Judges 11QUESTION: Pirates and Valor - 1ANSWER:Judges 11 – Part 1
by Pastor Nathan Shepherd (Dive Chapel, Candle Key, Florida)
“Good morning, gang. This week it’s Judges chapter 11, so let’s turn there right now.” Nathan Shepherd, pastor of the Dive Chapel sat on the edge of the stage in the cavernous waterfront warehouse that housed his church.
“I want to start with a list of names that we’ve all heard. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel. That’s what we call the ‘Faith Hall of Fame’ from Hebrews 11. If you were listening closely, most of you would have recognized these names, except for maybe one. The one that doesn’t seem to belong, the least known of the group: Jephthah. How’d he get in there?
“How many of you guys had heard of Jephthah before you did your reading this week?” About ten hands went up throughout the room. “Okay, cool, well, you ten Bible scholars will just have to bear with us today as we tell the story of the big Jeff dude.
“Hebrews 11:1 is definitive, ‘Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.’ Wow, substance where there is only hope and invisible evidence. Those CSI shows would have trouble trying to deal with faith, wouldn’t they?
“Hebrews 11, verse 6 says, ‘But without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe that God exists and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.’ Did you catch that? Do you believe that God exists? And, do you believe that he will reward us for diligently seeking Him? Certainly the people in the ‘Faith Hall of Fame’ were rewarded in their lives. And, they had faith in the Heavenly Kingdom to come. We’re told that in Hebrews 11:13-16.
“Okay. I know that some of you are confused. We ARE doing Judges 11, not Hebrews 11, so let’s go back there. The chapter starts by saying, ‘Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valor.’ Remember that, okay.
“Jeff’s father was Gilead. Jeff was the first born – an important thing in those days – but his mom was a hooker, a prostitute. Being illegitimate in that culture meant you had to live as an outcast, looked down upon by everyone. In worldly terms, Jephthah could never have amounted to anything, especially the heroic leader of the country!
“But that’s a great lesson to us. God can, and will, use anybody. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, where you’ve come from, what people say about you. If you trust that God is God and diligently seek Him, He can use you and reward you. Put your past aside, God has. Remember, God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called. If He could use Jephthah, He can use you!
Again, the world does not see things God’s way. So when Gilead’s wife had a bunch of sons and they grew up, they ganged up and banished Jephthah from their family.
“Sounds kind of like another guy from the Faith Hall of Fame, Joseph. Jeff packed up and headed off to Tob, a city known for its murderers, raiders, robbers, criminals, Mafia-types, barbarians, pirates. You’ve heard me talk about the old pirate-haven days of Key West when it was Cayo Hueso – Bone Island? The whole place was like the demon scenes from a Frank Peretti novel. That was Tob.
“Verse three says a band of worthless men gathered to Jeff and went out raiding with him. Out of his shame and the betrayal of his family, Jephthah became a pirate! But not in boats, maybe he was more like the leader of an outlaw gang in the old West. Apparently a bad man, commanding a ruthless bunch of outlaws. But the words, the evidence of Judges 11, would show us that he believed in God.
“Meanwhile, back in Israel . . . Remember last week, at the end of chapter 10, the army of the Ammonites came to make war. And, without a leader, the children of Israel were freaking out. Somebody said, ‘Let’s go get Jephthah, he’s a mighty man of valor! He’ll fight for us.’
“They went to bring Jeff back to fight in verse 6, and, predictably, he says, ‘Did you not hate me, and expel me from my father’s house? Why have you come to me now when you are in distress?’ Remember, that’s akin to what the LORD said in Chapter 10 when the Israelites called to Him at the beginning of all of this.
“So Jeff asks if – watch this – the LORD delivers the Ammonites to him, will Israel make him their leader. Did you catch his faith? If the LORD delivers! So the men of Israel agree, make Jeff their commanding general and he moves to Mizpah. Did Israel get a ‘bramble’ for a leader? Hmmm.
“Before marching off to fight, Jeff tries a reasonable, peaceful solution. He sends emissaries to the king of Ammon to ask why they’ve come to fight. The Ammonites answer that it is because the Israelites stole their land when they came up out of Egypt.Judges 11 – Read Part 2!