Lessons from Jephthah’s Daughter
31 Days of Women from Scripture
Making Promises to God
Day Twenty-Four: Lessons from Jephthah’s Daughter
Be careful what you promise, because you may have to keep it.
Our world takes a lenient view on keeping promises or vows. Yes, if a contract is established, the parties can be made to keep their part. But, just promising to do this or that. Most people shrug it off as no big deal if we don’t follow through.
Jephthah’s story should teach us differently.
Israel had been given plenty of instruction about making vows (Lev. 5:4-5; Num. 6; Num. 30). Deuteronomy 23:21-23 lays the foundation out clearly,
“When you make a vow to the Lord your God, you shall not delay to pay it, for it would be sin in you, and the Lord your God will surely require it of you. However, if you refrain from vowing, it would not be sin in you. You shall be careful to perform what goes out from your lips, just as you have voluntarily vowed to the Lord your God, what you have promised.”
Jephthah had no need of making a vow. The Spirit of the Lord already had moved Jephthah to go after the nation of Ammon (Judg. 11:29). However, Jephthah thought it necessary to require of himself a sacrifice to God in exchange for victory (Judg. 11:30-31).
Jephthah’s promises God that he will sacrifice “whatever” comes out of the doors of his house to greet him when he returns home victorious. Apparently, he was expecting an animal to be the first thing he would see.
God gives the victory to Jephthah and he returns home.
Immediately he is given reason to regret his promise to God.
His only child, his daughter, comes to meet him with excitement over his victory over Ammon (Judg. 11:34).
Jephthah does not question the seriousness of the situation, “…for I have given my word to the Lord, and I cannot take it back.”
His daughter’s response is beautiful.
She simply says that he should do what he promised the Lord he would.
She makes one request, that she be allowed to go away and mourn the loss of her future family. Jephthah sends her away for two months. She goes with her companions and returns two months later.
She doesn’t run away. There is no indication her friends tried to help her to escape. They went away to mourn the family she will never have, and they returned so Jephthah could fulfill his vow.
Scripture says that Jephthah “did to her according to the vow which he had made” (Judg. 11:39).
This young woman gave her life to protect her father’s soul.
Deuteronomy 23:21 said it would be sinning to make the vow and not keep it.
Ecclesiastes 5:4-5 repeats the same thing. The warning about the vow is surrounded by warnings to not be hasty or impulsive about what you bring to God in prayer (Eccl. 5:2). Ecclesiastes 5:6 says, “Do not let your speech cause you to sin and do not say in the presence of the messenger of God that it was a mistake.”
David knew that his vows to God were binding as due response to God’s deliverance (Ps. 56:11-13).
Proverb 20:25 says, “It is a snare for a man to devote rashly something as holy, and afterward to reconsider his vows.” (NKJV).
James 5:12 says, “But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment.”
Making promises is a BIG deal.
Jephthah’s daughter recognized that and encouraged her father to keep his word. Contrast her with Job’s wife, when faced with her loss, encouraged Job to “curse God and die” (Job 2:9).
In Hebrews 11:32 Jephthah is counted among the faithful. His faithfulness to God can be seen in the training his daughter must have received.
Her response was not the natural one – that would have been to preserve her life at any cost. Her response was a trained one. Trained to view obedience to God as utmost (Deut. 12:28; Deut. 15:5; 1 Sam. 15:22; Heb. 5:9). Trained to respect her father and to do him good (Eph. 6:1-3; Deut. 6:6-9).
Life sometimes brings unfortunate consequences. Sometimes by the doing of others and sometimes by our own. No choice we make ever only effects ourselves. They always touch others. Jephthah’s just touched his daughter in a way that is more tragic than most.
Learn from Jephthah’s daughter. See obedience to God as worthy of your life. See protecting another person’s soul as something you may play a part in.
Making promises to God is not a small thing.
Click here to get a complimentary lesson from our “31 Days of Women from Scripture Volume 2”, “Reach Out. Lessons from the Woman with an issue of blood”.
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