“And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord, and said, ‘If You will indeed deliver the people of Ammon into my hands, then it will be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.’”
As commander of the armies of Israel, Jephthah is leading his soldiers into a heated battle against the people of Ammon. As the battle approaches, we find Jephthah crying out to God for assistance. It is a good thing to pray, but we find his prayer is based on a misunderstanding of the nature of God. Jephthah thinks he has to barter for the favor of God. “If You will help me I will give you…”
This is a very common misconception. Long before I knew Jesus, or had ever read a page of the Bible, there were times that I found myself praying. I never prayed out of gratitude for how wonderful my life was, but I did pray when I found myself in danger. My prayers would sound much like that of Jephthah. I asked God to get me out of the problem I got myself into, and I would promise to stop some behavior I inherently knew to be wrong. Later, when I heard of the grace of God in sending His Son, and the love of Christ in dying for me, I came to understand that I don’t need to barter with God.
Grace is unearned favor. By definition, it is not something we can earn, buy or trade up for. If you are facing a dilemma, don’t make a deal with God. Instead, cry out to the One who loves you and died for you. Often, God will use our difficulties to reveal behaviors that should not be in our lives. The proper response is to look to His grace, confess and repent.