The Israelite judge, Jephthah, is generally known for the weird story about his daughter, poor kid.
But I think we generally miss the importance of this guy’s backstory and how God may have used it to his (and His) advantage.
Back in those days, having sons was pretty well tantamount to status (as opposed to having daughters; now where they thought the baby boys came from, gets me…) And although even our secular Western culture has fairly well done away with that mindset, they (and us) still deal with the “world’s oldest profession”.
So while Jephthah’s dad, Gilead, had several socially legitimate sons, little Jephthah was not one of them, and was treated accordingly.
“…and when these half brothers grew up, they chased Jephthah off the land. ‘You will not get any of our father’s inheritance,” they said, ‘for you are the son of a prostitute.’ So Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob. Soon he had a band of worthless rebels following him.”
Because, back then, with those kinds of credentials, that’s about all the following you’re going to get. I can only imagine what hardship he must have suffered going from the house of his father (probably bullied while he was growing up anyway, but at least provided for) to ousted into the “real world”, possibly as a teenager. Homeless. Despised. Without family or connections. Or money.
As usual, the plot thickens—
“At about this time, the Ammonites began their war against Israel. When the Ammonites attacked, the elders of Gilead sent for Jephthah in the land of Tob. The elders said, ‘Come and be our commander! Help us fight the Ammonites!’ But Jephthah said to them, ‘Aren’t you the ones who hated me and drove me from my father’s house? Why do you come to me now when you’re in trouble?’”
Run off the farm, rather than living in the lap of luxury, Jephthah has been hardened by life’s boot camp, and is now evidently the one most suited for rescuing those same brothers with soft, un-callused hands.
And rescue he does, like the rushing in of the cavalry.
The point is this. People do us injustices. We have to suffer the consequences of others’ stupidity, prejudices, unkindness, or just low-down thoughtlessness. I’m bullied, kicked out of the club, whether physically or emotionally. Bereft. Alone. (At least it feels that way.)
But God has other plans, and this is just part of the Divine Boot Camp. Plans for rescue, not vengeance, for redemption, and restoration, and it may be for the very ones who turned me out.
Jephthah’s hands and muscles may have become just as soft as his brothers had he stay in his dad’s house all that time. Instead, he became the hero.
Which is God’s training for all of us, to be heroes in one way or another.
Judges 11:2-7 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.