Judges 11:1-28 – That Moment In Life You Can Say, “It Was the Best of Times. It Was the Worst of Times.”

Posted: September 10, 2017 in Book of Judges
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Judges 11:1-28
Jephthah Becomes Israel’s Judge

Have you ever had one of those circumstances where it seemed the most terrible thing at the time but turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to you? There are things that happen to us that knock down flat and we feel lower than low and wonder if we are going to make it through it but down the road when time has passed it becomes that pivot moment where life changed and for the better. It is that moment that could appropriate the Dickens quote, “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.”

For me, that moment in time that seemed so horrible at the moment was the last two years of my second marriage. It was a rough period in my life. During that time, I made some stupid mistakes and lost my job that was the sole source of income for me and my family. It forced my second wife to have to go back to work. It was during a recession back in 2000 (when the internet bubble burst). It took me about 2 months to find a comparable job to what I had been doing. However, it was for less salary and my second wife refused to quit working. Where she was working, she ended up having an affair with someone there. It crushed me to the core. My second wife over the years had become the thing that I worshipped and I forsook everything to keep her happy and she would reward me for good behavior. Everything about life during those days was making sure that I stayed in her favor. So, this thing that happened, where she was staying out all night with friends that turned out to be an affair just crushed me. We ended up separating for nine months over it. However, I was still pining away for her during those nine months and lived a life of dark loneliness for the most part. Although after a few months, I was able to start dating again. There was that dark loneliness that permeated everything, because she, my second wife, was my god and I was still hooked on that religion of sorts. We got back together finally and I was so happy but when you worship gods things are going to go to crap again. It just does.

It was during that first separation that my oldest daughter had a falling out with her mom that was so bad that she came to live with me. So, when my second wife and I got back together it was me and my oldest daughter that came home not just me. There was always this seething, in the background jealousy between my second wife and anything to do with my past, particularly my daughters. It had strained my relationship with my kids to the point that there almost wasn’t a relationship at all. But my second wife was more tolerant of my oldest daughter this second time around or so it seemed. When it was time for my oldest to go off to college, for some reason, my second wife thought that we no longer had to support her since she was 18. She said I needed to cut the apron strings. My child was in college though. That couldn’t happen. And I would not let it. So, to help my daughter with all those college expenses that they don’t tell you about and just living expenses of being in college, I supported her without my second wife’s knowledge. I kept secrets. Because I was wanted to walk the tight rope of keeping my god, my second wife, happy and at the same time supporting my own child the way I knew to be the right thing. Keeping secrets never works. So, my hidden help for my daughter ultimately cost me my second marriage. It was over when my second wife found out about my secret financial help for my daughter. The marriage could not survive a second major crisis and it didn’t. Again, I hated the fact that the marriage ended. It was a big blow. And, I hated the fact that it seemed that my second wife forced me to choose between my child and her. Why did it have to be that way? I was heartbroken. It was tough to get beyond my grief over the ending of the second marriage. I felt like the rug had been yanked out from underneath me. I had to start life over. All of our friends were her friends first so I was alone and starting over AGAIN.

But looking back on the whole situation now some 13 years later. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. I worshipped my second wife and not God. I did crazy stupid stuff to keep her happy. I walked on egg shells constantly. It is no life when you live your life to satisfy someone else. I no longer blame my second wife for being my god. It was a choice that I made to make something other than God my god. But now, because of the ending of the second marriage, I was able to begin to see life more clearly for the first time ever. It was because of not worshiping and idol that I was able to have peace and joy for the first time in my life. It was because of that ending that I was able to make a new beginning with my kids. It was because of that rejection that I was able to learn who I was and work on the things that I needed to make better about myself. It was because of ending idol worship that I began to develop my relationship with God that had started at the cross just a short while before the end of the second marriage. God was never really in the second marriage even though we went to church. I was a puppet on the worshiping a human being string. Looking back on the end of that marriage, with my willingness to forsake everything to please her (including my relationships with my children and anything to do with my past), it was the best thing to ever happen to me.

Without that end, my relationship with God would have never grown. We cannot worship God and a person at the same time. And without the split, I would have never saw that she was my god. I know God hates divorce but he hates idol worship more, I think. From the ashes of that marriage, God raised me up from it and began dealing with the spiritual baby that I was. Without that time to do all that in my soul, I would have never grown. Without all that happening, I would have never met Elena. Without all that chiseling away of the idols of my life, I would not have been ready for this marriage which is THE best thing that has happened to me. To have a wife that just loves me for me unconditionally is what marriage is supposed to be about. To have a marriage that has no egg shells. To have a marriage where we work together to make a good life and not just good times is so refreshing. We work together to make our finances great. We work together to prepare for retirement. We worship God together. We love God together. We make Him the center of our marriage. We just enjoy being together. We are best friends. We have peace in our home. We have grown in our relationships with Jesus Christ together. My wife is willing to support my following of God’s calling on my life no matter where it leads us. We live simply and have no desire to keep up with the Joneses. We are happy with simplicity and taking on only the debt we have to take on and paying it off as soon as we can. Because of the growth in my walk with Jesus and because of the influence of my frugal wife, we are, I am, in the best financial shape of my life. We together believe seriously that we need to live as simply as possible so that we can be generous, cheerfully generous, to our church and to the world around us and to our grown children. I know that I am living in a zone of God’s great favor and blessing right now so to be generous is the outpouring of our thanksgiving to God for the favor He has shown us.

None of these things could have ever happened before. None of it. Without the ending that was so crushing at the time. Without that ending, I could never experience the new beginning. Without that ending, I could not be standing in the sunshine as I am now. Without that pain, there would have been no gain. That was what I thought of this morning when I read about the story of Jephthah. How what seemed like a crushing blow and how God used after he was rejected, how God turned his defeat into victory, how God turned his rejection into something mighty. Would any of that ever have happened if the rejection had not happened. Let’s read Judges 11:1-26 now with that in mind.

11 Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a [a]valiant warrior, but he was the son of a harlot. And Gilead [b]was the father of Jephthah. 2 Gilead’s wife bore him sons; and when his wife’s sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out and said to him, “You shall not have an inheritance in our father’s house, for you are the son of a prostitute.” 3 So Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob; and worthless fellows gathered themselves [c]about Jephthah, and they went out with him.

4 It came about after a while that the sons of Ammon fought against Israel. 5 When the sons of Ammon fought against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob; 6 and they said to Jephthah, “Come and be our chief that we may fight against the sons of Ammon.” 7 Then Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “Did you not hate me and drive me from my father’s house? So why have you come to me now when you are in trouble?” 8 The elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “For this reason we have now returned to you, that you may go with us and fight with the sons of Ammon and become head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.” 9 So Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “If you take me back to fight against the sons of Ammon and the Lord gives them up [d]to me, will I become your head?” 10 The elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “The Lord is [e]witness between us; surely we will do [f]as you have said.” 11 Then Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and chief over them; and Jephthah spoke all his words before the Lord at Mizpah.

12 Now Jephthah sent messengers to the king of the sons of Ammon, saying, “What is between you and me, that you have come to me to fight against my land?” 13 The king of the sons of Ammon said to the messengers of Jephthah, “Because Israel took away my land when they came up from Egypt, from the Arnon as far as the Jabbok and the Jordan; therefore, return them peaceably now.” 14 But Jephthah sent messengers again to the king of the sons of Ammon, 15 and they said to him, “Thus says Jephthah, ‘Israel did not take away the land of Moab nor the land of the sons of Ammon. 16 For when they came up from Egypt, and Israel went through the wilderness to the [g]Red Sea and came to Kadesh, 17 then Israel sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying, “Please let us pass through your land,” but the king of Edom would not listen. And they also sent to the king of Moab, but he would not consent. So Israel remained at Kadesh. 18 Then they went through the wilderness and around the land of Edom and the land of Moab, and came to the east side of the land of Moab, and they camped beyond the Arnon; but they did not enter the territory of Moab, for the Arnon was the border of Moab. 19 And Israel sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, the king of Heshbon, and Israel said to him, “Please let us pass through your land to our place.” 20 But Sihon did not trust Israel to pass through his territory; so Sihon gathered all his people and camped in Jahaz and fought with Israel. 21 The Lord, the God of Israel, gave Sihon and all his people into the hand of Israel, and they [h]defeated them; so Israel possessed all the land of the Amorites, the inhabitants of that country. 22 So they possessed all the territory of the Amorites, from the Arnon as far as the Jabbok, and from the wilderness as far as the Jordan. 23 Since now the Lord, the God of Israel, drove out the Amorites from before His people Israel, are you then to possess it? 24 Do you not possess what Chemosh your god gives you to possess? So whatever the Lord our God has driven out before us, we will possess it. 25 Now are you any better than Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he ever strive with Israel, or did he ever fight against them? 26 While Israel lived in Heshbon and its villages, and in Aroer and its villages, and in all the cities that are on the banks of the Arnon, three hundred years, why did you not recover them within that time? 27 I therefore have not sinned against you, but you are doing me wrong by making war against me; may the Lord, the Judge, judge today between the sons of Israel and the sons of Ammon.’” 28 But the king of the sons of Ammon [i]disregarded the message which Jephthah sent him.

In this passage, we see that Jepthah, an illegitimate son of Gilead, was chased out of the country by his half brothers. He suffered as a result of another’s decision and not for any wrong he had done. Yet, in spite of his brothers’ rejection, God used him. Circumstances beyond his control forced Jepthah away from his people and into a life as an outcast. If you are suffering from unfair rejection, don’t blame others and become discouraged. Remember how God used Jephthah despite his unjust circumstances and realize that he is able to use you even if you feel rejected and hurt. Sometimes, God has to rip us away from our comfort and security even if that comfort and security is bad for us. When we are in the wrong path, God may rip us from it and it will hurt like a raw open sore for a while, but He does that sometimes so that we will learn to depend on Him solely. He does that sometimes so that we will see Him clearly. He does that sometimes for our own good. He does that sometimes to break us free from the idols in our lives.

He may rip us out of things that are bad for us and it may seem like the worst thing ever at the time. He may rip you from your addictions, from your poor choices, from anything that dominates our lives and has become our god instead of Him. He rips us from the things we cling to instead of Him. Going through idol withdrawal is a painful experience and it seems so horrible at the time. But we do come out the other side of it in a path that is filled with light and with peace and with God. He wants us to worship alone. He as Creator and the Eternal One knows what is best for us. Are you in that painful phase of being chiseling by God to let go of the idols that you worship? Are you alone and rejected because the idols that you have worshiped have failed you and left you in the mud face down?

God is right there. He has been there all the time. He has been waiting on you to see Him. Embrace Him and Him alone. He will lift you out of the mud. He will clean you up and set you on solid ground. One day you too will look back on this worst moment of your life and see it as the best moment in your life – that moment that you began to see God clearly and you began to live a life that was at peace with God rather than at war with Him.

Amen and Amen.

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