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Unsung Heroes SeriesPart 6 Jephthah

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Unsung Heroes Series
Part 6
“Jephthah: The Original Comeback Kid”
Judges 11: 1-3 “Now Jephthah of Gilead was a great warrior. He was the son of Gilead, but his mother was a prostitute. 2 Gilead’s wife also had several sons, and when these half-brothers grew up, they chased Jephthah off the land. “You will not get any of our father’s inheritance,” they said, “for you are the son of a prostitute.” 3 So Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob. Soon he had a band of worthless rebels following him.”
Jephthah is not a front-burner Bible character.
You have likely never heard a message about him.
He is yet another unsung hero of the Bible, a man in the shadows of O.T. history, yet a man with a greatly inspiring testimony.
For the record, he is mentioned once in the N.T.
Hebrews 11 is called the “Faith Chapter” because its primary subject is the importance of faith.
It’s also called the “Faith’s Hall of Fame” chapter because it talks about men and women of the Old Testament who became spiritual heroes and heroines.
By trusting God and obeying Him, they demonstrated faith.
In verses 32-34, Hebrews 11 says,
“And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.”
So there you have it!
Jephthah made it into the “Faith’s Hall of Fame” chapter, tucked in-between the likes of David, Samuel, and the prophets.
The background of his story actually begins at the close of Judges 10.
We find there that Israel had sinned against God.
As punishment, God allowed them to be oppressed by the godless Ammonites.
The Israelites’ suffering brought them to their senses.
They decided to return to God and began by praying:
Verse 15-16: “But the Israelites pleaded with the Lord and said, “We have sinned. Punish us as you see fit, only rescue us today from our enemies.” 16 Then the Israelites put aside their foreign gods and served the Lord. And he was grieved by their misery."
Following their prayer the Children of Israel made a vow to the Lord:
Verses 18 states, “The leaders of Gilead said to each other, “Whoever attacks the Ammonites first will become ruler over all the people of Gilead.”
In their desperation, they vowed that whoever would lead them to victory, they would make head over all the inhabitants.
The Israelites needed a leader to help them defeat the Ammonites, but had no candidate for the job.
Ironically, their answer was right under their nose, for the Bible says that Jephthah was “a great warrior.”
But as we read, he was not even considered for the job because of his background.
Jephthah’s mother had been a prostitute.
This wasn’t his fault; he had nothing to do with how he came into the world.
Yet nevertheless he was held in contempt for it and was cast out by his stepmother and half-brothers.
The Bible records, “…they chased Jephthah off the land. ‘You will not get any of our father’s inheritance,” they said, “for you are the son of a prostitute.’”
So first, we see that Jephthah:
Lived a childhood of pain and rejection
Rather than embracing him, his family spurned him.
He was the “son of a hooker.”
The jokes about his mother no doubt abounded.
He was viewed and judged through the lens of his father’s immorality.
He had been the by-product of sin, the offspring of his dad’s mistake.
Day after day he had to endure the sting of mockery, the judgmental glance, the muffled snickering.
So…once again we have in the Bible a future hero who was faced with the decision of how he would respond to very negative, demeaning circumstances.
He could have become very bitter.
He could have let these things create within him the character of a criminal.
“If they say I’m so bad,” he may have thought, “I might as well be bad.”
He could have lashed out at the world in anger, and understandably so.
He could have squandered his life away in a bottle or some other self-destructive behavior, and blamed it all on his painful past.
But he did not!
Instead, he pulled himself up by his bootstraps, brushed away the cobwebs of painful memories, and:
Jephthah, the Bible says, became “a mighty warrior.”
Jephthah decided that he did not have to become the victim of negative circumstances.
He understood something our “culture of victimhood” has forgotten—We are the products of our own decisions, not our environment.
Jephthah refused to allow others to define who he was, or what he would become.
Against all odds, Jephthah decided to become a warrior, a winner, and something else that really set him apart—a HERO-MAKER!
You see, not only did Jephthah himself become a mighty warrior, the Bible says,
He mentored other men into greatness.
The bible records, “Soon he had a band of worthless rebels following him.” (I see Jesus’ disciples here)
These were Not wicked men, but empty men, whose pockets and souls were empty.
And these men began to go hang around with him.
They went out with him; not to rob and plunder, but by making excursions into the enemy's country, and carrying off their treasure.
Jephthah taught them how to fight and to defeat their enemies!
He took this band of misfits and turned them into warriors like him.
Here is where Jephthah reminds me of Jesus, who gathered around himself twelve simple, primarily blue-collar workers and transformed them into world-shakers.
And Jephthah also reminds me of David, who took a gang of four-hundred malcontents and mis-contents and turned them into mighty men.
Jephthah poured his life into these empty men who had no future and gave them a future
Who had no dream and gave them a dream…
Who had no self-respect and gave them self-respect.
He gave them a purpose, something to live for that was noble;
And he became their leader.
As time passed, Jephthah’s reputation as a warrior and leader grew.
His military exploits ultimately caught the attention of the very people he had been rejected by.
Israel was still under the threat of the Ammonites and desperately needed a leader.
In one of those great ironies of life, they breathed deep and came crawling back to the very man they had spurned.
The Bible records:
11:4 “At about this time…when the Ammonites attacked, the elders of Gilead sent for JephthahThe elders said, 6 “Come and be our commander! Help us fight the Ammonites!”
Say what?
The irony of this wasn’t lost on Jephthah:
11:7 But Jephthah said to them, “Aren’t you the ones who hated me and drove me from my father’s house? Why do you come to me now when you’re in trouble?”
LESSON: Be careful who you spurn, you may need them later in a big way!
The Gileadites were forced to eat a big, hot, steaming bowl of warm crow.
Having kicked him out, they now begged him to return.
Jephthah agreed to their request on the condition that they make him their ruler, to which they agreed.
God soon gave him victory over the Ammonites. The Bible says:
11:29 At that time the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah…”
Now, right here the Bible reveals how Jephthah overcame all his circumstances, all the negatives, all the rejection, and went on to become a mighty man
The Spirit of the Lord had been with him!
As Paul wrote in Phil. 4, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me…”
The Bible goes on to tell us of Jephthah’s victory:
“…and he went throughout the land of Gilead and Manasseh…and from there he led an army against the Ammonites…32 So Jephthah led his army against the Ammonites, and the Lord gave him victory. 33 He crushed the Ammonites…”
I want to draw two great lessons from this great unsung heroes life:
The world’s rejection does not mean God’s rejection.
In fact, God often uses what the world rejects.
The Bible says, “26 Christian brothers, think who you were when the Lord called you. Not many of you were wise or powerful or born into the family of leaders of a country. 27 But God has chosen what the world calls foolish to shame the wise. He has chosen what the world calls weak to shame what is strong. 28 God has chosen what is hated and not known, to destroy the things the world trusts in.” (1 Cor. 1:26-28).
We may come from very difficult and painful circumstances….circumstances that no one should have to go through.
We might be rejected by our families or others around us.
We may be told, whether in words or by actions, that we are worthless losers.
But, God has a way of taking those whom people reject and using them in a mighty way!
No matter how you’ve been treated by others, God still loves you more than you know!
And secondly, Jephthah shows us that:
We can rise above our circumstances.
We are not victims of circumstance; we are products of our own personal choices.
We all have a choice as to who and what will define us.
We can let negative circumstances shape us, or we can receive what God says about us.
Clearly, Jephthah decided to believe the report of the Lord about himself, rather than the report of his critics.
Whose report will you believe today?
Your critics or your Savior?
Your circumstances or your Christ?
The word of others or the Word of God?
NEXT TIME: “Caleb: An Old Man With a Young Dream”
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