“Now Jephthah of Gilead was a great warrior. He was the son of Gilead, but his mother was a prostitute.” Judges 11:1
Jephthah was an ancient warrior whose mother was a prostitute. Even though his mother was a woman of the night, Jephthah still grew up with his father and half brothers. His brothers, like so many kids, would jeer and bully Jephthah over his shameful past, eventually chasing him away from home.
Shortly after Jephthah was driven from home by his hateful brothers, he rebelled and hung out with a lot of other low-lifes. Apparently Jephthah was under the mistaken impression that because he had a shameful past, he needed to hang out with other shameful characters. But others saw something in Jephthah that he didn’t even see in himself. The elders of his community approached him about leading their army into battle against their enemies, and in exchange they would make Jephthah their ruler.
Jephthah was likely conflicted and distrusting of the very community that had caused him so many emotional wounds, but he agreed to the offer. And in spite of his shameful past, Jephthah became a national hero by defeating the enemies of Israel.
But if you read the entire story of Jephthah, you find out that there was a reason for his success. It wasn’t simply that Jephthah pulled himself up by his bootstraps, or he became a “self-made” man, or he went to classes on how to overcome low self-esteem. Rather, Jephthah was empowered by the “Spirit of the Lord” and through God’s direct intervention and guidance, Jephthah accomplished great things for God, and others were rescued and blessed. And because Jephthah turned and yielded himself to God, he overcame his shameful past.
You and I may not directly identify with Jephthah’s past, but if we’re honest, we may struggle with our own shameful pasts, some that were thrust upon us, and others that were of our own making.
Like Jephthah, too many choose a life of rebellion. They try to run from their past. They even engage in destructive behaviors, thinking that such activity will soothe or remove the shame they carry. But none of those choices will lead to freedom from the guilt that we chose to carry and embrace. Rather, only through the “Spirit of the Lord” indwelling us, as He did with Jephthah, will we ever truly be free from our guilt and our pasts.
While you and I may never be a national hero, we can chose to embrace the same God that transformed Jephthah’s life, and in so doing, we can be a blessing to others who may be struggling with their own shameful pasts.
“Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians 3:13-14
“So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” John 8:36