David and Bathsheba.

Like Jephthah and his daughter, here is another incident in the Bible which causes skeptics and unbelievers to sneer at and to speak against God.  It’s one of the things which make unbelievers say that the Bible is pornographic.  I doubt, however, that you’ll find the Bible for sale on “adult” websites.  It shows the consequences of actions like David’s, not only in this life, but in eternity.

In our post on Jephthah, we said that God doesn’t sugarcoat life.  He doesn’t hide the defects of His people.  David is a classic example of this.  Though “a man after God’s own heart,” his own heart, in common with the rest of us, was “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked,” Jeremiah 17:9.  And he wasn’t a very good father, 1 Kings 1:6.  Maybe he was too busy being “king.”  It’s easy to do that, to get so wrapped up in the trivial things that we forget the important things.Perhaps we can learn some things from this sordid affair, recorded in 2 Samuel 11, 12.

David’s Conduct, 2 Samuel 11.  

1.  David wasn’t where he was supposed to be.

2 Samuel 11:1 says that it was the spring of the year, when kings go out to battle….  Joab and the army was in Ammon, besieging the city of Rabbah.  David, however, remained behind in Jerusalem.  We don’t know why, so there’s no reason to go there.  He certainly wasn’t supposed to be there.

2.  He looked where he wasn’t supposed to look.

V. 2 says it was evening and David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of his house.  Perhaps he had gone to bed and couldn’t sleep.  Perhaps it was later in the evening.  So he got up and went outside to what was probably a deck or porch on the house, to take advantage of the cooler evening air.  We’re not to imagine that he was scrambling around on the roof itself.  From that vantage point, as he was walking back and forth, he could see the surrounding neighborhood.  To his surprise, there was a woman, bathing after the end of her cycle, v. 4.  Apparently, he didn’t just look away.

There have been those who blame Bathsheba for all this.  They say she deliberately put herself where David could see her.  I think that unlikely.  It was evening, so people would be asleep, or at least inside.  She would have more privacy for this very personal action.  We admit, this is all conjecture because the Bible doesn’t give us any detail.  (If this were pornography, “detail” would be the main thing.)  The point is, David saw her, and wanted her.

3.  He did what he wasn’t supposed to do.

V. 4 says that David sent messengers, …and she came to him….  Giving her the benefit of the doubt, we believe she came in innocence, not knowing what David had in mind.  It’s unlikely the messengers knew or said anything about it. Beyond that, we really can’t say.  She came to him.  Why or what she was thinking really doesn’t matter as far as Scripture is concerned.  Scripture is concerned with the result of this one evening.  A result which is with us even this very day, as I write or you read.

She became pregnant.

Having satisfied his desire, David probably thought that was it.  She returned to her house, v. 4.  He sent her home.  After all, she wasn’t married to him.  It was just a one night affair.  

I have no desire to turn this into some Hollywood production, some “Fifty Shades of David,” glorifying and exploiting the vile things humans can do.   From here on in, things get really ugly, as if they weren’t already, though in the end, there is a surprising “twist.”  Hollywood has no monopoly on “I didn’t see that coming!”

Trying to cover his sin, David sent for Uriah, her husband, on the pretext of finding out how the battle he was absent from was going.  Really, he hoped Uriah would go home to his wife, so that he would be assumed to be the father of the child his wife was carrying, vs, 4-13.

When that didn’t work, he set Uriah up so that he would be killed in the battle, vs. 14-25.

With the husband gone, there was still the problem of the child.  After the requisite time for Bathsheba mourning her husband,  David brought her back to his house and married her, vs. 26, 27. She bore the son.

But…. In his instructions to Joab about Uriah, it was obvious that David wanted Uriah dead, v.15.  After the thing was done, and messengers had relayed the news to David, he told them to tell Joab, “Do not let this thing displease you [be evil in your sight]….” But….

David was trying to cover up and hide what he had done, but he forgot there was Another who was watching what went on: But the thing that David had done displeased [was evil in the eyes of] the LORD, v. 27.  There are no “cover ups” where God is concerned.

Nathan’s Confrontation, 2 Samuel 12.

David no doubt thought that he had “gotten away with it.”  After all, it was just a little fling.  Folks forget that it was a “little” thing that got our first parents thrown out of Paradise, and plunged the whole race into the mess it’s in.

God sent His faithful prophet, Nathan, to David with a story about a rich man who disdained to take from his own riches to prepare for a traveling visitor.  Rather than do that, he took the one “treasure” belonging to a poor neighbor.  This poor man had a lamb, which was very much the family pet, and the rich man took that to take care of his guest.  A lot of people, I suppose, could identify with the poor man and the animal “family member.”  Strange how attached we can get to a dog or cat or horse….

Anyway, David was understandably upset at the injustice of all this and decreed that the man, worthy of death, should restore the lamb fourfold to his injured neighbor.

Just in passing, OT justice knows nothing of a “debt to society.”  It talks, as here, of a criminal’s debt to his victim.

David likely was completely unprepared for what Nathan said next:

“YOU ARE THE MAN!”

That was one time when “you the man” wasn’t something David wanted to hear.

Telling all that God had done for David and, if that wasn’t enough, He would do even more, Nathan accused David of despising all that and stealing the one treasure of a poor man for his own pleasure.

Unintended Consequences,

David found out that he hadn’t gotten away with it, after all.  Though he wouldn’t die, he would still suffer the consequences of his sins. Unbelievers look down on David, and on God, for that matter, because God forgave these horrific acts simply out of His grace.  There was no sacrifice which could be given to atone for adultery or murder, the things of which David was guilty.  Yet God “put away” David’s sin.  What folks often tend to overlook, though, is the fact that God didn’t “put away” the consequences of that sin.

In writing of Israel’s experience with God, Psalm 99:8 puts it like this: You were to them God-Who-Forgives, though You took vengeance on their deeds.

In other words, God may forgive the adultery which breaks up a marriage without restoring the marriage.  He may forgive the drunkenness which caused an accident without restoring the limb that was lost because of it,.  There are consequences to every action, good or bad.  Sometimes they are significant, as in David’s case.  In his case, there were several more or less immediate consequences to what he did.  Perhaps some of them weren’t directly related to what he did, but God had taken His blessing off the family.  They suffered because of what David did.

1.  The baby conceived in this union would die, 2 Samuel 12:14.

You might ask, “Why should the baby suffer for what the parents did?”  A lot of children suffer for the sins of their parents:  a drunken father or dissolute mother.  That’s actually nothing new.  There are consequences, and it isn’t always a guilty party who suffers. In this case, Nathan gives us the answer:  it was because what David did gave “great occasion [opportunity] for the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme.”  If the child were alive, then his very presence would be a continual reminder of David’s sin, and a continual reproach because of it.  The boy was taken away from all that.

2.  The sword would never depart from David’s house, 2 Samuel 2:10.

Two of David’s sons were literally killed.  Amnon was killed by one of his brothers for the rape of that brother’s sister, Tamar.  Tamar was another innocent victim, and, as far as the record tells us, never received justice.  As we said, David wasn’t a very good father.

Though we’re told nothing further about her, it’s entirely possible that she was prevented from marrying because her virginity had been stolen from her.  She had been disgraced.  It’s nothing today, but, back then, a girl’s virtue was her most precious possession.  It’s a shame that today’s society in general places no value on it at all, valuing promiscuity rather than purity.

When Amnon was killed, David though all the royal sons had been murdered, 2 Samuel 13:30-33.  The fact that only Amnon was dead was probably little comfort. The other son who was killed was Absalom, who decided that he would stage a coup and take over the throne, 2 Samuel 15-18.  When he was killed, David was almost overcome with grief.  

Though we don’t know, one of the contributing factors to Absalom’s rebellion might have been David’s refusal to punish Amnon for his sin against Tamar, Absalom’s sister. Another contributing factor might have been David’s treatment of Absalom after he killed his brother, 2 Samuel 13:37 through ch. 14.  Absalom had fled the country and lived abroad for three years.  Though Absalom was finally able to return, thanks to the efforts of his good friend, Joab, the commander of Israel’s army, he was forbidden to see the king.  Joab again intervened, but it seems the reunion wasn’t very cordial.

According to 2 Samuel 14:32, Absalom thought he had done nothing wrong in dealing with Amnon.  After all, he had acted when his father hadn’t.  He had avenged his sister.  He was angry that David hadn’t treated him better.

3.  There would be adversity in the family, 2 Samuel 12:11, 12.

Though there was a lot of trouble in the family, these verses refer specifically to Absalom’s almost successful attempt to overthrow his father.  The whole story is found in 2 Samuel 15-18.  The specific detail of vs. 11, 12 is found in Absalom’s actions in 2 Samuel 16:20-22.

Contrariety,

Here is what I meant by “the twist” at the end of the story.  From this woman, illicitly taken and then married after the murder of her husband, Solomon was born, who became heir to the throne.  We’re not told why.  Cf. Joseph’s experiences and his explanation  of them in Genesis 50:20.

Some might look sideways at this, thinking, “That’s not very fair!”

It’s a conceit of believers and unbelievers alike that God can do and must do only those things which we approve – and only in ways we approve.  But He does what He wants, and He asks neither our opinion nor our approval.

I’d never really thought about it before, but perhaps this, too, is part of the “judgment” on David’s family.  None of his other 18 sons were privileged to sit on the throne.  Only a few of them have anything told about them, but if they’re any example of the rest, none of them were fit to rule.

________

Though, as we said, God doesn’t sugarcoat or ignore the failings and sins of His people, but then, neither does He dwell on them.  In 1 Chronicles 20:1, a parallel account, although there is a reference to David’s staying behind in Jerusalem, there is no mention of what he did there.

When God forgives, He also “forgets,” not that it’s wiped from His memory, or ours, for that matter, but that He no longer holds it against us.  Indeed, He treats us as if we’d never sinned, but had always obeyed.  This is the glory of justification, that He declares righteous in His sight those who are anything but righteous.

Is that “fair”?

Not at all.

If we got what was “fair,” we’d all be in hell.

David would be.

But because of God’s love toward us and His immeasurable grace, He gives us what could never be ours otherwise.

How could He do that?

Because He gave to Christ what could never have been His otherwise – our sins.

Tomorrow is Easter.  I really hadn’t planned it this way, but that’s how it’s worked out.  Easter isn’t about bunnies and clothes and Easter egg hunts for the little ones.  Nor, as some insist, is it a celebration of paganism, though that may or may not be where some current practices come from.  It’s about the resurrection of the One who came to take away our sins, so that they would no longer be held against us.

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Naaman, the Syrian

Naaman is the person on the other side of the graciousness of his wife’s servant girl, which we discussed several posts ago.  The story is in 2 Kings 5:1-18.  Scripture paints quite a picture of him.

He seems to have been a lot less willing to receive a blessing than she had been to give it.  Or perhaps it was because he thought the God of Israel, or at least His prophet, was like Burger King:  you got it your way.  Lotta people just like him today.  Turned out he was wrong.

1.  He got the message wrong, vs. 3-5.

The servant girl pointed him to the prophet in Samaria, v. 3.  Naaman went to his own king, and told him what the girl had said, v. 4.  Scripture does say that he told the king what the girl had said.  But the king got it wrong, because he was going to send an embassy to the king of Israel.  Granted, we don’t know all that was involved in this.  Perhaps it was something of a matter of diplomacy.  After all, Syria and Israel were enemies.  (Things haven’t changed much, have they?).

Furthermore, the message to Israel’s king was wrong, as if Israel’s king could heal Naaman.  That’s not what the girl said.  Naaman was to go to the prophet in Samaria.  But the king didn’t mention that.

There are a lot of people today who believe that the answer to our problems is political.  Just get the right people in office and that will take care of it.  However, our problems aren’t political.  They’re not even economic or environmental.  Those problems are the result of our real problem, which is spiritual and moral.  We’ve told God that we’ll do things our way for the last 60 or so years in this country.  God said, “Let’s see how that works out for you.”

I don’t agree with those Christians who can’t be bothered to get involved, even to so much as vote.  But any “solution” that doesn’t deal with the root problem in our society is just a band-aid on a deadly cancer.

The king sent Naaman with an embassy to the king of Samaria, with an expensive gift.  But the things of God aren’t for sale.  A wing for a children’s hospital, large sums spent to better the poor of the world – these might be needful in their place, but they have no spiritual effect, except to make things worse for us, because we tend to trust them instead of God.  Massive amounts of money given to missions might be needful, but what is the mission?

And the king of Samaria got it wrong, too.  He was concerned that his enemy was picking a fight.  It apparently never occurred to him to seek out “the prophet in Samaria” for help.

2.  He got the method wrong.

When Namaan finally got to the prophet, he expected a show.  He thought, “He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over place, and heal the leprosy,” v. 11.

He was furious when the prophet merely sent him a message to go wash in the Jordan seven times, v. 10.  Elisha couldn’t even be bothered to deliver the message in person.  This also made Naaman mad.

He wanted to know why the rivers of his native country weren’t good enough.  I’ve never seen the Jordan River, but I’ve heard that, as rivers go, it isn’t all that impressive.  And I certainly know nothing of the rivers Naaman mentioned.  But Naaman wanted to do things his way.

The Gospel message, in effect, is “Wash in the blood of the Lamb, and be clean.”  Cf. Revelation 1:5.  This doesn’t mean literally, but is a figure of speech.  It means to trust in the Lord’s death for sin and sinners.  It means to put our faith in Him and what He did on the Cross.

Today is Good Friday.  A lot of people will do the things they do on this day without stopping to consider what the day means.  It’s the day the Lord Jesus was put on a Roman cross.  It’s the day that He became the only sacrifice for sin that is successful.  It’s the day that God marked, “PAID” to the sin debt of believers.

Yet a lot of people want to know why their own “rivers” aren’t good enough.  They look to the river of good works, or or some rite or ceremony.  Their mom or grandma or father was a Christian.  They belong to the church.

Etc., etc.

But there’s only one “river” that can cleanse from sin:  the river of blood the Lord shed for sinners on the Cross.  He Himself said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me,” John 14:6.  Our times, all about “diversity” and “pluralism,” don’t like what they call such bigotry.  But it’s still true that “wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it,” Matthew 7:13, 14.

There only ever has been, and ever will, one way of salvation.

3.  He did get what he was looking for.

It’s a good thing that his servants were wiser than he was.  He was willing to do some great, heroic act to be healed.  His servants wanted to know then, why he wouldn’t just “wash and be clean?” v. 13.

It’s pretty much always been true that God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence, 1 Corinthians 1:26-29.

And it’s still true that the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, 1 Corinthians 1:18.

But there are some who, wiser than the intelligentsia of the world, will come to that river and wash in it and be clean.

Naaman was finally willing to do it God’s way.

He wasn’t just healed of his disease.  Scripture says that his flesh was restored like that of a little child and he was clean, v. 14, emphasis added.  Now, here was a man probably in his forties or fifties, a man who’d led a hard life, much of it outdoors and much of it in battle.  He probably bore the scars and evidence of that life.  I don’t want to read into it more than the Scripture says, but it’s possible that those were all gone and his skin was as soft as a little child’s.

He got more than he expected.

Likewise, for those who wash in the river of the blood of the Lamb, we get more than we expected.

Now that doesn’t mean health and wealth and all the stuff prosperity preachers preach.  I believe it’s very likely, considering the way things have gone recently, that it will soon cost to be a faithful Christian.  It already does in a large part of the world.

Things I would never have believed possible not all that long ago are happening, and they’re not going to go away.

But neither is God.

There is coming a time when, as Peter put it, we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells, or, is at home, 2 Peter 3:13.

I have very little hope for this present world.

My hope is in God.

 

More Than An “April Fool.”

April 1, at least in the US, is known as “April Fool’s Day.”  It’s a day when people like to play jokes on other people, to “prank” them, though anymore that doesn’t seem to be limited to one day of the year.  In Luke 12:13-21, our Lord told of a man who was more than an “April fool.”

This incident in the Lord’s life happened because someone asked Him to arbitrate a dispute over an inheritance.  Jesus replied that He wasn’t here for such things, that there was more to life than a lot of “things” and the desire for more of them was to be avoided.  In v. 23, He said, “Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing.”  This echoes something He said in Matthew 6:25, “Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?”   I don’t think He meant that we should ignore physical needs; He was just telling those who were listening to Him, and us, that they’re not to be all we focus on.

And Paul, warning Timothy against the love of “things,” wrote, having food and raiment, let us therewith be content (KJV).

In Matthew 6, which contains similar teaching, Jesus continued, “…seek first the kingdom of God AND HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS…,” emphasis added because we tend to forget that part of what He said.  The best we can do can never be anywhere near good enough.  We must have “His righteousness” if we are to stand before God uncondemned.  

Then Jesus told a story to illustrate what He meant.  “There was a man….”  Perhaps not a real man, in that the Lord had a specific individual in mind, but certainly a representative man, because there were a lot like him around.  Still are.  Always have been.

He was a very successful man.  The story centers around what he did about it.  Liberals see only a condemnation of covetousness.  Is that all?

The Lord wasn’t scolding this man for planning or for possessing, but for planning too far ahead.  For not planning enough.  For being possessed by his “things.”

The man was a “fool” because –

1.  He considered the body, but forgot the spirit.

He was getting ready to take it easy; to enjoy his “golden years.”  He did have a little knowledge that there is more to us that just an animate body.  He referred to his “soul.”  Without getting further into the discussion about whether man is two-part or three-part, let me just say this.  The body enables us to live in this particular world, breathe its air, walk its surface.  Our soul is what makes us conscious of this world, the things which are around us, the warmth of the Sun, the coolness of water splashed on our face.  Our spirit is that which makes us understand that there is more to existence than just this world.  It’s that which makes us ask with the old song by Peggy Lee, “Is That All?” and know that it isn’t.  To know that we’re not the highest being in existence, even if we don’t or won’t admit it.

2.  He considered time, but forgot eternity.

He was looking forward to “many years,” but God said, “Tonight.”  The only breath we’re guaranteed is the one we have right now.

3.  He considered “goods,” but forgot God.

He apparently already had plenty.  The text speaks of “barns” – plural.  But that wasn’t enough; he was going for bigger and better.  He farmed, but apparently never thought about where the rain and sun that nourished his crops came from, to say nothing of the ground in which they were planted and the strength he had to take care of it all.

4.  He considered riches, but forgot righteousness.

The Bible does not condemn wealth.  In fact, in the OT, it was often a sign of God’s blessing.  That’s what puzzled the disciples when the Lord told them how difficult it was for  a rich man to enter heaven.

This man wasn’t condemned because he was rich.  He was condemned because he never considered his standing before God.  I don’t want to read more into the story than what’s there, but surely that’s at least implied by God’s statement to him that his soul would be required of him.  There would be an accounting of his life.

Hebrews 9:27 says, it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment….  So then, death isn’t “the end.”  It’s just a transition into a different plane of existence.  Science fiction, and some religion, talks about “ascending to a ‘higher plane’,” whatever that is, but Scripture talks about leaving this temporal life, this life confined to a body, and entering one beyond this body, one in which righteousness, justice and truth are paramount.  One in which God will be the ultimate “reality,” and our relationship to Him is determined by our relationship to the Lord Jesus.

Easter is this coming Sunday.  In the frenzy of sunrise services, easter egg hunts, and new clothes, it’s reality will largely be forgotten.  That reality is that the Lord Jesus Christ came into this world to redeem sinners.  He lived the life we could never live – a perfect, holy life, and died the death we could never die – a death that paid for sin.  We could never pay for even one sin, let alone the uncountable number of sins we’ve committed.  He rose from that death, proof that He had conquered it.  He told His disciples to proclaim to the world that eternal life was to be had through faith in Him.

Only through faith in Him.

In short, this man in the story forgot everything that really matters, that is really important to our being.  He lived for the moment, but forgot that moment when he would leave this life and face God.

He was more than an “April Fool.”

 

 

 

 

Jephthah and His Daughter.

Judges 11:29-40 is one of those puzzling episodes in Scripture, with skeptics wondering how Jephthah could do such an awful thing to his daughter, and believers trying to figure the story out, as well.

To start, we want to focus on the daughter.  Like the servant girl of Naaman’s wife, this young lady was a remarkable person.  She met her victorious dad with a dance of welcome.  She was glad to see him.

She may as well have plunged a dagger into her dad’s heart, even though, in her innocent joy, she had no idea what she was doing.  Regardless of what may have happened afterward, it’s clear what Dad thought when he saw her come to meet him….

He was devastated….

But our focus here is on the girl.

1.  She had a submissive spirit, v. 36, So she said to him, “My father, if you have given your word to the LORD, do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, because the LORD has avenged you of your enemies,….”

This doesn’t mean that she was beaten into submission by her father, or that she struggled against the idea.  When she found out what was going on, she simply said, “Do it.”  We don’t know anything about such an attitude in our willful and insolent society, where parents are mocked and scoffed at by their children, and “children’s rights” have pretty much cancelled out parental rights – until the kid does something “society” doesn’t like, and then, watch out!

Granted, we live in a different time than Jephthah and his daughter did, but the subject of the fifth commandment is still valid today:  Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with promise: that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth, Ephesians 6:1-3.

The idea of respect for parents has almost disappeared in our time.

But there was something else, and this is the main thing:

2.  She had spiritual perception, v. 36.  She recognized that it wasn’t about what our society would likely call an abusive father, but about a vow that her father had made to the Lord.  We don’t know anything about this in a culture where “a man’s  word” isn’t worth the paper it’s written on, and the saying is, “A contract [a vow] is made to be broken.”  When things get tough, people make promises to the Lord all the time, but how often, when things get better, do they follow through?

And it doesn’t matter if Jephthah’s vow was “rash” or “foolish,” as it’s often described.  Perhaps it was.  It was still binding.  Leviticus 30:2 says, If a man vows a vow to the LORD, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.”  And Deuteronomy 23:21, 23 says, “When you make a vow to the LORD your God, you shall not delay to pay it; for the LORD your God will surely require it of you, and it would be sin to you. … That which has gone from your lips you shall keep and perform, for you voluntarily vowed to the LORD your God what you have promised with your mouth.”  The key word there is “voluntary,” as Jephthath’s was.  V. 22 says, “But if you abstain from vowing, it shall not be sin to you.”

Who knows what was going through Jephthah’s mind before and as he was making this vow.  Perhaps he felt pressure because of his background.  Judges 11 tells us that he was unwelcome among his brothers, and they had disowned him.  He’d left home and became the head of a band of raiders, vs. 2, 3.  After a time, the Ammonites threatened war against Israel, and Israel’s leaders turned to him to lead Israel against them, vs. 4-11.  He wasn’t too thrilled with the idea, but after some haggling with them, he agreed.

Though Jephthah tried to reason with the king of the Ammonites, the king wouldn’t listen, but went ahead with his plan to attack Israel, vs. 12-28.

One thing I find very interesting is found in vs. 28, 29:  then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and…he advanced toward the people of Ammon.  And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD….  Granted, some time passed while he was moving toward the enemy, but he wasn’t just some wild-eyed revolutionary when he made his vow.  As I said, who knows what was going through his mind.  Perhaps just the heat of the moment….

Regardless, he was stuck.

Now the Law did have something to say about the redemption of a sacrifice.  In Leviticus 27:1-8, if the “vow” concerned a person, a certain monetary value was placed on him or her, depending on age.  They weren’t killed, as was an animal.  There were some other provisions in the Law, as well.  However, Leviticus 27:28 says, “Nevertheless no devoted offering that a man may devote to the LORD of all he has, whether man or beast…; every devoted offering is most holy to the LORD.” Whatever happened, the daughter had become “most holy to the LORD.”  Perhaps this is a key to understanding this episode.

There are those who harshly criticize Jephthah, believing that he went ahead and sacrificed his daughter on an altar.  Perhaps he did.  In v. 40, the phrase, “the daughters of Israel went four days each year to lament” her, could refer to her death. Another view, the one which I hold with others, is that she, as “most holy to the LORD,” was given over to perpetual virginity.  This is confirmed, possibly, by the fact that she requested 2 months to go with her girlfriends to lament her virginity.  She could never marry or have children.  To our society, this is no big deal, but back then, it was.

To be barren was almost worse than death, because a woman could never fulfill her destiny as a mother.  If this is the case, then “the daughters of Israel” came to lament her remaining single.  Again, to our society, no big deal.  “Virginity” isn’t considered all that important:  “it’s just sex.”  Indeed, such a view as hers can hardly be understood by the rampant feminism  and/or immorality of a “Fifty Shades of Grey” society.

For the father, either way, this meant the end of his family.  His daughter was his only child.  For something of the importance attached to this, see the post I did on the daughters of Zelophehad, or read their story in Numbers 27.  Indeed, even the sordid action of Lot’s daughters was prompted by the desire to keep their father’s line going, Genesis 19:32.

Jephthah is mentioned later in Scripture.  Samuel remembered him as one whom the LORD has sent to deliver Israel, 1 Samuel 12:11.  Hebrews 11:32 mentions him as one of the heroes of the faith.  It’s interesting that every one of the four men mentioned in that verse was very much less than perfect.

Perhaps Psalm 15:1, 4 gives us an answer.  In v. 1, the Psalmist asks a question, Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle?  Who may dwell in Your holy hill?  The rest of the Psalm gives the answer.  V. 4 is relevant here:  He who swears to his own hurt and does not change.

I don’t really know for certain what happened between Jephthah and his daughter.  Maybe he stands as an object lesson not to be hasty in making promises we later might not want to keep.  Maybe he just stands as a testimony to being faithful to your word, regardless of what it might cost you. In any event, God doesn’t sugarcoat the records of our lives.  He doesn’t photoshop or airbrush the pictures of His people to make them look better than they are. He shows warts and all.

Whether this is a story of “warts” or not is a subject for a lot of discussion. Perhaps only the Judgment will finally clear it all up – along with a lot of other things.  In the meantime…