But once again, God leads us through the Old Testament at a pace consistent with events around us, and introduces some important qualities of a leader.
Today it is the perplexing story of Jephthah, the son of Gilead but whose mother was likely a concubine. His legitimate brothers ran him into exile, even though he was a mighty warrior.
When the Amorites came to attack Gilead, the brothers quickly went to Jephthah and begged him to return and save their country – even promising to make him their leader if he did.
Is our next leader a political “outsider” whom we should ask to save us from the chaos we have created in the world? The story of Jephthah illuminates some fascinating characteristics that we could use today to search for our next leader.
First, Jephthah seals the deal with his brothers only on the condition that he could actually defeat the Amorites, which would clearly show that God, not Jephthah, had delivered the Ammonites into his hands (11:9). Second, when the brothers concur and declare that God is their witness, Jephthah repeats the pledge in the presence of God (11:11). Third, Jephthah negotiates with the Amorites from a position of strength, not weakness, before going to war (11:14-27).
When it is clear that war is coming, the Spirit of the Lord comes upon Jephthah, and he prepares by making a vow to the Lord. This vow is the most perplexing thing I have ever seen in the Bible – Jephthah promises that if the Lord delivers the Amorites, he will dedicate “whatever comes out his door first” to greet him as a burnt offering to the Lord (11:30-31).
Jephthah proceeds to destroy the Amorites, and when he returns home he is greeted first by his only child, his virgin daughter. In agony, Jephthah reveals that he must sacrifice her in the most horrific manner imaginable according to his vow to God, which he cannot break.
I read this almost in panic – how could God do this? But then I remembered Abraham and Isaac, how God intervened to save Isaac from sacrifice once he had confirmed Abraham’s inerrant obedience to God. Yet the words in Judges 11 seem to be clear that he sacrificed his daughter! But not too fast: read verses 34-40 closely right now. Although commentaries differ, I believe he sacrificed his daughter’s future as a wife and mother, and his own legacy as a patriarch, by vowing to keep her virginity, which she fully accepted as her duty to God.
But which commentary is correct is not the point – the never-ending love of God for those totally dedicated to him is the point.
I will be watching for a leader to save America who is in unity with God; serves him in humble dedication and total obedience; and operates from a position of profound yet compassionate strength with opponents and enemies. And I pray that leader will be selected before it is too late for America.