The Israelites worshiped other gods. They find themselves in an unpleasant predicament. They turn back to God and send out an SOS.
15 But the Israelites pleaded with the Lord and said, “We have sinned. Punish us as you see fit, only rescue us today from our enemies.” 16 Then the Israelites put aside their foreign gods and served the Lord. And he was grieved by their misery. Judges 10:15-16, NLT.
Jephthah was a warrior, but shunned because his mother was a prostitute. He lived separated from community. But when the people were desperate, they reached out to him for help. I see a glimpse into his heart. A desire for acceptance, a restoration, and an opportunity to be raised above his current status.
7 But Jephthah said to them, “Aren’t you the ones who hated me and drove me from my father’s house? Why do you come to me now when you’re in trouble?”
8 “Because we need you,” the elders replied. “If you lead us in battle against the Ammonites, we will make you ruler over all the people of Gilead.”
9 Jephthah said to the elders, “Let me get this straight. If I come with you and if the Lord gives me victory over the Ammonites, will you really make me ruler over all the people?” Judges 11:7-9, NLT.
In Jephthah’s case, he bargains.
29 At that time the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah, and he went throughout the land of Gilead and Manasseh, including Mizpah in Gilead, and from there he led an army against the Ammonites. 30 And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord. He said, “If you give me victory over the Ammonites, 31 I will give to the Lord whatever comes out of my house to meet me when I return in triumph. I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.” Judges 11:29-31, NLT.
As I read this, I imagine that the victory was his without the bargain. The Spirit of the Lord was upon him. Did he ever imagine what his desperation/pride/desire would cost him?
Jesus sits with the disciples and asks, “Who do people say I am?”
But this is the question that always stills me.
20 Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?” Luke 9:20, NLT.
When I want to hightail it away from situations that seem too big … when I want to bargain and negotiate a good outcome … when pressing needs that only a miracle could provide (um, feeding 5,000 on a 5-loaf-and-2-fish budget) … who do I say He is? Is He strong enough? Is my God big enough?
There’s a lot to chew on: SOS prayer, negotiating and bargaining with God, or just asking minute to minute–who do I say He is?
The Spirit of the Lord was on Jephthah–the Spirit of the Lord lives in me. I will face battles and uncertainty. I will wonder if I’m in God’s will (and how does one ever truly know? Is being in God’s will supposed to mean it’s always easy? Some of my best lessons learned were the hardest ones.).
Lord, thank you for reminders of who you are. You’ve got this. The whole world. In your hands.