The life of Jephthah recorded in Judges 11-12 is nothing short of a tragedy. This man, whom the Bible calls a “mighty warrior,” was asked by the elders of Gilead to rule over them and lead them against the Ammonites. Foolishly, Jephthah makes a vow to the Lord that if He will give Jephthah the victory, he will sacrifice the first thing that comes out of his door when he returns home. The Lord gives the Israelites victory, and it is Jephthah’s daughter that is the first to meet him.
His only daughter.
Obviously, Jephthah is heartbroken over this, but he goes through with his vow anyway. Yes, that’s correct. He offers his daughter to the Lord as a burnt offering.
The problem is that Jephthah’s human sacrifice is not honoring to the Lord in the least. The Lord strictly forbids human sacrifice (Lev. 18:21; 20:2; Deut. 12:31; 18:10; Jer. 19:5; Ezek. 20:30-31). But Jephthah believes that he is living obediently to God. He cannot see that his act of worship is actually an abomination in God’s eyes.
We can fall into the same error as Jephthah. No, you may not literally sacrifice your child or anything like that, but you may fall into sin that has the appearance of dedication to the Lord.
This is a huge temptation for ministers. We can work tirelessly at the church preparing sermons and visiting church members while our homes are in disarray. Ministers, if your family is a shambles because of your position in ministry, this is misguided dedication to the Lord. You need to realize that it is not honoring God and repent.
But pastors aren’t the only ones that can run into this sort of sin.
It can take the form of a parent who becomes a harsh taskmaster with their children concerning the things of God rather than one who displays love and grace in their instruction.
It may look like a grumpy church member who is resistant to any sort of change because of a fear that it may lead the church away from the Lord.
It may look like a Bible teacher that teaches false doctrine out of a desire to comfort those who are hurting.
There are all sorts of way in which we can fall into the same error as Jephthah. The solution is to be meditating upon and seeking to be obedient to all of Scripture, not just our favorite passages. If we are delighting in the Word and praying that the Spirit will bring it to bear upon all of our hearts, we can trust that the Lord will be bringing our dedication and love in line with His character and nature.