From the Pulpit: Just an outcast

By: 
Pastor Randy Battey, Brandon Valley Baptist Church

Someone once told me that the greatest measure of spiritual maturity is how we deal with situations where we have faced injustice or harm to our reputation. Do we respond in kind, or do we respond in grace? The level of our faith is seen in the characteristics we display when the heat is on and we are facing unfairness or injustice. If we live by faith we will respond differently than those who have no faith.

In my last article we looked at Gideon and the faith that he displayed. Another man of great faith in the book of Judges is Jephthah. He teaches us that God has established a high moral ground, and He expects us to walk on that higher ground.  The first characteristic of that higher faith ground that we learn from Jephthah is forgiveness.  

Forgiveness is not natural. It’s a characteristic that has to be developed. It’s part of the higher ground that men and women of faith need to be walking on.

Jephthah was born into a mixed marriage situation that caused some huge problems for him. Not only was he just a half-brother to Gilead’s other sons, but he also had to bear the stigma of being the son of a prostitute.

As a half-brother Jephthah had definite rights. He had every right to expect to receive a portion of his father’s inheritance. Legally he could demand it. But his brothers didn’t see it that way. Instead, they drove him out of the house so that he wouldn’t receive anything. It was injustice at its worst.

Jephthah’s reaction is instructive and tells us a lot about his character. In verse one Jephthah is described as being a mighty warrior. He was one of the strongest, fastest, and most intelligent fighting men of his day. Few men were his equal. As a mighty warrior Jephthah could have easily taken his part of the inheritance by force. He didn’t do that. Rather than cause trouble, he left. He had been treated unjustly and with contempt, but he refused to react in kind.

It wasn’t long before he was faced with the need to forgive his people for the wrong done to him. He moved to the city of Tob and gathered around himself a group of good-for-nothing outcasts as his allies. They then went out on raids against the Ammonites who were oppressing Israel at the time.

As the Ammonite oppression grew and war became imminent, the elders of Gilead turned to the only mighty warrior they knew. It was apparent that no one in Gilead was willing to stand against the Ammonite invaders, even though the reward was great. According to Judges 11:8, in the offer made to Jephthah, the elders of Gilead were prepared to agree that whoever would lead them in the battle against the Ammonites would be declared to be the leader of Gilead. Since no one else could be found who would do it they made the offer to Jephthah, the outcast son of a prostitute.

What had been done to Jephthah by his brothers was both morally and ethically wrong. The elders of Gilead had done nothing to stop it. In verse seven, Jephthah first lets them know that they are showing a lot of nerve coming to him for help now. Verse eight stands as a statement of contrition from the elders, “And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, ‘That is why we have turned to you now, that you may go with us and fight against the Ammonites and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead,’” They were finally willing to admit they had done wrong and in their fear they turned to the only man they knew who could help them. 

Jephthah relents, forgives them, and agrees to help. In verse nine he tells the elders, “If you bring me home to fight against the Ammonites, and the Lord gives them over to me, I will be your head.” He was agreeing to forgive, and as a result he was moving from being an outcast to being the head over all of Gilead. The deal is sealed with a solemn vow in verse 10, “The Lord will be witness between us…” Verse 11 tells us that the people of Gilead agreed to the vow and Jephthah was accepted as the leader of all Gilead.

A lesser man would have refused to help, no matter what the promised reward might have been. Jephthah was a man who displayed God’s character and grace. He walked on the high moral ground that God had established for men and women of faith. He had been treated wrongly, but he forgave. When they needed him, he stepped up to the plate and served them. That forgiveness is an important part of the character of a person who lives by faith.

Forgiveness doesn’t say anything about the people being forgiven. It speaks volumes about the heart and character of the one doing the forgiving. We don’t forgive because people deserve to be forgiven. We forgive because it’s an important facet of the character of God that He is developing within us.  

Is there anyone in your life that you have refused to forgive? They may have hurt you deeply and done terrible things to you. Don’t forgive because the other person deserves it. Forgive them because you deserve the freedom that forgiveness brings to your heart. Forgive them because that is what God has done for you. Forgive them because God has called you to walk according to His high moral standards. That forgiveness is an important part of the character of men and women of faith. 

 

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