And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord : “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord ’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.” – Judges 11:30-31 NIV
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Jephthah was the son of a gileadite whose name was also Gilead and whose mother was described as a prostitute. Because of his mother being a prostitute, his three brothers from the wife of his father decided to send him out of the family house claiming he had no right to the family inheritance so he had to go and live among some scoundrels in the land of Tob – Judges 11:1-3. However when the Ammonites decided to wage war against the Israelites, claiming that the Israelites took over their land on their way out of Egypt , the elders of Israel had to approach Jephthah who seemed to be the only one that was skilled enough to lead their battle, to help them in the fight against the Ammonites. He agreed to do so on the condition that he would be officially declared as their leader if he won the battle, a condition which they immediately accepted – Judges 11:4-11.
In approaching the battle against the Ammonites, Jephthah initially appealed to the king of the Ammonites to withdraw all his threat to attack Israel, relating to him in the process the historical background of the events and why such accusations against the Israelites will be wrong but that was not sufficient to dissuade the king of the Ammonites in his resolve to attack Israel and so it became inevitable that they had to go to war – Judges 11:12-28. It was in preparation for this war that Jephthah while seeking the support of the Lord in the battle made a vow to the Lord, in the foundation scripture for today’s devotional, that should the Lord grant him victory in the battle, he would sacrifice whatever was the first living thing that met him on return from the battle. It became a vow whose implementation brought sadness into the joy of Jephthah as the first person to meet him on his return from the battle was his virgin daughter who happened to be his only child – Judges 11:30-35. Of course he was left with no choice than to fulfil his vow to the Lord – Judges 11:36-39. He had made a vow to celebrate a joyful event but which he did not anticipate would introduce sadness into his joy.
Although Jephthah did not hold back in fulfilling his vow irrespective of the weight of its effect on his emotion, many Christians there are today who in their desperation made solemn vows to the Lord in exchange for his support promising to fulfil such vows as soon as their request to the Lord is granted. Because of the prevailing circumstances when the vows were being made, they did not take time to weigh the full implication of the vow until the pressure was relieved due to the Almighty God granting their desire. That is when the full implication of the vow dawns on them and in most cases decide to back down from their vows. Unfortunately by then, it has become late and the only option will be for the vow to be paid. The non payment of those vows is the reason why so many Christians are finding life extremely difficult.
The Almighty God will not accept any reason for unfulfilled vows. The reason of not being able to afford the vow will not be tenable as you are expected to make a vow of something you know you have or can afford, just as the sudden realisation or thinking that the value of the vow will have unbearable effect on you will not be acceptable reason for not paying the vow. The one who is vowing is expected to be in full control of the reasoning process sufficiently but should there be a fault in the reasoning process, then the only one to bear its consequence should be the one who vowed and not the potential beneficiary of the vow.
One of the attributes of a good Christian is the possession of credibility and integrity – Psa. 15:4. One who lacks any or both cannot be referred to as a Christian just as such is on the path to incurring the anger of the Lord. The book of Ecclesiastes advises that all should watch their pronouncements when going into the house of the Lord (Eccl. 5:1), but really it is not just about the house of the Lord alone but everywhere. Every vow is a spiritual covenant and they cannot be without consequences. Act with caution when making pronouncements like vows or pledges. There will be no choice other than fulfilling the vow once it is due.
In addition to the need to apply caution while making vows is the little matter of the need for the Christian who is a victim of condemnation by anyone for any reason whatsoever, to remain focused on self development and worry less about whatever negatives the world may decide to capitalize on as a tool to undermined him/her. The step-brothers of Jephthah decided to make an issue of the fact that his mother was a prostitute, to give the impression that he is less a son of his father than them and so deprived him of his right. Although they succeeded in taking the right to be just another son in the family away from him, he instead developed himself into becoming the leader of the whole Israel, with his family being a minor fraction. The Christian should never allow circumstances of birth or the deriding comments of people at any stage of development in life to distract him/her. Many Christians there are today who are ready to ascribe their failures in life to such experiences but the story of Jephthah should be an eye opener. Success or failure in life is not about what people say or feel about you but what you say or feel about yourself. Everyone has a right to form opinion but no one’s opinion should be so significant as to be the reason for the setback of the Christian. The only opinion that matters is the opinion of the Almighty God which is already known. It is to prosper the faithful Christian and give such a hope and a great future – Jer. 29:11. The Christian that desires to succeed must disregard the opinion of men, whether positive or negative and do all to give a positive impression of him/her self to the Lord. That is the only opinion that matters.
May the Almighty God grant us the wisdom to vow wisely and live a life where the only impression and opinion that matters is His and no other in Jesus name. Amen.