Monday, October 17, 2011

Jephthah: Despised But Not Useless.

"And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, Therefore we turn again to thee now, that thou mayest go with us, and fight against the children of Ammon, and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead." Judges 11:8. Do you look at yourself with great talents and skills, yet you are unable to place food on your table? You were due for promotion, but your company bypassed you and compounded your misery with letting you go. You sing like an angel and dance like a cock, but no producer has accepted your works. You write like Shakespeare and John Donne, but publishers reject your works. Many doors keep closing right in front of your nose. 

Before I tell you today’s story, I want to remind you about our contemporaries. After many rejections, in 2007, Lady Gaga was in her “tiny apartment praying God that someone will believe in her,” and Akon finally believed in her when no one would. Today you know who she is. "Clinton Charity Foundation began 10 years ago in 2001 as a one man foundation, but today many follow the dream." In this lesson, you will learn that simply because you are rejected, you are not useless because no mortal can dispossess you of the dream that God has destined for you if you stay steadfast to harness your skills knowing that your hardship was a hibernation period. So, today I will tell you the story of Jephthah: a man who was despised and rejected by the country and family, but he later became the judge (ruler) of the entire Israel.

Jephthah means he opens. Him that God sets free or open to go. He was the son of Gilead and a concubine. He was conceived out of wedlock, but he was a mighty man of valor, a brave soldier. Jephthah was strong physical because faith then was lived physically. His background was already disadvantageous to him, but he made himself strong. Can we call you a mighty person of valor. To be strong spiritually, you must adorn thyself with the weapons of warfare in Eph 6: 10-18. His father Gilead got married and had other children. After Gilead died, Jephthah’s step brothers and sisters decided to thrust him out because his mother was not married to their father when he was conceived.

They were acting according to the guidelines of inheritance that existed in those days. Children out of wedlock did not have birthrights. Rather than stay back and fight, he decided to leave because he knew the laws, people of the land were against him (V.7), and he also trusted God. This passage does not say so, but we know so because the writer to the Hebrews registered him amongst the men of faith (Heb 11:32). After his brethren drove him, he went and joined other worthless men in Tob (a nearby city), and they formed a band where he was the leader. Take note of Matthew 21:42. he did not allow his leadership skills to die. He kept harnessing them.

As time passed, Israel was attacked by Ammon because they accused Israel of seizing their land when she was coming out of Egypt, passing through Arnon, Jabbok, unto Jordan. So the elders (leaders) of Gilead went to look for Jephthah to come and fight for them. Do not think that those who despise you do not know your importance; they are merely jealous and insecure. When they solicited his help to lead them into war to fight the Ammonites, he told them to remember that they had driven him before and now they need his help. Those who hurt you will come to you for help. You will still harbor a little bit of embitterment.

The elders told him that it is true they had hated and driven him, but now they have come back to their senses and they need him. If a people do not want you to lead them, let them be; when the time comes that they need you, they will come for you. Never force yourself on anyone who does not want to deal with you. Jephthah would be made the judge of Gilead and Israel. The elders even made a vow that he would be their leader. God knows how to prepare a table before you in the presence of your enemies, and your cup runs over. However, the realization of this dream does not come without sacrifice.

That is why the Bible says “And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD'S, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.” Jephthah won his battle as God kept his side of the bargain. It was now time for Jephthah to keep his. He has made a very strange vow to God; that he would sacrifice the first thing that came out of his house. It is a very strange vow that he was making because of the outcome.

At this time, it is always the custom of women to go and receive the warriors with timbrels and dances as they were entering into the city. That is why you will see the women do it to David when he killed Goliath (I sam 18:6).

Yet, it comes as a surprise to Jephthah that the first thing to appear out of his house was not a cattle, it was his only daughter. Just to situate you why he was expecting something else other than his daughter. In those days, people slept in the same house with their cattle. When it was dawn, the rearer opened the door and put out the stronger and older sheep first, so they do not overrun the younger and weaker ones. So Jephthah knew that if anything was to come out of his house, it would be a cattle but even if it was the fattest cattle that came out, he was ready to sacrifice it.

Many people will despise you in times of your failure or weakness, but in your days of greatness and fame, they will want to identify themselves with you. It is failure that is an orphan; success always has relatives and extended relatives. Some people will say I did not know you were going through what you are going now. If I knew, I would have helped you. That is what the Ephraimites were saying; I mean the same people that Jephthah invited them to give him a helping hand, but they ignored him (Judges 12:1-2). He finally judged Israel for six years, he died and was buried in Gilead; the land he was previously driven from.

People have always asked me why God would accept the sacrifice of Jephthah’s daughter. Jephthah had made a non redeemable vow because he had selected the vow of devotement. It means his daughter was to be devoted for the services of God as a temple virgin. It is clear that the sacrifice that Jephthah meant there was not the same as the Baal worshippers did by killing people they offered to Baal.

In Israel, there were two types of vows: redeemable vows and non redeemable vows. To redeem a vow you could not fulfill, you paid money. If you did not have money, you saw the priest to offer yourself. It is not that Jephthah killed his daughter but that he had to give his daughter for the services of God as such, she will never get married. Consequently, Jephthah would not have any other children (Judge 11:), and his lineage will get extinct. She was to remain a temple virgin ().

At first we see that Jephthah’s daughter did not just follow her father, but she also believed and feared God that is why she told him that, “My father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the LORD, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth; forasmuch as the LORD hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, even of the children of Ammon.” (Judges 11:36). This was a girl with a living syneidesis and a father with a high synteresis. Verse 37 gives us a clearer picture of the nature of sacrifice he was to sacrifice. If she was to be killed, she would not wail for her virginity.

Because she was going to be a temple virgin, it was her whole life spent in the temple; whereas, she had not enjoyed the reason for which she kept herself a virgin. Verse 39 again even paints the picture pellucidly when it says that her father did with her according as he had vowed and she knew no man. Therefore, her father gave her to the temple as a result the young girls of Israel went to lament with her for 4 years every year.

My friend, let those who think you are a nobody and have no skills keep sleeping on the first bench, but you know what you have. Paul had been rejected though with great skills, but Barnabas believed in him. One day, someone will surely believe in you. You know what you are made of. Nurture and harness your skills, waiting for that golden opportunity. Fight and leave no stone unturned until you find the milieu where you will exercise your great talents. Jesus will fight your secret battles in your great time of need. Would you like for me to ask you if you have ever believed in anyone and given them the opportunity at their time of need?

“Bonyfish beware because the same net that caught the jawless fish, caught the cartilaginous fish” (Hamilton Ayuk). Beware earthly paradise seekers because there is a serpent in every paradise"(Hamilton Ayuk). Idle people write, idler people read, and idlest people read and whine that idle people are taking their time (Hamilton Ayuk).

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