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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Redeeming "The Best" From the Past (Judges 11:1-3)

"Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior. His father was Gilead; his mother was a prostitute. Gilead's wife also bore him sons, and when they were grown up, they drove Jephthah away. "You are not going to get any inheritance in our family," they said, "because you are the sons of another woman." So Jephthah fled from his brothers . . ."

Many people in our world today live a life defined by some negative or ugly event in the past; for some, their life is defined by the pain of a divorce, for others the memory of abuse, and for still others, the scar of rejection. Their painful past defines them--their life seems to be one poorly wrapped package and the bow on the top is that painful event.   

Jephthah had a past. He was born of an illegitimate relationship, rejected by his brothers, and robbed of his inheritance. He could have been bitter, like Abimelech, instead even in his exile he demonstrated such leadership qualities that others were drawn to him. Others were drawn to him because he was a successful warrior. His success was so noticeable that the nation turned to him when the Ammonite armies invaded the land. And when they turned to him Jephthah demonstrated the one key that freed him from being defined by the negative of his past.

Jephthah had faith in a big God. He knew the Scriptures, he knew the stories. Because the Scriptures dominated his mind and the stories filled his heart Jephthah could respond to a bad situation with faith in God birthed from His word. The Scripture says "now faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God."   

Though born of a prostitute and driven out by his half-brothers, Jephthah chose to find his identity in the fact that he is a Gileadite, a true son of his father. He is his father's son first and foremost, regardless of what his brothers say about him and how they treat him. When confronted by the Ammonites the elders of Gilead appeal to Jephthah the Gileadite, not to Jephthah, the son of a prostitute. Jephthah's response to the Ammonites reveals that he was also schooled in the history of his father's people (11:15-27). He identified himself with the Gileadites through and through.

What defines you today? Are you defined by an event in your past, by your origins or by knowing God's stories and knowing your heritage from your Father's side, rather than your mother's side (the negative)? Bible literacy comes with a price tag--the hard work of learning God's stories, but the reward is confidence in a mighty God and a life shaped, not by the past, but by what we shall be because of what He has done and whose life flows through our lives.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading (Judges 10:1-13:25):
  • Describe the sin of Israel in Judges 6th sin cycle.
  • What does Jephthah tell the Ammonites about their god, Chemosh? About the God of Israel?
  • Did Jephthah need to make a vow to the Lord and use his daughter as surety?
  • What causes conflict between Jephthah and the men of Ephraim?
  • To whom does the Angel of the Lord appear in chapter 13? What does this tell you about the Lord and His relationship with women? (Twice in the Old testament the Angel of the Lord appears to a woman: Hagar and Manoah's wife (2x). The Angel of the Lord appears to Hagar, Abraham, Balaam and his donkey, Gideon, Elijah, David, Zechariah, and Joshua (in Zech. 3:1, 6). What does the Angel of the Lord tell Manoah about his wife?
  • How does Manoah's perspective regarding the visit from the Angel of the Lord differ from that of his wife's?
  • Describe Samson's earliest days.
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the Lord to identify areas of your life where you are allowing the past to define who you are to to help you become more intentional in knowing the Scriptures so that you are defined by who you are in Christ.