How serious are you in keeping your word? I wonder today how steadfast we are in doing what we say. I know I try, but honestly I do tend to make excuses, rationalize and look at the situation to find a little wiggle room. And what about promises or “deals” I make with God?
A hard to swallow story is found in Judges 10 and 11. Jephthah is a judge who who is about to enter into a confrontation against the Ammonites, a formidable foe. Before engaging in the battle he promises that if he wins he’ll sacrifice whatever emerges from his house when he returns (Ju 10:30,31). Turns out it was his young daughter and he had no other children.
Had he made this vow in human weakness and understandable angst before a big battle? Surely, he said this but was a bit over emotional at the time. Maybe he was just making a deal with God, but he didn’t really mean it, did he?
As it turns out he does sacrifice his daughter as a burnt offering.
Of course God does not ask us to sacrifice children. When he did initiate a child sacrifice in Genesis 22 with Abraham and Isaac he provided a way out, he provided the substitutionary sacrifice. Indeed, God is absolutely against child sacrifice (Dt 12:31, 18:10).
In getting over my visceral reaction to this I am challenged. A vow was voluntarily made and initiated by Jephthah, and the conditions for the vow did come to fruition. And God did not spare his own son, offering him as a sacrifice for us and he is love (1 Jn 4:8), and he does expect us to keep our promises (Mt 5:37).
This man Jephthah was a God fearing man. He fought for God, was faithful to him and kept his promise. He is a true model of both keeping a promise, and sacrificing all for God, and like Job he trusted in God’s goodness in spite of the circumstances.
This is a complex and challenging story with many angles to analyze ruminate on. It does make me think about keeping my promises and the importance of this command, and the degree to which we are called to carry this out. And it pushes me to ask how much do I really trust God. Where does this story take you?