Today's devotion from Judges 10 & 11.
Chapters 10 and 11 walk us through three different judges of Israel, but the emphasis is on Jephthah. Born to a prostitute, Jephthah was an outcast. Discarded by his brothers, Jephthah found himself surrounded by questionable characters. He had one quality that opened the door for him to reenter society: he was a mighty warrior.
Yet, he was not just a mighty warrior. He was also cunning. He sent messengers to try and peaceably resolve the issue between Israel and the Ammonites. This was a shrewd move, and reveals a level of thought and reasoning beyond someone seeking to beat the enemy into submission.
It also reveals the mind of one who would have known that human sacrifice was forbidden by God. Though outcast, he was still an Israelite, and one chosen by God and filled with Spirit for the task at hand. Especially given that fact that he is mentioned along with David in Hebrews 11:32 for his faith. For these reasons it is hard to believe that he would offer his daughter as a burnt offering to God even though he probably came across pagan practices like human sacrifice.
(Read this article for details.)
So, what is the point of this story arc in the Jephthah account? We think of it as being a warning to not make rash vows. Really? That's the point? I don't know about you, but I'm not often tempted to vow to sacrifice something living to God. I think this is the story of one born of questionable parentage being used by God in spite of the community around them, their questionable past, and their fallibility. Even in this moment, his vow is made in an apparent attempt to negotiate with God. He is not perfect. It is a story about redemption in the plan of God.
Reread the account with new eyes. See the young man ostracized. Envision the taunts of the other children being drowned out by the praises of a liberated people. After God lost His patience with the spiritual wanderlust and infidelity of the Israelites isn't it just like Him to raise up one born to a prostitute to save them?
Jephthah was not the Messiah, so we should not seek to emulate him. However he was the savior of Israel in this moment. Never believe that someone is beyond God's ability to redeem and use for His glory.