Misunderstandings About God
Searching for a True Savior: An Exposition of Judges

Gary Combs ·
April 30, 2023 · exposition · Judges 10-12:7 · Notes


What’s your view of God? How do you see Him? Is He up in heaven with a gray beard, wearing a black judge’s robe, with a gavel in His hand, ready to judge you? Or is He like a celestial Santa Claus waiting patiently for your wish list to come in through the prayer line? Maybe you see Him as a hippie guru holding an “All you need is love sign”? Or maybe He looks like Morgan Freeman in the movie Bruce Almighty? Where do you get your view, your understanding of God?

As we continue through Judges, we see the people of Israel declining in the knowledge of God. With every generation, they remember less of His revealed Word to them. They see Him as the pagans do their false gods. In Judges 10-12, the Israelites continued their downward cycle of sin and rebellion against God, becoming less like His special called people and more like the people of the world. When they cried out to the Lord, He empowered another judge to rescue them, yet they have become so worldly that they no longer understand the character of their Lord. We often misunderstand the character of God.


Below is an automated transcript of this message

Good morning, church! We’re continuing our series through the book of Judges. We’re in chapter 10, 11 and 12. Today, we’re covering those three chapters. We’ve entitled the series, “Searching For a True Savior.”

Before I continue, I want to mention a word about Tim Sharpe. I appreciate him giving his testimony today. We have a process in our church called “Life On Life Discipleship,” where we teach people how to write their testimony and give their testimony. I appreciate Tim giving his testimony today. If you’d like to learn more about how to grow in your relationship with Jesus and have a personal mentor that takes you through understanding more about the Lord and how to write your testimony, let us know by checking the box on your connection card and placing it in the bucket today. Thanks again to brother Tim for offering his testimony today.

Today’s message is entitled, “Misunderstandings About God.” As we look in chapters 10 through 12 today, one of the things that we will notice about the Israelites is that they really misunderstand the character of God. They’ve actually ascribed to Him understandings that they’ve gotten from their culture more than what they’ve gotten from God’s revealed word to them. They react to God in wrong ways because they don’t understand who He is.

I think today that we struggle with understanding who God is. Many people today actually reject God; to them, He doesn’t exist. They reject their misunderstanding of God because they get their understanding, maybe from Hollywood or from the culture or from some other place rather than from Christ and from the Bible. When we rightly understand who God is, we recognize how much He loves us, how much He cares for us and we understand who God is, we will not want to reject Him. We will want to follow Him.

What’s your view of God today? How do you view God? Do you see Him up in heaven with a gray beard, a black robe and maybe a gavel in His hand just waiting to judge you and make your life miserable? Maybe that’s your view of God. He’s trying to take your fun away. Maybe, you see God up in heaven like a “celestial Santa Claus,” just waiting on the prayer line for your wishes to come in, so the only time you talk to God is when you need something. Perhaps you see God as some sort of “hippie guru” holding up a “all you need is love” sign; God is just this sentimental kind of person, all it is is love and He doesn’t have any other shape to Him. Perhaps, your view of God’s been shaped by movies like “Bruce Almighty,” and when you visualize God, you visualize Morgan Freeman. I don’t know how you view God today and where you get your understanding of God.

May I say to you, that this Bible is primarily a book about God. Although the Bible tells us history stories and it tells us a lot about people, with every page, we learn more about His person and His character. We learn more about God. Ultimately, as we turn each page, we learn about His highest revelation of who He is to us through Jesus. If you want to know God, you must know Jesus. If you want to know more about God, look at Jesus; He’s the highest example and word about God.

Today, we start in the book of Judges at chapter 10. They don’t have the full revelation of God. They have a partial revelation of God. Their approach to God is more like the pagan enemies that live around them. In chapters 10 through 12, they continue their downward cycle of sin and rebellion. They keep getting worse and then they’ll cry out when they suffer. God rescues them and then they’ll have a season of peace. Then, they’ll fall right back into their sin.

This journey called Judges is kind of hard. They keep making the same mistake. It’s hard to read. It’s like watching a car accident in slow motion, but we learn a lot about humanity here because what’s really informing them in these chapters 10 through 12 today is they don’t understand who God is and it affects the decisions they make.

I believe, today, that we might struggle with misunderstandings that we have about God. As we look at the text today, we’ll see three misunderstandings we have about God that we can have clarified today by God’s word. We’re going to read two full chapters and part of a third chapter. As we go through the book of Judges, we’re not skipping any verses. We’re going through this book and we’re learning together because we’re convinced that this is helpful to our souls to get God’s word in us.

Let’s start at chapter 10: Judges 10 (ESV) 1 After Abimelech there arose to save Israel Tola the son of Puah, son of Dodo, a man of Issachar, and he lived at Shamir in the hill country of Ephraim. 2 And he judged Israel twenty-three years. Then he died and was buried at Shamir.

(Pastor Gary – commentary – Just a brief word. We do know that God gave Israel rest for 23 years.)

3 After him arose Jair the Gileadite, who judged Israel twenty-two years. 4 And he had thirty sons who rode on thirty donkeys, and they had thirty cities, called Havvoth-jair to this day, which are in the land of Gilead. 5 And Jair died and was buried in Kamon.

(Pastor Gary – commentary – So that’s all we know about Jair. We’ve gone through those two judges rather quickly today. But if you add their two periods of judgeship together, we have 45 years of peace following the terrible son of Gideon,Abimelech, who didn’t rescue Israel from anyone. In fact, he caused a civil war and killed Israelites. He was really an anti-judge. In verse six, we see the people fall back into this pattern.)

6 The people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth, the gods of Syria, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites, and the gods of the Philistines. And they forsook the LORD and did not serve him.

(Pastor Gary- commentary – If you count, there are seven gods that they’re serving. They’ve become polytheistic, just like the people surrounding them. The number seven in Hebrew is the number of completion. They’ve completely fallen into the sin of idolatry after 45 years of peace. Here they go again; they go right back into their troubles. They have forsaken the Lord and did not serve Him.) 7 So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of the Philistines and into the hand of the Ammonites, 8 and they crushed and oppressed the people of Israel that year. For eighteen years they oppressed all the people of Israel who were beyond the Jordan in the land of the Amorites, which is in Gilead. 9 And the Ammonites crossed the Jordan to fight also against Judah and against Benjamin and against the house of Ephraim, so that Israel was severely distressed. 10 And the people of Israel cried out to the LORD, saying, “We have sinned against you, because we have forsaken our God and have served the Baals.”

(Pastor Gary – commentary – Well, that’s the next thing that always happens. They get into trouble and they finally think, maybe we want to talk to the Lord, but they have to get in trouble before they’ll do it. )

11 And the LORD said to the people of Israel, “Did I not save you from the Egyptians and from the Amorites, from the Ammonites and from the Philistines? 12 TheSidonians also, and the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you, and you cried out to me, and I saved you out of their hand. 13 Yet you have forsaken me and served other gods; therefore I will save you no more. 14 Go and cry out to the gods whom you have chosen; let them save you in the time of your distress.”

(Pastor Gary commentary – Now, that’s new. He’s had it with their false repentance. It’s not true repentance. He wants them to come truly to repentance. This is a surprising thing that He says here–14 “Go and cry out to the gods whom you have chosen; let them save you in the time of your distress.”)

15 And the people of Israel said to the LORD, “We have sinned; do to us whatever seems good to you. Only please deliver us this day.” 16 So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the LORD, and he became impatient over the misery of Israel. 17 Then the Ammonites were called to arms, and they encamped in Gilead. And the people of Israel came together, and they encamped at Mizpah. 18 And the people, the leaders of Gilead,said said one to another, “Who is the man who will begin to fight against the Ammonites? He shall be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.” This is God’s Word. Amen.


1. We misunderstand God’s mercy.

We see God’s mercy that He gives those two judges earlier in chapter 10, to give the people peace and to give them rest. Does His mercy, His kindness towards them cause them to serve Him more diligently? No. It causes them to fall into further idolatry and to become more and more like the people around them.

In fact, what’s happening to Israel is their whole view of God is really more shaped by the way the people around them view their gods than by the word of God that was given to them through Moses. They’re not really knowing their God and they don’t recognize His mercy. When they cry out to Him, in verse ten, it but verse, is after He turns them over into servitude. You see that in verse seven, 7 “So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of the Philistines and into the hand of the Ammonites,” That’s a somewhat troubling passage, isn’t it, that the Lord sold them into servitude? It’s kind of metaphoric language, but he’s basically saying, ‘Whenever you fall into idolatry, what always follows is you become enslaved to the thing that you worship. You become enslaved to the thing that you thought would make you happy; instead of it making you happy, it makes you a slave to it. God turns them over to it.

You might think, ‘Well, how’s that merciful?’ You see, God is offended by our sin. It wouldn’t be mercy if He wasn’t offended by it.He wouldn’t need to give mercy. The reason it’s merciful is because it seems to me that sometimes the only way that I learn things is to experience the trouble of bad choices; the trouble that follows a bad choice. I can be kind of hard headed.

How about you? Sometimes, I have to go back to remedial learning. I have to learn some things two or three times. I’ll talk to the Lord about it. I’ll say to the Lord, ‘I thought You taught me this a few years ago.’ Then, I’ll sense the idea that there were some parts of that lesson I had yet to understand.

Is it merciful for God to allow you to hit bottom? Is it merciful for God to allow you to have what you chose and the trouble that goes with it? You might think, Well, it would be more merciful if He just kept me out of that, but see, then there would be no free will. There would be no choosing of following Him or not following Him.

God says to the Israelites, ‘You know what? If that’s the way you’re going to be, just go ahead. I’m going to turn you over to servitude.’ That reminds me of this cycle that we keep seeing repeated in the book of Judges. Pop that chart back up again to just remind ourselves. The people fall into sin which leads to servitude. They fall into servitude because of their sin. Then, when it gets too much (this time it took eighteen years of oppression; they’re pretty hard-hearted at this point) they cry out to the Lord in sorrow. When they first cry out, the Lord’s not “buying it;” we’ve “been around this block” before. Then finally, in chapter 11, He sends them salvation. He sends them a judge to rescue them. He gives them some direction here. After chapter nine, when we barely saw a mention of the Lord, we see the Lord very active in chapter 10. He’s engaged with these people. He’s basically saying, ‘Ok, why don’t you cry out to those other gods that you’ve been worshiping?’ They get the point. At that point, they cry out, ‘Lord, we have sinned against You. We’re going to put away those gods.’ They actually begin to serve the Lord.

That’s what repentance looks like. What does repentance mean? It doesn’t just mean that you’re sorry, it does include that, but it, also, includes that you’re sorry for your sin. You’re not sorry that you got caught; that’s not repentance. I’m sorry that I’m in trouble–that’s not repentance. Repentance is I’m sorry that my sin brought me to this point. Not only that, but it’s to turn away from your sin and turn towards God.

In military terms. They call it, “About face.” You go 180 degrees in the opposite direction. Repentance means to not just stop doing what you were doing, but to start doing something with the Lord. As brother Tim said earlier, “Put your ‘yes’ on the table. I’m giving You my whole life. I’m going to do what You’ve called me to do.”

If you just focus on stopping doing something, you’re focused on that thing. I’m going to stop this addiction. I’m gonna stop this bad attitude. Now, all you’re thinking about is that thing, but if you turn towards the Lord, now you’re thinking about Him. That’s repentance. Repentance means to confess your sins. To have a genuine sorrow for your sins and then, to turn towards God for help, to help you live a new life.

We see evidence of repentance here in verse 16 “So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the LORD,” We see this response that led to mercy, especially it says, in verse 16, “…and he became impatient over the misery of Israel.” That’s a strange reading. God became impatient with their misery. What’s going on here?

I dug into the Hebrew a little bit to try to get a feel for this section. I found that the New King James version has a good rendering here of the Hebrew. Let me read the New King James version to you on verse 16: “So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord. And His soul could no longer endure the misery of Israel.” That’s closer to a literal translation of the Hebrew. It’s this idea about the Lord’s soul; He’s so merciful. He cares so much about our sorrow.

Are you hurting today? Are you sorrowful about something today? Are you in trouble? The Lord is merciful. He cares and He becomes impatient with your suffering. He becomes weary with it. It tires Him; it moves His love, compassion and mercy to the point that He offers us Jesus to rescue us. He’s the true Savior; He’s the true judge.

We will meet another judge in chapter 11 that falls short. All of them are foreshadowing and preparing us for the true Savior. He loves us. He has mercy. It’s even merciful for Him to allow us a season of sorrow. It’s even merciful when He allows us to fall into servitude. Why? It is so we will cry out.

Sometimes, the only way to get our attention is to let us hit bottom. When you finally hit bottom and you can’t look any further down, the only place you can look is up and you’ll finally call out to the Lord. Maybe then, you’ll experience true repentance.

It says in 2 Corinthians 7:10 (NLT) “For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.” There’s a kind of sorrow that God wants for you. There’s a kind of sorrow that God wants us to experience. It leads us away from sin and results in salvation. What kind of sorrow is that? It is the sorrow for our sin, that sorrow that we’ve offended the almighty Creator. To be genuinely sorry, not that we got caught, not that we’re in trouble, not that we’re hurting, but to be sorry that we’re not right with Him. It’s merciful for Him to allow us that kind of sorrow if it leads us to repentance.

What is worldly sorrow? Worldly sorrow is, I’m sorry that I got caught. I’m sorry that I’m in trouble. Then, as soon as I can get out of it, I’m going to go right back to it. That’s worldly sorrow. It’s not true repentance.

Proverbs 28:13 (NLT) “People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy.” What is this mercy? It’s God’s leniency, that He has a “long fuse.” It’s God’s compassionate treatment of us. It’s His withholding of deserved punishment. It’s His forgiveness when we call on Him. It’s His finding a way to completely set us free, which He does through Jesus; that’s God’s mercy.

We misunderstand God’s mercy. We think that it doesn’t include sorrow. It doesn’t include that God is angry towards their sin. To understand mercy fully and to have an understanding of God’s character of mercy, you have to really look at the scripture, then you will get it. You will get that He’s a merciful God, but it doesn’t mean that He doesn’t feel offense when we sin. He is ready to forgive us when we call upon Him.

Let’s keep reading. We’ve talked about God’s mercy here; we see it in the way he responds to Israel. Now in chapter 11, we will meet a new judge. His name is Jephthah.

Judges 11 (ESV) 1 Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior, but he was the son of a prostitute. Gilead was the father of Jephthah. 2 And Gilead’s wife also bore him sons. And when his wife’s sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out and said to him, “You shall not have an inheritance in our father’s house, for you are the son of another woman.” 3 Then Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob, and worthless fellows collected around Jephthah and went out with him. 4 After a time the Ammonites made war against Israel. 5 And when the Ammonites made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to bring Jephthah from the land of Tob.

(Pastor Gary – commentary – Now, apparently, Jeff had a reputation as a mighty warrior. He was up there with those worthless fellas. He must have had like a powerful gang up there that he was known for. He didn’t have a great resume for a judge, but they went to get him because they thought he could defend them. When the Ammonites made war, they went to get him.)

6 And they said to Jephthah, “Come and be our leader, that we may fight against the Ammonites.” 7 But Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “Did you not hate me and drive me out of my father’s house? Why have you come to me now when you are in distress?” 8 And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “That is why we have turned to you now, that you may go with us and fight against the Ammonites and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.” 9 Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead , “If you bring me home again to fight against the Ammonites, and the LORD gives them over to me, I will be your head.” 10 And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “The LORD will be witness between us, if we do not do as you say.” 11 So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and leader over them. And Jephthah spoke all his words before the LORD at Mizpah.

(Pastor Gary – commentary – The people have elected their own judge here. Let’s see if the Lord approves; we’ll find out later about that, but now, we’ve got this kind of “mafioso” boss here that’s going to be their judge. He’s a gang leader. He’s been an outcast, but then, we’re surprised in verse 12 that he seems to be a pretty thoughtful person because this is what he does:)

12 Then Jephthah sent messengers to the king of the Ammonites and said, “What do you have against me, that you have come to me to fight against my land?” 13 And the king of the Ammonites answered the messengers of Jephthah, “Because Israel on coming up from Egypt took away my land, from the Arnon to the Jabbok and to the Jordan; now therefore restore it peaceably.”

(Pastor Gary – commentary – We’re kind of surprised that this man of action begins with diplomacy. What’s going on here? Why are you trying to start war with us? They say that it’s because he took their land.)

14 Jephthah again sent messengers to the king of the Ammonites 15 and said to him, “Thus says Jephthah: Israel did not take away the land of Moab or the land of the Ammonites, 16 but when they came up from Egypt, Israel went through the wilderness to the Red Sea and came to Kadesh. 17 Israel then sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying, ‘Please let us pass through your land,’ but the king of Edom would not listen. And they sent also to the king of Moab, but he would not consent. So Israel remained at Kadesh. 18 “Then they journeyed through the wilderness and wentaround the land of Edom and the land of Moab and arrived on the east side of the land of Moab and camped on the other side of the Arnon. But they did not enter the territory of Moab, for the Arnon was the boundary of Moab. 19 Israel then sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, king of Heshbon, and Israel said to him, ‘Please let us pass through your land to our country,’ 20 but Sihon did not trust Israel to pass through his territory, so Sihon gathered all his people together and encamped at Jahaz and fought with Israel. 21 And the LORD, the God of Israel, gave Sihon and all his people into the hand of Israel, and they defeated them. So Israel took possession of all the land of the Amorites, who inhabited that country.

(Pastor Gary – commentary – Now, let’s just pause right here. Notice what he’s doing. He’s making a case against the king of Moab, saying that we didn’t take your land. Where’s he getting this whole story of how Israel came into land? It is from the books of Moses. So here’s a man, either he got somebody to do this research or he did it himself. He’s basically telling exactly what Moses said, in his book of Numbers and his book of Deuteronomy. What we have here is a historical case against the Ammonites’ claim, but he’s not finished. He keeps going:)

22 And they took possession of all the territory of the Amorites from the Arnon to the Jabbok and from the wilderness to the Jordan. 23 So then the LORD, the God of Israel, dispossessed the Amorites from before his people Israel; and are you to take possession of them? 24 Will you not possess what Chemosh your god gives you to possess? And all that the LORD our God has dispossessed before us, we will possess.

(Pastor Gary – commentary – So now, he makes a theological case against the Ammonites, saying our God gave us this land. It was not from the Ammonites. Didn’t your God give you your land? Now, we’re not clear here if Jephthah even believes that Chemosh exists, but he’s talking to the Ammonites about who their God is by name.)

25 Now are you any better than Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he ever contend against Israel, or did he ever go to war with them? 26 While Israel lived in Heshbon and its villages, and in Aroer and its villages, and in all the cities that are on the banks of the Arnon, 300 years, why did you not deliver them within that time?

(Pastor Gary – commentary – Now, he makes a legal argument, that 300 years have gone by and they hadn’t even tried to get this land that was never theirs anyway. So, this is a legal argument that, certainly after 300 years, if you hadn’t made the claim on it and we’ve been living here, this is our land.)

27 I therefore have not sinned against you, and you do me wrong by making war on me . The LORD, the Judge, decide this day between the people of Israel and the people of Ammon.

(Pastor Gary -commentary – He says this amazing thing that’s really, really important –The LORD, the Judge, decide this day between the people of Israel and the people of Ammon. You’ll notice that LORD is in all caps, which shows that it’s the name “Yahweh,” “the Lord Yahweh.”)

28 But the king of the Ammonites did not listen to the words of Jephthah that he sent to him.

(Pastor Gary – commentary – Jephthah does actually size up to be a pretty good judge. He knows the Bible. He started off with diplomacy, but then the king of Ammon rejected it. And then we see in verse 29, that the spirit of the Lord was upon Jephthah.This is answering our question –God is for this man.)

29 Then the Spirit of the LORD was upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh and passed on to Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he passed on to the Ammonites.30 And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD and said, “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, 31 then whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.”

(Pastor Gary – commentary – Now, we see a problem. Jephthah made a vow to the Lord. What a vow. What a rash vow. He’s been so wise up until now. Let’s just wait and see how this works out.)

32 So Jephthah crossed over to the Ammonites to fight against them, and the LORD gave them into his hand. 33 And he struck them from Aroer to the neighborhood of Minnith, twenty cities, and as far as Abel-keramim, with a great blow. So the Ammonites were subdued before the people of Israel. 34 Then Jephthah came to his home at Mizpah. And behold, his daughter came out to meet him with tambourines and with dances. She was his only child; besides her he had neither son nor daughter. 35 And as soon as he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, ”Alas my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you have become the cause of great trouble to me. For I have opened my mouth to the LORD, and I cannot take back my vow.” 36 And she said to him, “My father, you have opened your mouth to the LORD; do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, now that the LORD has avenged you on your enemies, on the Ammonites.” 37 So she said to her father, “Let this thing be done for me: leave me alone two months, that I may go up and down on the mountains and weep for my virginity, I and my companions.” 38 So he said, “Go.” Then he sent her away for two months, and she departed, she and her companions, and wept for her virginity on the mountains. 39 And at the end of two months, she returned to her father, who did with her according to his vow that he had made. She had never known a man, and it became a custom in Israel 40 that the daughters of Israel Israel went year by year to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in the year.

(Pastor Gary – commentary – Man, did you see that coming? He started out kind of rough, but then he got better, but then, he made this harsh vow.)

What can we learn here from Jephthah? He’s a sinner. He’s an imperfect judge, but God often uses imperfect people to accomplish His perfect plans. When we look at this, though, we wonder how God could do this? Well, it’s because of this –it’s because of His grace.


2. We misunderstand God’s grace.

We misunderstand His mercy and we misunderstand His grace, that God uses people that are imperfect. There’s only been one perfect person and His name is Jesus. He’s the perfect Savior, the perfect judge, but He uses me and He uses you. Aren’t you glad about that? It’s by His grace.

This story is hard to read. Unless you know the stories that Moses has taught you would be questioning why all this background was brought up. It’s beautifully written. He’s made this great case. You start really being hopeful inJephthah; finally, we’ve got a president that we can depend on. He’s going to do something good and then he hauls off and makes a vow.

Why does he do this? Well, he’s headed into battle, the spirit of the Lord’s on him and as he heads into battle, maybe he got like Gideon and at the last minute got afraid, but instead of putting out his fleece, he puts out a vow. What kind of vow is it? It’s the kind of vow that the pagan peoples around them make all the time before they went into war. They’ll promise their gods, I’ll do this great thing for you if you’ll give me this thing, because they think that they have some kind of reciprocal relationship with God. If I give you this, God, then you have to give me that. They think that their relationship with God is about earning.

That’s always our default as humans; we default to earning. If I’m good enough, I can earn this. I can work for that. We always default to that, but God’s trying to teach Israel that they can’t earn this relationship with Him. He chose them and they are My people. I keep them by My grace.

What is grace? Grace is unmerited favor. God is favoring them freely because of His grace. Here’s Jephthah; He’s either afraid or it’s some kind of masculine kind of overreach. I don’t know if they’re riding into battle and they’re getting ready to face the Ammonites that he says, ‘God, if You give me the victory, the first thing that walks out the door of my house, I will offer as a burn offering to you.’ I don’t know who he thought was going to come out of his house because we find out that, when his daughter comes out, he tears his clothes. He should have been happy after the victory, but he’s downcast because of his vow. Who did he think was gonna come out of his house? Did he think his mother in law was going to come out? I don’t know who he thought was going to come out, but here comes his daughter, his sweet daughter. She’s still a virgin, so she’s probably 13 or 14 years old because women married very young in those days. She comes out with a tambourine, singing and dancing, because her daddy has won the victory and the Lord is good . He’s made this rash, tragic vow.

Some look at this and ask, ‘What did he do to her? He vowed to offer her as a burnt offering. Did he do it? Well, we don’t have a lot of detail here. I’m actually kind of glad there’s not a lot of detail here. It just says in verse 39, “…who did with her according to his vow that he had made.” It sounds like he killed her, doesn’t it? Some commentators believe that perhaps what he did was he sent her away because of that double mention about weeping over her virginity. You see, for young Jewish girls, their dream was to get married and have children; she went away into the mountains for two months to weep over the loss of that dream. Some commentators try to make it look better for Jephthah in a way that maybe he didn’t kill her. Maybe he sent her off to some sort of convent or something, so she was a perpetual virgin for the Lord. Maybe, that’s what it means. But I tell you with just the simple reading of it, I think it gives us a worse view of Jephthah’s decision.I find that Jephthah is a troubled man.

Is this book of Judges about Jephthah? No. Who’s it about? It’s about God. Why would God use a man like this that would make a vow like that? Why? Because of grace. It says in Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV) 8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” It’s because of God’s grace.

Popup the map here; let’s look at some of these places. I try to always do this because the Bible contains real history, real people and real places.

(Map is shown.)

It’s important, I think, to look at these things and not just skip over the place names when we’re reading, but to actually see where they’re at on the map. I think that’s important. Now, if he’s so knowledgeable of the books of Moses, he knew this history about how they got the land, why did he not know that in Deuteronomy 12:31, it prohibits child sacrifice? Why didn’t he know that? Maybe he did or maybe he didn’t, but whatever his view of God was, was colored by those around him and those foreign lands.

He makes this terrible vow. Do you know what God’s grace would have allowed for him? He could have changed his mind and said that it was a stupid vow and Lord, forgive me for making that vow before you. If he would have understood God’s grace, he would not have had to go through with it. What was it? Was it his honor, his sense of how he viewed God, that somehow God would judge him? He really doesn’t understand God. He doesn’t understand His grace.

It reminds me of King Saul over in 1 Samuel, chapter 14. Saul makes a rash vow: “Cursed be the man who eats food until it is evening and I am avenged on my enemies.” (1 Sam. 14:24). And Jonathan, having not heard, ate honey. Later, Saul threatened to kill him, but the people prevented Saul from doing so. In that story, the Israelites surrounded Jonathan and said, ‘No, you’re not gonna touch him because God brought the victory through your son, Jonathan.’ They protected Jonathan.

You see, it’s easy to sit in judgment over Jephthah. It’s easy to look at him from this modern perspective, yet, aren’t we also in danger of being immersed in the world’s culture to the point that we misunderstand God and we misunderstand our idols? Today, we don’t think we don’t have idols. Yes, we do. We idolize sexuality, we idolize violence. We idolize these things. We watch movies about it, we watch TV programs about it. We idolize things today that some would say, ‘Well, who was the god Baal?’ He was the god of war . ‘Who was Aphrodite?’ She’s the goddess of sexual fertility. We still have these ‘gods and goddesses;’ we still are at risk of offering our children to such things, as well. All you have to do is consider that we’ve aborted over 60 million children since the 1960’s. Make no mistake; we’re not that different from the Israelites. We often understand God very strongly through a cultural lens. Let’s not be too quick to judge Jephthah. What we are looking for is God, who is full of grace.

Let’s keep reading. We’re in chapter 12. We’re not going to read the whole chapter; we will read just seven verses:

Judges 12 (ESV) 1 The men of Ephraim were called to arms, and they crossed to Zaphon and said to Jephthah, “Why did you cross over to fight against the Ammonites and did not call us to go with you? We will burn your house over you with fire.”

(Pastor Gary – commentary – By the way, these are the same Ephraimites tha,t after Gideon won the battle, said the same thing to them, absent the part about burning his house down. They said, ‘Why do you call us?’ These guys are a prideful bunch.)

2 And Jephthah said to them, “I and my people had a great dispute with the Ammonites, and when I called you, you did not save me from their hand. 3 And when I saw that you would not save me, I took my life in my hand and crossed over against the Ammonites, and the LORD gave them into my hand. Why then have you come up to me this day to fight against me?” 4 Then Jephthah gathered all the men of Gilead and fought with Ephraim. And the men of Gilead struck Ephraim, because they said, “You are fugitives of Ephraim, you Gileadites, in the midst of Ephraim and Manasseh.”

(Pastor Gary – commentary – Basically, they were putting down, not just Jephthah, but all the Gileadites. You guys are just fugitives. You’re not a real tribe.)

5 And the Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan against the Ephraimites. And when any of the fugitives of Ephraim said, “Let mego over,” the men of Gilead said to him, “Are you an Ephraimite?” When he said, “No,” 6 they said to him, “Then say Shibboleth,” and he said, “Sibboleth,” for he could not pronounce it right. Then they seized him and slaughtered him at the fords of the Jordan. At that time 42,000 of the Ephraimites fell. 7 Jephthah judged Israel six years. Then Jephthah the Gileadite died and was buried in his city in Gilead.


3. We misunderstand God’s salvation.

These Ephraimites, they’re from the tribe of Joshua. They’re a powerful tribe. They’re right in the middle of Israel. They’ve got a bad track record. When the call to battle comes, they don’t answer it until it looks like the other tribes are winning. Then, they show up and complain that no one called them earlier.

They complained like that to Gideon and Gideon was kind of afraid of them. So he acted diplomatically with themand they backed down.

When they came after Jephthah, though, they came after him, calling him a refugee. They told him that they were going to burn your house down. They came with blood in their eyes.

What does this have to do with misunderstanding God’s salvation? Think of it like this– Ephraim has rejected God’s judge over Israel. They’ve rejected His savior. They said, ‘You’re just a refugee with those Gileadites. You’re not even a real tribe.’

It reminds me of how, when we flip the pages over here and we get into the New Testament, the Pharisees and others said, ‘Can any good thing come from Nazareth? Can anything come from Galilee? Who are you?’ They were threatened by this Savior Jesus. They didn’t like God’s Savior. They didn’t like how He came. He came meek, mild and with a questionable resume– the whole story about being born to the virgin Mary and the early stories that the Jews put out to try to disparage the name of Jesus. They made up these horrible stories to try to destroy the name of Jesus early on. It reminds me somewhat of that.

Now, Jephthah is no Jesus. Make no mistake, but he’s still there as a placeholder, a foreshadowing, to prepare the people of Israel that when the real Savior comes, when the real judge comes, they’ll recognize Him. It also kind of lets them know they’re going to have a problem with them. They’re going to ask, ‘God, why didn’t You ask us and let us pick who our salvation would be? We would have picked something different.’

We would rather have a “buffet religion”- a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Justmake your own,build your own “plate of salvation.” That’s what we prefer, but that’s not the way it works. God is God and you are not. Have you got that yet? “He’s God and you’re not.”

God has provided the whole book of Judges to show us the sinfulness of man and the grace, mercy and salvation of God and to prepare us for Jesus. You can’t help but get tickled a few times when you’re reading a story like this because it’s so familiar. These people are just like us. They’ve been living in the land about 300 years and just having the Jordan River between them. It’s like the “Mason Dixon line” in the United States. Say “y’all. “You all.” No, you’re not from around here. Say, “coffee.” “Cwoffee.” No, you’re not from around here. Say, “Shibboleth.” “Shibboleth” means “a flowing stream or an ear of corn” in Hebrew.

Our nation is just a little over 200 years old. Just think about it; we all speak English in the United States, but we have different accents. That’s what’s going on here in Judges. It’s kind of a silly, funny part, but it’s very human. It’s one of those things that you think, That must have really happened. Why else would it be there? Certainly, it did happen, but there’s judgment here. Those that rejected the judge, 42,000 of them, died. They rejected the true savior.

I think it’s easy for us to do that. It’s easy for us to reject and want our own kind of “buffet religion.” As Isaiah prophesied of Jesus, we see Jephthah as a type. Isaiah 53:3 (NLT) “He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.” This is the prophet Isaiah foreseeing the way the Jews would treat Jesus, that they would reject Him. That’s what happened here with the Ephraimites. It’s kind of a sign of who He will be when He comes.

Acts 4:12 (CEV) “Only Jesus has the power to save! His name is the only one in all the world that can save anyone.” His name is the only one in all the world that can save anyone. The scripture says there’s no other name given under heaven by which men may be saved. It’s the name Jesus. He’s the only way.

Will you reject Him or will you receive Him? He . gives us Jesus.

These stories in the book of Judges are hard to hear. Believe me, as we continue, they don’t improve. The book of Judges actually continues to “go down the toilet.” That’s how humanity goes, apart from God. Without God, we are lost. It’s an unvarnished view of the sinfulness of humanity apart from God, but yet, it also reveals something to us about God.

In the story of Jephthah, if we look closely enough, we can understand more about God’s character, His mercy, His grace and His salvation. The book of Judges points us to our greatest need—we need a better judge. We need a superior priest. We need a better king. We need a better leader and His name is jesus. He was rejected by His own, but to all who did receive Him, He gave the right to become children of God. His name is Jesus.

Let’s pray. Lord, thank You for Your Word. Thank You, even for these difficult stories, where we hold up the mirror and we see just how desperate we are apart from You. Lord, I pray for that person that’s here today that’s never given their life to You. They’ve never recognized Jesus as their Savior. Is that you, my friend? Right in your seat, right now by prayer, believing in your heart, you can ask Him to save you and to be your Lord. Pray with me right now, right where you are. ‘Dear Lord Jesus, I’m a sinner and I confess my sin and repent of my sin because I believe You died for my sin, You were raised from the grave and that You live today. I believe You did that to pay for my sin. Lord, I receive that payment now and I ask You to come and live in me and to make me a child of God. Help me to follow You. My ‘yes’ is on the table with You, Lord. I give You my life.’ If you’re praying that prayer of faith, believing, He’ll save you and make you a child of God. Others are here and you know the Lord, He’s your Lord and Savior, but you would admit that you get confused about God sometimes. Don’t you want to know Him better? Just pray like this with me, ‘Lord, I want to know You better. I want to know You through Your Word. I want to know You, through following Jesus and being present with You, praying and talking to You and thinking about You. Lord, reveal yourself to me. I want to know You better. I want to know Your mercy. Oh, how I need Your mercy today, Lord. I want to know Your grace. Lord, thank You for Your salvation.’ We pray this all in Jesus’ name. Amen.