Judges 11:1-11 The Rejected

In our text today, we have the rise of Jephthah as God’s deliverer. This is a clear picture of a rejected person, a person who is unacceptable to others, being called by God.

The leaders of Israel made a strong appeal to Jephthah to become their commander and rescue or save them from the Ammonite. Remember, the Ammonites had mobilized for war to attack Israel, most likely to replenish the supplies and provisions of their own people. Once again, the land of Israel was about to be ransacked, their crops, livestock, and possessions plundered or stolen. In response, the Israelites had also issued a call to arms in order to defend themselves.

Now the two armies were camped just a few miles from one another, making the last preparations for war. But the Israelites lacked a commander-in-chief, a man who was strong enough to command the entire army and who had the skill and knowledge to plan the military strategy. The Israelites were desperate for leadership. The reputation of Jephthah as a mighty warrior and strong leader had reached the ears of the leaders of Gilead. Thus, they sent a delegation some eighty miles to the land of Tob to make a desperate appeal for him to become their commander. In response, Jephthah made a painful and bitter complaint against the leaders of Gilead: they had taken part in driving him away from his home and the inheritance that had been due him. Bitterness was bound to fill the heart of Jephthah against these leaders for their part in his mistreatment, his being exiled, and the threat against his life. He wanted to know why they had taken part in his brothers’ greedy attack against him. And now they were coming to him for help when they were in trouble. Hearing this bitter response, the elders became even more desperate. They replied that they were willing to lift the banishment permanently, and they would make him the ruler over all Gilead. Note that this was the very offer the leaders had made earlier to the officers and soldiers of the army. This offer shocked and astonished Jephthah. Because of his past experiences with them, he doubted their honesty, so he requested a guarantee of their promise.

Note the faith Jephthah expressed in the Lord: it would be the Lord who would give him victory if he accepted the proposal. Victory would come from the Lord’s hand and His hand alone. The leaders of Gilead guaranteed or sealed their proposal with an oath, swearing that the Lord was their witness. They would keep their word. Moreover, the oath was ratified at a coronation service held at Mizpah, the campsite of the Israelite army.

Jephthah repeated his part of the agreement or oath at the coronation service before the Lord. By demanding a coronation service before the troops and the Lord, Jephthah was acknowledging his faith in the Lord and his dependence upon the Lord. He was declaring before the leaders and the armed forces that his trust was in the Lord. Victory would come through the Lord and the Lord alone. Becoming the commander-in-chief and the supreme leader of Gilead was not a political opportunity for Jephthah, but an occasion for trusting the Lord and serving the Israelites.

The Lord Himself was working behind the scenes and calling Jephthah to serve Him and His people in a remarkable way. The New Testament makes it plain: Jephthah was not an opportunist, but a man of strong faith.

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