Monday through Friday with People of Faith: Day 70/260: Jephthah

Read Judges 11:29-40

Be Careful Little Mouth What You Say

Jephthah was one of the heroes of faith listed in Hebrews 11. Without exposition into the reason of his inclusion, the Hebrews writer simply said, “And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah…” (Hebrews 11:32). Of these judges and other Biblical figures, inspiration says that they had “obtained a good testimony through faith” (Hebrews 11:39). Does this mean they were perfect? An examination of the Biblical record shows just the opposite!

Without thinking through the implications, Jephthah made a rash vow to God. “If You will indeed deliver the people of Ammon into my hands, then it will be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely by the Lord’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering” (Judges 11:30-31).

Indeed, God used Jephthah to conquer the people of Ammon. And what came out of Jephthah’s house to meet him upon his return home? “When Jephthah came to his house at Mizpah, there was his daughter, coming out to meet him with timbrels and dancing; and she was his only child. Besides her he had neither son nor daughter” (Judges 11:34).

What a sad state of affairs! Jephthah had promised to offer her to the Lord, not knowing she would be the one to meet him! Commentators are divided over the issue of whether he actually offered her as a burnt offering or simply dedicated her to the service of the Lord. For an explanation of the latter understanding, read James Burton Coffman’s thoughts on the matter in his commentary on the book of Judges.

The point is this: Jephthah realized he needed to follow through with his vow. “For I have given my word to the Lord, and I cannot go back on it” (Judges 11:35). When one says they will do something, whether a promise or not, they should follow through with it even if it is not to their benefit.

The writer of Ecclesiastes says it best: “When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; for He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed—better not to vow than to vow and not pay” (Ecclesiastes 5:4-5).

Monday through Friday with People of Faith: Day 69/260: Jephthah

Read Judges 11:1-11

God Sees Worth in the World’s “Worthless”

It is often difficult to escape your past, even when you had no real control over it. The writers of the book of Judges says that Jephthah “was a mighty man of valor, but he was the son of a harlot” (Judges 11:1). Because of this, he was rejected by his father’s legitimate sons. Even though he was cast out by his own family, though, Jephthah found companionship with other “worthless men” (Judges 11:3). The New International Version uses the phrase “a gang of scoundrels” to describe this group.

The New King James Version says that this group “went out raiding with” Jephthah (Judges 11:3), but James Burton Coffman opines, “More than likely, he, like David, protected settlements from marauders.” The ensuing events lends some credence to Coffman’s view.

Faced with war against Ammon, the elders of Gilead begged for Jephthah’s assistance. The man that they once viewed as worthless, they now saw as their deliverer. His response to their plea is understandable, considering their former mistreatment of him. “If you take me back home to fight against the people of Ammon, and the Lord delivers them to me, shall I be your head?” (Judges 11:9). An agreement was struck between Jephthah and the elders of Gilead, and he went to work against Ammon.

Have you ever felt worthless? Felt like an outcast among your friends and family? Maybe you fell into sin, then repented, but it can be difficult to reestablish trust with those who were once close to you. God can still use you.

The apostle Paul lists several types of sinners that will not be saved as long as they continue in their sin. “Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). If you are involved in these activities, you cannot be saved—but if you repent, turn your life away from sinful behaviors and toward a godly lifestyle, God will forgive you! Paul continues, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).

The world may see you as worthless, but God will count you worthy of His forgiveness if you seek Him and obey Him!

Monday through Friday with People of Faith: Day 68/260: Ruth

Read Ruth 3:10-11

Selfless Love

Ruth’s loyalty and commitment to her mother-in-law is a highlight of this woman’s virtue. When she presented herself to Boaz, he noted that her options were not limited. He said, “Blessed are you of the Lord, my daughter! For you have shown more kindness at the end than at the beginning, in that you did not go after young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you request, for all the people of my town know that you are a virtuous woman” (Ruth 3:10-11).

Many commentators believe that Boaz may have been as old as 80 at this time. Ruth, as a Moabitess not bound to Jewish laws and customs, could have decided to marry someone closer to her own age. She could have sought after someone whose personality and interests more closely matched her own.

Yet her devotion to her mother-in-law was unwavering. She truly meant it when she told Naomi, “Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God” (Ruth 1:16). Such allegiance is praiseworthy, and the people of Bethlehem took note of Ruth’s virtuous dedication. She wanted nothing but the best for Naomi, even if it meant sacrificing her own wants and desires.

We are faced with difficult choices every day. Will we choose the things that brighten someone else’s life? Will we seek after our own happiness, regardless of how such affects another person?

More importantly, will we choose the things that glorify God? Jesus explained that the heathen peoples concerned themselves with food and drink and clothing, but that such anxiety was unnecessary. “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). In the kingdom, we must be more concerned with the wellbeing of our fellowman. Paul wrote, “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another” (Romans 12:10).

Ruth cared deeply for her mother-in-law and gave more thought to Naomi’s security than her own. Shouldn’t we do the same?

Monday through Friday with People of Faith: Day 67/260: Naomi

Read Ruth 1:8-9; 3:1-5

Work While You Pray

There is an old saying: “Pray as if everything depends on God, and work as if everything depends on you.” We see this adage at work in the life of Naomi.

In the first chapter of Ruth, after the death of Naomi’s husband and two sons, she told Ruth and Orpah, “Go, return each to her mother’s house. The Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The Lord grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband” (Ruth 1:8-9). Ruth declines and stays with Naomi. Then in the third chapter, Naomi gave Ruth instructions on how to behave in order that she might become Boaz’s wife.

Naomi prayed, and then she worked! She was not content to simply pray and sit back and let whatever happens happen. She wanted to work with God to bring about the answer to her prayer.

Consider the model prayer our Lord taught to His disciples. He said that they should pray for daily bread; did that mean they should not work to obtain bread? Should they just wait for God to feed them? Does He not feed His children through the blessing of employment?

Paul told the saints in Ephesus to pray for him, “that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak” (Ephesians 6:19-20). Paul was going to join his actions to the Ephesians’ prayers.

When we pray for the borders of the Lord’s kingdom to be expanded, for His church to grow, do we sit idly by and just wait for someone to come asking for a Bible study? Or do we actively seek people to teach? The Great Commission is clear: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). Should we pray for evangelistic opportunities? Of course! Yet, we cannot wait for people to come to us; we must go to them!

“Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Monday through Friday with People of Faith: Day 66/260: Ruth

Read Ruth 2:1-23

Does Your Reputation Precede You?

The widowed Ruth chose to return to Bethlehem with her mother-in-law Naomi, and asked her if she could “glean heads of grain after him in whose sight I may find favor” (Ruth 2:2). Two widows living together would have had difficulty making ends meet, but God had instituted this practice in the days of Moses as a means of caring for the poor. “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleanings from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 23:22).

By divine providence, Ruth “happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech” (Ruth 2:3). We learn later in the chapter that Boaz was “a close relation” of Naomi’s (Ruth 2:20). Boaz took a liking to Ruth and encouraged her to glean only in his field. Why was Boaz so kind to this Moabitess?

Boaz told Ruth, “It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before. The Lord repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge” (Ruth 2:11-12). In short, Ruth’s reputation had preceded her.

Gossip is often very harmful but you cannot prevent others from speaking about you. Ruth had behaved in such a way, though, that Boaz heard nothing but good things! We should all strive to behave in such a way that when our name falls upon someone’s ears, they cannot help but reflect on the good things they have heard.

Jesus says our behavior should cause others to glorify God (Matthew 5:16), and Paul writes, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6).

What do people think when they hear your name? What do they say about you when you’re not around? Are they telling others what a kind and generous person you are, or do they focus upon your negative attitude and complaints?

Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:26-39)

Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch Acts 8

Acts 8:26-39

I. The providence of God (Acts 8:26-29)

    A. God provided the right teacher (Philip) for the student (the eunuch)
    B. Philip and the eunuch ended up in the same place at the same time
    C. The eunuch was reading from Isaiah 53

II. The value of questions (Acts 8:30-34)

    A. “Do you understand what you are reading?”
    B. “How can I, unless someone guides me?”
    C. “I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?”

III. Philip “preached Jesus to him” (Acts 8:35-39)

    A. Preaching Jesus includes preaching about baptism
    B. Preaching Jesus produces joy when one obeys

God is Merciful

God Is Merciful

I. David – “a man after My own heart” (Acts 13:22)

    A. David’s sin (2 Samuel 11:1-27; 12:9-12)
    B. David’s repentance (2 Samuel 12:13; Psalm 51:1-4, 10)
    C. God’s mercy (2 Samuel 11:27; 12:13-14)

II. Peter

    A. Peter’s proclaimed loyalty (Matthew 26:31-35)
    B. Peter’s denials (Matthew 26:69-75)
    C. God’s mercy (John 21:15-19)

III. Paul

    A. Paul the persecutor (Acts 8:1-3; 9:1-2; 1 Timothy 1:13a)
    B. God’s mercy (1 Timothy 1:13b, 15-16; Acts 22:16; 2 Timothy 4:8)

Monday through Friday with People of Faith: Day 65/260: Ruth and Naomi

Read Ruth 1:1-18

The Impact of Strong Faith

The book of Ruth records one of the greatest love stories in history, and it begins with the love between a woman named Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth. Naomi’s husband died, then her two sons who had married women of Moab died.

Orpah and Ruth journeyed with their mother-in-law as she set forth to Bethlehem, as was the custom. There was no indication that they would make the entire journey with her; they would have likely stopped at the border of Moab as Naomi continued. She encouraged her daughters-in-law to remain in their homeland and find suitable husbands, as she did not expect to bear any more children herself to raise as husbands for them. She herself would return to her own home in Bethlehem.

One daughter-in-law, Orpah, reluctantly followed Naomi’s wishes. The other, Ruth, clung to her mother-in-law and claimed an allegiance to her. She had no interest in leaving this woman that she had grown to love during her decade-long marriage to her son.

Naomi demonstrates her strong faith in God, praying for His blessings upon her widowed daughters-in-law. “The Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The Lord grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband” (Ruth 1:8-9).

The impact Naomi’s faith had upon Ruth is clear as Ruth says, “Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me” (Ruth 1:16-17).

Has your faith influenced anyone as strongly as Naomi’s affected Ruth? What love these two women had for each other! What loyalty Ruth exhibited toward Naomi! Can we develop that type of love and loyalty toward our spiritual family in the church today? Can we “be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10), seeking to serve each other and love each other as we serve and love God together?

Monday through Friday with People of Faith: Day 64/260: Gideon

Read Judges 7

Courage, Wisdom, and Obedience

Gideon is assured victory against the enemy and has thirty-two thousand men standing behind him. God says, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me’” (Judges 7:2). In order to reduce the size of the army, God tells Gideon to send the fearful away. When this announcement was made, twenty-two thousand men left the ranks.

God says of the ten thousand remaining soldiers, “The people are still too many” (Judges 7:4). He devises another test: those who drink water by putting their hand to their mouth would remain, and those who got down on their knees to drink would be sent home. Only three hundred men passed this test, showing the wisdom of being alert at all times. Gideon’s army of three hundred was then divided into three companies; they were told to blow their trumpets and break their pitchers, and they obeyed.

These are three things that are still required in the Lord’s army today: courage, wisdom, and obedience!

We need courage to stand up against the enemies of truth, those who want to tear our faith down and gain followers for themselves. Paul warned the Ephesian elders that there would be some people like that: “For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves” (Acts 20:29-30).

We need wisdom to be alert for Satan’s schemes. Peter wrote, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). It is a war, and Satan doesn’t play fair. Be aware of his tricks.

We need obedience because Jesus is the One with all authority. We cannot devise our own plan of salvation; we must follow His! We cannot make up our own rules for worship or service; we must submit to what He has revealed. Are you enlisted in His army? Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? Have you been immersed for the remission of sins? (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38, 41, 47).

Monday through Friday with People of Faith: Day 63/260: Gideon

Read Judges 6:33-40

How Many Signs Do You Need?

God had already consumed the meat and unleavened bread that Gideon set on the rock before departing (Judges 6:19-22), and had providentially protected him through the defense of his father from the anger of the men of the city after the destruction of the altar of Baal and the wooden image beside it (Judges 6:28-32). What more did Gideon need?

Gideon brought together the Abiezrites and called men from Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali to join him in the fight against the Midianites and Amalekites. Yet, he still requested another sign from God. He laid a fleece of wool out on the threshing floor, and asked God to make it wet with dew overnight but keep the ground all around it dry. God did what Gideon asked.

It still wasn’t enough. Gideon repeated the request but reversed the specifications. Keep the fleece dry but let the ground all around it be wet. And again, God did what Gideon asked. This time, though, Gideon was satisfied with what God accomplished. There is no inspired record of any lingering doubt in Gideon’s mind.

Do we ask for too many signs today? What happened when the people of the first century asked Jesus for signs? He had performed many miracles, but they still wanted to see more. “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You,” said a group of scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 12:38). Jesus responded, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah” (Matthew 12:39).

The Lord continued working miracles, but not at their behest. He did what He needed to do to accomplish the Father’s will. He did what He needed to do to convince those who were truly seeking the truth. He did what He needed to do to confirm His trustworthiness, just as the apostles later did (Mark 16:17-20).

Friends, stop looking for signs. God has given us all the proof that we need in the inspired Scriptures. Turn to His Word, learn His will, and obey His commands.

But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized. (Acts 8:12)