April 7.—Morning. [Or July 12.]
“I have given Him for a leader and commander to the people.”
Judges 11:5–10; 12–21; 23–28
AND when the children of Ammon made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to fetch Jephthah out of the land of Tob:
6 And they said unto Jephthah, Come, and be our captain, that we may fight with the children of Ammon.
7 And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, Did not ye hate me, and expel me out of my father’s house? and why are ye come unto me now when ye are in distress?
We should mind whom we slight, for upon those very persons we may come to be dependent.
9 And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, If ye bring me home again to fight against the children of Ammon, and the Lord deliver them before me, shall I be your head?
10 And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, The Lord be witness between us, if we do not so according to thy words.
Jephthah asked no more than had been publicly promised, and was naturally his due. So when the Lord Jesus saves us from our sins, it is but just that he should reign over us.
12 ¶ And Jephthah sent messengers unto the king of the children of Ammon, saying, What hast thou to do with me, that thou art come against me to fight in my land?
Israel might not wantonly make war with Ammon, therefore Jephthah tries first an appeal to reason. Let us follow peace with all men.
13 And the king of the children of Ammon answered unto the messengers of Jephthah, Because Israel took away my land, when they came up out of Egypt, from Arnon even unto Jabbok, and unto Jordan: now therefore restore those lands again peaceably. (This was a mere pretence, but diplomacy abounds with falsehoods. The Ammonites had lost the territory in war with the Amorites, and when Israel captured it from the Amorites, it became theirs.)
14–21 And Jephthah sent messengers again unto the king of the children of Ammon: (To try once more what argument would do, he stated the facts of the case:) And said unto him, Thus saith Jephthah, Israel took not away the land of Moab, nor the land of the children of Ammon: But when Israel came up from Egypt, and walked through the wilderness unto the Red sea, and came to Kadesh; Then Israel sent messengers unto the king of Edom, saying, Let me, I pray thee, pass through thy land: but the king of Edom would not hearken thereto. And in like manner they sent unto the king of Moab: but he would not consent: and Israel abode in Kadesh. Then they went along through the wilderness, and compassed the land of Edom, and the land of Moab, And Israel sent messengers unto Sihon king of the Amorites, the king of Heshbon; and Israel said unto him, Let us pass, we pray thee, through thy land into my place. But Sihon trusted not Israel to pass through his coast: but Sihon gathered all his people together, and fought against Israel. And the Lord God of Israel delivered Sihon and-all his people into the hand of Israel, and they smote them: so Israel possessed all the land of the Amorites, the inhabitants of that country.
23 So now the Lord God of Israel hath dispossessed the Amorites from before his people Israel, and shouldest thou possess it?
24 Wilt not thou possess that which Chemosh thy god giveth thee to possess? So whomsoever the Lord our God shall drive out from before us, them will we possess. (He argued upon their own grounds, and would have convinced them had they been capable of justice.)
25, 26 And now art thou any thing better than Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab? did he ever strive against Israel, or did he ever fight against them, While Israel dwelt in Heshbon and her towns, and in Aroer and her towns, and in all the cities that be along by the coasts of Arnon, three hundred years? why therefore did ye not recover them within that time? (Undisputed possession for three hundred years was certainly a good title enough. It was rather late to revive a dormant claim.)
27 Wherefore I have not sinned against thee, but thou doest me wrong to war against me: the Lord the Judge be judge this day between the children of Israel and the children of Ammon. (He did well to make his appeal to heaven. When right is on our side, we may fearlessly leave results with God. If we have done all we can to make peace, and men will not act justly, the sin must rest with them.)
28 Howbeit the king of the children of Ammon hearkened not unto the words of Jephthah which he sent him.
Lord, for the glory of thy name,
Vouchsafe me now the victory;
Weakness itself, thou knowest I am,
And cannot share the praise with thee:
Because I now can nothing do,
Jesus, do all the work alone,
And bring my soul triumphant through,
To wave its palm before thy throne.
What power against a worm can stand
Arm’d with Jehovah’s sword?
For all who bow to Christ’s command
Are champions of the Lord.
Arm’d with his word and Spirit’s might
We shall the battle gain,
And sin, that tempting Midianite,
Shall be for ever slain.
Father, though late, I turn to thee,
With all my idols part;
O let my helpless misery
Affect thy pitying heart.
Grieved at thine ancient people’s woe,
Be grieved again at mine;
And force my sins to let me go,
Redeem’d by blood divine.
He who saves us shall be king,
Let him but deliverance bring.
God the Lord our witness be,
He who saves, our king shall be.
Jesus saves us, he shall reign;
Lord, do not the throne disdain;
Since to save us thou hast died,
Thou shalt reign, and none beside.
E’en in my holiest hours,
My folly I reveal,
I lack a balance for my powers,
A bridle for my zeal.
Great Spirit teach me how,
When all my soul is flame,
To guard the purport of my vow,
Lest I be put to shame.
If unto God I speak
And pledge the solemn vow,
Thy heavenly guidance I will seek,
My gentle teacher, thou.
He subdued the powers of hell,
In the fight he stood alone;
All his foes before him fell,
By his single arm o’erthrown.
His the battle, his the toil;
His the honours of the day;
His the glory and the spoil;
Jesus bears them all way.
Now proclaim His deeds afar,
Fill the world with his renown:
His alone the victor’s car;
His the everlasting crown!
I can do all things, or can bear
All sufferings, if my Lord be there;
Sweet pleasures mingle with the pains,
While his left hand my head sustains.
But if the Lord be once withdrawn,
And we attempt the work alone;
When new temptations spring and rise,
We find how great our weakness is.
So Samson, when his hair was lost,
Met the Philistines to his cost;
Shook his vain limbs with sad surprise,
Made feeble fight, and lost his eyes.
So Samson Israel’s foes o’erthrew,
More than in life by death he slew;
But when our greater Samson fell,
He vanquish’d sin, and death, and hell.
Compass’d with foes, he bow’d his head;
For mercy, not for vengeance pled,
And groaned his last expiring groan,
And pull’d th’ infernal kingdom down.
O Lord, our carnal mind control,
And make us pure within;
Train thou each passion of our soul
To hate the thought of sin.
Be ours the blessed lot of those
Who every evil flee;
Whose spirits chaste, as virgins pure,
In all things follow thee.
April 7.—Evening. [Or July 13.]
“Let not thine heart be hasty to utter anything before God.”
THEN the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah, and he passed over Gilead, and Manasseh, and passed over Mizpeh of Gilead, and from Mizpeh of Gilead he passed over unto the children of Ammon.
Brave man as he was, he needed a divine preparation for his work, and God graciously vouchsafed it to him. When the Spirit of the Lord comes upon a man, it makes him far other than he was before; it elevates, guides, inspires, and strengthens. He who has the Spirit will find his arms upheld, and his strength rendered sufficient for accomplishing the most arduous enterprises. May this same Spirit, in a more gracious manner, rest upon us.
30 And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the Lord, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands,
31 Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering. (This was, doubtless, the warm outburst of an earnest heart, but there was a great want of caution in it. If we vow at all, we should think long and well of what we are about to do, and then express our resolve in the plainest terms. It is most unwise for a Christian man to bring himself into bondage by rash pledges and incautious declarations. Jephthah’s case should be a warning to us.)
32 ¶ So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon to fight against them; and the Lord delivered them into his hands.
33 And he smote them from Aroer, even till thou come to Minnith, even twenty cities, and unto the plain of the vineyards, with a very great slaughter. Thus the children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel.
Joyfully did the hero return to his home, but alas, how marred was his triumph. His rash vow had become a pit for him.
34 ¶ And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter.
35 And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said, Alas, my daughter! thou hast brought me very low, and thou art one of them that trouble me: for I have opened my mouth unto the Lord, and I cannot go back. (Yet it had been far better to break a wrong vow than to keep it. His mistake lay in uttering a vow which might possibly bring about such terrible consequences. He swore that he would offer up for a burnt offering whatsoever came forth of his doors to meet him. Half-instructed as he was, he may have thought that so bold a promise would be acceptable to Jehovah, and now in semi-heathenish fear, he feels he must stand to his word.)
36 And she said unto him, My father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the Lord, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth; forasmuch as the Lord hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, even of the children of Ammon. (It was bravely spoken. Grandly did the hero’s daughter yield herself to die, or to remain unmarried, content so long as her country was free.)
37 And she said unto her father, Let this thing be done for me: Let me alone two months, that I may go up and down upon the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I and my fellows.
38 And he said, Go. And he sent her away for two months: and she went with her companions, and bewailed her virginity upon the mountains.
39, 40 And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed: and she knew no man. (Let us hope that her father did not actually sacrifice her: if he did, it was an act most abhorrent in the sight of God. Her submission to her doom was touchingly beautiful; let us hope that the vow was capable of a softer construction, and that she lived a celibate life, consecrated to the Lord. Many expressions in the chapter encourage that hope; at the same time it is sufficiently doubtful, to lead us to repeat our warning against every rash vow. Pause, hot spirit! Consider! Reckon all the consequences, and ere thou open thy mouth unto the Lord, make sure that what thou art covenanting to do is really for his glory, and within the lawful compass of thy power.) And it was a custom in Israel, That the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year.
 Spurgeon, C. H. (1964). The Interpreter: Spurgeon’s Devotional Bible (pp. 199–201). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.