A Vow That Was Not Asked


Read Judges 11:29-40

30 And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord and said, “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, 31 then whatever[a] comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the Lord‘s, and I will offer it[b] up for a burnt offering.” 

34 Then Jephthah came to his home at Mizpah. And behold, his daughter came out to meet him with tambourines and with dances. She was his only child; besides her, he had neither son nor daughter. 35 And as soon as he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you have become the cause of great trouble to me. For I have opened my mouth to the Lord, and I cannot take back my vow.” 36 And she said to him, “My father, you have opened your mouth to the Lord; do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, now that the Lord has avenged you on your enemies, on the Ammonites.”

39 And at the end of two months, she returned to her father, who did with her according to his vow that he had made. She had never known a man, and it became a custom in Israel 40 that the daughters of Israel went year by year to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in the year.

The Lord delivered Jepthath and his people from the Amorites, and before going to war, Jepthath made a vow before the Lord to sacrifice the first person who would come and greet him. Alas, of all the people who greeted him after the great victory was her only daughter.

Now the question begs to be asked. Why make a vow such as making a sacrifice (human) before the Lord?

Some scholars suggest that Jepthath did this because he was desensitized with the violent culture he was in so making a human sacrifice was not such a big deal if it was a servant who came and greeted him. Another possible reason was the pagan moral code that if my God did something to bless me, I would prove myself worthy of that blessing by making a sacrifice. It was based on a works-righteousness mindset where I have to show my worth to my God!

But we all know that God does not require for us to do that. What God asked of us is to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. (Romans 12:1-3) He does not want us to sacrifice ourselves physically but ask that we wholeheartedly worship Him.

Jepthath kept his vow before the Lord because he had a limited understanding of God’s grace. He associated God with the pagans during his time. A wrong understanding of God’s nature and character would make us not trust God’s love and grace. This was a tragic decision Jepthath made. A vow God never asked Him to do or even fulfill.

Some takeaway lessons:

  1.  Be careful with the promises and vows we make. Our words have power in it. 
  2. We are mostly far more affected by our culture than by the Bible – Tim Keller. 
  3. Don’t do anything that the Lord requires you not to do. 

Talk it over:

  1. Are there any vows you made in the past that the Lord never told you to do? Take some time to discuss and ask someone whom you trust spiritually to help you process and renounce vows that the Lord never said you to do.
  2. Our words are powerful – how have you been with your words lately?
  3. Are you far more affected by the culture around you than the Bible? How? What are you going to do about it?

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