Troubled Hearts: Troubled Hearts and Troubled Promises   (Judges 11:29-33)
October 27, 2021

Troubled Hearts: Troubled Hearts and Troubled Promises (Judges 11:29-33)

Troubled Hearts and Troubled Promises   (Judges 11:29-33)

To Know Yahweh and have His Spirit (11:29) From the beginning, we see a powerful picture of God’s sustaining grace: the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah. Often in the book of Judges, the spirit descends and prepares the local hero for battle, as you can read later in the life of Samson.

We are never told if Jephthah realizes that the spirit of the living Lord was giving him strength.

It’s possible to think you have the Spirit of God working in your life and His presence nowhere to be found. Judges 16:20 Then she cried, “Samson, the Philistines are here!” When he awoke from his sleep, he said, “I will escape as I did before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the LORD had left him.

Never take the spirit of the Lord working in your life for granted!

It’s possible to have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and not listen to His voice (Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit. Eph. 4:30)

Not knowing, or at least trusting the work of the Spirit of Yahweh, leads Jephthah to a place of fear and phantom rejection. To accomplish his goal, the judge takes matters into his own hands. He makes a vow to the Lord.

On the surface, making a vow to the Lord is a way of demonstrating devotion and faith. The Mosaic Law prescribes how any regular citizen could partake in the Nazirite vow, Hannah dedicates Samuel to God by vow, and Paul solemnly fulfilled vows unto the Father in the NT.

Although vows are perfectly acceptable in many instances, Jephthah’s vow is entirely unnecessary. His vow arises out of fear and rejection. Spiritual fear will lead you to foolish places.

Jephthah doesn’t want consecration; he wants confirmation.

You cannot manipulate the Lord (11:30). So Jephthah makes a deal, “If you [Lord] put my enemies into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me shall be offered to You!”

In many ways, this vow was foolish. Only specific clean animals, unblemished males, were acceptable. If Jephthah’s camel immerged first from the house, then Jephthah’s offering and vow would be a transgression against the Lord.

The haphazard nature of the vow demonstrates that Jephthah’s promise is not in good faith. Instead of devotion, the vow is effectively a bribe.

Jephthah was a shrewd and calculating man. He was a mover and shaker in the community and knew how to negotiate. He was neither impulsive nor pious; he was pragmatic.

Most often, in the ANE, commanding generals would offer sacrifices or vows to the local deities with the hopes of receiving divine favor and victory. However, Jephthah assumed that Yahweh was like any other god and could be manipulated.

            “If I make a promise, sacrifice, offering, then you owe me!”

How often do you fall into the same trap of trying to manipulate the Lord for your purposes?

If I attend worship, then God owes me. If I give, then God must give me more.

If I get baptized, then God will wash me. The Lord doesn’t owe you anything, and no token of religious practice will earn His favor!

God does not love you more or less because of what you do. The Father loves you fully because of what Jesus Christ did for you on the cross, and that love must be experienced by faith.


So the Ammonites were subdued, and Jephthah heads home. Read Judges 11:34-40

Hurt People Hurt People (11:34) Until this point, Jephthah has no clue what his vow entails. As a result, he decided to secure a future victory with little thought of its implications.

When he returns home, Jephthah’s only daughter runs out to meet him with tambourines and dancing. This daughter is giving a welcome that any child would give to a father returning from a military campaign.

Amid this horror, Jephthah realizes what he did, and his response tells you everything about the commander's spiritual and mental condition. No! Not my daughter! You have devastated me! Youhave brought great misery on me!

Even in his most tremendous grief, Jephthah is focused on himself. This girl has no culpability, and yet, he blames her! Hurting people hurt people.

The hidden hurt of “ambition.” How often have we sacrificed our families for personal ambition? We neglect the spiritual and emotional welfare of our kids for the sake of “providing.” Instead, we offer our spiritual nourishment on the altar of achievement (spiritual tournaments, academics, recreation) and blame others when Christ is far from our hearts and homes.

There is no victory in this world worth your soul and the souls of your family. 

The hurt of blame-shifting. Instead of broken tenderness toward his only daughter, Jephthah goes on the attack. Instead of a contrite heart, Jephthah accuses.

When was the last time you lashed out at someone out of frustration? Maybe it was an interruption in your schedule, your plan, unmet expectations. It’s easy to hurt those you love the most.

Jephthah, the son of a prostitute and abandoned by his family, now destroys his family.

The hurt of not knowing the Word. I have given my word to the LORD and cannot take it back.” If Jephthah had hidden the Word of the Lord in his heart, he would have known that he had options. He could have followed Mosaic Torah and redeemed his daughter, and fulfilled his vow for twenty shekels to the priest. Instead, not knowing the Law of God resulted in destruction. Neither Jephthah nor his house knew of the Mosaic allowance for redemption or annulment of vows.

When you build your house upon your word (11:35), it always leads to hurt and destruction. Instead, build your home upon the unchanging Word of Christ. Talk about Jesus at the table, at the bedside, in the car, and redeem every moment.

If you cannot talk to your family about Christ, talk to God about your family.

In response, the only daughter affirms the vow but asks for two months to mourn her life and legacy.

In the end, the daughter’s friends wept with her, but Jephthah cried only for himself. Thus, in the end, although not explicitly detailed in the text, Jephthah foolishly sacrificed his daughter to God, even though child sacrifice is abhorrent to Yahweh.

So What?

With his selfish vow, Jephthah sacrificed his future to secure something in the present.

Isn’t this a horrific picture of sin? Temptation wants to destroy your tomorrow by offering you a short-sighted pleasure at the moment.


Jephthah is a picture of the person desperately looking for forgiveness from past sins but unable to find it. “I have given my word to the LORD and cannot take it back.”

You will never find forgiveness by looking inward.

Yahweh had already provided a way for salvation and redemption (20 shekels), and Jephthah refused.

Eph 1:7           In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace

See the price of our redemption; See the Father’s plan unfold

Bringing many sons to glory; Grace unmeasured, love untold

Jephthah is a sad reminder of what manmade religious looks like.

Nowhere is human sacrifice accepted. Yet, Jephthah takes it upon himself to worship as he sees fit.

The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit.

You will not despise a broken and humbled heart, God.

Are you hurting others, or have others hurt you? Never sacrifice your family on the altar of personal ambition.