From the Pulpit: Integrity checks

Pastor Randy Battey, BV Baptist Church

A businessman took a flight across the country. After the plane reached cruising altitude the flight attendants began serving the first-class passengers a meal. As the man picked up his fork to eat his salad he noticed a big black roach just beneath a lettuce leaf. He was so disgusted by the experience that he wrote an angry letter of complaint to the airline. He unloaded his anger on the president of the airline, threatening to never fly with them again.

When he returned home at the end of his trip he was surprised to find a special-delivery letter waiting for him. It was perfectly typed on the airline’s letterhead – and it was personally signed by the president of the airline. It dripped with diplomacy. The president assured the man that immediate action was being taken. “I have temporarily pulled that particular aircraft off the line. We will strip the upholstery from all the seats and remove the carpet from the floor. New fabric has been ordered. It will not return to service until everything is in perfect condition.” The letter continued, “The flight attendant who served your meal has been reprimanded. I assure you her job is in jeopardy. You have my word that such an embarrassing incident will never occur again. We hope you will continue to fly our airline.”

The businessman was really impressed with the prompt reply and the action taken. But then he noticed something unusual.  The secretary who had typed the president’s letter had inadvertently included the original complaint letter in the same envelope. As the man looked over the letter he noticed that the president had written a note to the secretary. Obviously penned in a hurry, it said, “Send this guy the standard roach letter.”

I think we can all agree that is no way for a business to act. We expect a business to have high standards and to treat customers in the right way. The same is true of the church. The standards of the church are no higher than the standards of the people who are in it.

We have been looking at visionary faith as it is illustrated in the life of Jephthah, and as we continue we see that Jephthah was a man who followed through on tough commitments. This brings faith down to the nitty-gritty of our everyday lives.  It’s often easier to act in a faithful way when the pressure is on and you know that people are watching you. It’s more difficult to act in faithful ways in the day-to-day world where it’s only us and God watching. Our faith is seen in our willingness to make and to keep tough commitments. That tough commitment to keep his word was Jephthah’s new challenge.

In verse 29 we are told that the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah and he led the people into battle at Mizpah. Just prior to the battle Jephthah made the vow before God that is seen in verses 30-31. It left him in a difficult position.

It’s important that we have a clear understanding of what Jephthah was vowing before the Lord. It’s clear in verse 31 that he was expecting a person to come out of the house. The statement, “whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me” always refers to people. It’s also clear that he was not considering a human sacrifice. Jephthah is always presented to us as a godly man. He was aware of the biblical admonitions against human sacrifice and would never have done it. The fact that he is mentioned among the people of great faith in Hebrews 11 tells us that he would never have done something that God declared was an abomination.

The essence of Jephthah’s vow was that he would give to God whatever God chose to claim as His own… whatever came out of the house first to greet Jephthah. Jewish commentators from the Middle Ages point out that the last two clauses of the vow are not identical...  “it shall be the Lord’s” never refers to animals to be sacrificed, and “burnt offering” never refers to human beings. So, his vow was that whatever, or whoever, met him would be offered to God in accordance with God’s holy and righteous procedures. It’s a vow of humble submission that allows God to claim His own reward. 

God kept His part of the covenant. Verses 32-33 tell us that the sons of Ammon were defeated and completely subdued by the Gileadites.

Then came the time for Jephthah to keep his part of the covenant. When he returned home his daughter came out to meet him and welcome him home. Verse 34 tells us that she was his only daughter, which makes this commitment even harder to keep.

Jephthah is left with an integrity check. God had kept His part of the covenant. What was Jephthah going to do? In Leviticus 27 God provided allowances that made it possible for Jephthah to redeem his daughter from this vow, but God had been faithful and Jephthah knew that he had to be faithful in return, even though it tore his heart out. Jephthah, in the integrity of his faith, followed through and kept his word to God.

One of the tough commitments that comes when we live by visionary faith is that we keep our word, even when it means that we are going to suffer greatly for it. We all face the integrity check of tough commitments. What we do with those commitments shows our level of faith. If we are not people of integrity then we are not people of visionary faith.




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