The Triumph of an Outcast
Roy Blizzard III © 2014
Text: Judges 11:7
“And Yiftach-(Jephthah) said unto the elders of Gilead, Did not ye hate me, and expel me out of my father’s house? And why are ye come unto me now when ye are in distress?”
Let’s be honest about something, there are some folks who just don’t have much of a start in life. Take Yiftach-(Jephthah) for example; here you have the 9th Judge in the Democratic rule of Israel, few men have had a worse start in life. This is how the story opens in our Biblical story in Judges 11:1, “Now Yiftach-(Jephthah) the Gileadite was a mighty man of valour, and he was the son of an harlot: and Gilead begat Yiftach-(Jephthah).”
Now this was one stubborn fact that Yiftach-(Jephthah) just could not change.
None of us ever had any voice as to how, when or to whom we are born. If we stop and think about it, any birth of a child is an unparalleled opportunity to a chance at destiny and history regardless of the odds against them at the start. It is the opportunity to achieve, to excel and to live a life defying the forces set against them by no fault of their own. This is that story from the Bible. It is a story of victory over handicap. It is a story of a man who wasn’t supposed to make good coming from far behind and asserting and taking control and leadership. But, it is God’s encouragement to us all this morning who may feel abused and say in their heart, “What’s the use!”
No one could have bragged less about his birth than Yiftach-(Jephthah). He could hardly describe his mother as an unfortunate woman, as she was more sinned against than sinning. She was not a woman who had made a false step for the sake of the man she loved, as for her, sex was a business. She may have loved her son, but there was no record that she ever forsook her trade in order to give her son the right kind of environment so he could excel.
There is even less respect for his father than his mother as Yiftach-(Jephthah) was simply the dividend of an unguarded moment. Gilead, his father, was a married man, a rather wealthy and influential man who felt he had a right to indulge in a few wild oats, but he never planned on Yiftach-(Jephthah). His son was a sort of blackmail surprise. A disregarded woman in the back of a poor section of a community took the only fleshly way open to her, in her earthly mind, to try and better her fortunes. By bearing a son to a wealthy, well known gentleman, in his moment of indulgence, she might gain a foothold in a worldly society and thereby improve what she perceives as her “station” in life.
However, earthly decisions don’t always work out well and this one was no exception. This woman of easy virtue had calculated, but the end result wasn’t what she had planned as Yiftach-(Jephthah) was no more welcome in the family than his mother. Verse two tells us: “And Gilead’s wife bare him sons; and his wife’s sons grew up, and they thrust out Yiftach-(Jephthah), and said unto him, Thou shalt not inherit in our father’s house; for thou art the son of a strange woman.”
No boy could have been more wronged against at birth and no one born under such circumstances would seem less destined to succeed. It just didn’t seem possible that this boy would ever grow up to become anything in life because not only didn’t he have a family, but they took away his inheritance and cast him to the curb. How was it possible for him to grow to become the chief executive of his nation?
Look at him, the first lips that kissed him were stained in years of sinful living. He could really not call Yiftach-(Jephthah) “daddy” because he was rejected by him. He wasn’t able to experience the joyous upbringing in a righteous home because neither the father nor mother were such. Where were the tender associations that might have guided his feet into the paths of righteousness?
The facts were that Yiftach-(Jephthah) was a child of sin and society branded him as an outcast. He was the proverbial “skeleton” in the closet that folks want to keep the door locked on. So , Yiftach-(Jephthah) was disinherited and disowned and driven from the only home he knew. Not a relative or a friend claimed him. No one believed in the boy and I’m sure everyone expected him to grow up and be a criminal or beggar, someone worth of the title child of a whore. The pathos of it all is in the third verse: “Then Yiftach-(Jephthah) fled from his brethren, and dwelt in “the good land”. This is erroneously called Tob in English and we don’t understand what it means. It means in Hebrew that Yiftach-(Jephthah) found a good land for himself.
And this is a fact that torpedoes a skeptics most carefully planned case against God. With all of the odds in life stacked against this boy, why didn’t he turn his life over to the devil? He could have easily and who would have blamed him for doing so. The same society that had thrust him out would have had no qualms about passing judgment upon him. What irony is there in this world that such a boy so sinned against at birth through childhood should grow to become head of the nation. If there isn’t any God who directs our paths and the justice of this world then the words of Joseph in Genesis 50:20 have no meaning. “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.”
Who strives for the soul that is unwanted in our worldly societies? Who leaves the ninety nine which are safe to go and find that which is lost? Who believes in the prodigal and waits for him when everyone else has written him off for a total loss? Who is it that lifts his eyes and asks, “Woman, where are your accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?…Then…neither do I condemn thee; go and sin no more.” John 8:10-11
Friends, if there isn’t any Gospel-the good news of God that your savior is alive and reigning upon the earth, if this thing called the love of God is just some mistaken sentiment of a poet or songwriter, then how do you explain this stubborn fact that Jesus still remembers when all the world has forgotten! No my friends, there is a God, there is a real Gospel, there is a real risen Savior who has come to seek and to save that which was lost. There is a friendly power in this world who is bigger than all the unfriendly circumstances of our birth and childhood. Parents may abandon you, friends may forsake you, this earthly life may seem as though it is not worth living, but God will never abandon you. You must learn to live by the spirit.
Psalms 27:10 teaches us, “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up.”
God is waiting for us to find Him. Yiftach-(Jephthah) found God as an outcast. How and why and where we don’t know, but God revealed himself to Yiftach-(Jephthah) and you can understand the sort of condition God found him in. But, with the same strength and tenacity in which he lived, when he found God he returned love to God. Like 7:47 says, “Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.”
When Yiftach-(Jephthah) found that God loved him, that God didn’t hold the circumstances of his birth against him and that God wanted to give him the same kind of chance that He had given Moses, Joshua, and Gideon, then Yiftach-(Jephthah) simply could not do enough for God…he couldn’t love God enough.
He became a zealot, rash and daring; nothing was too good for his God. He would withhold nothing, absolutely nothing. People accustomed to the better things in life, folks who haven’t had to fight their way up from the gutter, people who have never been sneered at, whose birth has never been questioned, can never hope to understand the passion and flame that will burn in the soul of a man like Yiftach-(Jephthah).
People tend to call acts from people like this rash and they deplore their lack of finesse and culture. It’s like Mary who they felt was squandering the whole box of anointing oil in an impulsive act of anointing Jesus’ feet. It’s the widow giving all she has to the poor when she herself is poor and is in need. It’s a Peter leaping over the gunwale of the boat and striding across the waves to grasp his Lord. People in fancy circumstances may never understand acts like these, but God understands them and loves them.
Too often Yiftach-(Jephthah) is remembered only as the man who made and kept a rash vow. They forget the bitterness of his childhood. They forget the triumph of his life. They forget how great he was against all those who scorned and ostracized him until they drove him out from his own community and now that the nation was under attack and in dire straits he was willing to forgive and fight the common enemy with them. People forget his passion for the history and destiny of his nation, a nation that had no time or use for him and had tried to disown him. People want to forget this and just remember that he was too hot for God, too rash, too inclined to be on the fanatical side, that he seemed to God overboard with his love for God.
Brothers and sisters, perhaps a little of this spirit would do the church more good than harm these days. Most of the churches today are dying from self-control. Where does the Spirit sit in our pews today? If someone shouts Amen or Halleluiah during the sermon many churches may have to call an ambulance and police to revive the shocked parishioners and restore order in the pews and escort the unruly, vocal character to the door where they can receive the left foot of fellowship.
If a manifestation of the Holy Spirit would sweep the congregation to its knees in tears, a board meeting of the most high level would be called to deal with this vulgar development. Folks, a little bit of Yiftach’s-(Jephthah) rashness wouldn’t hurt today’s worship half as much as a lot of good people’s deadness and indifference are destroying it!
There are no half way measures with a man like Yiftach-(Jephthah). That is what makes him the leader people need in a time of crises. There is no compromise. He will face the Ammonites with God’s word and God’s promises. Yiftach-(Jephthah) didn’t go looking for trouble as he was no trouble maker, but don’t go pushing him around. He has come up the hard way, he knows his rights and you are not going to scare him. Descriptive words
are those found in verse 35, “…for I have opened my mouth unto the Lord, and I can’t go back.”
The world the flesh and the devil have a good cause to fear men like this, men whose word is as good as their bond, words that can absolutely be depended upon. They will never have an alibi, they’ll never pass the buck. Once they have committed themselves to the cause they will give it everything they have. They will give it their best they have; there will be no holding back. You will never hear them say, “Well, I’ve changed my mind. I think I bit off more than I can chew. It is costing me too much and I think I’m going to withdraw. This man you can depend upon to uphold his honor.
What is the point you may ask? What souls, what history changing giants emerge from the swamplands of human nature, from its foggy, grey hinterlands. Friends, never stop believing in the Supernatural, in the Miraculous, because our God lives!
Paul never got tired of extolling what great works God is able to do. He wrote these words in Romans 14:4, “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.”
Friends, God is offering to you a New Birth, a New Beginning. Like the old hymn’s refrain of Charles Hutchinson Gabriel’s, “He Lifted Me”,
From sinking sand He lifted me, With tender hand He lifted me; From shades of night to plains of light, Oh, praise His Name, He lifted me!”
Never forget that there is always someone ready to lift you up when everyone else is shoving you down. Years ago Robert Harkness wrote music to these words of James Procter that were penned after he had become a Christian and Yiftach-(Jephthah) would have understood them.
I’ve tried in vain a thousand ways
My fears to quell, my hopes to raise;
But what I need, the Bible says,
Is ever, only Jesus.
My soul is night, my heart is steel—
I cannot see, I cannot feel;
For light, for life, I must appeal
In simple faith to Jesus.
He died, He lives, He reigns, He pleads;
There’s love in all His words and deeds;
There’s all a guilty sinner needs
Forevermore in Jesus.
Tho’ some should sneer, and some should blame,
I’ll go with all my guilt and shame;
I’ll go to Him because His name,
Above all names, is Jesus.