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Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Give me the faith of -- Jephthah???

I am often astounded at how God chooses to use faulty people to accomplish His plan on earth. Last night I was reading in Judges chapters 11 and 12 about Jephthah. He was the son of a prostitute, rejected by his family and driven out of his country. While in the land of Tob he gathered around himself "worthless" men. The New King James version even goes so far as to say that Jephthah and these worthless men went out and raided together, though other versions say only that they went out together. Whether he was a thief or not, he certainly was a fool to have chosen the companions he did. But the people of Israel went to him for help when they were in trouble, and God chose to bless Jephthah and gave him and Israel victory. But even in the middle of being used by God, Jephthah showed great foolishness. Jephthah made a vow that if Israel won he would sacrifice the first thing that came out of his house. Of course the first thing that came out when Jephthah returned home was his only daughter. He realized then his own foolishness, but he ended up sacrificing her anyway. This was clearly against the laws that God had established, and the consequence to Jephthah of his own foolish vow was great.

Seeing God use such a foolish man to deliver Israel from her enemies would be amazing in itself. However there is a much more surprising ending to the story of Jephthah. His name is mentioned again much later in the Bible. Hebrews chapter 11 is often called the Bible's hall of faith. There we read about one person after another who showed great faith in God. At the end of this amazing list of godly men and women verse 32 mentions the name of Jephthah. I was rather stunned to see God single him out like that. Why would God list Jephthah among those with great faith? For that matter, why are Balak and Gideon also there? Balak was the leader who when Deborah told him to go up and fight and God would give him victory, he told her that he would only go if she went with him. Then she responded that God would give Israel the victory but that it would be by the hands of a woman that the enemy's king would be killed. Gideon tested God twice before he would believe that what God said was really true. Then after the great victory Gideon collected all the golden earrings from the plunder and made an ephod that the people worshipped as an idol.

My first reaction to reading this was simply, "why?". Why would God choose to put men who seem to me to be foolish and even lacking in faith in this hall of faith? I was almost indignant at first. But the more I pondered the question, the more humbled and grateful I became. You see there is great hope in the fact that God ended up remembering the faith of Balak, Gideon and Jephthah. How many times am I a fool like Jephthah? How often do I test God instead of stepping out in immediate obedience? How frequently do I qualify my obedience, saying that I will do it if somebody else will do it with me? And yet how greatly I long to be a woman of faith. I want to trust God completely and immediately. So I have hope. Despite my foolishness and cowardice God can take my tiny faith and make it great.


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