[Download a copy of the sermon notes for Sunday at the bottom of this post.]
Jephthah had it all. He had it all but gave it all away because he couldn't back down from a fight.
Jephthah's mother was a prostitute and his brothers forced him into exile because they refused to share their inheritance with him. But from that beginning Jephthah built himself up and gained a reputation as a mighty warrior, so much so that the tribal elders called on him when they needed deliverance from the Ammonites.
Jephthah agreed to lead them and even received empowerment from God's Spirit to enable him to be victorious. But he didn't combine that with cooperation on his part. Instead, he focused on his need to be vindicated and tried to "work a deal" with God--he vowed to sacrifice the first thing he saw when he returned home if God would allow him to be victorious.
But hadn't God already provided for his victory through his own Spirit?
Of course, tragedy struck when Jephthah arrived home and his daughter was the first thing from his house to come out to meet him. So he followed through on his vow and sacrificed his daughter, rather than repenting over his rashness and calling upon God's mercy.
Instead of learning humility as a result of this, he also allowed a challenge by the trouble-making Ephraimites to get under his skin to the point where he engaged in a civil war with them. The result was not pretty--42,000 Ephraimites were killed.
Jephthah's legacy is a legacy of violence, sacrifice, and killing, all because of his pride.
Jesus reminds us that it's far easier to be prideful than it is to be humble. In Matthew 6:1-18, he points out a number of ways we can live by pride instead of trust in God. He challenges us to focus inwardly on our faith, to keep our focus on God, and to live out a simple faith.
The way of Jephthah leads to a dead end. The way of Jesus leads to life.
Sermon Notes: Judges 10-12 (Jephthah)