Jephthah fascinates me in the same way that the Bachelor fascinates me. The account of his life in Judges is cringeworthy, each twist and turn making me certain that it’d be better to close the Bible rather than continue and find out how it ends. I know how it’s going to end. The Bachelor will end with a rose ceremony and tears, and Jephthah’s life will end with a young girl dying for her father’s folly and sin.
There’s a huge amount of pain in the account. There’s this tension that builds and when he vows to sacrifice the first thing that comes out of the door, you know it wont end well. You just know.
But if you flick forward a few hundred pages, you find yourself in Hebrews 11 and in the list of heroes of faith, Jephthah makes an appearance. He makes an appearance among heavyweights of the faith and I found that I couldn’t move passed it. I couldn’t move passed his name on that list because he seemed so out of place. Like a Pittsburgh Steeler standing in the ranks of the Ravens, I wanted him gone.
A friend commented on my lament with a wry smile and a shrug, “I shouldn’t make it onto such a list, but God wrote my name in the book of life.” he told me in a calm british accent, then continued to sip his coffee.
Jephthah is just like me. I’m just like Jephthah. Jephthah sought after the worst means to get to his goals by making vows that he didn’t need to make to a God who had already secured his victory. I constantly chase after fleeting pleasures, snide jokes and sarcastic quips to build myself up. I sacrifice at the altar of my peers just for my own pleasure. I sacrifice at the altar of consumerism for the sake of my completion. I sacrifice at the altar of body image desperately hoping that one day I’ll meet the standard.
My anger, my pride, my self-pity, my sin. My deeply rooted sin that so constantly causes me to turn away from the God who has already won the victory is no better than Jephthah’s sin. My heart is no more pure. Yet, my life is no less important than his.
You see, Jephthah did one thing right. He gave the battle he was fighting to God. He handed over the reigns and let God decide who would win. God decided that Israel would that day receive deliverance. Jephthah then made the vow that led to his daughter’s death. God showed his favour, and then Jephthah turned away again a breath later.
That’s my story. All too often, that’s my story. And it’s your story too. It’s all of our stories. Yet God declares that He will bring good from all this. He will draw this to completion and he will add us to his book of life, and on the last day we will stand with the heroes of the faith.
Our sin isn’t enough to push us from God’s story. Nothing is. Don’t give up on your place in God’s story when you stumble. You sin is not enough to exclude you from the grace shown to you in Christ. It is not enough. But Christ is enough to save you.
We don’t deserve to make the list, but we do. Just like Jephthah.
Thank God for that.