Judges 12:1-15, 1 Samuel 8:19-22, Ecclesiastes 5:4-7
My friends, Ross and Jake, like to tell a story about the day that forged their friendship. It was the day of Jake’s “intervention.” No, Jake was not a drug user or an alcoholic, but he did have a persistent issue that threatened to damage all of his friendships. You see, Jake had a frustrating tendency to break off plans at the last minute.
On this particular occasion, Ross, Jake, their wives, and a few other friends had planned a Saturday afternoon cookout. Ross’s wife had bought the burgers, brats, and all the fixings. They’d set up the patio furniture and the corn hole boards. They were less than an hour away from the party when the phone rang. A college buddy had offered Jake two tickets to the game that afternoon. He’d gotten a better offer, so he ditched the cookout and headed to the game instead.
Now, this was hardly the first time that had happened, so Ross was angry. Later that night, he drove over to Jake’s place to confront him. When Jake tells the story now, he changes his voice to show just how gruff Ross was: “We can NOT be friends if you keep doing this. I want your friendship. I need your friendship, but your word has to MEAN something.”
Friendship is built on fidelity. Broken commitments, on the other hand, can kill. Jephthah was a man who, on the surface, seemed to care a lot about keeping his vows. In fulfillment of a rash promise, he sinfully sacrificed his own daughter (Judges 11:30-40). And when the Ephraimites broke their covenant obligation to fight with him against the Ammonites (Psalm 78:9-11, 67-72), he turned his sword against their entire tribe, wiping out 42,000 men (Judges 12:4-6).
But while Jephthah seemed to care about vows, his rashness shows us the instability and infidelity of his heart. He was faithful to himself but lacked fidelity to God’s ways. In his heart, Jephthah only did what was right in his own eyes. His mouth spoke too quickly, and his words brought futility and destruction —both to his own household and to the Israelite tribes he was supposed to lead. Jephthah had a short judgeship—just six years compared to an entire generation for the judges who’d preceded him (Judges 3:11,30; 5:31; 8:28)—and it marked the beginning of a downward spiral for the nation.
Perhaps you’ve never been as rash as Jephthah, but we’ve all been enamored with the “better offer.” It’s tempting to let our eyes wander to the next best thing, rather than being faithful to the friendships, spouse, family, or church community where we’ve been called.
Where do we find the strength to be faithful? Where do we find the power to keep our vows? We can only find this strength in remembering that God has been faithful to us. He is a loyal God who kept His promises by sending Jesus Christ to save us. Our God is faithful and true (Revelation 19:11), and in Christ, all of His promises are “Yes” and “Amen” (2 Corinthians 1:20).
Written by Jared Kennedy