A Despised Savior of an Undeserving People

Pastor Tom Ascol continues in his series on Judges as he looks at the story of Jephthah, “A Despised Savior of an Undeserving People.” In this narrative Jephthah is shown with many serious faults, faults that have long-lasting consequences. Despite those faults God used him to rescue His people. Jephthah points to a coming perfect Savior who, though also often despised, provides eternal salvation for His undeserving people.

Early in this passage the theme is God’s saving of His people. God has saved His people seven times so far in Judges from different enemies from the Egyptians to the Amorites, from the Philistines to the Sidonians and so on. Yet Israel has rebelled seven times, consistently turning away from God their Savior. Israel seems more interested in God relieving their distress than in having a relationship with their Creator. Israel’s is a pervasive, persistent apostasy resulting in God finally declaring “Go and cry out to the gods whom you have chosen.” Yet, while false gods display the idolatry of mankind, even the very idols from which Israel had previously been rescued, God is faithful.

Israel, returning with sincerity to God, seemed to express its brokenness in a way they had not done before. God, according to the NASV responded, revealing his heart, “He could bear the misery of Israel no longer” (v. 16b). God still does this today, revealing to the hearts of His people the sending of a Rescuer, Jesus Christ. In Judges 11 God sends Jephthah. Several parallels exist in the narrative between God and Jephthah. Just as the Israelites wanted to use God to relieve their distress so the Gileadites turned to Jephthah to relieve their oppression from the Ammonites. Just as Jephthah was an illegitimate son, Jesus appeared to the world as an illegitimate son. Just as God refused to be used so Jephthah refused. God, however, eventually fought for Israel just as Jephthah, after negotiating his reward, led Israel in battle.

Jephthah negotiated for leadership with the Gileadites when they sought him. He sought to negotiate peace with the Ammonites even if the unsuccessful negotiations led to war. Unfortunately, Jephthah also attempted to negotiate with God. Pastor Ascol digs into Jephthah’s vow: what was vowed, why was it vowed, why the vow was kept, what are the lessons for modern believers. In making his vow Jephthah ultimately sought to manipulate God revealing a faulty view of God as an absolute. Jephthah could not manipulate God, even if God used Jephthah. The vow eventually resulted in the horror of human sacrifice in the premature and sinful death of his daughter.

Interestingly, even as Israel was freed from Ammonite oppression there is no peace mentioned during the course of the following three judges’ leadership. The people apparently progressively degenerated moving further away from God their savior. Jephthah serves as an example to us of the possibility of doctrinal blindness. It is likely we have small, faulty perceptions of God, as did Jephthah. We do well to mind both our arrogance and compromise with the world. Only as we stay close and faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ can we have confidence in our walk with Him.

Tom Ascol has served as a Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL since 1986. Prior to moving to Florida he served as pastor and associate pastor of churches in Texas. He has a BS degree in sociology from Texas A&M University (1979) and has also earned the MDiv and PhD degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. He has served as an adjunct professor of theology for various colleges and seminaries, including Reformed Theological Seminary, the Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, African Christian University, Copperbelt Ministerial College, and Reformed Baptist Seminary. He has also served as Visiting Professor at the Nicole Institute for Baptist Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Tom serves as the President of Founders Ministries and The Institute of Public Theology. He has edited the Founders Journal, a quarterly theological publication of Founders Ministries, and has written hundreds of articles for various journals and magazines. He has been a regular contributor to TableTalk, the monthly magazine of Ligonier Ministries. He has also edited and contributed to several books, including Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry, The Truth and Grace Memory Books for children and  Recovering the Gospel and Reformation of Churches. He is also the author of From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist ConventionTraditional Theology and the SBC and Strong and Courageous. Tom regularly preaches and lectures at various conferences throughout the United States and other countries. In addition he regularly contributes articles to the Founders website and hosts a weekly podcast called The Sword & The Trowel. He and his wife Donna have six children along with four sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law. They have sixteen grandchildren.
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