Victoria Fellowship Church
International & Interdenominational
Bible Study Worksheet – December 20, 2015
Theme: Heroes of Faith
Topic: Jephthah – A Gangster with Disciplined Faith
Main Texts: Judges 11:1-40
Key Verse: Hebrews 11:32-33 –“…Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, …David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; …”(NIV)
Last Sunday in our study of Moses – The Militant Nationalist. we saw how he refused to enjoy affluence at the expense of his oppressed people. Key lessons we shared from the study include:
Benefiting from the oppression of other people is as much a “pleasures of sin” as the sins we more readily identify (adultery, murder, stealing, etc.) In fact, this sin attracts the highest indignation from God and, more than any other sin, contributed to God’s anger against Israel. We need to examine ourselves – including political affiliations – to know if we are benefiting from the oppression of others.
Wherever we see injustice or oppression, we should ask God to show us what we can do about it and not just talk about it – or even worse, keep quiet about it. We may discover that we can do more about such situations than we currently admit! It is amazing what a few words of courage against injustice could do.
This Sunday, we will look at another hero of faith not often discussed: Jephthah. The few times we mention his name, it is perhaps as regards his sacrifice of his daughter in fulfilment of a deadly pledge he had made to God if victorious over the Ammonites. However, in this study, we will focus on his person – the circumstance of his birth, and how he moved from being a violent gangster to being a Judge in Israel. Key lessons to share should include:
Regardless of the circumstance of our birth or our pedigree, God deposits in every human being gifts and talents that can be harnessed for His glory, and we should be looking for those endowments even in those rejected and disparaged by the society.
We must never allow the circumstance of our birth or our pedigree to limit our aspiration or what God can do in us and through us.
Invoking God’s miraculous intervention should never be a substitute for pragmatic steps in resolving issues: A wise dialogue with that boss whom you think wants your downfall may well be God’s preferred approach than praying down God’s fire on him!
Jephthah is not one of those Bible characters we talk about often. He is mentioned in our key verse today as one of those who “through faith conquered kingdoms”. But the full story about the man, found in our main text (Judges 11) is quite revealing. A product of an adulterous liaison between his father Gilead and an unnamed prostitute, he was hated and stigmatised by his half-brothers and kicked out of the family home. He fled to the land of Tob and, feeling he did not belong to the conventional society, he decided to capitalise on his strength by forming and leading a violent
gang. If we thought street gangs are only a product of our modern society, we are wrong.
1. In your society, in what ways, if any, does a person’s family pedigree or birth circumstance affect the way he is viewed by (a) the general society, (b) committed Christians, and (c) himself/ herself? God deposits in every human being some gift, virtue or talent, regardless of how disadvantaged they may have been. The very first statement about Jephthah in our main text says “Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior”. It is curious that when the Israelites had to defend themselves against the aggression of the Ammonites, the elders of Gilead decided to look for this gangster to lead the Israelites army and even promised to eventually make him their ruler! Understandably, Jephthah was very surprised!
2. To what extent does your society exploit specific abilities of those considered renegades or deviants for the benefit of the society? Although a gang leader with strong fighting abilities, Jephthah did not immediately go to war with the Ammonites but initiated a dialogue which, he hoped, might avert a war. He relived the history of the Exodus to convince the Ammonite leader that Israel had never wronged his country, and that there was no reason for this war. It is noteworthy that despite his (Jephthah’s) strength and faith inGod to grant him and his army victory, he would still rather avoid a war.
3. Are there occasions when we seek to exercise faith to invoke God’s miraculous intervention in situations where pragmatic solutions are available? How might God respond to such approach?
In Judges 11:27, following the Ammonite’s insistence on war, Jephthah basically drew the battle line – not between him and the Ammonites, but between God and the Ammonites – “let the Lord judge …”. Young shepherd David would later echo similar words in his encounter with Goliath – see 1 Samuel 17:45. Israel triumphed over the Ammonites.
4. What are typical indications that one who claims to be exercising faith ostensibly for God’s glory may in fact be seeking his own glory?
Father, help those whose potential to achieve great things for you are being hindered by their consciousness of their background. Liberate them for your own glory, In Jesus’ name. Amen.