Japheth made a vow before God that God never asked Him to make. In fact, Japheth’s vow went completely against the character of God. The tragedy of the story is Japheth was never able to see this and his daughter dies because of it.
“whatever comes out of 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.” (Jdg 11:31)…..”When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter” (Jdg 11:34).
Japheth’s daughter does not ask him to retract his vow, but instead, to give her two months to mourn the fact that she will never marry. Japheth has two months to reflect on his vow, and as far as we can tell from the scriptures, he fulfills it after the two month period.
God did not need Japheth’s vow to defeat the Ammonites. It was foolish of him to make such a vow in the first place. It showed his lack of trust in God. Japheth treated God like a genie in a bottle. I think it’s safe to say that Japheth didn’t really know God, His heart, nor His character.
The taking of a human life should never be prioritized over a vow made in folly.
Leviticus 5:4-5 says, “Or suppose you make a foolish vow of any kind, whether its purpose is for good or for bad. When you realize its foolishness, you must admit your guilt. When you become aware of your guilt in any of these ways, you must confess your sin.”
During this time in Israel’s history they were far from God, sacrificing to false god’s and worshipping Baal. Whenever our hearts are far from God we’re sure to believe lies to be truth. We’re sure to make folly wisdom in our hearts, because we cannot see past our own personal deception.
Japheth’s folly came at a great cost. It cost someone else their life. Human folly and selfishness will do that. We see it in our day as well when we have no regard for the unborn, or the born of that matter. Human folly leads us to believe that it’s ok for us to treat another person however we please, if it meets our agenda. This is wrong. This is against the character and heart of God. What Japheth did served no purpose. It was not something God asked him to do.
God’s word tells us, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”- 1 John 3:16
Wisdom woos us to sacrifice our own life for another; this is the call of God. That in humility we might consider others better than ourselves. It is not to sacrifice the life of another, whether physically or emotionally, to fit our own selfish needs. It is to sacrifice ourselves to esteem that person better than us.
Selfishness does one thing and one thing only. It destroys self and others. Japheth was a selfish man, who made a selfish vow, which he wrongfully and selfishly fulfilled. Whenever we prioritize what is best for us, over what the heart of God desires, by not esteeming someone else better than us, we have damaged not only our lives, but theirs too.
Lord, forgive me when I act selfishly. Forgive me when I hurt others out of my own folly and selfish desires. Lord, you are life and peace. Help me to give up my own life to serve someone else. Help me to surrender my own self if it betters someone else’s life, in Jesus name, amen.