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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

So You Think You're Sacrificing Fluffy? Think Again

In many relationships, there's a thinker and there's a speaker. The thinker is the one who thinks things over, chews on them a bit, and eventually verbalizes a well-thought-out idea. The speaker is the one who says exactly what's on his mind at the exact moment it pops into his head. His response is instantaneous as if his mind is directly connected to his mouth.

The bad thing about being a thinker is that you often miss an opportunity to say something you wish you'd said. If you often run into this issue, you're probably a thinker.

The bad thing about being a speaker is that you often say things you wish you hadn't. If you often run into this issue, you're probably a speaker.

God has a great sense of humor because I've noticed many couples consist of one of each. And if you are one of these couples, you know what a challenge that can be. The thinker husband, for example, will cringe in agony the moment he hears his speaker wife blurt out his salary at the family reunion. The speaker husband will anxiously nudge his thinker wife under the dinner table when her mother criticizes her parenting skills.

Though both speakers and thinkers tend to take a little dip in the good, the bad, and the ugly at times, God gives us numerous warnings about speaking before we think. Jephthah was probably God's most dramatic lesson.

Jephthah was one of Israel's judges. He was also the son of a harlot. He was an outlaw, a mighty warrior, and a leader in battle. But he may be best known for the high price he paid when he spoke before he thought.

Jephthah was promised the headship of the Gileads if he could lead them to a victory in battle over the *Ammonites. In the moment, while advancing on the Ammonites, Jephthah made a deal with God. "If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the LORD'S, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering."

Screeeech... stop right there. Jephthah had been an outlaw, a renegade, and an adventurer. He'd spent a lot of time away from home, and he'd spent a lot of time coming home. I think that Jephthah spoke so quickly and boldly because he was already pretty darn sure what might be coming out of that house. He had experience as an outlaw, so I'm just saying it's not entirely out of the question that Jephthah may have thought he already knew what he was going to have to give God.

So, just what did he expect he'd be sacrificing, you ask? I have no idea. Maybe in his years on the road, his loyal companion Fluffy always ran out the front door wagging her tail ahead of his daughter. Maybe while he was away on this trip, Fluffy met an unfortunate fate under the wheel of a moving wagon. Who knows what it was he might have expected? But his reaction in Judges 11:35 tells me he didn't expect what he got.

I imagine his heart dropped when his daughter, his one and only child, opened the front door and Fluffy didn't run out ahead of her. He may have even screamed, "No! No! No!" as she smiled, grabbed her tambourine and anxiously danced out that front door to greet her father.

For those of you not familiar with the story, the answer is yes. Yes! Jephthah sacrificed his daughter as a burnt offering to the Lord. He may have been a quick speaker, but he was no deal breaker.

There is no mention of Jephthah's wife, but he probably had one. Do you think even in those days the wife might have been saying, "Jephthah, how many times do I have to tell you, think before you speak. Now look what you've done."

And here's the kicker - Jephthah's deal didn't change anything God wouldn't have already done in the battle with the Ammonites. Jephthah and his deal had no power over God. Jephthah wanted to rule the Gileads - his deal was selfish and unnecessary. Victory over the Ammonites and Jephthah's leadership was inevitable - it was God's plan. The sacrifice of Jephthah's daughter was not inevitable - it was the result of Jephthah's quick-speaking, selfish, power-seeking deal with God. And in the end, Jephthah paid the ultimate price with his only child.

So, for those of you who tend to speak before you think, keep in mind that it may not be Fluffy you are sacrificing.

Readers - Are you a thinker or a speaker, and is it a good thing, a bad thing, or an ugly thing for you?

(*Ammonites occupied Ammon located about where modern-day Jordan is while Gilead was directly west between Ammon and the Jordan River.)

(Scripture reference: Judges 11:30-40)