This passage is the story of Jephthah. There are two things I take away from this story today. The first is that Jephthah’s half-brothers chased Jephthah off of their father’s land because he was not “good enough” to share it with them. He was cast out by his family for something that was not his fault. It appears from the context of the passage that the community supported his half-brothers in rejecting Jephthah. Yet in their time of need, they call on him to lead them. The time that Jephthah spent as an outcast taught him the skills of a warrior and a general. As in the story of Joseph, God uses the sin of people to forge the tool that He will use to save them. Things worked out well, but we should always consider that everybody is a child of God that He wants us to love, no matter how unlovely their origins.
The second thing I took away from this story is the danger of ill-considered promises. Jephthah vows to the Lord that if He gives him victory over the Ammonites, he will sacrifice as a burnt offering the first thing to come out of his house when he returns in triumph. I do not know what he was thinking in making this promise, but the first thing to come out of his house upon his return was his only child, his daughter. He kept his vow and the account does not condemn him for it, but neither does it praise him. The account does record his sorrow. This story reminds us that making a promise where we have not truly thought out the possible ramifications may lead us to great sorrow.
This is the core Biblical passage for adopting the doctrine of the Trinity and perhaps for understanding what the Trinity is (as best we can do so with our finite minds). This passage clearly says that Jesus is “The Word”. It, also, says that the Word was with God and that the Word was God. There is no easy way to wrap our heads around how a “person” can be with another “person” and, also, be that other “person”. Once you add in other passages that tell us that the Holy Spirit is, also, separate from God, yet part of God, you have the Trinity.
We further have a passage where John the Baptist denies being the Messiah, or the return of Elijah that was expected for before the coming of the Messiah, or even the prophet “like Moses” that they were expecting to announce the Messiah. Right after telling them that he is not the one they are expecting to come and announce the coming of the Messiah, he tells them that he is one shouting in the wilderness to clear a path for the coming of the Lord. This passage as used by John is clearly a reference to announcing the coming of the Messiah. So, why does John deny being the prophet they were expecting to come and announce the coming of the Messiah, when he then says that he is someone coming to announce the coming of the Messiah? Perhaps he was trying to tell them that their expectations of the Messiah were wrong. That the Deliverer God was sending was going to be completely different from their expectations. To what degree do we need to have our expectations of what God’s will is altered so that we can serve His desires in this world? I do not know the answer, but we need to be alert to substituting our own desires for God’s will.
This psalm contains something that I am working on:
in my own home.
I will refuse to look at
anything vile and vulgar.
Just because no one else knows what we are doing does not mean that it is Ok. Things we look at in privacy effects the way we interact with others, even if they know nothing about it. The advent of the Internet has made possible the ability to look at stuff that we would never do if there was a risk of someone witnessing us doing is. It doesn’t have to be porn, there are other things on the Internet, and elsewhere in the world, that qualify as “vile and vulgar”. The psalmist lists other things that those who wish to be righteous should avoid. Then he tells us how to accomplish this:
to be my companions.
If we seek out others striving to be righteous to spend time with, we will find we have less time, and opportunity, to look at the vile and vulgar. We will, also, have less desire to do so. It is well known that you tend to spend time with people who share your interests. What is less well understood is that you tend to acquire an interest in the things that the people you spend time with are interested in (and lose interest in those things they are not interested in). I must seek out more faithful people to be my companions, so that I will be more faithful.
Today’s proverb reminds us that the comedian may be hiding sorrow and that when they stop telling jokes for the audience, the grief will still be there. Although, that is not the whole of its message. It, also, tells us that while we can break someone out of a funk by getting them to laugh, if their funk was because of some sad occurrence the grief will return when the laughter ends. We need to be aware of this and sensitive to the sorrows of others. We must remember that just because someone who suffered loss is laughing now, it does not mean that they will not be crying later.