Tuesday, July 12, 2005

God is Good, All the Time

"And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the Lord, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord's, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering. . . . And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she was his only child; . . . And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed." (Judges 11:30-39)


Anonymous said...

Thoughts to ponder Texas Dave:

-Jephthah made the vow - not God (this should not be considered a reflection of what God desires or expects from us).

-Human sacrifice was clearly forbidden in God's law (Lev. 18:21; 20:1-5).

-The Bible says that Mizpah did not marry, not that she was murdered...possibly she sacrificed marriage and devoted herself to God's service...we just don't know that.

No doubt this is a troubling story that was meant to be told for some reason. Many people make rash decisions in the heat of a moment and they make vows to God without thinking. God does not desire sacrifice from his children and making a rash promise to God can only bring guilt and frustration when we try to fulfill them. Perhaps this story is meant as a lesson for us, perhaps it is in the word because it troubled the Lord so greatly...

Rowan said...

This was hastily written, so please excuse any flagrant typos...

Dave I looked this one up out of curiosity. It is heavily highlighted. Apparently at sometime I, too, must have felt a need to know more. If so I've since forgotten that day.

A couple of interesting things that I found -- and you know me-- I'm not justifying or clarifying. I'm just adding my observations. Apparently, in the time that this was written, livestock often lived within the household, and perhaps Jephthah, in his haste meant to say whatever rather than whoever.
But this doesn't really get us past the whole God knows what’s to come angle, though, does it?

Another interesting thing to note is that when Jephthah was dismayed by the prospect of killing his daughter, it was she who said basically: Hey, dad, you made a deal. You've gotta hold up your end of the bargain. Just let me go out and bewail my virginity for a while."

Oh, and it does say in verse 39 that he "did with her according to the vow he had made.” In other words – killed her.

What I do find kinda morbidly cool is the next little passage that says..."So there arose an Israelite custom that for four days every year the daughters of Israel would go out to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite." The Jews sure do know how to commemorate, don't they?

Dave said...

Thanks for your input, Anonymous, whoever you are!

Is human sacrifice clearly forbidden in the bible? I think not. The verses you quote are not at all clear, and in Leviticus 20 they are followed by a whole bunch of reasons for people to be killed (such as a child cursing a parent in Leviticus 20:9 “shall be surely put to death”). Okay, true, not sacrifices, just good ol’ godly killin’. Exodus 22:29, Levitcus 27:28-29, Numbers31:25-29, 2 Sam.21:1-14, etc., etc. on the other hand, clearly condone human sacrifice. Consider Abraham being ordered to sacrifice his son! Ah, but God sent an angel to stop him just in time and God offered an alternative animal, right? How nice. What a warm loving message to all of God’s people

Just the other day I threatened to chop off one of my daughter’s arms if she didn’t make her bed the next morning. Sure enough, she decided to disobey her father and didn’t do it. I lashed her to the kitchen counter and got the biggest knife I’ve got and raised it above her. I fooled her though, and stopped the blade just before it reached her lashed down arm. I sure earned some biblical love and respect though, and she makes her bed every morning now. (Author’s note: that was fictional sarcastic parody. Yet it is flawless in it’s analogy. It so violated my God-given sense of morality that it was difficult to think about, let alone type. But stories just like this are throughout the bible. It was, after all, her decision to not make her bed, wasn’t it?)

His daughter not murdered? (by the way, Mizpah is a place – his daughter is nameless) Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said “I will offer it up for a burnt offering” and later did with her according to his vow which he had vowed. How could it be more clear? It’s certainly as clear as anything is in the bible. Because the verse adds “and she knew no man” somehow negates what is stated prior? It means what it says, she was sacrificed as a virgin. Besides, if she lived on, why doesn’t the bible say so? Why would the “Daughters of Israel” go each year and lament her? If this story is meant as a lesson other than history, why not tell us what the lesson is?

Your (Anonymous) explanation is common in Christian media, and is a mental gymnastic cognitive dissonance solution to a story that obviously violates the morals and ethics that God gave us, Bible notwithstanding.

The other moral contradiction not addressed is the blaintant unfairness that Jephthah's daughter must pay the price for her father's actions. Whether she is killed or not, this is in direct contradiction with verses such as Ezekiel 18:20.

I was listening to a Christian radio station the other day, and the preacher was defending the “clarity” of the bible. He basically said “If it doesn’t mean what it says, then what good is it?”. I totally agree.

Now that I’ve blasted away, your final conclusion is excellent. “Making a rash promise to God can only bring guilt and frustration when we try to fulfill them” is absolutely true. To your credit, you have drawn an excellent lesson from a horrible source, because you know in your heart what is right and wrong. Why is that? Because God lives there.

Anonymous said...

Hey Tex!

I am so impressed with your response! You are so passionate - I love it! (Although I could've done without the story of chopping your daughter's arm off!)

I felt very troubled after reading this original post and felt compelled, like Rowan, to look it up in my Bible and see if I had anything written. It is definitely a difficult story to understand, as well as Abraham and Isaac. I do not have answers to them, but I certainly wish I did! Maybe you are right and human sacrifice is not clearly forbidden - I guess you are saying that God asking Abraham to sacrifice his son is proof of that even though he didn't desire the sacrifice?

If the Bible is not a reflection of God, what is? How are we to learn about who He is? You see, I have just as many questions for Christians as you do and am interested to know where you stand with God. Thanks for respecting my anonymity!

steve bupp said...

I am at a loss for words. I am fascinated at how similar my faith is to yours based on the understanding that I have obtained from the Bible. However, I am having trouble trying to argue the point because you clearly will not let me use the Bible as a basis for my agreement with you. (i.e. God is good, He loves us just the way we are, Hell is not an eternal place of torture, Death is an imposter, we are not here to judge each other but to love each other hilariously...)

I can reason these things with you because God lives in my heart as well. However I feel that if we cannot find something of substance to point at that we both agree is fundamentally, immoveably (is that even a word?) true, what then can we build our mutual understanding on?

"You think God is good? Cool, me too. Let's start a club. Yeah"

If the Bible is not the word of God, is it not simply a collection of people's experiences that they attribute to God in their own search to understand His character?

If we discount the Bible as the word of God, are we not left trying to deiscerne His charactor from our own experiences and those of other contemporaries?

If we then seek to believe only those that agree with our own experience of God and discount those with a different perspective have we really learned anything more of the truth about God or have we simply created our own?

Rowan said...

I feel the need to preface this with an announcement that I am in no way arguing, debating or judging anybody. I’m just a curious person, who is asking personal questions, and just happens to be a relative.

"If we then seek to believe only those that agree with our own experience of God and discount those with a different perspective have we really learned anything more of the truth about God or have we simply created our own?"

Forgive me if I sound a bit obtuse, but I thought that this was what specific denominations, bible study, and Sunday School were all about…interpretations of religion, the bible and moral lessons. Do we not group together into religions because it feels good to have others
agree with our own experience of God?

Does this mean that you believe that God literally guided someone’s hand? Or do you feel that the bible was divinely inspired? If you hold to the latter, then wouldn’t the entire book, then be a case of someone else having once ‘simply created their own’?

I personally believe that the whole thing is a rather interesting anthropological study with a few great lessons thrown in. Please don’t shoot me! About as close as I get to a religious viewpoint, would be the tenets of the secular humanists.

Coincidentally, after reading your comment this morning and sort of chewing on it all day; I found the following proclamation. I observed an interesting correlation between the two. So I thought I’d share it with you.

We believe in the common moral decencies: altruism, integrity, honesty, truthfulness, responsibility. Humanist ethics is amenable to critical, rational guidance. There are normative standards that we discover together. Moral principles are tested by their consequences.

I keep finding that the more I wipe away the specifics, the more there is in common. Perhaps you agree. Perhaps you see it in exactly the opposite light. Yippee for freedom of religion, eh? (BTW, I posted their full affirmations on my blog, if you’re interested at all.)

Ohhh, another random thought…Are you familiar with the show 30 days? Its by the guy who did “Supersize Me”. He takes people out of their element for 30 days to see what happens. Well, there was this great one where they sent this Baptist to live with Muslims. Of course there was no conversion or anything like that. But the guy found that there was more in common than he’d originally thought.

Which of course brings me around full circle.

I think.

Oh, if that’s the case, I’d better end with a caveat. I love you. I respect that you have your way of doing things and I mine. I love discussion and hate arguing.

Hi, Dave. Thanks for providing this space. Too cool!

steve bupp said...

In response to Rowan (I'm sorry if that is bad etiquette, I'm new to blogging sites)..

I would hardly shoot you because my answer to your question is "Yes!". Denominations are exactly what you described (IMHO) and thats why I see no positive use for them.

I do believe that the Bible was not only God inspired but was litterally written in His own words. I believe that in its original pen it is without error. I will, however, acknowledge that it has been subject to hundreds of years of translation and translitteration that has allowed some anomilies to creep in. Wherever these can be documented (through caomparison to earliest available scriptures) thay must be corrected.
That being said, I serve a living God. The same one that inspired the authors of the Bible can inspire us to understand the Bible as well.
I know that is not something the secular humanist wants to hear because it is scary to hear anyone that believes God is speaking to them directly. Hollywood and the news media are all too happy to tell you that these are the lunatics that bomb abortion clinics and mutilate homosexuals.

Don't get me wrong. The list of atrocities that have been committed in the name of religion is beyond measure and horrifying. Their documentation goes back even to the Bible.
There is, however, a "night and day" difference between religion and Christianity.
Jesus was harder on the religeous zealots of his time than anyone else dared be. While He was speaking to the masses of Love and humility and healing the sick and injured, they (religious leaders) were the ones plotting to kill him.
Ever wonder why that was?

While the Bible may be interesting reading as an anthropological study, it is a poor one. Without the guidence of the Holy Spirit it is jibberish and leads to the various sects and cults that do evil in the name of religion.

Only the understanding that comes from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ allows one to see the truth of God's mercy and Love. He asks only to be invited to the conversatiion.

Thats my two cents worth anyway.
Rowan, I love you, too. I do also respect you for your ability to have serious conversations with people that you don't necesarrily agree with (and who can't spell)and not let it adversly effect your relationship with them. You are unique in that respect and I honor you for it.

Rowan said...

Steve you made me laugh. Thank you for the compliment. I think that having DISCUSSIONS can truly be a breath of fresh air -- when our egos don't get in the way.