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Friday, August 26, 2011

Bad boys, Bad boys.... or Commitments in the hour of desperation (1)

Bad boys, bad boys…. You guys know this song- whatcha gonna do when they come for you?

Well, we are still in Judges. The text is Judges 11:1-12:7

Have you ever encountered someone who is so afraid that they will be cheated, short-sheeted, burned or screwed over at every turn, that they are wholly unpleasant to be around? It feels as though you need to put everything in writing for them. They want assurances and promises from others before they will take any requested action or partner in any conceived plan. You know, they don't want to waste their time and effort if nothing good is going to come of things.

We learn from the text that Jephthah is the illegitimate son of Gilead, born of a union between his father and a lady of the evening. However, when the legitimate sons of Gilead grew up they drove Jephthah out so they wouldn’t have to share their inheritance with him. The wording seems to indicate that he was older than the rest; perhaps conceived and born before Gilead even married the woman who gave him other sons. In this case, and according to the tradition of the day, the older son would receive a double portion and the sons under him would divide up what was left of the inheritance between them equally.

So we have an unknown number of brothers who have grown up in a house with a half-brother as the oldest, in line for the lion’s share of the inheritance, and kind of an embarrassment to them because of the circumstances of his birth, so when it comes time to start thinking about dad going the way of all flesh they decide Jephthah has to hit the road.

Verse one says he was a valiant warrior, and that apparently played a role in his success in drawing a gang of street toughs around him. The Bible says they were ‘worthless fellows’. The NIV uses the word ‘adventurers’. The Hebrew word means ‘empty’, idle’. They hung out together in the land of Tob, an area east of the Jordan and according to Bible maps, just outside of Gilead.

Jephthah wants some assurances, first.

In due time, while Jephthah was away, the Ammonites attack Israel. The citizens seek protection, so now they call upon the most-valiant Jephthah. Not the unworthy and illegitimate Jephthah, but mighty warrior Jephthah.

He has a bit of an attitude, some of which may be justifiable, but he rapidly moves to extremes. Verse 7 is one of the first evidences of the attitude in Jephthah. He tosses their earlier ill treatment of him into their faces and then challenges them to justify now coming to him for help. The elders state their reason for coming and in the very wording of it they say they want him to come and be their chief.

But then in verse 9, Jephthah asks for a confirmation of what they have just offered. In fact, he puts the question to them as though they have not just made an offer, and that it was his idea to begin with. Don't you hate working with people like that. You ask them to help with you with something, but they want to sound like they invented toast and that you may be the most moronic person they've ever met! Thankfully everything we do is not about who gets the credit. But I digress...

Basically, he wants to know what’s in it for him, and he’s not going to mount up until he has a verbal (if not written) agreement before witnesses. “If you take me back to fight against the sons of Ammon and the Lord gives them to me, will I become your head?” This sounds like wise planning since they kicked him out before. What's wrong with it?

When we find ourselves in a position to do something for others, are we right in asking ‘what’s in it for me’? Are we ever justified in listing all that we have done to be of service to them?

Here's the challenge:

Pick a day, soon. For one day set aside your all of your grudges, everything you want to get even for, everything you think an individual (or the world) owes you...and just be helpful to anyone who asks. I'm only asking you to do it for a day, 24 hours.

Let me know how it works out for you.

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