Ordinary Preaching is Fine

Great churches1“Church” = A group of disciples worshiping and growing in Christ together. don’t need great preachers to be great, but cults2“Cult” = Personality cult, false religion, a group centered around a human being, living or dead, rather than Jesus Christ risen from the dead. do.

Wait. What?

If a “great church” is a church that is making unbelievers into disciples of Jesus, baptizing them, teaching what Jesus taught, serving each other and the needy, etc. then church size is irrelevant. A “great church” doesn’t have to be one with large numbers in attendance. It could be, but that isn’t the measure of it.

If a “great preacherPreacher Boy” is someone with impressive oratory skills, someone who has a great stage presence and is able to stir the emotions with his or her speaking style and speech-making skill, then we don’t need them to make a church great, given the above definition of a great church. The pastor’s public speaking ability, provided that he is faithfully teaching the scriptures, is not as important. God can use men who are very good preachers and men who are merely adequate at preaching.

However, for a personality cult to form a “great preacher” is absolutely necessary. I’m thinking of Joel Osteen, Hitler, Charles Finney, etc.3Stop it. Just stop it. I am not equating Osteen and Hitler. They were/are great communicators and created huge movements. But without them personally, their movement will fade unless they are replaced by another great public speaker.

I know of churches that are very good, solid believers, unbelievers in process, senior saints, etc. and they’re lead by godly men who are merely passable preachers. There are and have been large churches that are unhealthy but their pastors are very good public speakers; turn on the television and watch some of the Word Faith hucksters and you get the idea.

I don’t mean to belittle preaching, it is important and the Bible has some significant things to say about it. I’m trying to not go beyond those things and make “a great preacher” a necessary part of the church. Faithful preaching, hail and amen, but “great preaching”? I don’t see it as necessary as some people seem to think it is.

Find a faithful preacher who knows Jesus and the Bible, who is committed to making disciples, who loves the church the way Jesus does, who walks in holiness. If he is a great preacher, you are blessed. If he is adequate, try to stay awake during his sermons and be blessed. Every church does not have to have a Spurgeon, Piper, MacArthur, Martin Lloyd-Jones, John Calvin, or Jonathan Edwards. These men are rare gifts to the Church. Learn from them, emulate them as they emulate Christ, don’t just listen to their speaking, heed their sermons, but by all means, don’t measure your pastor or other pastors by them. Ordinary preachers greatly outnumber them.

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1. “Church” = A group of disciples worshiping and growing in Christ together.
2. “Cult” = Personality cult, false religion, a group centered around a human being, living or dead, rather than Jesus Christ risen from the dead.
3. Stop it. Just stop it. I am not equating Osteen and Hitler.

Informational Chaff

chaff-in-windCarly Fiorina hit a nerve during the CNN GOP debate on September 16th. She cited the Center for Medical Progress sting videos of Planned Parenthood and dared Hillary Clinton and President Obama to watch the them. The deniers and apologists responded, claiming what she described never happened. It did (warning: graphic images in the linked video).

Robert Reich is liberal who I like and listen to even though I don’t often agree with. Reich was Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton, he is an author, and an economist. He recently claimed that “The Republican assault on Planned Parenthood is filled with lies and distortions.”

In the Planned Parenthood debate, I agree that there are distortions and I won’t argue that Republicans aren’t capable or guilty of them, but in his post, it was Reich who did a fair amount of distorting. He starts by attacking Fiorina’s statement at the debate:

Wrong. In fact, the anti-abortion group that made that shock video added stock footage of a fully-formed fetus in order to make it seem as if that’s what Planned Parenthood intended.

This is a distortion of what was in the video. There was indeed one still picture of a miscarried baby, Walter Fretz, included in the video, but the child that was show moving its leg had survived an abortion and was left to die in a stainless steal pan. Reich linked to Politifact to support his claim that Fiorina was wrong, but Politifact is not an unbiased fact checking source. And a still of baby Walter was included because he was roughly the same age as the abortion child. To disqualify the entire video because of this single image included for comparison is to miss the forest for a pine needle.

A strong moral case can be made that any society that respects women must respect their right to control their own bodies.

Here Reich begins to mix arguments and confuse issues. The videos are not intended to demonstrate that Planned Parenthood performs abortions, everyone knows that they do. The videos document the fact that Planned Parenthood modify how they do these abortions in order to harvest and sell fetal tissue, often for a profit. This is in direct violation of federal laws. The move in Congress to block funding of Planned Parenthood is not because women can get abortions there. Federal funds may not be used for abortion and there is no proof that Planned Parenthood has violated that law. The move to defund Planned Parenthood is over their illegal harvesting and sale of fetal tissue.

This should have been obvious to anyone who has watched the videos or listened to Fiorina’s statement during the GOP debate.

Despite what Republicans claim, Planned Parenthood doesn’t focus on providing abortions.

Again, a man as obviously intelligent and well-read as Reich should not be making this mistake. No one is surprised that Planned Parenthood does abortions. That isn’t the issue. And all the economic data Reich then cites are nothing more than informational chaff. They are all most likely true and accurate but completely not the issue. What many Republicans have been asking for is to defund Planned Parenthood because of their illegal activities, and many are asking that the funding be sent to numerous community clinics.

Federal money can only be used for abortion in rare circumstances.

You see? Reich knows this and yet he writes as if Republicans want to defund Planned Parenthood because federal funds are used for abortions. This one statement on his part renders most of what he’s been arguing moot.

Obviously, the crass economic numbers don’t nearly express the full complexity of the national debate around abortion and family planning.

Here we agree. If we have devolved the discussion to the point where killing unborn children is a good thing because it makes economic sense, we’re in big trouble. If “economic sense” is the criteria for the worth of human life, then a lot of other people who have had the privileged of being born are going to be in the cross hairs. The issue is complex specifically because human life is sacred. God created humans in his image, according to his likeness. This imbues humanity with great dignity and worth, unlike other animal life on earth.

When it comes to abortion we are dealing with two human lives; the mother and the baby. How do we decide which is more important or which gets the priority? Who should our laws protect? The pro-choice voices always default to cases of rape, incest, and life of the mother. Let’s start there. It would eliminate something like 90% of the abortions in our nation. But don’t forget that in cases of rape and incest there are two innocent lives that the abuser is affecting: the woman and her child. That makes it profoundly difficult to reason through. Just because the unborn child cannot argue his or her case should not mean that he or she automatically loses.

It is indeed complex and Reich did nothing to help clarify it.

To Be Like Stalks

Summers Waning Days

You remember how one of the Greek Dictators (they called them “tyrants” then) sent an envoy to another Dictator to ask his advice about the principles of government. The second Dictator led the envoy into a field of grain, and there he snicked off with his cane the top of every stalk that rose an inch or so above the general level.

The moral was plain. Allow no preeminence among your subjects. Let no man live who is wiser or better or more famous or even handsomer than the mass. Cut them all down to a level: all slaves, all ciphers, all nobodies. All equals. Thus Tyrants could practise, in a sense, “democracy.” But now “democracy” can do the same work without any tyranny other than her own. No one need now go through the field with a cane. The little stalks will now of themselves bite the tops off the big ones. The big ones are beginning to bite off their own in their desire to Be Like Stalks.” – C. S. Lewis, Screwtape Proposes a Toast” (The Screwtape Letters)

Screwtape offers this advice in the advancement of jealousy in order to keep humans from faith or to keep those with faith from productive lives. Earlier, he’d said,

No man who says I’m as good as you believes it. He would not say it if he did. The St. Bernard never says it to the toy dog, nor the scholar to the dunce, nor the employable to the bum, nor the pretty woman to the plain. The claim to equality, outside the strictly political field, is made only by those who feel themselves to be in some way inferior.

I find Lewis’ discussion on this especially relevant today. The way social issues are framed is in terms of “income inequality” and “marriage inequality.” In other words, what is being appealed to in the way the debate is framed is the very jealousy that Screwtape is desirous of. And, like the tyrant in the story, our political class is wielding it with great skill. Don’t fall for it. Someone else’s success is not your failure and our political elite only care enough to knock them down if it keeps you in line. Real answers are more complex.

The Building God Builds

When is a building not a building and a detailed plan of a building not a desire to have it built? Answer: When God gave Ezekiel a detailed plan for a temple in chapters 40-48. Yeah, I don’t much like riddles either and obviously I’m not good at them but Ezekiel’s temple feels like a riddle. Some people believe that Ezekiel was given the plans for a temple that the Jews will build just before Jesus returns and that it will be the place from which he’ll reign during the Millennium. I’d previously explained why I didn’t believe that was the case.

My reasoning was that later revelation, in this case the book of Revelation, shows that Ezekiel’s vision was not supposed to be a physical building but something else. In chapter 21 of the book of Revelation, John is shown “the bride of the Lamb” yet all he describes is a city. Not one single person is mentioned therefore the “city” must represent the bride, or the Church. I then showed that the city John described is very similar to the temple that Ezekiel described. What I’d missed when I first worked on all this is that God explained it all himself:

As for you, son of man, describe to the house of Israel the temple, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and they shall measure the plan. And if they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the temple, its arrangement, its exits and its entrances, that is, its whole design; and make known to them as well all its statutes and its whole design and all its laws, and write it down in their sight, so that they may observe all its laws and all its statutes and carry them out. – Ezek. 43:10-11

His reasons are: 1) that Israel may be ashamed of their apostasy and 2) that they may turn and observe all its laws and statutes. God does not say to Ezekiel, “that they may build this building according to the plan I have shown you” as he had with Moses (Exo. 25:40).

The purpose God gave Ezekiel is consistent with Ezekiel’s entire ministry. His prophecies are largely aimed at Israel’s unfaithfulness and the promise that God would restore to himself a people who will be righteous.

In his vision of the temple, Ezekiel was shown a depiction of God’s faithful people. The difference between the Church and national Israel is that the Church is the assembly of the regenerate (Ezek. 37, Eph. 2:1-10). The Church, unlike national Israel, are given new hearts with the law inscribed on them (Jer. 31:31, 33; Heb. 8:10). Israel continually broke God’s covenant with their uncircumcised hearts (Ezek. 44:7) but the promise of the New Covenant is that all it’s members will have circumcised hearts (Deut. 30:6, Col. 2:11).

This is why God said that his purpose in showing them the temple was that they may be ashamed and that they might obey. Israel repeatedly turned away and when God himself came to them, they crucified him and yelled, “We have no king but Caesar!” (John 19:15). The Church will never do that, can never do that since it is built on the announcement that Jesus is Lord (Rom. 10:9, 1 Cor. 12:3) so any church that did would no longer be a church.

God turned to the Gentiles to make the Jews jealous (Rom. 11:11) and that is what God told Ezekiel this vision of the temple would do. A building built by the Jews wouldn’t make the Jews ashamed or jealous, it would make them proud.1In Ezra 3:12 “old men who had seen the first house [i.e. temple], wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid” but that weeping was probably tears of joy at the temple being rebuilt. Their shame, according to Ezekiel 43, comes from their disobedience. God made a new people who would out shine the Jews. But at the same time, the Church is not really a “new people” since Romans 11:25-26 shows that the Gentiles are brought into the real Israel and that in that way, by the elect Jews and Gentiles being brought together, all Israel, the Israel of God (Gal. 6:16), will be saved. So God did what he’d wanted and what he’d promised: he made a people for himself who would love him.

So the shocker is that Ezekiel’s temple isn’t a temple yet it is prophetic. The word “prophetic” is problematic in itself and so I need to take a moment to deal with that. When we hear the word “prophetic” we usually think of a prediction of the future. In the Bible, that is part of prophecy but not the heart of it. God most often sent his prophets to his people to call them to himself, not just to tell them the future. Ezekiel’s prophecy is like that. Yes, it does contain visions of the future but it is mostly telling Israel how rotten they’ve been. That’s what you should think of when you hear the word “prophetic” using in conjunction with the Bible.

Back to the main point: Ezekiel’s temple is not a building but it is prophetic in its condemnation of Israel’s faithlessness and in how it looks forward to God gathering a faithful people to himself. What I’d previously said about John’s vision of the new Jerusalem and Ezekiel’s vision of the temple was:

The similarities seem to indicate that when John was shown “the Bride, the wife of the Lamb,” (Rev 21:9) he saw the same thing as what Ezekiel saw in his vision, that is, the Church.

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1. In Ezra 3:12 “old men who had seen the first house [i.e. temple], wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid” but that weeping was probably tears of joy at the temple being rebuilt.

Secret Rapture

[S.P.] Tregelles, a member of the [Plymouth] Brethren in those early days [~1830], tells us that the idea of a secret rapture at a secret coming of Christ had its origin in an “utterance” in Edward Irving’s church, and that this was taken to be the voice of the Spirit. Tregelles says, “It was from that supposed revelation that the modern doctrine and the modern phraseology respecting it arose. It came not from Holy Scripture, but from that which falsely pretended to be the Spirit of God.”1S. P. Tregelles, The Hope of Christ’s Second Coming, first published in 1864, and now available at Ambassadors for Christ, Los Angeles, California. This doctrine together with other important modifications of the traditional futuristic view were vigorously promoted by [J.N.] Darby, and they have been popularized by the writings of William Kelly. – George Eldon Ladd, The Blessed Hope, 40-41

Dispensationalism started in the Plymouth Brethern churches in England in the 1800s. One of the most distinctive beliefs of that system is that Jesus will secretly return before The Great Tribulation to remove, or Rapture, his church, i.e. take it out of the world so that God’s wrath can be poured out. Ladd, writing in the 1950s, said that the view was popularized by William Kelly. More recently this view was popularized by Tim LaHaye in his Left Behind series of books.

rapture1992This is the first time that I’ve heard that the teaching of a secret Rapture came from a supposed prophetic utterance. Keep in mind, this is one citation of one man. According to Ladd, Tregelles was a Brethren scholar respected for his work on the Greek New Testament. The “Edward Irving” mentioned was a man who spoke eloquently and widely on the imminence of Jesus’ return but in 1830 he published a tract that asserted that Jesus had a fallen human nature. Tregelles also said that the same “spirit” which gave the utterance was “not owning the true doctrine of our Lord’s incarnation in the same flesh and blood as His brethren, but without taint of sin.” That is, Irwin’s error and it sounds like Tregelles is claiming that the “spirit” that announced a secret return of Jesus also revealed Jesus’ supposed fallen human nature.

If accurate, this does not cast a good light on the origins of Dispensationalism.

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1. S. P. Tregelles, The Hope of Christ’s Second Coming, first published in 1864, and now available at Ambassadors for Christ, Los Angeles, California.

A Borrowed Optimism

Offered as a follow on to my previous post.

None of these ideas–the goodness of the material [world], the progress of history, the dignity of individuals, the significance of choices, and the value of emotions–made any sense in an impersonal universe and therefore they had never arisen. Nietzsche’s great critique of modern secular humanism strikes at the irony of this point: Though none of these (basically Christian) moral ideas rationally follows from an impersonal universe, late modernity has inherited them, intensified and absolutized them, and cut them completely loose from any transcendent grounding fruit of Christian ideas and severed the root. Now all these ideas must be held in the face of what is thought to be a completely impersonal universe, even more impersonal than the ones believed in by ancient societies because it has no supernatural or spiritual aspect to it at all. – Tim Keller, Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism, 129.

Late modernism borrows heavily from Christianity and absolutely refuses to acknowledge it. If the universe is impersonal, as science claims it must be, and history is pointless, then why get up in the morning? There’s no benefit to dragging a comb across the crown of your head because in 10,000 year, a blink of an eye to the impersonal universe around you, you won’t exist nor be remembered. Your contributions and efforts will have affected nothing. Late modernism borrows Christianity’s optimism and then criticizes us for the reasons for our hope.

An Inescapable Irony

The interesting thing about this comic is that the author expects us to get the joke that the character claims we can not understand. She uses words to explain why communication can’t happen and does it in a visual medium. Let that roll around in your mouth for a moment before you eject it into the spit bucket.

This is post-modernism, or as Tim Keller calls it, late modernism, which I think is more accurate. Post-modernism would imply that we’ve left modernism and moved on to some other idea. We haven’t done that as the practical worship of science shows.

Yet, despite the verbal protests, words have meaning. Communication is possible. Understanding, though imperfect, is achievable because God spoke. He spoke the universe into existence. That universe understood the words of its creator and complied. The very created universe, then, continues to communicate. Day to day pours out speech, night reveals knowledge (Ps. 19:1-2). God’s invisible attributes are clearly seen in what he’s made (Rom. 1:20). God’s words are the universe and they continue to speak.

He made humans in his image and he spoke to them, expecting them to understand and obey. He told Adam, “Any tree but that tree” and Adam understood. God expected Adam to explain that to Eve. She got it a little wrong (Gen. 3:2-3) but she got it.

Even after the fall, God continued to communicate and expect comprehension. “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” (Heb. 1:1-2) He gave us his gospel, the words of life (John 6:68), and told us to speak them throughout the world. He expects people to understand them.

Communication is possible because our communicative God created us to communicate. God has always existed as three distinct persons in one God. He has always had an other to communicate with. Communication is part of who God is and God is reasonable and rational so that which he creates reflects that. And yet, the author of the cartoon above, indeed post-moderns in general, insist that communication is chaos and shaded by personal experience, all the while using God’s gift of words to do it. And they expect us to get it. The irony is inescapable.

Singularly Collective

“It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is. If the–if he–if ‘is’ means is and never has been, that is not–that is one thing. If it means there is none, that was a completely true statement…” – Then President Bill Clinton’s testimony before the Starr Commission, 1998

In Galatians 3:16 Paul seems to pull a linguistic fast one almost Clinton-ian in magnitude in order to make his point. The Hebrew word zera is translated by the Greek word sperma which is translated into English as either “seed” or “offspring”. These words are “collective nouns” which means that though they are in the singular form, they actually refer to many. “Seed” can be singular as in “I swallowed an apple seed” or it can be collective as in “I believe we got enough seed for next year’s planting” or it can be plural as in “I got a bunch of blackberry seeds stuck in my teeth.” And that goes for zera and sperma in their respective languages also. So how do you know if the word is singular or collective? The only way to tell the difference between singular and collective is by the context. Plural is obvious.

So here’s what Paul says:

Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. (Galatians 3:16)

There are a handful of places Paul may be quoting from in Genesis, God told Abraham this often. Something else God says to Abraham about his offspring is really important.

And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:5-6)

This is very important for two reasons. First, Paul has already cited this verse as proof that we’re justified by faith, not works. Second, the context is abundantly clear that “offspring” is collective and not singular. So no matter how you slice it, Paul is clearly aware of the plurality of Abraham’s offspring.

So what do you think? Is Paul pulling some funny business with words in order to make his point? I don’t believe he is. Though the point seems strained here, Paul is really just following God’s lead. Consider this:

The LORD God said to the serpent…
“I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:14)

Did you see what God did there? He started by talking about “offspring” which sounded like warfare between Eve’s children and Satan’s. But then God switched to a singular pronoun “he”. So we understand it to be a singular person because the context made it clear. Or did it? Consider Romans 16:20 “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” The “your” there is plural, as in ya’ll or you’uns. What it shows is that this is a more complex issue than at first blush. When it comes to these covenant promises, there is a way in which the “seed” is singular and in which it is collective.

So it appears that Paul picked up on the thread of the promised seed, which is Jesus, and he just read Abraham that way. He didn’t quote Genesis 15:5-6, which clearly is talking about a collective seed but rather any of the other places where God makes a promise to Abraham and to his seed and Paul’s explanation is that God’s promise is to Jesus through Abraham. I’ll come back to how the collective can be true at the same time the singular is in a moment.

I think the singular interpretation that Paul uses in 3:16 actually helps in verses 19 & 20, which are a bit confusing:

Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.

Tim Keller in his brief commentary/study guide, Galatians For You said, “The rest of verse 19 and verse 20 are extremely cryptic…No one is sure what Paul means or how this fits into the argument” but Keller then reassures us that it wasn’t crucial to the rest of Paul’s point. And really, he’s right. I can’t be really certain that the way I’m reading this is best and the rest of Paul’s case is so clear that we’re okay if we leave this cloudy. But I think Paul’s handling of collective nouns earlier in chapter 3 gives us some trajectory to think along when we get here.

The law was given to Moses by the instrumentality of angels. I don’t know what they actually did, maybe they were the ones holding the stone tablets as God used his finger to engrave them with the Ten Commandments. But the angels were there when God gave the law to his intermediary, Moses. God spoke to Israel and they freaked out, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” (Exod. 20:19) But the promise didn’t have an intermediary, God spoke it directly to Abraham. But, according to Galatians 3:16, the promise was to Jesus so wasn’t Abraham the intermediary in that case? Nope, since God is one, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, there was no intermediary when the Father spoke the promise to the Son. Abraham was not an intermediary, he was simply a witness.

So what about the collective nature of the word “offspring”? That is, of course, true also. And, not surprisingly, Paul answers that for us in Galatians chapter 3 as well. “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” The promise is to Abraham’s Seed, Jesus, and we’re heirs to the promise as we’re in Christ. So the promise is made to singular Seed and collective seed since Jesus is bringing in the gentiles to the promise as well.

In Defense of Jephthah, Sort Of


“Let this thing be done for me: leave me alone two months, that I may go up and down on the mountains and weep for my virginity, I and my companions.” – Judges 11:37

He was the son of a prostitute and so he was thrown out of the house by his father’s wife when she had kids of her own. He moved away and fell in with a bad crowd but he was great in a fight. You learn to be good with your hands when you have that kind of a background. But when things got bad back in his home town, the leaders came to him for help. After reminding them of how they treated him he agreed to help only if they themselves would escort him back. They agreed. He fought hard and won but his promise before the battle cost his only child her life.

Sounds like Western, doesn’t it? It is however, as the title of this post implies, the story of Jephthah, a judge of Israel as told in the book of Judges, chapter 11. Jephthah vowed that if he returned victorious after fighting the Ammonites, the first thing to come out his front door to meet him would be offered as a sacrifice. It wasn’t uncommon for sheep and goats to be kept in homes back then so perhaps he was expecting livestock but it was his only child, his daughter, who was first to rush out the front door to welcome him home.

I have heard this called “Jephthah’s rash” or “foolish vow” and people are puzzled over it. Did God accept this sacrifice even though he refused human sacrifices? Why didn’t God intervene and stop this madness? Isn’t the Old Testament simply barbaric?

I don’t want to defend the practice of anyone offering any of their children nor any other human being as a sacrifice to any God, god, or gods. However, the issue with Jephthah is more complicated than I’ve just made it sound. First, right before he made his vow, “the Spirit of the LORD was upon Jephthah” (Judges 11:29). So it isn’t like he was a hot headed pagan vowing the blood of his foes to his warrior god. Furthermore, “it became a custom in Israel that the daughters of Israel went year by year to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in the year” (Judges 11:39-40). The thing that really puzzles some Christians is how Jephthah winds up being praised for his faith in Hebrews 11. The whole thing seems messed up all around.

But is it? Is it any more messed up than the fact that I have done some rash, foolish, and sinful things that God would in no way accept, and yet he continues to use me and work through my strengths and my weaknesses?

We focus on the tragic part of his story but what the Bible remembers Jephthah for is something very different. The Hebrews passage isn’t much help because the author admits that he can’t go into more detail right then: “And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets” (Hebrews 11:32). Yet, that isn’t all the Scriptures have to say about him.

The author of Hebrews seems to pick up the idea that Jephthah is praise-worthy from none other than the prophet Samuel. When Samuel is installing Saul as king, he recounts Israel’s history. He reminds them that “the LORD sent Jerubbaal and Barak and Jephthah and Samuel and delivered you out of the hand of your enemies on every side, and you lived in safety” (1 Samuel 12:11). It is pretty clear that the author of Hebrews is just echoing what Samuel said, after all, Jerubbaal is the other name for Gideon (Judges 6:32). Personally, I’m more confused as to why Sampson is in there than Jephthah is. That guy was a jerk right up till the end.

And don’t forget that Samuel was chronologically closer to the events of Judges 11 than we are; even closer than the author of Hebrews was. What they remember Jephthah for, in both the Old and New Testament, is not the sacrifice of his daughter but for his faith when he delivered Israel. Though he’d been rejected by his people for being born to the “wrong” woman, he called on the LORD and God used him to defeat the Ammonites. And the Bible doesn’t celebrate the sacrifice of his daughter. Jephthah, his daughter, and the daughters of Israel lamented it. God is silent about it. Sometimes we have to live with the consequences of our bad decisions (Psalm 15).