8th of the 12th month 2014/2015
Shabbat Shalom all,
Mishlĕ/Proverbs 18:21 “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those loving it eat its fruit.”
This verse makes it clear to us that death and life and in the power of the tongue – in other words, the very words we speak are of vital importance. How often do you find yourself so easily saying one thing and yet doing another? How often do you recollect on the promises you have made to keep and yet have found that you have simply forgotten you even made them? In a message called, “THE WORDS WE SPEAK”, I want us all to be reminded about how important the very words that come from our lips are! For it is out of the overflow of our hearts that we speak – and often a true indication of what is going on in a person’s heart is reflected in their words, and how their actions either line up with their words or not. Please turn with me to Shophetim/Judges 11 (Read).
This is the story of Yiphtaḥ the Gilʽaḏite. Now Yiphtaḥ was someone from which we can learn some great lessons and as we can see from this chapter it starts off by telling us that he was a might brave warrior.
Yiphtaḥ is one of those mentioned in Iḇ’rim/Hebrews 11 in the ‘faith hall of fame’, but what is it about him that got him mentioned?
First up we are not only told that he was mighty or brave, but that he was also a son of a whore – how is that for a nice description! Possibly not something he would want to be remembered by, although he certainly did not have control over who his parents were. He was born out of an adulterous relationship and was rejected by his half brothers who told him he had no part in the family inheritance, which caused him to flee from his brothers and hook up with some other worthless men.
Yisra’ĕl was under threat from the Ammonites and Yisra’ĕl, as a result of their circumstances through disobedience, were crying out to יהוה who told them to go and cry out to the mighty ones they had chosen in their disobedience and let them save them in their time of distress. Yisra’ĕl continued to cry out and יהוה was grieved. Yisra’ĕl needed a strong leader to lead them and said that whoever would go and fight first would become their head. Now the elders of Yisra’ĕl went to call the very one that had been rejected. Yiphtaḥ was the first born, and although born out of an adulterous relationship, he was still the firstborn and according to Torah was to receive a double portion of his father’s inheritance. His brothers had rejected him and twisted the Torah by telling him he had no inheritance, and so now after having been rejected by his own, when the elders asked him to come back and help, he confirmed with them that if he did lead them that he would be made head over all in Gil’aḏ. In other words he was making sure his inheritance as firstborn would be restored. Just think how his half brothers must have felt – the man they had rejected and renounced was returning home to be their captain and leader of the land. Pretty similar to the account of Yosĕph who was also rejected by his brothers to only later be the one who would bring about their deliverance in the famine of the time. It took Dawiḏ 7 years to gain the full support of the 12 tribes of Yisra’ĕl. All of these events are wonderful foreshadows of Messiah יהושע, who too was despised and rejected by men, by His very own and became the Saviour and is King of the armies of יהוה, that will come again and defeat the enemies of יהוה .
Yiphtaḥ took up the role as judge and leader and we can see some great qualities that he displayed in his leadership. He was not just a hot headed guy who wanted to look for a fight – he first sought to resolve the issues, and we can see from this passage that he knew the Torah and the history of Yisra’ĕl.
The king of Ammon declared that he only wanted back what Yisra’ĕl had, under Mosheh’s’ leadership, stolen from them. And in response to the king of Ammon, Yiphtaḥ presented four arguments to show and prove that the Ammonites were wrong:
1 – He presented the facts of history: (verses 14-22)
You cannot deny facts – when we present the truth that the Catholic Church changed a whole lot by adding and taking away from the Word – you simply cannot deny that through the facts of history – we have been lied to!
He reminds the Ammonites that Mosheh and the leaders of Yisra’ĕl had asked for a safe passage through their territory, which was refused, and this led to war where יהוה gave Yisra’ĕl the victory. Yisra’ĕl didn’t steal any land, they had captured it, and besides that, the Amorites had taken the land from the Moaḇites! So their claim that the land was theirs was invalid. Yiphtaḥ clearly knew the history of his people and the land in which they were dwelling. Yiphtaḥ was a great leader – he was learned in the Torah and the History of Yisra’ĕl – he understood and knew the facts. As we lead people to יהושע, we will do well to present ourselves as one who can rightly divide the Truth and present the facts of the Word through its purest form, knowing the historical and cultural context of the Word. We need to know our history and present ourselves as workmen approved before Elohim, if we are going to silence the vain threats of the enemies lies that are brought through the twisted dogmas and false traditions of man!
2 – יהוה had given Yisra’ĕl the land: (verses 23-24)
Yiphtaḥ was always careful in giving יהוה the esteem for any victories Yisra’ĕl had won, always remembering to give honour and praise to יהוה who fights for us and gives us the victory. It was common among the other nations that when they would capture a territory they would claim that it was the ‘will of their mighty one’ that had given it to them to possess and so now Yiphtaḥ is declaring that the True and Only Elohim, יהוה of Hosts, is the One who’s will was fulfilled in giving Yisra’ĕl the land. יהוה, the Living Elohim, took possession of the land and so it became Yisra’ĕl’s land according to His Covenant promise. We too can declare today that it is יהוה who gives us the victory through Messiah יהושע, aměn! We must realise and always give recognition and praise that all we have is from יהוה our Elohim!
3 – Yisra’ĕl had lived in the land for centuries: (verses 25-26)
Yisra’ĕl had lived in and around that area for 300 years – why now, all of a sudden, is the king of Ammon trying to claim it as theirs – they had no legal claim to the land. The work of יהושע, done on the stake, was done almost 2000 years ago and His promises are secure in His Blood, the enemy cannot steal that or take what does not belong to him!
4 – The Ammonites were actually fighting against יהוה : (verses 27-28)
Yiphtaḥ didn’t declare war on Ammon – Ammon declared war on Yisra’ĕl. Now if יהוה had given the land to Yisra’ĕl, then by Ammon coming against Yisra’ĕl they were coming against יהוה, which would only lead to disaster. It is a dreadful thing to fall in to the hands of יהוה, who Judges both the living and the dead.
So what we can see up to this point is that Yiphtaḥ, who was now leading Yisra’ĕl, was clearly a man of courage and wisdom. He knew the Torah, the history of the nation of Yisra’ĕl and was bold to speak the truth, despite his past. יהוה can and will use anyone He chooses, not based on their past, but on their ability to walk in obedience to His Word, that is one who can rightly handle the truth.
It is at this point in the text that we see the Spirit of יהוה came upon Yiphtaḥ. יהוה is the One who qualifies and calls a person into service and not man. Filled with the Spirit of יהוה he was now ready to go forward in great confidence and boldness. It is not by power nor by might but by the Spirit of יהוה, aměn!
Yiphtaḥ then makes a vow before יהוה. Now a vow was always a voluntary decision, and was a definite commitment that was honest, sincere and set-apart. Some people argue that he made a rash vow and was stupid etc., yet we are just told that the Spirit of יהוה had come upon him. Yiphtaḥ made a commitment, which is an agreement or pledge binding oneself to do something. He was not under any obligation to make this vow or solemn promise to יהוה, but he did! And it was a conditional agreement – if you do this…then I will do that. We know that יהוה fulfilled His part for He always keeps His promises.
Today there is a saying that says, “A verbal agreement isn’t worth the paper it is written on!” In other words, it has become the norm to realise that no promise, whether verbal or written, is of any value except in relation to the integrity of the one who makes the promise. So if there is a lack of true integrity then what do promises mean today!!!
In the past it would often be stated that, “A man’s word is his bond”, and sadly we do not see that today. That does not mean that the consequence of breaking our word has changed!!! If we make promises we ought to keep them – יהוה never breaks his Word.
Melaḵim Aleph/1 Kings 8:56 “Blessed be יהוה, who has given rest to His people Yisra’ĕl, according to all that He promised. There has not failed one word of all His good word, which He promised through His servant Mosheh.”
Yiphtaḥ’s vow was a devastating commitment – how about us today? How about the ‘whatever’s’ of our lives and the claims we easily make, especially when in a desperate situation!!! Many may often say things like, “Whatever it takes יהושע Messiah – I will follow you… just please do this for me …”!!!
Do you realise the need to keep that commitment based on your own confession? Yiphtaḥ didn’t forget his vow to יהוה. You see, all too often we find that vows or commitments are made in the storms of life and are then quickly forgotten in the calms. When you are in a fix, you can easily commit to something that may help, but as soon as relief comes you abandon your part of the commitment – sound familiar? Yiphtaḥ knew and realised he had to keep his vow to יהוה no matter what – he made the vow after all!!!
Bemiḏbar/Numbers 30:2 “When a man vows a vow to יהוה, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he does not break his word, he does according to all that comes out of his mouth.”
Deḇarim/Deuteronomy 23:21 “When you make a vow to יהוה your Elohim, do not delay to pay it, for יהוה your Elohim is certainly requiring it of you, and it shall be sin in you.”
We must realise the power of our words of commitment we make and the accountability to keep them.
His vow was a defining commitment – this was a test of his commitment – would he keep his word? Would he obey יהוה? Was it just talk? Was he serious?
Yiphtaḥ shows us what it means to remain true to one’s word by following through with the appropriate actions. A man of words and not deeds is like a garden of weeds! You can pretty much fix a lot of things, but not a broken promise!
Qoheleth/Ecclesiastes 5:4-5 “When you make a vow to Elohim, do not delay to pay it, for He takes no pleasure in fools. Pay that which you have vowed. 5 It is better not to vow than to vow and not pay.”
There is a saying that says, “he who is slow in making a promise is the most faithful in keeping it.”
Mishlĕ/Proverbs 20:25 “It is a snare for a man to say rashly, “It is set-apart,” and only later to reconsider his vows.”
We must think before we speak. Yiphtaḥ realised and knew that he could not go back on his word – and we see this by the fact that he told his daughter, “I have given my word to יהוה and I am unable to turn back!”
When we say something we need to be ready to do it and follow through, regardless of the circumstances!!!
Yes, I suppose Yiphtaḥ could have turned back like so many today would quickly do, however disobedience to יהוה was not an option to him, and that is a great lesson for us today!!!
Another thing we need to realise is that vows do not need to be vocalised in order to be in effect!!! As soon as we say it in our hearts, יהוה knows and expects us to keep it!!!! Ma’asei/Acts 5 is a great example for us in the account of Ḥananyah and Shappirah – they made a vow when laying down the money as if it were all they had received for the land they sold, but it wasn’t and יהוה saw it in their hearts! The interesting thing to note here too is that nobody forced them to sell the land – they made this vow voluntarily yet still did not follow through with total obedience and we know what happened as a result!!!
Shemuʼěl Aleph/1 Samuel 16:7 tells us that man looks at the eyes, but יהוה looks at the heart!
Ḥananyah was a fool, who not only wanted the praise of men, but also wanted the money that, by his own vow, was no longer his – and so he lied to יהוה and paid the price for it.
Deḇarim/Deuteronomy 23:21-23 “When you make a vow to יהוה your Elohim, do not delay to pay it, for יהוה your Elohim is certainly requiring it of you, and it shall be sin in you. 22 “But when you abstain from vowing, it is not sin in you. 23 “That which has gone from your lips you shall guard and do, for you voluntarily vowed to יהוה your Elohim what you have promised with your mouth.”
We must be careful what we say and what we so easily and quickly commit to, understanding the implications of not keeping our word.
Mattithyahu/Matthew 12:35-37 “The good man brings forth what is good from the good treasures of his heart, and the wicked man brings forth what is wicked from the wicked treasure. 36 “And I say to you that for every idle word men speak, they shall give an account of it in the day of judgment. 37 “For by your words you shall be declared righteous, and by your words you shall be declared unrighteous.””
יהושע teaches us that we must keep our word by letting our yes be yes and our no be no!
Mattithyahu/Matthew 5:34-37 “But I say to you, do not swear at all, neither by the heaven, because it is Elohim’s throne; 35 nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Yerushalayim, for it is the city of the great Sovereign; 36 nor swear by your head, because you are not able to make one hair white or black. 37 “But let your word ‘Yea’ be ‘Yea,’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No.’ And what goes beyond these is from the wicked one.”
What יהושע was saying here is not that you cannot make a vow, for He didn’t nullify His Torah, but rather He was saying that when you make any form of vow do not do it falsely. Don’t say yes when you really mean no and vice versa. One thing we see today is that people keep there options open by saying ‘maybe’. We need to learn to commit to yes and no being yes and no, anything other than that is falsehood and falsehood is from the evil one! To swear falsely is to profane the name of יהוה!
Yiphtaḥ’s vow was twofold – ‘whatever’ would meet him when he returned home would be dedicated to יהוה! If it was a person it would be forever dedicated in service to יהוה; and if it was an animal it would be sacrificed to יהוה and offered up as a thanksgiving offering! Why do I say that? Well the answer is easy! When you look at Scripture and understand that Yiphtaḥ knew the Torah and History of Yisra’ĕl, then this passage makes great sense. He was met by his only daughter, and he ‘gave her’ or rather ‘dedicated’ her to יהוה – to serve יהוה at the tabernacle.
We do know from Scripture that women did serve at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, as seen in Shemoth/Exodus 38:8 & Shemuʼěl Aleph/1 Samuel 2:22).
His daughter, having been the first to greet him, was now to remain a virgin, never marry, never have kids – never know the joy of motherhood and continue her father’s line of inheritance in Yisra’ĕl. This was enough to cause her and her friends to spend 2 months grieving. What did she mourn? Her virginity! Nowhere in Scripture do we see that Yiphtaḥ actually killed his daughter, nor do we see anyone mourning her death. The emphasis is placed on the fact that she would remain a virgin. It is hard to believe that they would establish a custom to commemorate a sacrifice of a human being; but it is very clear that they would commemorate and celebrate the devotion and obedience of Yiphtaḥ’s daughter in helping her father fulfil his vow.
She certainly deserves to stand with Yitsḥaq as an example of a faithful child, willing to obey her father and יהוה, no matter the cost. In verse 31 the word translated as ‘and’ is the Hebrew letter ‘ו’ (waw, pronounced – ‘vav’) which can be translated as ‘and’ as well as ‘or’. What Yiphtaḥ was clearly saying here was that whatever comes out – if it is a person they will be dedicated to service unto יהוה ‘or’ if it is an animal it will be offered up as a sacrifice to יהוה, presuming that it is a clean animal that is!!! His daughter comes out and she is then dedicated to a lifetime of service unto יהוה and she willingly obeys – she understood what Sha’ul writes about in Romiyim/Romans 12 – that we are to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, set-apart and pleasing to Elohim – for this is our reasonable act of worship!
When we have accepted יהושע as our Saviour and Master, we must realise the cost of that commitment brought forth out of our hearts and spoken from our lips – our word to Him must be kept!!! As we can learn from Yiphtaḥ – it doesn’t matter the circumstances of our upbringing or where we come from – we can know יהוה and be used by Him!
What we have to understand in this account is that Yiphtaḥ knew Torah and he would have known that child sacrifices were against the Torah:
Deḇarim/Deuteronomy 12:31 “Do not do so to יהוה your Elohim, for every abomination which יהוה hates they have done to their mighty ones, for they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their mighty ones.”
Deḇarim/Deuteronomy 18:10 “Let no one be found among you who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practises divination, or a user of magic, or one who interprets omens or a sorcerer”
Human sacrifices were an abomination to יהוה and Yiphtaḥ knew this – he would not willingly make a vow with יהוה that was an abomination to יהוה! The law of vows permitted monetary redemption of persons vowed to יהוה, but a person devoted to יהוה could not be redeemed. Yiphtaḥ committed his daughter to lifelong service to יהוה at the Tabernacle, and only priests would have been allowed to offer sacrifices, and Yiphtaḥ was not a priest and the priests would not have sacrificed a human!
In verse 40 we see that every year the women would ‘lament’ for four days – possibly during one of the feasts. The word we have translated as lament is the Hebrew word תָּנָה tanah – Strong’s H8567 meaning, ‘recount, rehearse’, which is only used twice in Scripture and should be correctly translated as celebrated or commemorate or praised and rejoiced. This leads us to correctly assume that the women would go every year to rejoice and celebrate with Yiphtaḥ’s daughter who was serving at the tabernacle.
I have mentioned these critical points in order for us to understand that Yiphtaḥ was not rash or foolish in his vows and then seemingly set out to kills his daughter, no! He was a man who knew the Torah, lived by it and followed it wholeheartedly by faith and that is what got him listed is the faith hall of fame in Iḇ’rim/Hebrews 11.
Some lessons we can take from this great sequence of events in the life of Yiphtaḥ, which I would like you to carefully consider:
1 – At times there may be in the life of true believers some doubt and distrust, but we ought to take heart that the Spirit of יהוה is with us to lead and guide us. Yiphtaḥ had the Spirit yet still hesitated a little and so his faith was tested by his vows. His faith was tested by the very confession of his mouth! How are you at passing the tests of that which has proceeded from your mouth?
2 – It is not evil to make vows with יהוה, especially when in pursuit or expectation of His mercy. To make vows to יהוה in terms of acceptable service to Him, not as a purchase for favour we desire, but as an expression of gratitude to Him and the deep sense we have of our obligation to render unto Him our complete worship according to what He has done for us, is good and pleasing – we must keep our word! Can you honestly assess your life and determine if your vows unto YHWH have been kept or have you neglected to keep it, and it is still sin in you?
3 – We must be very cautious and well advised before making any vows, so that we do not get caught up in a present emotion of zeal where we end up entangling our own conscience and be forced to say, ‘it was an error’! How many times have you spoken promises before actually thinking about what you are promising top commit to?
4 – That which we have vowed to do, according to the Word, we must do! Do not make vows that go against the Word! We must embrace the sense of powerful obligation that Yiphtaḥ displayed. “I have given my word, I cannot turn back!” Apply this to your commitment to follow יהושע – he who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is not fit for service in the Kingdom of Elohim! In our vow to the Covenants of Promise made with sinners in the Blood of Messiah, we must follow Him and His Torah!!! We should commit to an obedient life of worship unto Him, born out of a love for Him!
Have you wavered in your confession of commitment to our Master who shed His Blood for you?
5 – Yiphtaḥ’s daughter is a wonderful picture of children obeying their parents in יהוה and magnifies the 5th commandment.
6 – Our friend’s grievances should become ours as we carry each others burdens. Yiphtaḥ’s daughter mourned her virginity and so did her friends. Those who will only rejoice with you and not weep with you are unworthy to be called friends!
7 – Yiphtaḥ’s rough childhood didn’t affect him from following יהוה faithfully, he held no bitterness of the past! What bitterness are you holding on to, if any? Do you allow the words or actions of others from your past cause you to stumble in your called for walk of set-apartness today, perhaps to even lead those who had previously rejected you, to the Truth of Elohim?
8 – He was a peacemaker and appealed to יהוה for the victory rather than relying on the arm of the flesh – He knew where his help came from! Do you put your trust in יהוה or do you try to manipulate success by alternative means of the flesh?
9 – Most importantly – he didn’t go back on his word and had a wonderful trust relationship with his daughter which would have been built up through the knowledge of Torah, for she too knew Torah – He had taught his daughter well, bringing her up in the Word of Truth that would cause her not to hesitate in following יהוה with her all! If you have children, are you bringing them up in the Torah and teaching them the value of guarding the Torah with their all, so that they too will not depart from following the Truth?
As you consider what can most certainly be gleaned from the account of Yiphtaḥ’s calling, commitment and his vow that he kept, consider some more questions that will help you meditate on the clear lessons of truth given to us through this faithful man’s life:
1 – Do you know anyone like Yiphtaḥ, who was treated like an outcast by their family? How has this affected them in their lives and walk with יהושע?
2 – When the elders came to Yiphtaḥ to ask for his help in fighting the Ammonites, what was his response? How do you respond when those who have wronged you suddenly need something from you? What is the right response?
3 – Why do you think Yiphtaḥ made a vow? Was it to raise the moral of his men or was it because he put his complete trust in our Mighty Elohim?
4 – Have you ever made a vow to יהוה? Did you keep it or break it?
5 – How important do you consider the words you speak? Do you think before you speak or are you a motor mouth?
6 – What can you take from this chapter in Shophetim/Judges?
Allow these questions to stir in you the ability to look intently into the Word and not forget what you look like, as you guard to do all that our Mighty Master and Elohim commands us to do!
Tehillah/Psalm 19:14 “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing before You, O יהוה, my rock and my redeemer.”
יהוה bless you and guard you; יהוה make His face shine upon you and show you favour; יהוה lift up His face to you and give you Shalom!