Equality is a high priority to me. Not the woman’s rights sort of thing; but the keeping score type of thing. In the in’s and out’s of daily life, I have a mental credit and debt system for the relationships in my life. Whether it’s work load, random gifts or acts of kindness; my mind often looks for a way to keep it even.
I’m definitely not saying this is the best way to live; in fact, it can be downright exhausting. I catch myself making quick choices to balance the scales. If a friend has remembered my birthday or made me a meal when I was sick, I make myself a mental note to repay as soon a possible. If I don’t…it’s hard not to berate myself. Whether conscious or not, I am guessing this decision to try to keep my relationships from not tipping too far in one person’s favor or away from another, has at it’s root control.
I wonder if that was Jephthah’s problem too. I sense as I read his story in Judges 11, he also had a problem keeping score. When God gave him the strength he needed to conqueror his enemies, he didn’t just accept this gift. He felt a compulsion to make a hasty vow:
“And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord: “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering. ” Judges 11: 30 – 31 (NIV)
When God’s victory gift came through, Jephthah was prepared to make good on his vow. But who should come out to meet him? His daughter; his only child.
I was so relieved when my Bible commentary explained that very likely the offering of his daughter was an offering of service to the Lord. Scripture says she was a virgin and they mourned that she would never marry; important details for one wholly given to the service of the Lord.
We can appreciate Jephthah’s heart to want to repay the Lord’s kindness, victory in battle, but rather than trying to keep it even with a hasty promise, God would have wanted an offering of thanks. A simple “thank you” would have been enough instead of an attempt at a repayment.
There is no way we can ever repay God for all the goodness He brings to our lives, but we can practice Hebrews 12:28 “…let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe….”
That’s the sacrifice He’s wanting: the sacrifice of a thankful and grateful heart.