Eternal Weight-Judges 11 Sermon

To the brothers and sisters of Neighborhood Misawa,

     Greetings! This sermon is called “Eternal Weight,” and it is discusses how each decision we make carries weight for the rest of our lives, and even beyond the grave.  We will be looking at the story of Jephthah in Judges 11, and how a hasty vow affected his family forever.

God raised up Jephthah in the time of the Judges.  This was before Israel had kings.  These judges were not like the judges of today; they didn’t just decide legal cases.  They were like preachers, pastors, judges, kings and military commanders all at the same time.   

  Jephthah was the son of Gilead, but he was an illegitimate son by the world’s standards, because he was the son of a prostitute.  Gilead had other sons by his wife, and when they grew up, they drove Jephthah off the land. He grew up into a fine warrior, and when the Ammonites rose up to fight with Israel, the same people who kicked him out of the country tried to call him back. He came back as their commander.  They routed the Ammonites, but it came with a heavy cost.  Jephthah vowed to sacrifice the first living thing to meet him after the battle; the first person to meet him afterwards was his only child, an unnamed daughter.  He made the vow to God, but the vow was a selfish one, because the Bible clearly prohibits human sacrifices and making rash or hasty vows to God in the first place!


Deuteronomy 18:10 (ESV)

10 There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer

Skeptics of the Bible often try to use this story to say that God is cruel because he accepted Jephthah’s offering of his daughter.  But just because God doesn’t mention his disapproval doesn’t mean that he accepts something that people did.  For example, just because God allowed Solomon to have hundreds of wives doesn’t mean God liked it or accepted it.  There is a Psalm that says God will never do anything to contradict his word or his name.  Jephthah was doubly guilty because he not only sacrificed his daughter, but Jephthah was in error for making a vow and not taking it seriously.  If we read further in Deuteronomy

Deuteronomy 23:21-23 (ESV)

21 “If you make a vow to the Lord your God, you shall not delay fulfilling it, for the Lord your God will surely require it of you, and you will be guilty of sin. 22 But if you refrain from vowing, you will not be guilty of sin. 23 You shall be careful to do what has passed your lips, for you have voluntarily vowed to the Lord your God what you have promised with your mouth.

   Many of the Jews believe that any vow a person makes is automatically cancelled out if the person performs a vow that openly contradicts the Word of God. 

   [QUOTE] This quote is taken from a site called (  Firstly it is important to emphasize that Judaism has always viewed human sacrifices as a reprehensible abomination. Regarding the Canaanites, Moses says: “For every abomination to G‑d which He hates, they did to their gods; for also their sons and their daughters they would sacrifice in fire to their gods.”3Based on this idea, many of the biblical commentators4 maintain that Jephthah did not offer his daughter as a sacrifice. In fact, his original vow, “whatever comes forth . . . shall be to G‑d, and I will offer it up for a burnt-offering,” had a dual intention: if it will be a person, then it “shall be [consecrated] to G‑d”; and if it should be an animal, then “I will offer it up as a burnt offering.” (The Hebrew prefix ו which precedes the words “I will offer it” can be translated as “and” or “or.”)According to this interpretation, Jephthah’s daughter was sent to the mountains to live in seclusion. She never married and dedicated her life to the service of G‑d.  Other biblical commentators5 disagree. Though Jephthah was one of the Israelite judges, he was chosen for the position because of his bravery and might, not because of his Torah scholarship—indeed, he was woefully ignorant.6 And though he was not bound whatsoever by the vow he made—as it clearly transgressed the rules of the Torah—he ignorantly went ahead and offered his daughter as a sacrifice.Had he only consulted with Phinehas, the learned high priest of the time, he would have been informed of his error. But that didn’t happen. Jephthah was too arrogant to travel to Phinehas to receive guidance: “I am the general of the Israelite forces, and I should go to him?!” And Phinehas was too proud to unilaterally go to Jephthah to advise him: “He needs me; why should I make the trip?”The hubris demonstrated by these two leaders cost an innocent girl her life. According to the Midrash (Ancient Commentary on the Old Testament)7 both were punished. Phinehas lost the divine spirit that had hitherto rested upon him. Jephthah became ill, and he lost many of his limbs. Because his limbs were buried in many locations, the Bible says that Jephthah was “buried in the cities of Gilead.”8 [END QUOTE].

     The heart of Jephthah was too proud.  The hearts of the people of Gilead were too proud.  All this pride and showing off cost Jephthah’s daughter her life.  Don’t put your trust in popular opinions.  The hearts of people are very shaky ground.  


[1] The hearts of people are shaky foundations — Earlier in the chapter, we read that Jephthah was the son of a prostitute, and his half brothers gave him no share of the inheritance from his father Gilead.  Not only did these brothers withhold the inheritance, they also kicked Jephthah out of the whole region where they lived.  

 [1a] Don’t make promises to God before you check out God’s promises —-  In Jephthah’s time, vows were taken very seriously.  Your actions carry eternal weight.  Don’t be so worried about your past that your present ends up stinking.  


[1b] Don’t let your past wreck your present —- Judges 11 doesn’t come out and say it, but I have no doubts that Jephthah had some underlying issues because of his past.  It’s almost like Jephthah worshipped the taste of victory.  Don’t let success be your idol.  Remember that your actions carry eternal weight.  God’s grace is enough. 


[John Snow video clip]


[Don’t worry about it, Chi, this clip link won’t be on the notes, lol]


John Snow’s mother’s identity is unknown for most of the Game of Thrones series.  He is illegitimate, and is constantly reminded of that. As a result, there is tremendous anger, pride, and a quickness to want to prove himself to be great in the series. 


[1c] God’s grace is enough —–  How often do we spend time worrying about what God hasn’t done, instead of focusing on what he has done?


 Judges 11: 29-32 (ESV) Then the Spirit of the Lord was upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh and passed on to Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he passed on to the Ammonites. 30 And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord and said, “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, 31 then whatever[a] comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the Lord‘s, and I will offer it[b] up for a burnt offering.” 32 So Jephthah crossed over to the Ammonites to fight against them, and the Lord gave them into his hand.


God approved of Jephthah because His Spirit moved upon Jephthah.  So God’s Spirit was with Jephthah when he fought the Ammonites, so why would he need to perform a vow, if he was already fighting in God’s power? Every good idea is not a God idea……………When you perform certain actions, check your sources. Your actions carry eternal weight. 


[2] Check your sources —- Jephthah’s pride was the source of that vow, not God’s word.  What is the source of your motivation in life? We know that as Christians, God’s Spirit is with us.  So if God’s Spirit is with us and lives in us, why do we keep thinking we need to perform or bargain with God? It’s not necessary. He’s already gone ahead of us in life’s battles.  Our choices carry eternal weight.  No person is an island unto himself or herself.


[2a] No one is an island —- Our choices affect everyone around us – Not only do our choices affect the people who are presently in our lives, but they will affect our descendants.  


[2b] Our choices can last for generations —- Our choices about marriage, divorce, finances, relationships, work, all these things will affect our children’s children. 

But Jephthah made his vow anyway!

30 And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord and said, “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, 31 then whatever[a] comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the Lord‘s, and I will offer it[b] up for a burnt offering.”


Verses 34 and 35 say…….

 Judges 11:34-36 (ESV)  Then Jephthah came to his home at Mizpah. And behold, his daughter came out to meet him with tambourines and with dances. She was his only child; besides her he had neither son nor daughter. 35 And as soon as he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you have become the cause of great trouble to me. For I have opened my mouth to the Lord, and I cannot take back my vow.” 36 And she said to him, “My father, you have opened your mouth to the Lord; do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, now that the Lord has avenged you on your enemies, on the Ammonites.”

we know that Jephthah’s idea to sacrifice his daughter did not come from God’s Spirit. How do we know this?  We know that the Word of God and the Spirit of God are intimately acquainted with each other, and they are never in conflict. 

     Our words today carry eternal weight. Remember that God’s angels keep record of our every thought, deed, action and motive. And we will give account.  So Jephthah was doubly guilty in this passage.  And sure enough, he sacrificed his only daughter……

Judges 11:36-40 (ESV) 36 And she said to him, “My father, you have opened your mouth to the Lord; do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, now that the Lord has avenged you on your enemies, on the Ammonites.” 37 So she said to her father, “Let this thing be done for me: leave me alone two months, that I may go up and down on the mountains and weep for my virginity, I and my companions.” 38 So he said, “Go.” Then he sent her away for two months, and she departed, she and her companions, and wept for her virginity on the mountains. 39 And at the end of two months, she returned to her father, who did with her according to his vow that he had made. She had never known a man, and it became a custom in Israel 40 that the daughters of Israel went year by year to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in the year.

 [3] Our choices carry eternal weight —— Anything we do for the Lord will go with us to heaven.  This can also have negative affects as well. 


[3a] anything we don’t do for the Lord will go with us —– We will be saved, of course, because we are saved by trusting in Christ’s sacrifice for us on the cross.  However, we will be rewarded in heaven for our service to Christ on the earth.  The rule is trust, and we have to compete according to the rules.


 [3b] We must compete according to the rules – The rule of faith is what we must compete with

“You can be disciplined without being spiritual…………

but you cannot be spiritual without being disciplined……….


     When I talk about discipline, I mean the discipline of being a disciple.  I mean the discipline of going to God when you mess up, because you will naturally want to hide in shame like Adam and Eve did!  I’m talking about the discipline of surrendering, letting go, and trusting God’s sense of justice.

 [3c] Trust God’s sense of justice –Jephthah wanted to be delivered from living a performance-based life.  However, he did it on his own terms. 


Remember that everything you think, say or do has eternal weight.  So as disciples, pray that we can live a life of discipline, and weigh our every action on the scale of eternity. 


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