Jephthah - From Zero To Hero

Bible Book: Judges  11
Subject: Men; Godly Living; Character; Victory; Overcoming Obstacles

Judges 11

A man is known for five things in his lifetime. He’s known for his character. That’s who he is. He’s known for his conduct – that’s what he does. He’s known for his conversation – that’s what he says. He is known by his creed – that’s what he believes. He’s known by his contribution – that’s what he gives.

The great need of the hour is great men of God. We need men known for their character, conduct, conversation, creed, and contribution. Men who love Jesus, wives and children, the Bible and souls! Men, never underestimate what God wants to do through your life.

Perhaps you have a deep-seated desire to be the person God would have you be. However, it doesn’t seem like that’s possible. This morning let’s discover a man in the Bible whom God used mightily in His service, despite many disadvantages. This man named Jephthah went from the Hall of Shame to God’s Hall of Fame.

From Judges 11, we are going to focus on (1) His Humble Beginning (2) His Whole-Hearted Belief and (3) His Heroic Battle:

I. His Humble Beginning

Jephthah didn’t grow up in a perfect family. In fact, he grew up in a dysfunctional home. A home that lacked leadership. A home that lacked harmony, peace, and joy. If you grew up in a home where you parents loved each other, loved you and brought you up to follow Jesus, you are in the minority. Most people come from broken homes. But let me tell you, it’s not too late.

Men don’t underestimate your importance in the family. Research shows if a child is the first person in a household to become a Christian, there is a 3.5 percent probability that everyone else in the household will become Christians. If the mother is the first to accept Christ, the percent goes up and

17. But if the father is first, there is a 93 percent probability that everyone else in the household will follow. When father goes first spiritually, good things happen at home. If you find yourself in a home that’s not great, will you be the kind of person that begins to make it great? With God’s help, that’s what Jepthah did. Notice…

A. His Birth

“…the son of a harlot…”

Here's a man whose father's name was Gilead, but all we know about his mother was that she was a prostitute. This was not the ideal beginning to for one’s life. How do you think he answered other kids when they asked him what his mom did for a living? Still, it didn’t hold him back from becoming the man God called him to be.

Do you know what bothers me today? We are raising up a generation of people who want to blame all their problems on others. If a young man begins to drink, he blames his dad the alcoholic. If the young girl sleeps around, she blames it on her mother who had affairs. Rare is it to find a person who will honestly say, “I am the way because I’m a sinner.”

Booker T. Washington said, “Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in his life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.”

B. His Brothers

“Gilead’s wife bore sons; and when his wife’s sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out, and said to him, “You shall have no inheritance in our father’s house, for you are the son of another’s women.” 11.2

Because of his illegitimate birth, they barred him from the families blessing. It’s a sad thing when families don’t get along like they should. It’s a sad thing when siblings turn against one another and estrange themselves from each over. Life is simply too short to go around carrying grudges against people. But these brothers of Jephthah lived with their noses turned down at Jephthah.

C. His Band

“Then Jephthah fled form his brothers and dwelt in the land of Tob; and worthless men banded together with Jephthah and went out raiding with him.”

His family rejected him, but God still had a plan for his life. Some of you who come from tough families – maybe you were born out of wedlock, maybe your mom or dad left you, walked out. The old saying says, “…there are no illegitimate children, only illegitimate parents.” You were not a mistake or accident in the sight of God. In fact, the Bible says, “Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valor…”

God sees you in a totally different way than others see you. Many of us have labeled ourselves based on what other say about us. How about saying what God says, “I’m a mighty man of valor.” Others  saw something special in Jephthah. They saw special leadership ability in him. Men began following him on raids to take down the enemy. They probably weren’t the classiest group of guys you’d ever seen – but God was with them leading on to great victories!

"Give me one hundred men who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not whether they be clergyman or laymen, they alone will shake the gates of Hell and set up the kingdom of Heaven upon the earth.” – John Wesley

II. His Whole Hearted Belief

Evidently, Jephthah began experiencing great success in his battles over his enemies, the Ammonites. The Bible never tells us how he became such a man of faith, but perhaps it was in his alone times. Maybe it was when he was far removed from family, friends, familiar that he discovered God in a real way for the first time.

Trials and tribulations can do one of two things, make you bitter or better. Our young people need to know they don’t know everything about God and life right now. Neither do we adults. God has a way of taking you a place where you may not know anyone, you may be out of your comfort zone, and there your relationship with God will begin to take on a whole new level of meaning.

What evidence do we see of Jephthah’s whole-hearted belief in God?

A. He Became a Man of Forgiveness

The news began to get around in the land that God was using Jephthah to take hold of the enemy. Still, the enemy of God’s people, the Ammonites wouldn’t stop. They continued to war with the people of God.

Understand what was going on in Israel’s history during these days. Under the leadership of Joshua, God had led them out of the wilderness and into the Promised Land. Once Joshua passed away, the people turned aside from worshiping and serving God alone and worshiped idol gods.

They would follow the Living God for a time, fall into sin, get in alignment with pagan neighbors, fall into defeat, and then they would cry out to the Lord for deliverance. In love, God disciplined them for this time and again.

Well, surprise, surprise, guess who showed up at Jephthah’s door when Israel was about to be defeated by their enemies? It was Jephthah’s brothers!

Pick up in verse…4 - Some time later, when the Ammonites made war on Israel, 5 the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob. 6 "Come," they said, "be our commander, so we can fight the Ammonites." 7 Jephthah said to them, "Didn't you hate me and drive me from my father's house? Why do you come to me now, when you're in trouble?" 8 The elders of Gilead said to him, "Nevertheless, we are turning to you now; come with us to fight the Ammonites, and you will be our head over all who live in Gilead." 9 Jephthah  answered, "Suppose you take me back to fight the Ammonites and the LORD gives them to me—will I really be your head?" 10 The elders of Gilead replied, "The LORD is our witness; we will certainly do as you say." 11 So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and commander over them. And he repeated all his words before the LORD in Mizpah.

That’s forgiveness in action. Jephthah was demonstrating the same kind of forgiveness and mercy He had received from the Lord in his lifetime. Have you reflected on the forgiveness you’ve received from the Lord Jesus Christ this week?

B. He Became a Man of Faith (prayer)

“And he repeated all his words before the LORD in Mizpah.”

He took his job as commander seriously. How do we know that? He took it all to God in prayer first. He wanted God to be his witness of the decision that he was making before Israel.

You don’t have to have the title “minister” to be a true minister of the Lord Jesus Christ. The great majority of Christians don’t enter into occupational ministry, but they are ministers of Jesus Christ wherever they go. The Bible teaches us in Colossians 3.23, "as working for the Lord, and not for men." In your family, on the job, in the neighborhood, reading a book, listening to your spouse’s concerns – that’s some of your greatest ministry times of all!

C. He Became a Man of Focus

If you go and read through verses 12-28, you will find Jephthah as a man of great military focus. We could really use him around today. Jephthah first sent delegates to the king of Ammon asking why they were attacking Israel in the first place. The King of Ammon said, “Israel has stolen our land and we want it back.”

First, Jephthah says, “No sir.” He goes on to give King of Ammon a lesson in history of how God has led His children to the Promised Land in total fairness. God’s people had intentionally avoided being hostile to other nations, despite the fact the surrounding nations had been hostile to them. On top of this, Israel had been attacked by the Amorites unfairly and God had given Israel the victory.

Second, in these days, nations believed their gods had given them whatever land they possessed. The Ammonite god was named “Chemosh.” The Ammonites were to take hold of the land “Chemosh” had given them. Israel would take hold of the land the Lord their God had given unto them. Jephthah even appealed to Balak, who was the royal representative of “Chemosh.” Balak had never led his people to attack Israel and was superior to the King of Ammon. If Balak, the greater never tried to attack, why would King Ammon, the lesser try to attack?

Third, Jephthah says, “Why have you waited so long to attack? After all, God has given us this land for over 300 years. Why attack now?”

Fourth, Jephthah gave the whole matter to God. Jephthah was wise to realize that although he was judge over Israel, there was even One greater than he. He says, “We have done nothing wrong – you have done everything wrong…we are going to let the Lord decide who is right.” The king of Ammon paid no attention to Jephthah. (I’m sure there’s a lesson in here for America)!

Do you see how God is taking Jephthah from “zero” to “hero.” I see a lesson here about becoming a great person of faith. Check yourself, the last time someone rejected you, did you drown in self pity? Say, “I can’t be a leader.” Or did you say, “What could I have done better? What can I learn to make myself a better person here?” Also, are you a person of prayer? Do you take your vows of marriage seriously before God? When you say, “God, if you help me out of this, I’ll do (fill in blank). Did you do it? Third, do you have a history with God? Can you remember the ways He’s lead you through some troubled territory? If someone says, “God isn’t faithful,” can you refute it and says, “Oh yes, He is! Let me tell you my story!!”

III. His Heroic Battle

In verse 29 we are told about the key to his heroic battle. The Bible says, “At that time the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah…” There was a Holy Spirit fire in his bones to move forward with the people of God in victory over the enemy!

We need more people like this around today. We need more men of God who can stand up and say, “Enemy, you’ve gone too far this time, the Lord rebuke you.” We need more men who are going to rise up and be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. We need more young people who       are going to quit listening to what the world says about God and find out what God says about God – then get busy following His will for their lives. We need more churches who will stand and proclaim “…there is no other name but the name of Jesus unto salvation.” We need pastors who will preach that God says marriage is between one man and woman, and the two become one. We need church people, who by the power of the Spirit of God, live more like Jesus in their homes, offices, gyms, sports fields. On our own, it’s impossible. In the words of Zechariah 4:6, “Not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit,” says the Lord.

What battle are you facing today, you cannot win in your own might? Verse 32, “Jephthah led his army against the Ammonites, and the Lord gave him victory.” Maybe what is needed in your life is a great leader? That leader is the Jesus, His Spirit inside of you, His Word guiding you, His truth emboldening you.

What would that look like in our lives today? Jesus is our Great Judge. He is our Lord. He is our commander in chief. What if it read, “Jesus led (your family, His church, your business) against the enemy…and the Lord gave him victory.”

The story is told about an elementary school class that went to the studio of a famous sculptor. As the children entered they had to pass by the statue of a very ferocious and realistic lion. One of the students said, “Hey mister, how were you able to make such a realistic looking lion?” He answered, “Son, it was easy. I took a large block of marble, and then I simply chipped away everything that didn’t look like a lion.”

In the same way, you are like a large block of marble. So how can you live a character filled life? Simply bring yourself into the presence of God, and invite the Holy Spirit to chip away everything that doesn’t look like Jesus. The process may be tough and long, but you are His masterpiece to put on display in the Hall of Faith! Hebrews 11.32-34.

Action Points

(1) Be

Be faithful to God in the small daily choices and don’t burn bridges with those who have done you wrong.

(2) Think

Think about what God has done in your life and share a brief portion with a friend.

(3) Relinquish

Relinquish that battle you are facing to God in prayer. Rely more on God’s Holy Spirit.

4) Sing

Sing “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” a few times through this week when faced with difficult odds.

(5) Remember

Remember, “We will not fear for God has willed, His truth to triumph through us!”