, and the day I left she gave me a Bible and inside she wrote down several different hours at which she would be praying for me.  I was waiting for one of those hours to strike, because I knew that under the cover of my mother's prayers, whatever happened would be ok."


That big strapping soldier, armed to the teeth, claiming he didn't believe until he was in danger - he is a microcosm of what is happening in America today.


ill.--Just after 9/11, Billy Graham's daughter, Anne, was interviewed by the Early Show on CBS.  The interviewer asked, "How could God let something like this happen?"  She answered, "I believe God is deeply saddened by this just as we are, but for years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, our government, and our lives, and being the gentleman that He is I believe He has calmly backed out.  How can we expect God to give us His blessing and protection if we demand that He leave us alone?"

        Isn't it strange how the world trashes God and then wonders where He is when trouble comes?


Jephthah said, so, now you need me, huh?  And if I help you, will you let me be your leader?  [v. 9]


And God is asking America a similar question:  If I deliver you, will you follow me?


If we want God to be our Savior He must also be our Sovereign! 


Jephthah maintained his obedient faith and courageous character without compromise, and in the end of the story passes the ultimate test of integrity and keeps his word in the most difficult of circumstances.  He followed God even when it hurt and cost him dearly.



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