Daily Bible Readings – Sunday August 12, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 67

Prayer Point:  Pray that God will bless the churches in our community so that we together can make God known to the people living in our communities and around the world.

Mark 4:35-41

The sea and the violent storms that frequented them were the most powerful forces known in Jesus’ day. The sea was regarded as both a source of fear and evil.

What does this passage say about Jesus’ power? In what way does the disciples’ faith fail them? Why does Jesus rebuke them? Can you relate to the disciples? What terrifies the disciples more, the storm or Jesus calming it and why?

2 Corinthians 11:21-31

The false teachers in Corinth built their reputation on their Jewish identity and their accomplishments.  How does Paul stack up against the false teachers on their own terms?  What does Paul choose to boast in despite his impressive lineage and track record?  Why?  Who gets the credit when Paul boasts in such things?

Judges 11:1-11;29-40  – Jepthah, illegitimate son of a prostitute

Why do people call the bible “The Good Book”? Look at what we’re dealing with today. For the past couple of days we looked at Abimelech who casually murdered his seventy brothers. Now we will spend time looking at the illegitimate son of a prostitute who rises to prominence.

The NIV tells us Jephthah was the son of Gilead and just to confuse matters, that is also the region in East Manasseh from where he comes. His mother was a prostitute; she was neither a concubine nor a bride. His status must have been a bit lower than Abimelech’s. Anyway, his father’s other sons drove him away promising him that he would have no portion in his father’s inheritance. A bleak future awaits our friend Jephthah.

Evidently Jephthah had surrounded himself with undesirables and had made a not-so-good name for himself. He was forced to be self-sufficient. He moves away to a place called Tob. Tob is believed to be outside the land of Israel east of East Manasseh – not too far from and south of modern Syria.

What happens to bring Jephthah back to Gilead? (“Some time later, when the Ammonites made war on Israel, the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob. ‘Come,’ they said, ‘be our commander, so we can fight the Ammonites.’” (Judges 11:4-6 NIV))

How warm a reception does Jephthah give these elders? (“Jephthah said to them, ‘Didn’t you hate me and drive me from my father’s house? Why do you come to me now, when you’re in trouble?” (Judges 11:7 NIV) Jephthah must have been what we would reckon as a thug. His reputation must have been such as to strike fear into the opponent. Later in Israel’s history their kings will make unholy alliances only to keep their enemies at bay. This must have been that kind of a situation. – j.t.)

What kind of screwball promise do the elders of Gilead make to Jephthah to entice him to return? (“Nevertheless, we are turning to you now; come with us to fight the Ammonites, and you will be our head over all who live in Gilead.” (Judges 11:8 NIV))

Naturally, Jephthah is skeptical. What is his question to the leaders of Gilead? (“Jephthah answered, ‘Suppose you take me back to fight the Ammonites and the LORD gives them to me – will I really be your head?” (Judges 11:9 NIV) Now that is an intelligent question.)

How do these two parties seal the bargain? (“The elders of Gilead replied, ‘The LORD is our witness; we will certainly do as you say.’ So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and commander over them. And he repeated all his words before the LORD in Mizpah.” (Judges 11:10-11 NIV) That too, was a good move on Jephthah’s part. The only risky part of this business is asking the LORD to be the witness – that is what I think of as “taking the LORD’s name in vain”. – j.t.)

As it turns out Jephthah emerges as a rather good diplomat. Before going to war with the Ammonites he recounts the history of Israel from the time they had left Egypt. He suggests that if the Ammonites were to honor the borders of Israel there would be no trouble. The Ammonites had some perceived injury which they felt gave them claim over some of the territory of Israel. The important thing to keep in mind here is that, to this point, the LORD hasn’t chosen anyone to do his fighting for him. The story resumes.
How does the LORD show he has chosen Jephthah as leader? (“Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah.” (Judges 11:29 NIV) This is the good news. The bad news is quick to follow.)

So Jephthah advances against the Ammonites and meets with ongoing success. In a spirit of enthusiasm what foolish thing does Jephthah do? (“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) This is the bad news because no one would be able to predict what or who would come out of one’s house at any given time. In Deuteronomy Chapter 22 verses 21-23 we read: “If you made a vow to the LORD your God, you shall not delay fulfilling it, for the LORD your God will surely require it of you, and you will be guilty of sin. But if you refrain from vowing, you will not be guilty of sin. You shall be careful to do what has passed your lips, for you have voluntarily vowed to the LORD your God what you have promised with your mouth.”)

I don’t know if Murphy’s law was around at the time of Jephthah, but what happens next has all the earmarks of it. The LORD delivers the Ammonites into Jephthah’s hands. Who comes to greet him when he gets home? (“When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of tambourines! She was his only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter.” (Judges 11:34 NIV))

So Jephthah’s return home is truly bittersweet. What must he do? (“When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, ‘Oh! My daughter! You have made me miserable and wretched, because I have made a vow to the LORD that I cannot break.” ( Judges 11:35 NIV))

What happens next has been a subject of some debate for years (if not centuries). I don’t think anyone believes that Jephthah actually sacrificed his daughter. There are many references throughout the scripture which tell us that offering human sacrifices was something that did not enter into God’s mind. Many centuries later Jeremiah will address this issue: “Behold, I am bringing such disaster upon this place that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. Because the people have forsaken me and have profaned this place by making offerings in it to other gods whom neither they nor their father nor the kings of Judah have known; and because they have filled this placed with the blood of innocents, and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind….” (Jeremiah 19:3b-5 ESV) When Abraham tried to offer his son Isaac, the LORD stopped him from completing it. The only sacrifice which was acceptable to God was the one offered by his own Son, Jesus.

Jephthah’s daughter goes off to the hills to mourn the loss of motherhood. Most commentators believe that Jephthah’s daughter consecrated herself to virginity which would have been a huge sacrifice. It was every Jewish woman’s desire to be available to be the mother of the Messiah. If one does this she takes herself out of the running.

What did this event spawn among the Jews? (“From this comes the Israelites custom that each year the young women of Israel go out for four days to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite.” (Judges 11:39b-40 NIV))

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