Could you imagine performing the deeds of a burnt sacrifice on one of your children? The graphic details of a burnt offering are recorded in Leviticus one, and its procedures are gruesome.
An animal was brought to the priest, and the owner of the animal would place their hands on the beast head. A basin was brought by the priest, and the owner of the animal would slit its throat. The blood would be collected in the basin, and splashed on the altar and rubbed on the horns of the altar. The animal then would be cut into small pieces and burned bit by bit over a roaring fire. The intestines had to be cleaned, and the animal was to be skinned.
The burnt sacrifice was a complete offering that was to rise up a sweet savor to God. It showed complete devotion to God, and allowed the offeror to be brought into fellowship with God… to be atoned.
I don’t mean to be over graphic, but there is no way I could every even think about doing this to one of my children… let alone go through with it! Who would think of doing this to any human being? Why would an idea like this even remotely come into the Judge Jephthah’s head?
The idea of human sacrifice came from the pagans around Israel. Israel was notorious for worshiping Jehovah through the pagan practices of those around them. This is something God told them not to do, but they did it none the less. Jephthah takes a Israelite offering style and decides to offer a sacrifice like the pagans around him.
His vow was idiotic, and he should have never made a promise like that. But the real problem here is not the vow, it is Jephthah’s desire to use worldly methods to worship God and then believing he has done right. Jephthah’s offering would have never been acceptable to God, because it was not an offering acceptable to God. Jephthah made the blunder of Cain, in supposing his good intentions and sincere heart were enough.
Jephthah promised God with a vow that he would kill the first thing that came out of his house when he returned victorious from war. The LORD delivered Ammon into Jephthah’s hand, and they won the victory. God was going to give Jephthah the victory whether he made a vow or now. The foolish vow had nothing to do with God providing the victory.
Upon his return home, Jephthah’s young only daughter comes out to celebrate her daddy’s homecoming. Instead of a joyous embrace, she is met with great grief from her father. He explains the vow, and she submits to her fate. She is allotted two months to mourn, and then she is offered as a burnt offering to the Lord. A gross misrepresentation of God’s plan and desires.
There is great danger when we exchange Biblical truth for our faulty ideas and ways. When we allow culture and tradition to dictate the worship and praise of Jehovah, we are on a path of heartache. Jephthah mingled the worship of God with the world, and the results were tragic.
If our worship is solely based on tradition, we will end up in trouble. Tradition is what has always been done. It is the idea that if it isn’t done the way my parents and their parents before them did it, then it is wrong. It baffles me how many Christians are willing to die on the issues of pews vs chairs, steeples on the building, and ties. Tradition doesn’t have to be wrong, but let’s not kid ourselves into believing it is biblical. A church that has chairs is no less scriptural than one with pews. A church that has one service on Sunday is no less scriptural than one that has three services on Sunday. Don’t allow traditions to trump the Bible… always allow truth to trump traditions.
If our worship acts like a thermometer, adjusting to the cultural trends and expectations of the day, we are on path for trouble. Be culturally relevant is one of the things I love most about the Word of God. Its message supersedes time and culture and impacts everyone. Many churches run the danger of unscriptural worship when they seek instruction from the culture around them. Societal shifts happen all the time, and churches that attempt to be trendy will only succeed in developing a spiritual anemic congregation.
What is the solution? The Bible. Let the Scriptures be your guide in all matters of faith and practice. If it is in the Book, then do it. If it isn’t in the Bible, then it really isn’t that huge of an issue. Jephthah ended up in the mess he was because he didn’t worship the Lord as prescribed in the Law, but instead created his own hybrid. God didn’t accept his great sacrifice then, and He won’t accept it now. It is His worship… lets do it His way.
Daily Scripture Reading
Judges 10 - 12
“And they put away the strange gods from among them, and served the LORD: and his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel.”