“And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she was his only child; beside her he had neither son or daughter.” Judges 11:34
“A Daughter Remembered” Part 1
“What a difference it makes to come home to a child!”
Do I properly treasure the gift of children God has given to my life?
“The hearts of children are delicate organs. A cruel beginning in this world can twist them into curious shapes.”
“No one has yet fully realized the wealth of sympathy, kindness and generosity hidden in the soul of a child.” Emma Goldman
We don’t know her name. We don’t know her age. What we know is that her daddy’s name was Jephthah, son of a harlot. Her dad was a rough warrior. A mercenary, who fought when called upon, and was paid well enough.
At this time in history, since women were considered the property of their husbands and daughters the property of their fathers until they married, it is quite possible Jephthah was disappointed that his “only” offspring was a female. There was no one to go hunting with dad. No one to go to battle with dad. Instead, there was a girl – a female – a possession – a thing to be used at the right time, when you wanted to acquire a son-in-law.
You may feel I’m being hard on Jephthah, but even in our modern society there are still cultures where female babies are looked upon with a less than desirous attitude. I’ve even had girlfriends tell me their fathers were disappointed when they were born because they weren’t boys. After hearing this thought propagated, I went to my own dad and asked him if he were sorry he had two daughters and no boys. He laughed so hard and told me he couldn’t imagine his life without his two “precious girls!” Was I relieved to hear this!
But in the case of Jephthah, the scenario appears quite different.
To set the stage for this very horrid story, we need to look at Judges 11: 30 where we find the “faithless” Jephthah making a rash vow to God that “whatever” came to meet him “first,” when he arrived home from battle, if God gave him victory, he would offer this “thing” as a burnt offering.
Let us set the record straight:
1. God did not ask for this vow from Jephthah.
2. God did not require that Jephthah “sacrifice” his daughter.
Instead, we find a foolish father who, in the heat of battle, made a disastrous promise without one moment’s consideration what the consequences would be.
Obviously, good news got to Jephthah’s home before he did.
Good old dad had been successful. His team won. And so, most likely, longing to get some of her father’s attention, Jephthah’s only child, his little girl, ran out the door, and with joyous celebration welcomed home her victorious dad, totally unaware that her father’s big mouth and thoughtless words had condemned her.
I am calling our studies over the next few days, “A Daughter Remembered,” for God has a reason for including this tragic story in the Bible. And it is not because He, in any way, approved of the treatment of Jephthah’s daughter. In fact, I believe just the opposite is true. This is why it is so critical we study the Bible all the way through and don’t just pick a text here or there trying to use it to prove a point or worse yet, as a club over someone’s head who doesn’t agree with us.
When we began with Judges 1:1, we found that Joshua had died. Without a strong Godly leader, a spiritual vacuum developed. This lack of spirituality led to a slow but steady decline in the values of God’s children. And this is important to note! The ungodly nations in Canaan offered their children as “sacrificial offerings” and marriage was a joke. One wife was never enough and having “concubines” on the side was considered “normal.” But God’s children were called to be different. They were asked by their Father to step-up to a higher level. This wasn’t some demanding rulership by God. This wasn’t a legalistic Creator setting down some written laws to hinder the happiness of His children.
Instead, God’s protective guidance was intended to lift His children into His tower of strength where they would be a light in darkness and a song of joy that filled the hearts of everyone whose lives they touched.
What a pity that, as we have walked through the book of Judges thus far, the stories become more tragic and the times more terror-filled. This wasn’t God’s will, it was human-will in action. To the point that when we get to the story of Jephthah, a dad was so cavalier he promised he would offer, as a burnt offering, the first thing that waltzed out the door to greet him. Even if it were a family pet, we’d call this despicable behavior, but to put so little value on the life of a child tells us something about the depths to which God’s children had chosen to degrade themselves.
It is critical for us, as God’s daughters and sons, not to overlook the fact that as the spirituality among God’s people decreased, so did the lack of value put on the lives of women and children.
However, as all of us, both God’s daughters and sons, draw closer to Him, and our spiritual lives deepen, the compassion we show to everyone around us increases and the love we exude to each other will infuse, not only our lives, but the lives of every person we come in contact with.
I love the way author Anne Cameron describes children, whose lives are filled with happiness, a happiness that parents, family members, teachers and friends have the power to share with the precious ones entrusted to our care and concern. Here’s how she describes these children: “They have a walk with purpose. They are blessed. They are special. They are sacred.”
I pray that the focus of my spiritual life will become so great that like a magnet of love, I will be able, with God’s help, to draw the lives of the children whom God puts in my pathway, closer to their heavenly father.
“What its children become, that will the community become”
Suzanne La Follette
“A Wish For Our Children”
“On this doorstep I stand year after year and watch you leaving, and think: May you not skin your knees, may you not catch your fingers in car doors. May your hearts not break. May tide and weather wait for your coming and may you grow strong to break all the webs of my weaving.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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