Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Knowing God: Jephthah, "God Accepts Unwanted People"

If you look at my 7th grade year book, you will see that I had a crush on a girl named Jennifer. It was a big crush. I wanted her to be my girlfriend. Yet, no matter how much I tried, asking her, writing letters, and other ways to woo her, she rejected me. She never gave me the chance. Although I prayed to God for Him to show her the light, I was outcast, rejected, and it hurt.
I’ll come back to this story at the end of the sermon, because there’s more to it.
Today many people feel rejected.
Sharry Langburt wrote in AOL Personal articles, on how young people are feeling rejected because of their premarital flings.
This isn't supposed to happen to nice Christian girls, but pre-marital hook-ups are happening everywhere. According to a study conducted by Barna, half of Americans in their twenties and thirties find no fault with pre-marital sex, while two-third believe that unmarried cohabitation is morally acceptable.
But when it comes to sexual flings, it seems that women still suffer more regret than their male counterparts. A survey conducted by researchers at Durham University in the United Kingdom showed that 80 percent of men and only 54 percent of women reported feeling good after a hookup; men also feel more confident and sexually satisfied afterward, and are more likely to brag to friends about it. And how many times have you felt rejection, even if it wasn’t like this?

Has someone you loved more than a jr high crush shoved you away? Pushed you aside? Become apathetic towards you? Hurt you on purpose, and left you alone? Do you feel like trash, tied up and taken out and told “Good riddance!” If you feel like this, you are like Jephthah.
Jephthah was born of Gilead and a prostitute, as opposed to Gilead and his wife, and in Judges 11 we’re told that Jephthah was rejected (READ IT)
He probably felt like he would never amount to anything good, and he gathered a group of men around himself that thought the same.

Today I’ll show you four truths about how God feels about outcasts—2 Do’s, and 2 Don’ts.

Judges 10:6 is where the author of Judges takes his paintbrush to color the landscape for our story, telling us once again that Israel “did evil in the eyes of the Lord.” If you remember the cycle of the Judges, what usually happened was that they did evil like this, then God punished them by handing them over to another nation, then He raised up a Judge to deliver them, then they had peace until that Judge died. This time, though, when the Ammonites oppressed them, they cried out to God, and in verses 13-14, says, “No!” (READ IT)
He says, “Let the false gods you worship save you!”
They plead again with God, and in verse 16, God “could bear Israel’s misery no longer.”

It was in this environment of worshipping false gods, that Jephthah was
The first truth of how God deals with your rejection is that God accepts unwanted people. So Look for God.
Look at verses 6-11, (READ IT). While Jephthah thought his family, and God’s people, and possibly God Himself had thrown him out as garbage, God was waiting to use him. It means that if you have been rejected because your parents didn’t want you, your spouse abused you, your friends left you, your ethnicity, your height, your weight, or whatever—God accepts you when no one else does! You are important to God. God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life!
So Look for it! Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest!”
Dumbo, an elephant born with gigantic ears, made fun of, laughed at, kicked out of the circus, homeless—and one day discovers he has a gift that his ears are wings and he can fly.
Clarification: God accepts you, but don’t confuse the acceptance of a Holy God with the cheap acceptance of relativism. God accepts you while also making you get your life right with Christ. To the alcoholic, God accepts you and at the same time will not use you until you stop getting drunk and repent of that behavior. To the person practicing homosexual behavior, God loves you, but will not use you until you repent and stop practicing that behavior. So what are you waiting for? Remove those obstacles and look for God.
Jephthah discovered one day that God had a plan for him, and gifts that God could use!

Which brings me to the Second truth—God not only accepts unwanted people, but He has a plan to use your unique gifts! At the proper time, God used Jephthah. What were his gifts? He was a valiant warrior (11:1), good at persuasion (convincing the Gileadites to make him leader with a vow at Mizpah, and his letter to the King of the Ammonites), and he was a strong leader. God needed him at this point in time, and God used him.
The letter was written to communicate 1) the land was justly conquered, 2) if the Ammonites had really wanted it, why did they wait 300 years to try and take it back, and 3) verse 27, “I have not wronged you, but you are doing me wrong by waging war against me. Let the Lord, the Judge, decide the dispute this day between the Israelites and the Ammonites.”
If you are rejected, then God accepts you, and wants to use you and the gifts and talents He has given you. God used Jephthah to free His people from the Ammonites, (READ 11:29, 32-33)
He not only pushed them away from Gilead, but devastated 20 of their towns. He was on fire! A valiant warrior!
Is it your time to shine?
April 20, 1999, Cassie Bernall, high school student in Columbine Colorado, had no idea the impact she would have on thousands of others by standing up for her faith. When looking down the barrel of a loaded gun, she was asked if she believed in God, and said, “Yes.” She had searched for acceptance, and found it in Jesus Christ, and her testimony of faith has been used by God so that, according to http://www.cassierenebernall.org/, since 1999, hundreds of thousands of people have heard her testimony through the speaking ministry of her parents, Brad and Misty.
What should you do? God has a plan for you! He wants to use you, and if you would give yourself 100% to Christ, surrendering and dying to yourself, and letting Jesus live through you, your best gifts will become better, the ugliness of your heart will fade, and you will be used by God!

There are 2 more truths. #3, is found in Jephthah’s very costly, rash mistake, where he makes a vow. (READ 11:30-31, 34-35)

#3, When God gives success, Don’t try to control it. Many times, God will grant you blessings, wealth, victory, broken relationship renewed, children when you had been infertile, and whatever you do, don’t tarnish God’s blessings with your fingerprints!
God will use you in great ways, and do not have the ego and pride to say afterwards, “I’ll make a deal, God. I scratched your back, so you scratch mine.”
Jephthah was at the edge of battle, having successfully convinced the Gileadites to have him as head, and having successfully provoked the King of Ammon to fight, and thought he could successfully wager with God. He wanted credit for the victory—in line with pagan, Canaanite practices.
The most tragic thing of it all, is that breaking a vow with a deity meant falling under the wrath of that deity for life, and he had made a vow to turn the first thing coming out of his door into a burnt offering! Jephthah had to fulfill his vow, even when his daughter was the first to come out of his house, greeting him as the women traditionally greeted the men coming home from battle. His one and only daughter!
IMAGE: It’s like taking a dirty rag from the garage and using it to wipe off gold flatware before you set the table—makes it worse!
like one of my child’s Bibles, and we bought this Bible and still read to the child from it, but the child has added pictures to the picture Bible. So Jesus is accompanied by a mouse on his shoulder, or Moses has rabbit ears. Don’t do that! Jephthah was like dancing with the stars, and his partner led him one way, and he suddenly decided he would lead the dance, and paid for it!
Isn’t it just like you and me? Before you’re so hard on Jephthah, think about how last week you tried to control a conversation so that you could look good, or how you performed well recently and bathed in the accompanying applause!
Because of evidence on both sides, the jury is still out as to whether or not Jephthah’s daughter was burned alive and cut to pieces as a burnt offering, or symbolically sacrificed and lived the rest of her life as a maiden. I believe, because God gave Jephthah victory over the Ephraimites later, that Jephthah did not murder his daughter and use her for a burnt offering to God. God would not have accepted that. Either way, Jepthah lost any hope of offspring.
Don’t try to control God’s success.

So look for God because He accepts the rejected; Look for how you can be used by God because God has a plan for the rejected, Don’t control it when God grants you success, and finally . . .

The Fourth truth about how God accepts the rejected starts with a Don’t:
Don’t be an Ephraimite. That’s right, an Ephraimite. Not a tick or microscopic parasite, but a tribe of Israel who became jealous to the point of causing civil war. What was their jealousy based on? 12:1 (READ IT)
Put this down for the fourth point as well: If you are the least of these, and want to be used for God, expect to be criticized by the Pharisees!
If Jesus was criticized, so will you be! If God can’t please everyone, there is no sense in trying to do what God can’t do!
Jephthah was confronted with this, and God nearly wiped out the Ephraimites!
If you are the kind of person who has thoughts of envy when someone else succeeds, you might be an Ephraimite!
After spending the summer in Mexico for my missions internship, I came back and was on a high. I was so happy that God had used our team to reach so many people, and we were praising God. Then I discovered it. The knife in my back. One of my teammates on that trip had been so nice to me in person, but written a terrible report about me in one of the areas of leadership, and it hurt. I went to that person right away and asked them about it (with emotion), and it changed our relationship. That person should have said something to me, but never did. That person, in fact, hadn’t fulfilled the requirements of the missions intern, but I gave them a glowing report, and while we were working and doing extra evangelism, they flirted with someone they had a romantic interest in. I had been attacked by an Ephraimite! We have since made up and are friends, and a couple times have talked about it.
If you can’t bring yourself to compliment someone else, you might be an Ephraimite.
If you are mad because God used that person, and you don’t feel good about yourself, so you demonize them behind their back, you might be an Ephraimite.
If you like to sit off to the side and wait to burst peoples’ bubbles, you might be an Ephraimite.
If you have to have a problem to fix, or have to make things better, or are always criticizing others, you might be an Ephraimite.
If you can’t explain why you’re mad at someone, and admit that God is using that person, then, you might be an Ephraimite.
If you frequently talk badly about someone, or have an enemy in the church, you might be an Ephraimite.
Every pastor, youth pastor, staff person, leader in the church has faced the spirit of Ephraim and it is Satanic! If you are being used to discourage God’s people who He is using, you need to stop. Today! Or you will end up like an Ephraimite, and I won’t be able to help you.

After all I said, are you still feeling rejected? Unusable? God has a plan for you, and gifts in your hands, if you will say to Him today, “I’m Yours, Lord. Use Me.”

The story with Jennifer in 7th grade was not the end. Though I was rejected by her, and for a while didn’t understand it, and was hurt, it was because a few years later God had Emily for me. God had a plan for me while I was rejected, and He has the same thing for you. What are you going to do about it?

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