God’s grace in its simplest term means, God’s unmerited favour. Last week, I was reading through the book of Judges and I was reminded of our need to accept God’s grace in our time of weakness.
The story of Jephthah’s vow is a tragic one, often difficult to understand. The story goes that Jephthah was appointed by his people (the Gileadites from the tribe of Manasseh) to rule over them on the condition that he defeats their oppressive enemy the Ammonites. This was a man who was formerly rejected by his people because he was considered an illegitimate child conceived by a prostitute. He was told he had no inheritance among them and was forced to flee. He was however a great warrior whose ability and combat skills were needed to defeat the Ammonites. Jephthah was therefore a man who desperately needed to be considered a son and recognised among his people. In his desperation, he made a vow to God saying, “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, then whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering” (Judges 11:30-31). First of all, what was he thinking to make such a vow!? Who or what could he have expected to meet him on returning? The likelihood of it being his goat or sheep was very slim; but there was a high chance of it being his wife or his daughter. Such a foolish vow to make! But there is still grace.
The story continues by saying, when Jephthah returned after his victory, he was met by his only child, his daughter with tambourines and dances. Upon seeing this, the passage says, “…he tore his clothes and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you have become the cause of great trouble to me. For I have opened my mouth to the LORD, and I cannot take back my vow” (Judges 11:35). The story tragically ends with Jephthah sacrificing his only daughter according to his vow.
This is clearly a man who had no knowledge of God’s grace nor an understanding of what He required as a sacrifice. God actually condemned the sacrificing of babies or human beings in his name or in the name of other gods (Deuteronomy 12:31). Furthermore, the fact that God worked things out in such a way that the people who had previously rejected him, came to seek him as their leader, was a clear sign God’s grace was with him. Jephthah did not need to make an outrageous vow, because God’s grace was sufficient and was sure to finish that which He had started. Even when he realised the folly of his ways, he should have remembered the story of Abraham and how God provided a lamb in place of Isaac.
The point is; sometimes God’s grace can be staring at us right in the face, but our tendency to believe we have to deserve it or earn it, could make us fall short of experiencing the fullness of God’s love and mercy. Grace is not a license to sin, but in grace, we see God’s love and mercy more clearly. In grace we see our relationship with God as our Father not a hard task master. Pursue righteousness as you walk by the Spirit but in your weakness, receive God’s grace. If you find yourself on the low end of life today, God’s grace in Christ is reaching out to you. You have not earned it and you probably don’t deserve it, but it is especially for you. Receive it in Jesus name! Be encouraged!