“And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the Lord, and said, ‘If Thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, 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.’”
Judges 11: 30, 31
King James Version
“Handling the Future With Faith or Futility”
“Nobody can take away your future. Nobody can take away something you don’t have yet.”
Dorothy B. Hughes
How has my view of the future been colored by events in my past and the situations I face today in the present?
When I think about my future, what place do I give to my heavenly Father’s guiding hand?
“Children of yesterday
Heirs of tomorrow,
What are you weaving?
Labor and sorrow?
Look to your looms again.
Faster and faster fly the great shuttles
Prepared by the Master,
Life’s in the loom,
Room for it –
Mary Artemisia Lathbury
Song of Hope
“The handwriting on the wall may be a forgery.”
October 22, 1972
He was called the wisest man who ever lived – King Solomon. Author of Proverbs, he gave many pointed pieces of advice, but none applies so directly to us today as this one: “Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth,” (Proverbs 27:1). No truer words of warning could be given to you and me. We aren’t promised tomorrow.
But as we have learned from the life of Jephthah, we can allow the pain and injury of our past to drip its poison of revenge and bitterness into our today – and by the hasty; ineffective and even disastrous decisions we make in the present, we may turn our future into a time of futility rather than a day of faith.
Jephthah allowed his birth, as the son of a harlot, and his subsequent abandonment by his family, to form the structure of his present – a present where he demanded to have his place as head of the family. When given what he wanted, Jephthah evidently began to think that ordering everyone to do what he desired was the best way to handle his life. After ordering his half-brothers to make him the “big chief,” and seeing them obey his command, Jephthah decided to try the same “foot-stomping” behavior on God.
Let me explain how I have come to this conclusion after studying Judges 11. First of all, from the time God’s children left Egypt, He promised them if they would follow His leadership, He would not only protect their steps, He would guide them as they journeyed. All they had to do was have faith (trust) that God meant what He said.
I don’t know about you but walking through the Red Sea on dry land with mountains of water piled high on either side would have convinced me that God had a handle on things. But it seems faith was in short supply and soon God’s murmuring kids were weeping and wailing, telling God they wanted to go back to Egypt.
Did God abandon them? Absolutely not. Sometimes He gave them, “the desires of their hearts,” which proved to be unfortunate, but throughout the wanderings of the children of Israel from the Sinai desert into Canaan – the Promised Land – God stayed with His children. After Joshua died, and the time of the Judges began, even though God’s children again had an off-and-on relationship with their Father, still He would not let them go, repeatedly assisting them.
After seeing and hearing about God’s faithfulness, you would think Jephthah would have had an ounce of trust in God’s Word. But sad to say, we find he did not. Instead, he decided to make a deal with God. And quite honestly, I’ve done the same thing in my own life before. Maybe you have too!
I’ve told God, “If you’ll do what I want now, in the future I’ll do something for You.” This is not uncommon behavior. I remember being on a helicopter one day, scared to death, praying that if God would get me off safely, I would never get in such a situation again.
This is exactly what happened with Jephthah. He informed God that if (God) would give him, (Jephthah), victory over the Ammonites, he would give, as a sacrificial burnt offering, the first thing that came out to meet him at his house.
Not only was this rash “vow” unasked for by God, it also, as many Biblical scholars note, showed a lack of faith on Jephthah’s part, for God had already promised to give victory. Rather than allowing God to direct his life, Jephthah wanted to direct it himself. How like him you and I tend to be at times. We long to move all the blocks around in our lives and set all the events in order, while we plan our futures to meet our needs.
As a great lover of poetry, I have found comfort in the words of John Greenleaf Whittier:
“I know not what the future hath
Of marvel or surprise,
Assured alone that life and death
His mercy underlies.
And if my heart and flesh are weak
To bear an untried pain,
The bruised reed He will not break,
But strengthen and sustain.
No offering of my own I have,
Nor works my faith to prove;
I can but give the gifts He gave,
And plead His love for love.
And so beside the silent sea
I wait the muffled oar,
No harm from Him can come to me|
On ocean or on shore.
I know not where His islands lift
Their fronded palms in air;
I only know I cannot drift
Beyond His love and care.”
As you and I look forward to the future, let us not be trapped by the heartache of our past or the brokenness of our present. May we always look to our future, having faith in the hand of our Father who guides us.
“The next moment is as much beyond our grasp, and as much in God’s care, as that a hundred years away. Care for the next minute is just as foolish as care for a day in the next thousand years. In neither can we do anything, in both God is doing everything.” - C. S. Lewis
“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” Carrie Ten Boom
“God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain.
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.”
Dorothy Valcarcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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