Subtopic: The Dance of Sacrifice
I decided to post my Mother's Day Message that I preached last Sunday. It is a long read, so I divided it up into two parts. This is part one.
Have you ever been caught, trapped, bamboozled, ensnared, or tricked by the craftiness, wickedness or foolishness of a man or woman? Did someone’s careless words or acts catch you off guard and cause you to get into a difficult or impossible situation? Did they promise you the moon and the stars and later you found out they could not or would not deliver on anything they promised! Did some guy or gal, promise to marry you and pledge to be with you in sickness and in health, till death do you part? Did you discover that he/she lied to you, defrauded you, emptied out your bank account, and cheated on you more than times than you can count on both fingers? ? Did they promise to care and provide for you, but left you high and dry.
Did the joker misrepresent you, belittle you in public and talk badly about you behind your back to one of your girlfriends? Maybe this person got all puffed up with pride and carelessly bragged about a car he just bought and how much he paid, but it was your car and not his car, and when one of his so called friends high jacked the car, you wound up on the losing end because you allowed him to drive your car, while you were busting your behind working 40 hours a week!
Did he or she ever make a vow to pay someone a certain amount of money owed them, and then you wound up having to bail him, or her out. Well, if any of these events have ever happened to you or you know of someone that it happened to, welcome to the Era of “Me Too, Times Up!”
The R&B or Pop singer, Dionne Warwick recorded a song entitled, “Promises.” the words are as follows:
I'm all through with promises, promises now
I don't know how I got the nerve to walk out
If I shout, remember I feel free
Now I can look at myself and be proud
I'm laughing out loud
Oh, promises, promises
This is where those promises, promises end
I don't pretend that what was wrong can be right
Every night I sleep now, no more lies
Things that I promised myself fell apart
But I found my heart
Oh, promises, their kind of promises, can just destroy a life
Oh, promises, those kind of promises, take all the joy from life
Oh, promises, promises, my kind of promises
Can lead to joy and hope and love, Yes, Love! Every night.
Now before I go on, let me says that, this is not your typical Mother’s Day message. However, this message is one that evokes pathos, meaning, feelings of pity, sympathy and sorrow for the plight of the female character in this story. This un-named daughter Jephthah, is not that different from the tens of thousands of girls and women who men deem their lives as throw-aways or worthless. They are victimized by evil men and are captured, enticed, manipulated and callously or careless used in unfavorable ways.
There are two central characters in this text, Jephthah and his daughter, who remains nameless like so many other characters of the bible. I gave this message the title: A Woman, Caught in the Crosshairs of a Careless Vow. But let me also add as a hash tag # The Dance of Sacrifice.” The daughter, not Jephthah’s wife winds up in the cross hairs of her father’s careless vow. She is the victim that our hearts grieve for at the end of this dark, awful, dramatic narrative.
How many times have we heard stories about powerful men who have sexually, verbally and physically abused young girls, teens and adult women in homes, on their jobs, in schools, bars, and even at church? How many men deem the lives of poor children, immigrant workers, minorities and women in general as a commodity that can be used, abused and then thrown away like a piece of trash. There are thousands of fathers, boyfriends, bosses, teachers, coaches, political leaders, church leaders, military officers, police officers, producers, actors, actresses, those in positions of authority that make sexual overtures and unwanted advances towards their female employees, secretaries, students, church congregants. They start out by telling dirty jokes, leave pornographic pictures or magazines on their desk, and send emails, text and nude pictures of themselves on snapchat, Facebook etc for girls and women to look at.
Many of these men in particular, make promises to promote their business, make them a star, and give them access to a person of influence that can jumpstart their career. Other girls or women are simply enticed by the money, fame, rich lifestyle that the perpetrator flaunts in front of them to lure them into doing their bidding. Some women will pick up and leave their parents, homes or jobs at the drop of a hat to go look for greener pastures, only to discover later that, they were misinformed, duped and sold into the slavery, of drug trafficking or sex trafficking by the worst of societies scumbags.
There are a lot of men and some women that are very insecure. They suffer from low self-esteem, addictions, rejection, physical. emotional and sexual abuse from their parent, spouse, teachers. pastors or from some influential person in their life. These girls and women are left to bare the scars and pain from these experiences. Unfortunately, most of these perpetrators have never cried out for help, got saved, delivered or heal from their damaged emotions. Subsequently they live out and perpetrate their malaise upon unsuspecting victims.
Now, I am not saying that this man, Jephthah, was any of those things, I am just painting a picture here of the current social ills that plaque girls and women in this world.
- For these women, Mother’s Day leaves them curled up in a fetal position.
- For some women, they have never experienced childbirth, due to an abortion they might have had due to a rape situation.
- For other women, they never had the opportunity to know the love of a mother, because their mother was abusive and mean spirited.
- And still other women never married or had the opportunity to meet and marry Mr. Right and they remain childless, they are childless today.
- There are many scenarios that I could discuss, the miscarriages, the still births, the adoption, the crazy endless foster care systems that some of our girl and teens wind up in and the list goes on and on…
So now we get a better picture of this man. He was the son of a harlot. He was rejected by his half-brothers who swore that he would have no inheritance with the other children. In chapter 11: 30-39, Jephthah was expelled from Gilead’s home. Being rejected by his brothers probably made him feels worthless, angry, bitter, frustrated, and sad. .In verse 3 it talks about Jephthah taking up with some pretty lawless fellows and they influenced him to become devilish like they were. Jephthah made a name for himself as a fearless, brave and successful chief of robbers. I told you in the very first verse, that Jephthah was a mighty man of valor and so he was recalled by the elders of Gilead to lead them in war against the Ammonites who had made war with Israel.
Jephthah offered to fight on condition that if he were victorious over Ammon, he should be recognized as their head. In spite of his half-breed origin, Jephthah seemed to have had an inclination toward God. These are the words that were written in Judges Chapter 11:30-31.
“If you give me victory over the Ammonites, I will give to the Lord whatever comes out of my house to meet me when I return in triumph. I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.”
Jephthah led his army against the ammonites, and the Lord gave him victory. He crushed the Ammonites. “When he returned home to Mizpah, his daughter came out to meet him, playing on a tambourine and dancing for joy. She was his one and only child; he had no other sons or daughters. When he saw her, he tore his clothes in anguish. “Oh, my daughter!” he cried out. “You have completely destroyed me! You’ve brought disaster on me! For I have made a vow to the Lord and I cannot take it back.” And she said, “Father, if you have made a vow to the Lord, you must do to me what you have vowed, for the Lord has given you a great victory over your enemies, the Ammonites.”
We have no mention in the text whatever of Jephthah’s wife. She may have died during childbirth. But this father is remembered because of his love and devotion to his only daughter, and of the devastating vow he made concerning her. This story is full of pathos. The sad part is the young maiden is nameless in the text. The text makes it clear that she was the only daughter and there were no sons given to Jephthah. Can you imagine, an only child, being affected by the blunt force of a callous, zealous soldier’s words, and he, not knowing the devastating effect that it might have upon its unknown un-suspected recipient.
In hind sight, this father knew he made a rash, careless, profane vow. There is no way he could have known who would be the first to greet him upon his return. He was not the all-knowing, all seeing, all powerful Almighty God. Most likely Jephthah thought a slave, a servant, or someone whose life he deemed as a throw-a-way would be the first to greet him. He thought it would be someone who could be sacrificed on the Brazen Altar like animals used in the traditional Jewish sacrificial practices. OMG, how many parents have sacrificed their children for money, the love or a man or women etc. How many parents put other things and people ahead of their own children?
I believe that he would have taken his own life rather than have to make good on a vow he had committed to the Lord. Unfortunately he was leaving the choice to God to choose the victim. In several places in the Bible, it warns us about making careless empty vows. Let’s look at a couple of them: Ecclesiastes 5:4 “When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow.”Ecclesiastes 5:5 “It is better to say nothing than to make a promise and not keep it.”
God took Jephthah at his word. He was stunned when he saw his precious daughter crossing the threshold to greet him. God answered his prayer and punished him through its answer. When Jephthah felt the loving arms of his daughter around his neck, he could not help but cry out in anguish of heart. He knew he could not renege on his vow. God had kept his part and now it was time to “Pay the Piper,” so to speak.
I can’t imagine the anguish, terror and disappointment she must have felt when her father told her what he had done. Her response was one of a champion, a brave hero, one chosen to go beyond the call of duty to protect the honor of her beloved father’s name. You must remember that a woman’s role, her lot in life was inextricably tied to the whims and needs of a man. Women had no rights! They had no voice. There was no justice, no way for them to argue their case before their lords, husbands, enemies etc. Remember, doing this dispensation of time, “The Judges,” the people of God, Israel, did: “Whatever they thought was wise in their own eyes.”
This is the end of Part 1. Tomorrow I will post Part 2, which includes Jepthatha's Daughter's Response,
God Bless and DON'T FORGET TO SAY YOUR PRAYERS.