Jephthah was the illegitimate son of a man called Gilead. His mother was a prostitute. He grew up in a household with Gilead’s legitimate sons who later chased him away. “‘You will not get any of our father’s inheritance,’ they said” (Judges 11:2). So he ended up living in a cave.
While there, he took a band of misfits and rebels and trained them to form an impressive army. When the Ammonites threatened Israel, the elders turned to him for help. “But Jephthah said to them: ‘Aren’t you the ones who hated me and drove me from my father’s house? Why do you come to me now when you’re in trouble?’ ‘Because we need you,’ the elders replied. ‘If you lead us in battle against the Ammonites, we will make you ruler over all the people of Gilead’” (Judges 11:7-8).
Not only did Jephthah lead them to victory, but he’s also named with honor in the Bible along with other leaders like Abraham, Moses, and David.
His life is rich with valuable lessons. Here’s an important one that may be difficult to accept in the moment: Rejection can be part of God’s plan for your life. Jephthah was rejected for reasons beyond his control — he was illegitimate. But instead of growing bitter, he moved forward and did something good with his life.
The story of Jephthah’s rejection and subsequent rise to rule over the same people that rejected him gives us a powerful lesson in how to move forward with those who have wronged us. When your trust has been violated, it can — understandably — be difficult to forgive. But by the same grace that God offers you, you must also forgive others when they have sinned against us
Once we have shown grace, however, it’s perfectly reasonable that our trust must be earned. God does not expect us to place ourselves in positions where we will be hurt again. Your offender must show the fruit of repentance — consistent behavior that gives evidence they have had a genuine change of heart. Jesus tells us in the Gospel of Luke, “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.”
Perhaps you’ve heard the story of the guy who went to the doctor with a severe burn on his right ear. He explained, “I was ironing and watching television when the phone rang, and I picked up the iron instead of the phone.” Puzzled, the doctor said, “But how did you get the burn on your left ear?” The man exclaimed, “Because he called back!” Bottom line: when you’ve been “burned” by someone, be careful to avoid putting yourself in a position to be burned over and over again.
Wisdom must be used when moving forward in the relationship. When Israel’s leaders turned to Jephthah for help, they were in distress and wanted to use him. So Jephthah said, in essence, “Let’s get an understanding of the type of relationship we’re going to have.” At that point, he negotiated with them and ended up in a significant position of leadership.
Jephthah immediately embraced the new relationship. “Then Jephthah sent messengers to the Ammonite king with the question: ‘What do you have against me that you have attacked my country?’” (v. 12). Note the words “me” and “my country.” He put the hurts of his past behind him and fully embraced the cause of his brothers and fellow countrymen.
One author writes of Jephthah, “He was ready to walk in unity. And a unity walk requires unity talk. You would be surprised at the impact unity talk will have on your attitude and relationships. You’ll find yourself being less critical of others once you make such “team talk” a habit.”
This doesn’t mean you’ll always see eye to eye on every issue moving forward. It simply means the cause and the vision you share are greater and more important than your differences, and certainly more important than what’s happened in the past.
The Apostle Paul gives great advice that serves as the perfect capstone to a lesson like this when he tells us, “Make every effort [you’ve got to work at it] to keep yourselves united in the Spirit [not necessarily in opinion], binding yourselves together with peace” (Ephesians 4:3).
Pastor Jentezen Franklin is the Senior Pastor of Free Chapel, a multi campus church. Each week his television program Kingdom Connection is broadcast on major networks all over the world. A New York Times best-selling author, Jentezen has written ten books including his most recent Acres of Diamonds, along with Love Like You’ve Never Been Hurt, Fasting, and Right People-Right Place-Right Plan.