When Jephthah returned home to Mizpah, his daughter came out to meet him, playing on a tambourine and dancing for joy. She was his one and only child; he had no other sons or daughters. When he saw her, he tore his clothes in anguish. “Oh, my daughter!” he cried out. “You have completely destroyed me! You’ve brought disaster on me! For I have made a vow to the Lord, and I cannot take it back.”
Why did Jephthah make such a foolish and impulsive vow? After all, in his message to the king of Ammon, Jephthah said, “Let the Lord, who is judge, decide today which of us is right” (Judges 11:27). Hadn’t he left it in God’s hands?
Apparently not. Jephthah’s desire to defeat the Ammonites consumed him, to the point that he forgot about God and wanted simply to win the battle. Wasn’t God already on Israel’s side? Jephthah wasn’t relying on God’s promises. He thought he could ensure his victory with a vow.
In the heat of emotion or personal turmoil it is easy to make foolish promises to God. What seems to us a very spiritual act of devotion turns out to be a faithless attempt to exploit God’s favor and power. Instead, we should rest in the certainty that God loves his people (Zechariah 8:2). It’s written all over Scripture, and especially in Jesus’ life and death. We can depend on God’s love alone. We do not need to manipulate him to show us love and kindness.
Is there a desire in your heart that seems overwhelming? Do you want something so bad you’d give up almost anything for it? Are you trying to make a deal with God, “If you just give me this one thing, then I will . . .”? Let Jephthah’s experience be a warning to you. Making a deal with God isn’t what God wants for you. Ask God to give you open hands and a patient heart. Give to him the desires you have, and trust him to respond with what’s best for you.