Conflict with Ephraim
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Judges 12:1-15, 1 Samuel 8:19-22, Ecclesiastes 5:4-7
Scripture Reading: Judges 12:1-15, 1 Samuel 8:19-22, Ecclesiastes 5:4-7
Jephthah’s life is starting to unravel. Because of his rash vow, his daughter is dead and his family is broken. Jephthah was wrong to make that vow, and he was wrong to keep it. Because he was called into leadership by men instead of being raised up by God, he was man’s solution to a problem that can only be solved by God. And now, after a seemingly great victory over the Ammonites, the Ephraimites are pounding at his door and threatening to burn his house down over a ridiculous tiff.
Ironically, Jephthah’s house is really already on fire by the time the Ephraimites come for him, sharpening their flints. And the fire that burned was kindled by Jephthah’s very own hands and lips. It was the destructive fire of his sin. And he couldn’t keep the smoldering smoke a secret for long.
The Ephraimites have no good reason to pick a fight with Jephthah. They are angry because he didn’t summon them to help fight the Ammonites. Since he had been called to leadership by the Gileadites, Jephthah really had no authority to summon the tribe of Ephraim to war in the first place. But once they Jephthah is victorious over the Ammonites, they want a piece of that juicy victory and rise up against Jephthah.
In Shakespeare’s epic tragedy, Hamlet, Queen Gertrude groans, “When sorrows come, they come not as single spies, but in battalions.” In the same way, as Jephthah’s sins pile up, he continues to trudge forward in his own strength, his wrongs and sorrows compounding. Before he knows it, his own house is in shambles. A threat from foreigners to burn his house down is laughable because he has already burned what is valuable with his own actions. No amount of water could douse the flames ignited by the murder of his own daughter. This sin that was closest to his heart ended his career. His time as a judge was over. Jephthah was so burned by the evil that cauterized his family, he could not recover.
Our darkest and most burning sins damage us in profound ways. But hope is never lost. Sometimes fire is the severe mercy we require. “This third I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God’” (Zechariah 13:9). Even if the house of your heart is on fire, call on His name and He will answer you.