A Vow to God

A vow is a serious thing. It is a promise, an oath, a contract or covenant. How many of you seriously consider your vows? You made a vow of marriage commitment to your spouse and God. You made a vow to Almighty God when you accepted Jesus into your heart and were baptized. You even made a vow to repay your debts when you took out that credit card and bought that car and/or house.

God never breaks a promise (Numbers 23:19) and He expects us to keep our vows and in many cultures, a man will die before bringing shame on himself with a broken vow. How sad it is that we treat vows with such contempt today.

Our study today must be assessed through this understanding:

“When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it; for He takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow! It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Do not let your speech cause you to sin and do not say in the presence of the messenger of God that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry on account of your voice and destroy the work of your hands?...Therefore, fear God!” Ecclesiastes 5:4-7

Much of our failure to stand with integrity is based on the hyper-grace mentality that I can sin and sin and God will forgive and forgive. Yet Paul was quick to refute this line of thinking in Romans 6:1.

Soldiers, if there was no fear of discipline for not doing what you are told, would you do what you were told? 

We are unafraid to spend beyond our means until we stand in bankruptcy court. We are unafraid to speed until we get slapped with a ticket. We are unafraid to touch a hot stove until we get burned. Respect comes through healthy fear and likewise, we must fear the Lord with healthy fear. He is God and we are man.

Today we will read of a man who will break your heart and God’s. This is one of the hardest chapters to read in all of Scripture and another is forthcoming. We will read of several people who car so much about their vow to God that they will die to keep it.

In 11:1–3, a man by the name of Jephthah is introduced. “Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a valiant warrior, but he was the son of a harlot. And Gilead was the father of Jephthah. Gilead’s wife 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.’ So Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob [“good”]; and worthless fellows gathered themselves about Jephthah, and they went out with him.” Jephthah’s name means “he opens,” and he is quite good at opening his mouth and speaking. Unfortunately, his mouth ends up getting him in a lot of trouble. Jeff is the Peter of the Old Testament. Yet, initially he is the victim, not the victimizer. When Jeff’s dad dies and the inheritance is to be divided, his brothers drive him away because he is the son of a harlot. Little do Jeff’s brothers realize they are rejecting the man that would deliver them and all of Israel. Jephthah is in good company though. Joseph was rejected by his brothers and later became their savior. It also took King David seven years to gain the full support of the twelve tribes of Israel. Even Jesus was rejected by His people, but will be received by them when He comes again. Indeed, God has a huge sense of humor and He shows it here. Jephthah turns out to be the most gifted guy in the family. What a great reminder that God chooses the weak and foolish people of this world to shame the wise and strong (1 Corinthians 1).

Jephthah is the perfect example of someone who has all the right ingredients (though looked down on by men) and is empowered by God but his undisciplined mouth and his stubborn pride get in the way of his ultimate success.

William Penn said “No man is fit to command another who cannot command himself.”

When you go to the dentist, you should be honest with them. Many of you will never do what the dentist tells you to do – they will say, floss, rinse, use a pick, brush 2-3 times per day and don’t drink coffee or eat sugars. You will nod, say what they want to hear, maybe do something close for a couple days and then go back to what is convenient and easy. Then end up back in the dentists chair crying in pain for the next root canal.

Last week, I laid it on heavy about our need to get right with God just as the people of Israel needed to in order to find restoration as a people. But it is hard work to put ourselves aside, be disciplined and make God a priority each and every day.

Lanny Bassham, Olympic gold-medalist in small-bore rifle competition, tells what concentration does for his marksmanship: "Our sport is controlled non-movement. We are shooting from 50 meters--over half a football field--at a bull's eye three- quarters the size of a dime. If the angle of error at the point of the barrel is more than .005 of a millimeter (that is five one-thousandths), you drop into the next circle and lose a point. So we have to learn how to make everything stop. I stop my breathing. I stop my digestion by not eating for 12 hours before the competition. I train by running to keep my pulse around 60, so I have a full second between beats--I have gotten it lower, but found that the stroke-volume increased so much that each beat really jolted me. You do all of this and you have the technical control. But you have to have some years of experience in reading conditions: the wind, the mirage. Then you have the other 80% of the problems--the mind. 

As the two nations gather for battle, Israel realizes that they need a general who will lead them into war (11:4). Israel asks Jephthah to be their leader (11:5–6). Jephthah responds by saying, “Why now? You dogged me out, and now that you’re in need, you come crawling back on bended knee?” (11:7) Jeff and Israel agree that if he destroys the Ammonites he will become their “head and chief”—their main man (11:8–11). In this dialogue, Jephthah shows a lack of faith and manipulates the elders with shrewd diplomacy. He uses his powers of persuasion to assure himself of leadership. Interestingly, there is no mention that Jephthah is called to be a judge. Yet, the writer of Judges tells us that the Lord raised up Othniel (3:9) and Ehud (3:15) and through a prophetess summoned Barak (4:6) and through an angel called Gideon (6:14) and Samson (13:5). But there is no such word regarding Jeff!

Scene 3: Jephthah proclaims Israel’s right to the land (11:12–28). In an attempt to avoid war, Jephthah preaches an eloquent and persuasive sermon to the King of Ammon. This sermon can be succinctly summarized: God gave Israel the land that they now occupy (11:23–24). Israel has lived on the land for centuries (11:25–26). If the Ammonites declare war on Israel, they will be fighting against the Lord, which will result in disaster and defeat (11:27). Jephthah tries to reason with the King of Ammon, but in the end he disregards the message (11:28). Literally, the king “did not listen to the words.” This is typical of many people who sit under God’s Word. Although King Ammon is an unbeliever, he is still accountable for his response to God’s Word. A biblical mind is a terrible thing to waste. The person who hears God’s Word is accountable for his or her response. To coin Jesus’ words: “To whom much is given, much is required” (Luke 12:48).

To his credit (in my opinion), Jephthah sought to avoid a military confrontation by first attempting a diplomatic solution. He sent emissaries to the Ammonite king (note that he is not named), inquiring why he was in the process of attacking Israel. The king’s response was direct and to the point. Roughly paraphrased he said, “I am coming to take back the land that rightfully belongs to the Ammonites because the Israelites stole it from us when they made their way from Egypt to the Promised Land. Give it back to us, and there will be no need to fight with you.”

It is interesting to observe what happens when Jephthah does battle with the Ephraimites at the end of chapter 12. Every time an Ephraimite attempted to say Shibboleth,” it came out Sibboleth,” knowing that the outcome was the difference between life and death (12:5-6). When we come to chapter 11, there is a very important distinction which the reader must make; it is noting the difference between the Ammonites and the Amorites.

The Ammonites were “distant cousins” of the Israelites, originating from the son of Lot’s union with his younger daughter (Genesis 19:38). The Moabites were descendants of Lot’s union with his older daughter (Genesis 19:36-37). The Edomites were the descendants of Edom (Esau). The Amorites were not relatives of the Israelites. Indeed, the term Amorites was almost synonymous with Canaanites:

12 When the sun went down, Abram fell sound asleep, and great terror overwhelmed him. 13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign country. They will be enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years. 14 But I will execute judgment on the nation that they will serve. Afterward they will come out with many possessions. 15 But as for you, you will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will return here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its limit” (Genesis 15:12-16, emphasis mine).

When the Israelites escaped from Egypt, God directed them to approach Canaan from the eastern side of the Dead Sea and the Jordan River. This required the Israelites to pass through (or close by) the land of the Edomites, the Moabites, and the Ammonites. God would not give the Israelites the land which He had already given to their relatives, but the Amorites were another matter altogether. When the Israelites approached the Amorite kings, Sihon and Og, they made the same request they had made of their brothers, the Edomites and the Moabites. Sihon and Og chose to attack the Israelites, rather than to allow them to pass through their land. God gave the Israelites the victory, so that Israel possessed their land. This was the territory running north from the Arnon River to the Jabbok River (a distance of about 50 miles), and eastward from the Jordan River for a distance of about 20 miles.

The Ammonites’ land was to the east of Israel’s new territory (formerly belonging to the Amorites), for a distance of approximately 20 to 30 miles.

So, when all is said and done, the king of the Ammonites was wrong. The Israelites did not take possession of Ammonite land; they fought with and defeated the Amorites, taking possession of their land. The land east of the Jordan was then divided among the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of the tribe of Manasseh.

God gave the Amorites into the hand of the Israelites, who defeated them and possessed their land. But He did not allow the Israelites to possess the territory of the Ammonites:

“However, you did not approach the land of the Ammonites, the Wadi Jabbok, the cities of the hill country, or any place else forbidden by the Lord our God” (Deuteronomy 2:37).

The king of the Ammonites attempted to “re-write history” so that he would be justified in his efforts to seize Israel’s land east of the Jordan. Jephthah knew his history, and he rather neatly put the Ammonite king in his place.

But Jephthah wasn’t finished. He had several other lines of defense which he conveyed to this ambitious king. In addition to his historical argument, Jephthah added his theological argument. Israel is merely dwelling on the land that God (the only true God, the God of Israel) gave them. The Ammonites should likewise be content with what their god, Chemosh, gives them. If Israel’s God is a greater God than the no-god Chemosh, the Ammonites would be well advised to “back off” or become the adversaries of Israel’s God.

Jephthah now raises a third argument, based upon the actions of Balak, king of Moab. Balak was threatened by Israel’s presence nearby (even if they claimed merely to be passing by). Balak may have tried to deal with Israel’s threat by hiring Balaam to curse Israel (something that didn’t work and that is not mentioned here – see Numbers 22 and read of the story of the talking donkey), but the one thing he didn’t do was to gather his army and seek to prevail over the Israelites in battle. If Balak did not find it advisable to attack Israel, then perhaps the king of Ammon should learn from his example.

There is a fourth and final argument, a chronological argument. It wasn’t as though Israel had just recently come into possession of the territory east of the Jordan. Her military victories and possession of the trans-Jordan territory occurred some 300 years ago, and thus for 300 years, the Israelites had possession of this land. The Ammonites (and anyone else who dared to try) had ample time and opportunities to attempt taking possession of the trans-Jordan territory of the Israelites. If there is a “statute of limitations” for certain actions, surely it would apply to Israel’s possession of this land.

Jephthah now concludes his debate with the king of the Ammonites in verse 27:

“I have not done you wrong, but you are doing wrong by attacking me. May the Lord, the Judge, judge this day between the Israelites and the Ammonites!”

This is the kind of diplomacy I like. It is not the “diplomacy” which has as its goal the avoidance of conflict at any cost. It is the straightforward, plain talk that seeks to discern the intentions and motivations of the adversary, that attempts to correct misinformation, and that makes it clear where you stand and what you intend to do. If the Ammonites wish to engage in war, so be it, but it is really nothing more than raw aggression. They are not seeking to correct some long-neglected wrong. And let them be fully aware that any attack will be dealt with on a higher level of authority. If the Ammonites attack, the Israelites will fight, but they will also rest their case with God, who is Judge over all. And let them recall that those nations which rejected Israel’s peaceful negotiations in the past suffered defeat at the hands of the Israelites and their God.

Scene 4: Jephthah makes a rash vow (11:29–40). The battle between Israel and Ammon is set to begin. Therefore, the author informs us that the “Spirit of the LORD” comes upon Jephthah as he makes his way to the battle line (11:29). In 11:30–31, we read that “Jephthah made a vow to the LORD and said, ‘If You will indeed give the sons of Ammon into my hand, then it shall be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the sons of Ammon, it shall be the LORD’S, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.”

How is it that the first thing Jephthah does after the Spirit of the Lord comes upon him is to make a vow, a vow that he will later regret? The first thing we should know is that vows like that of Jephthah were not uncommon in Israel.

1 When the Canaanite king of Arad who lived in the Negev heard that Israel was approaching along the road to Atharim, he fought against Israel and took some of them prisoner. 2 So Israel made a vow to the Lord and said, “If you will indeed deliver this people into our hand, then we will utterly destroy their cities” (Numbers 21:1-2).

She made a vow saying, “O Lord of hosts, if you will look with compassion on the suffering of your female servant, remembering me and not forgetting your servant, and give a male child to your servant, then I will dedicate him to the Lord all the days of his life. His hair will never be cut” (1 Samuel 1:11).

9 But as for me, I promise to offer a sacrifice to you with a public declaration of praise;

I will surely do what I have promised [literally, “vowed”].

Salvation belongs to the Lord!” (Jonah 2:9)

It was rather common in Israel for an individual or a group to make a vow, promising that if God gave deliverance (in some manner) that the individual would go to offer a sacrifice and to worship, and there proclaim the work which God had done. The psalms supply numerous examples of praise offered to God publicly because of His deliverance. It is important for us to see that it was not wrong for Jephthah to make a vow to God, promising to offer a sacrifice if God would answer his request. Therefore, the only thing wrong with Jephthah’s vow that I can see is that it was carelessly worded or considered. As we shall see in just a few verses (as reflected in the title of this message), “words matter.”

Jephthah seeks to manipulate the Lord Himself with his rash vow. This vow is totally unnecessary, but Jeff needs God to come through big so that he has the allegiance of his people. So he opens his big mouth and makes what turns out to be an awful mistake. In 11:32–33, God gives Jeff the victory. It is clear that God would have done this with or without the vow, but Jeff didn’t believe that simple faith was sufficient. Yet, the Bible declares that simple faith is all that is required for salvation and the Christian life. The issue is not the amount of faith a person has; what is critical is the object of a person’s faith. If a believer has Jesus Christ as the object of his or her faith, even the faith of a mustard seed is more than enough.

In 11:34–40, we come upon one of the most tragic sections of Scripture. As you read these verses, make sure you read them aloud, with emotion. Feel Jeff’s agony and the horrible loss of his unnamed daughter. “When Jephthah came to his house at Mizpah, behold, his daughter was coming out to meet him with tambourines and with dancing. Now she was his one and only child; besides her he had no son or daughter. When he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, ‘Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you are among those who trouble me; for I have given my word to the LORD, and I cannot take it back.’ So she said to him, ‘My father, you have given your word to the LORD; do to me as you have said, since the LORD has avenged you of your enemies, the sons of Ammon.’ She said to her father, ‘Let this thing be done for me; let me alone two months, that I may go to the mountains and weep because of my virginity, I and my companions.’ Then he said, ‘Go.’ So he sent her away for two months; and she left with her companions, and wept on the mountains because of her virginity. At the end of two months she returned to her father, who did to her according to the vow which he had made; and she had no relations with a man. Thus it became a custom in Israel, that the daughters of Israel went yearly to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in the year.”

Now, I must acknowledge that this is one of the most disputed accounts in the Old Testament. There are two primary views on how this passage should be understood: (1) Jeff offered his daughter as a human sacrifice or (2) Jeff offered his daughter as a living sacrifice (see Rom 12:1). Godly men and women disagree on which of these views is correct. In fact, some scholars believe that this issue won’t be settled until Jesus returns. One of the reasons I believe that Bible students struggle with this account is that they cannot grasp how a supposedly godly man could offer his daughter as a burnt offering. Many people claim Heb 11:32 and point out that Jephthah is included in the “Hall of Faith.” This is true, but Jephthah is included alongside Gideon and Samson. Like Jephthah, these two men are not exactly stalwarts of the faith. I would argue that all three of these men failed to finish well. Thus, it is important to understand that the author of Hebrews takes snapshots of Old Testament examples of faith. He is not suggesting that these individuals are to be imitated in every area of their lives.

Many careful Bible students also observe the emphasis upon the virginity of Jephthah’s daughter (11:37, 38, 39). It is argued that if Jephthah offered his daughter as a human sacrifice, virginity would not be emphasized. This appears to be a rather convincing argument. However, the author of Judges emphasizes the theme of family throughout the book. In the case of Jephthah, he seems to be emphasizing that this father forfeited a lasting legacy. Consequently, God had to raise up other judges to carry on the generations. This is one of the primary points of the secondary judges in 12:8–15. Ibzan had thirty sons and daughters (12:8–10) and Abdon had forty sons and thirty grandsons (12:14–15). The principle is: There is no lasting success apart from godly generations.

Jephthah tore his clothes as an expression of his distress. Many have wondered just who he thought would come out of the house. Given the fact that houses often were akin to barns, it is not surprising that he would expect an animal to come from within the house. In my travels, I have sat in the “living room” of humble people, in the company of chickens and goats, which roamed the house freely. Jephthah’s house may likewise have housed some animals. But was he wise to assume that it would be an animal that would first come out to meet him? Indeed, how many animals actually “greet” their master at the door, animals that could be legitimately sacrificed? Jephthah’s vow is indeed troubling, and now it would seem that he was obligated to keep his vow.

Was there any acceptable way out of his vow? Jephthah did not think so, and neither did his daughter. Some students of Scripture think that God would not have expected him to fulfill such a foolish vow, but it is clear that God did not intervene to prevent this “sacrifice” as He had done with Abraham and Isaac. There are also those who would seek to salvage Jephthah’s reputation in this terrible account by claiming that the “sacrifice” was not that of his daughter’s life, but of her freedom to marry and to bear children.

I must admit to you that I very much dislike what I read in our text about the “sacrifice” of Jephthah’s daughter. I would love to find some “way out” that would let me interpret this account in a way that did not include the death of Jephthah’s daughter. But having read many (most, I suspect) of the explanations of this passage which lead to a different conclusion, I have not been convinced by any of them, even though I am predisposed to believe them. It seems to me that Jephthah did make such a foolish vow and that he eventually kept his vow by putting his daughter to death.

In discussing this text with some friends who have lived in the Middle East, I found that they were not as shocked at what is said in our text as I was. Human life is not valued as much as it should be, and for little cause, or money, one can hire a person to end the life of another. Further, one’s honor is valued so highly that the one making a vow might fulfill it no matter how distasteful that might be. Even in the West, a daughter might be killed for the “honor” of the family. We in the West have a difficult time comprehending how things are done elsewhere in the world. Suffice it to say that we live in a very violent world.

Having read and agonized over our text, and having heard all of the possible reasons for viewing it differently, I still am forced to take the passage literally, and thus conclude that Jephthah literally sacrificed his daughter. I know that many will disagree with me here, and I respect their right to do so. But once I start setting texts aside and seeking an interpretation other than the plain and simple meaning of the text, I am no better than those who set aside clear texts, simply because they don’t like what they say. Remember, my friend, we are in the Book of Judges, a book where a dagger is plunged into the belly of a man, where a tent peg is driven through a man’s head, where a mill stone crushes the skull of a man, and where a man’s concubine is tossed to the perverts of the city to abuse as they see fit, only to be cut into twelve pieces after she has died. Given the context, a father’s sacrifice of his daughter is quite possible and gravely unfortunate.

There is one more observation I would like to make - - this daughter encouraged Jephthah to keep his vow at her expense. Do we once again have a woman as the true hero? She urged her father to be faithful to God, even if it cost her life to do so. So, already we have read of 4 women heroes in my opinion. 1) Deborah, 2) Jael who killed Sisera, 3) the woman who took Abimelech’s life and 4) now this daughter who was willing to give her life so her father could keep his vow to Almighty God. She would rather die than allow her father to offend God. That is a hero. When I re-read this section, I fell to my knees and asked God to forgive me for all my offenses to Him – if I promised Him anything and did not complete my promise, I asked for forgiveness immediately. I was that convicted and I hope you are too.

“Again, you have heard that it was said to the ancients, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill your vows to the Lord.” Matthew 5:33

“Above all, my brothers, do not swear, not by heaven or earth or by any other oath. Simply let your "Yes" be yes, and your "No," no, so that you will not fall under judgment.” James 5:12

A vow is a serious thing – before God and before men.

Booker T. Washington describes meeting an ex-slave from Virginia in his book Up From Slavery : "I found that this man had made a contract with his master, two or three years previous to the Emancipation Proclamation, to the effect that the slave was to be permitted to buy himself, by paying so much per year for his body; and while he was paying for himself, he was to be permitted to labor where and for whom he pleased.

"Finding that he could secure better wages in Ohio, he went there. When freedom came, he was still in debt to his master some three hundred dollars. Notwithstanding that the Emancipation Proclamation freed him from any obligation to his master, this black man walked the greater portion of the distance back to where his old master lived in Virginia, and placed the last dollar, with interest, in his hands.

In talking to me about this, the man told me that he knew that he did not have to pay his debt, but that he had given his word to his master, and his word he had never broken. He felt that he could not enjoy his freedom till he had fulfilled his promise." 

Your integrity is critical to your testimony.

Even simple good sportsmanship can rise to the level of class act, as it did with tennis player Mats Wilander in the semifinals of the 1982 French Open. At match point, a shot by Wilander's opponent was ruled out. Wilander walked over to the umpire and said, "I can't win like this. The ball was good." The point was played over, and Wilander won fair and square.

Another story comes to mind:

In his book Integrity, Ted Engstrom told his story: "For Coach Cleveland Stroud and the Bulldogs of Rockdale County High School (Conyers, Georgia), it was their championship season: 21 wins and 5 losses on the way to the Georgia boys' basketball tournament last March, then a dramatic come-from-behind victory in the state finals. "But now the new glass trophy case outside the high school gymnasium is bare. Earlier this month the Georgia High School Association deprived Rockdale County of the championship after school officials said that a player who was scholastically ineligible had played 45 seconds in the first of the school's five postseason games. 'We didn't know he was ineligible at the time; we didn't know it until a few weeks ago,' Mr. Stroud said. 'Some people have said we should have just kept quiet about it, that it was just 45 seconds and the player wasn't an impact player. But you've got to do what's honest and right and what the rules say. I told my team that people forget the scores of basketball games; they don't ever forget what you're made of.'"

Going back to the Jephthah account in Judges, I think it is clear that Jephthah was influenced by the culture around him. If you recall, Israel has been worshiping seven different gods (10:6). Some of the nations that worshiped these gods offered human sacrifices (Ammon = Milcom/Molech: Lev 18:21; 20:2–5). Apparently, Jephthah was guilty of going with the spiritual flow in Israel. He may have assumed that he was obligated to fulfill his vow (see Num 30:1–2). Yet, would God take seriously a vow that violated both human rights and divine law? The sixth of the Ten Commandments forbids murder. God does not want a vow that violates His Law and is abhorrent to Him. Furthermore, Lev 27:1–8 provided a way out. As a successful soldier who had just returned from looting the enemy, Jephthah could easily have paid the redemption price to redeem his daughter. Jephthah knew his Old Testament, but he chose not to obey over his own pride perhaps. Rather than plead with God, he would rather just take his daughter’s life. Afterall. God heard the negotiations of Moses – God can be reasoned with. “Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord" (Is. 1:18) However, pride comes before the fall and indeed Jephthah fell. A biblical mind is a terrible thing to waste.

It seems cruel that God would allow Jephthah to take his own daughter’s life or that He would allow Job to suffer as he did, or even to allow Joseph to sit at the bottom of a well and be sold into slavery or to be falsely accused and thrown into prison. It seems cruel that God would allow John the Baptist to lose his head for his faith. Why not save him as He did for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego? Why not just save everyone from stumbling even over themselves?

Why doesn’t God miraculously intervene to stop evil acts if He is all-loving and all-powerful? Why doesn’t He catch the drunk driver’s car that is going to crash into a bus? Why doesn’t He deflect the murderer’s bullets? The person asking doesn’t actually want God to stop all their evil acts. They don’t want to be invisibly gagged every time they’re about to say something hurtful; they don’t want to stub their toe when they try to kick the dog. They just think it would be good if God stopped certain evil acts or just the evil acts of others. But that would make life impossible. It would no longer be a testing ground or a mission field and God would have to take the blame since only various sin degrees would be tolerated. He must be consistent working through His people in the affairs of men to remain the holy, free-will giving judge that He is. Since he desires love, there has to be free-will and in a world of free-will, there will also be the opposite of love, which is hate. There would be no freedoms, no regularity and no personal responsibility. When He does intervene, it demonstrates just how benevolent He is in this world filled with sin - a place that evicted God because it became toxic to Him (Genesis 3). He won’t walk the soil of the earth again until Revelation 21. Sometimes the answer is sending someone else to be His voice, to be His arms and to be like Him. Where there is tragedy there is opportunity for those who serve Him to be like Him.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

God has provided for personal salvation – the promise of eternal life in heaven where there is no suffering (Revelation 21:4). One must simply put his trust in the payment for sin God provided through Christ’s death on the cross (John 3:16-18; Acts 10:38-43: etc.). God has provided for the earth’s redemption (Romans 8:18-23; 2 Peter 3:10,13; Revelation 21:1).

Like Jephthah, perhaps God has given you success in your job and ministry. Praise God! But I have a few questions: Are you listening to the Lord in every area of your life? Are you applying your knowledge of God’s Word in all the circumstances of your life? Specifically, have you focused on your family and your subsequent generations? The danger that you and I face is a failure to apply God’s Word in the difficult circumstances of our lives – to be disciplined in the mind with the biblical instruction and spiritual discernment. Generally, it’s not that we don’t know what to do. We know the Word… we just fail to apply it. Today, will you be a doer of the Word and not merely a hearer (Jas 1:22)? Will you spend time alone in God’s Word on a daily basis? Will you make a commitment today that you will spend five to ten minutes a day five days a week reading God’s Word and praying with your children? This simple discipline will not only change your own life, but it will impact your children and their children. There are no easy answers, quick fixes, or guarantees in parenting, but parents who read God’s Word to their children and pray with them typically experience amazing results. Will you focus on your family and raise up a godly line of believers who will transfer truth of next generation?

Integrity is more than not being deceitful or slipshod. It means doing everything "heartily as unto the Lord" (Col. 3:23). In his book Lyrics, Oscar Hammerstein II points out one reason why, a reason Christians have always known: "A year or so ago, on the cover of the New York Herald Tribune Sunday magazine, I saw a picture of the Statue of Liberty . . . taken from a helicopter and it showed the top of the statue's head. I was amazed at the detail there. The sculptor had done a painstaking job with the lady's coiffure, and yet he must have been pretty sure that the only eyes that would ever see this detail would be the uncritical eyes of sea gulls. He could not have dreamt that any man would ever fly over this head. He was artist enough, however, to finish off this part of the statue with as much care as he had devoted to her face and her arms, and the torch and everything that people can see as they sail up the bay. . . When you are creating a work of art, or any other kind of work, finish the job right – the masterpiece of life is in the details.

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