Contagious Sacrificial Submission

Sermon by Joel Beeke on November 1, 2009

Judges 11:29-40

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The Lord’s Day Evening

November 1, 2009

Judges 11:29-40

“Contagious Sacrificial Submission”

Dr. Joel Beeke

Well it’s very good to have the opportunity to bring you God’s Word again and to
be with my dear friends, your pastors, Dr. Ligon Duncan and Dr. Derek Thomas.
I’d like you to turn with me please to Judges 11, Judges 11.
We want to read from verses 29 through 40.

Judges 11, verse 29:

“Then the spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah and he passed over
Gilead
and Manasseh and passed over Mizpah of Gilead and from Mizpah of Gilead he
passed over into the children of Ammon.
And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the Lord and said, “If thou shalt without
fail deliver the children of Ammon into my 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. So
Jephthah passed over into the children of Ammon to fight against them and the
Lord delivered them into His hands and He smote them from Aroer, even til thou
come unto Minnith, even twenty cities, and into the plain of the vineyards with
a very great slaughter. Thus the
children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel.

And Jephthah came to Mizpah and unto his house and behold, his daughter
came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances and she was his only child,
beside her he had neither son nor daughter.
And it came to pass that when he saw her, he wrent his clothes and said,
‘Alas, my daughter, thou hast brought me very low and thou art one of them that
trouble me, for I have opened my mouth unto the Lord and I cannot go back.’
And she said unto him, ‘My father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the
Lord, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth, for as
much as the Lord hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, even of the
children of Ammon.’ And she said
unto her father, ‘Let this thing be done for me.
Let me alone two months that I may go up and down upon the mountains and
bewail by virginity, I and my fellows.’
And he said, ‘Go.’ And he
sent her away for two months. And
she went with her companions and bewailed her virginity upon the mountains.
And it came to pass at the end of two months as she returned unto her
father who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed, and she knew no
man. And it was a custom in
Israel that the daughters of
Israel
went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah, the Gileadite, four days in a
year.”

May God bless the reading of His sacred Word.
Let’s seek His face in prayer.

Great God of heaven we truly need a prayer of illumination on this chapter that
seems so disturbing to our fleshly senses.
Please give us wisdom and guidance and benediction as we seek to proclaim
Thy Word tonight, and do teach us the holy and sacred art of sacrificial
submission that we might walk and be like Jephthah’s daughter.
We ask Thy blessing in Jesus’ name.
Amen.

Well when some people smile you can’t help but smile — their smile is
contagious. A true Christian ought
to want to be a contagious Christian.
A contagious Christian is actually someone who is so godly, so
consistent, that people around him cannot but not be impacted and inspired.
Even unbelievers can be impressed with the godly walk of believers, not
that that always issues a conversion — the Holy Spirit alone can convert sinners
— but the Spirit often uses the walk of life of a Christian as a means for the
conversion of sinners. Probably
every believer here tonight can raise their hand and say, “I know of one or two
or maybe three people who’ve had a profound impact in my life in first becoming
a Christian.” So if we’re healthy
spiritually, we all want to be contagious Christians.

To be a contagious Christian means first of all we have to be a Christian.
Secondly it means we’ve got to be using the spiritual disciplines that
God has provided for us to grow in grace so that we have something to be
contagious about. And third it
means developing an evangelistic heart for other people and seeing every
unconverted person as an open mission field and feeling a burden for those
around us who do not know the Lord Jesus Christ.
So may I ask you by way of introduction tonight, are you a contagious
Christian? Do you want to be a
contagious Christian? Do you
exercise those good works of which the Hidelburg Catechism says that one of
their purposes is that, “by our godly conversation others may be gained to
Christ.” Are you asking the Holy
Spirit, daily, that you might be able to impact others for good by your talk, by
your walk, that your Christianity might rub off on others not by your own
osmosis, but by the impact and the influence of the Holy Spirit, taking what
He’s given you so that you would be salt on the earth and light on the hill.

Well, how can we become contagious Christians by the grace of the Holy Spirit?
That’s what I want to look at with you tonight from the theme of
Jephthah’s daughter. Jephthah’s
daughter was a very contagious person.
You notice at the end of the chapter, it says, “It was a custom in
Israel
that the daughters of Israel
went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gildeadite four days in a
year.” What an impact this young
woman had on other young women in
Israel.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful, you converted teenagers, you young men, if you
impacted other young men the way, or you young women, if you impacted other
young women the way this young woman impacted her peers.
This is really positive peer pressure not only, but it’s positive
contagious, Spirit-worked, God-honoring influence for good.

Well, let’s consider this theme tonight by looking at three thoughts.
First the difficult call for submission because you see Jephthah’s
daughter influenced many people by her sacrificial submission.
That’s our theme tonight —
Contagious Sacrificial Submission
.
We’ll see first then the difficult call to submission, second the
wonderful exercise of submission, and third the inspiring contagiousness of that
submission.

I. The difficult call to submission.

God’s plans often differ from ours and when that happens we’re faced with a
choice, aren’t we? Are we going to
stubbornly proceed along the path we want to go or are we going to bow under
God’s ways in our lives? And
sometimes those choices can be difficult, even in ordinary mundane things.
Maybe you would love to play football with your friends on Thursday
night, but God’s calling you to another ministry on Thursday night.
What are you going to do? Or
maybe you’d love to have a career in law, but God is calling you now into
motherhood — what path are you going to take?
But beyond career plans and daily activities, maybe you’d planned to
spend the rest of your life with a certain partner, but God takes away that
partner. How are you going to
respond? You see, when God calls us
to something we haven’t planned, we must submit to His will, recognizing it
takes priority over His will, but how we submit to that will has so much to say
about whether we will be contagious Christians.
Yes or no. And so
sacrificial submission is one of the toughest tasks of the Christian life and
it’s precisely that task that Jephthah’s daughter exhibits to a remarkably
mature degree. She sets aside her
own plans, her own hopes, her own dreams for the glory of God.
And the daughters of Israel are so
impressed, they commemorate her for her submission.

Now the problem is, we can’t really consider Jephthah’s daughter without
considering Jephthah and his vow.
So we want to look just briefly at the historical background of this situation.
This is not friends, just a merely tragic story about a foolish vow that
cost the life of an innocent girl as so many have made it out to be.
God has brought the Israelites through the wilderness and to the Promised
Land, but they did not complete the conquest of the people as they were charged
to do and now they were living with the consequences.
The people were being corrupted by the worship of strange gods and God
brought them into judgment. Then
they would repent, God would restore them, and then they would backslide again
and go back into idolatry and God would send enemies again to attack them and
His judgments would again lead them to repentance and on and on the cycle and
seven times over in the book of Judges.
And again and again God raised up one particular leader to be at the
vanguard to bring deliverance to His people.

And Jephthah is one of those judges.
God raises Jephthah to fight against the oppressors.
Now at first glance, you and I probably wouldn’t have chosen Jephthah.
He wasn’t the kind of man you would expect even God to pick.
He was the illegitimate son of a Gileadite and a prostitute.
His half brothers had kicked him out of their father’s house and he was
forced to live with a band of outcasts in the
land
of Tobe.
Isn’t that the way God often works?
He makes unlikely choices.
Paul says He chooses the foolish things of the world, the weak things, the base
things, the things despised, the things which are not, to do His mighty works.
Well the elders of Gilead come to
Jephthah to ask him to lead them against the Ammonites who were amassed to fight
the Israelites. And after some
negotiations, Jephthah agrees to do so and he sends messengers of the king to
the king of the Ammonites and the king refuses to listen, so Jephthah
regretfully is forced to go to battle against the Ammonites.
And knowing his odds are very dim and the situation is very grim, he
comes to God with a vow. And he
says in verses 30 and 31 that, “If God will deliver the children of Ammon into
mine hands, it shall be that whatsoever comes forth of the doors of my house to
meet me when I return in peace shall surely be the Lord’s and I will offer it up
for a burnt offering.” How could
Jephthah make such a foolish vow?
That’s what we’re prone to say.
Didn’t he have the foresight to think that someone he loved might emerge from
his house?

Before jumping to a conclusion, let’s take a closer look and I think we’ll
discover that Jephthah really doesn’t make a rash vow and really doesn’t offer
up his daughter physically for a burnt offering.
I know that runs contrary to some of the old commentaries.
Some commentators say that Jephthah lived in rough times and was
undoubtedly influenced by pagan ideas which included human sacrifices and
bribing gods with vows to obtain favors from them and thus he’s a rather
despicable figure who descends into the morass of paganism in his actions here,
both in bribing God and then in sacrificing his own, his very own, his only
daughter. And therefore he’s
someone to be despised. But if you
look closer at this story, I think there’s actually eight things that when taken
together as a passage, repudiate this interpretation.
Let me give them to you quickly — all eight of them.

Number one, Jephthah’s not a rash man.
He’s not a rash man.
Swearing that you will sacrifice whatever comes out of your house sounds rash,
but Jephthah had already proved to the elders of
Israel
and the king of the Ammonites that he was a cautious man.
He didn’t just jump at the request of the elders.
He talked with them, he negotiated terms, and then he didn’t just jump
into war, but he talked back and forth with the king of the Ammonites.
He was a diplomatic man not a rash man.

Number two, Jephthah was a man familiar with the Scriptures.
Earlier in the chapter we see that as he negotiated, he brings Scripture
to bear on this situation. Surely
he must have known Leviticus 18:21 and Deuteronomy 12:29-32 that prohibited
anyone in Israel from offering human
sacrifices especially one’s children, for God is, “It is an abomination unto the
Lord.” In addition, Judges 11 is
set in the context of reformation. Israel,
including Jephthah at this point, is not going awry, not slipping back into
backsliding, but they’re repenting — they’re turning to the living God, not away
from the living God.

Thirdly, when Jephthah made his vow, the Bible says, “The Spirit of the Lord was
upon him.” Would the Spirit inspire
him to do something so clearly contradictory to the Spirit’s own revealed
Scriptures? Don’t we believe that
the Spirit never contradicts His own Word?
So it seems very difficult to believe that
Israel
would have followed Jephthah as a leader when his actions so contradicted the
very Word of God that the same Spirit entrusted to them.

Fourth, we need to look closely at verse 31 — “If Thou shalt, without fail,
deliver the children of Ammon into my 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.” Now that does
sound pretty grim, but there are two possibilities here.
The first is the word “and” which also can be translated “or,” in which
case the text would read — “Shall surely be the Lord’s or I will offer it
up for a burnt offering.” In other
words, Jephthah was promising as it were if a person comes out of my house, that
person will be dedicated to the Lord, will be the Lord’s or if an animal comes
out of my house, I will sacrifice it to the Lord.
So if that translation is correct, you see Jephthah is not proposing
sacrificing a human being, rather dedicating any human being that would come out
of his house to the service of God.

But there’s a second option. The
second option is the translation of the word here used as “burnt offering.”
In Hebrew that doesn’t always mean blood sacrifice.
It can also mean total dedication.
In that case you see, Jephthah’s vow would be, “Whatever comes out of my
house shall surely be the Lord’s and I will offer it for a complete
dedication to the Lord.” Now either
possibility is a viable option, but there’s one more translation issue and
that’s the last verse. That says,
“The daughter’s of Israel went
yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah.”
The word translated here as “lament” is not translated as “lament”
anywhere else in the Bible. It’s
actually understood elsewhere as “rehearse” or “commemorate.”
The daughters of Israel did not lament Jephthah’s
daughter’s death, they commemorate her dedication to the service of God which
involved her wholehearted submission.

Fifth, Jephthah had plenty of time after defeating the Ammonites and greeting
his daughter to ponder what he would do next.
He gave his daughter two months to bewail her virginity.
Don’t you think if Jephthah really intended to kill his daughter that
priests from Shiloh
would have come to him during that time, or someone would have warned him during
that time of the divine prohibition of human sacrifice?

Sixth, even if Jephthah’s vow was rash, Leviticus 5, verses 4 and 5 offered him
the possibility of repenting of such a vow.
And Leviticus 47 offered him the possibility of redeeming his daughter by
paying a ransom price, but we don’t read any implication that Jesus — Jephthah
rather — even contemplated either one of these options.

Seventh, that is why you see when Jephthah’s daughter went to mourn for two
months she didn’t mourn her dead, the mourned her perpetual virginity.
The closing verses say that twice in a row.
She goes to mourn her virginity, her dedication to the Lord.

And finally, eighth, and perhaps the strongest of all, notice that Jephthah is
never reprimanded for what he does.
In fact, he’s actually commended in the Bible.
Samuel, 1 Samuel 12:11, names Jephthah as one who kept Israel
safe. He honors Jephthah.
Would Samuel have commended Jephthah is Jephthah had sacrificed his own
daughter? Wasn’t Samuel the one who
said, “To obey is better than to sacrifice” to king Saul and condemned Saul on
that basis? But most powerfully of
all, if Jephthah is so despicable, then why did the author to the Hebrews,
Hebrews 11:32, include him in the famous “Hall of Fame” of the Old Testament
faith heroes? Jephthah did fulfill
his vow, but his vow was to dedicate the rest of his daughter’s life as a virgin
to the Lord.

And lest you think that that vow is something rather trivial, so be reminded
that in Israel,
if you didn’t have children as a woman, it was as if the curse of God was upon
you. That was a huge burden to bear
and a huge burden for Jephthah to bear because every Israelite wanted to be of
that line of which the Messiah would be born.
And he had only one daughter, and if she was going to be a virgin, not
only could that line not produce the Messiah, but — and that was also a problem
for Jephthah — his own family line would be entirely cut off, so it was a great
sacrifice for Jephthah as well because that too in Israel was something that was
to be regarded as God’s disfavor when your family line was cut off and you had
no successors, male or female. So
this was a difficult call to submission, perpetual virginity.
And Jephthah’s daughter stands out on the pages of Scripture for
responding affirmatively to this tremendous call to sacrifice so she would never
been blessed with motherhood, never be blessed with a God fearing husband, never
be blessed as a possible mother, grandmother or great-grandmother of our Lord
Jesus Christ, the Messiah to come.
She bows under God’s will and she surrenders to her father’s vow.

II. The wonderful exercise of submission

I wonder my friends, if you’ve ever taken something you’ve really wanted badly
in your life and surrendered it to the Lord, and for the Lord’s sake, you were
willing to forego it. I wonder if
you know what sacrificial submission means personally?
But just how do we submit to the Lord?
What’s involved in this wonderful submission?
That’s my second thought.
I’d like to present it to you this way through the les of Jephthah’s daughter’s
response, I believe that submission is a five step process.
We might picture it as an ascending ladder of five steps.
When we decrease in our submission to God, we’re going down that ladder,
we’re moving further away from God.
But when we bow under the Lord, we’re actually climbing this ladder of
submission and growing closer to the Lord.
But what are these steps?

Step one, acknowledge the Lord, acknowledge the Lord.
The first step of submission is always to say, “It is the Lord.”
No matter what the Lord does in our lives.
Both Jephthah and his daughter immediately recognize that their
affliction is from the hand of God.
When his daughter walked out of his door to meet him, Jephthah was very grieved,
but he could not say, “I take back my vow.”
He recognizes that God is in this.
He says, “I opened my mouth to the Lord my daughter, and I cannot go
back.” He was saying, “That was
spoken to God, so God is speaking in this.
God is active in my affliction.
God is involved in this affliction.”
Jephthah’s daughter immediately echoes her father.
In verse 36 she says, “Thou hast opened thy mouth father unto the Lord.”
It is the Lord. Awareness of
God is the first step to true submission.

Living corem deo as the reformers put
it — living in the presence of God, in the face of God, in my everyday life, is
the first step of living a lifestyle of submission to God.
So true submission doesn’t blame the devil, it doesn’t blame fate, it
doesn’t blame man, it doesn’t blame accident, but it acknowledges the Lord as
the primary source of all things including affliction.
True submission says, “I was silent because Thou didst it.”

Do you remember when 9-11 happened when Larry King had a program on, I think the
next night, and asked a rabbi, two ministers, and John MacArthur, “Where was God
in all of this?” And the first
three said, “Well, God wasn’t anywhere.”
John MacArthur said, “Well if God wasn’t anywhere, what hope do we have
in the midst of this tragedy?” He
said, “God has everything to do with this.
God is always involved. God
is always here.” — as Francis Schaeffer called his book
The God Who’s Always There.
And King actually proceeded, and rightly so, to challenge the other three
that the deity they profess must be impotent if he couldn’t control such a
tragedy. So how can you submit to
an affliction if God has nothing to do with your affliction?
Such submission would be unofficial and worthless.
It would mean nothing. You
see you can’t go to God for help in such times because He has no answer for your
sorrow and your difficulty because He has no control over it to begin with.
So the very best thing you can then do, and sadly many Christians act
this way when they get afflicted, they say, “Well, there’s nothing I can do but
grin and bear it.” And you say,
“Well, can you give it over to the Lord?”
“Well, yeah, but what else can I do?”
And they shrug their shoulders as if that’s not a very good thing to give
it over to the Lord. But true
submission begins here to say, “God is here.
This is the hand of God. It
is the Lord.”

Maybe you’ve read the interesting little story of a boy named Robert, age 6, who
came to visit his grandfather who was an atheist.
And his grandfather had above his bed as he was dying, a sign that said,
“God is nowhere.” And he asked his
boy, what a grandfather he was, “Can you read that sign?” and the boy was just
learning to read. And the boy
looked at the word “nowhere” and it was just too big for him and he broke it in
half and he said, “God is now here.”
And God used it. God used it
for that man’s conversion. But you
see, that’s the point — God is always now here.
Martin Luther said, “Letting God be God is more than half of all true
religion.” Are you letting God be
God in your life? Is that the first
thing you say when you get affliction?
“It is the Lord?”

Second step is justify the Lord, justify the Lord.
It’s on thing to say, “It’s the Lord,” but it’s another thing to say,
“This is right. The Lord makes no
mistakes.” In verse 35, Jephthah
says, “I could not go back” implying, “It wouldn’t be right for me to go back on
this vow. The Lord is righteous in
all His ways.” And the daughter
says basically the same thing — “Do unto me” look at verse 36, “Do unto me
according to that which proceeds out of thy mouth.”
In other words, “This is right father, right for you and righteous before
God.” She’s also admitting you see
that she’s a sinner. She deserves
to be dedicated to the Lord. She
deserves virginity. She deserves
this difficult trial. Whatever
happens to her is under the righteous judgment of God.
Oh this is a step up you see.
And this second step is really a step that really, even Christians don’t
ever seem to reach. When they get
afflicted, you’re a pastor, you go visit them in the hospital, they hear they
have cancer or some child gets hurt in an accident and they say, “Why me?”
You catch yourself saying that too, don’t you?
“Why me? Why?
It’s so confusing. Why would
the Lord do this to me? I’m trying
to be a good member of the church, I’m trying to walk in His ways, I’m trying to
be godly.” But you see if you have
a little insight into your own heart and your own worth and what you deserve,
you would rather say, “Why not me?
Why hasn’t the Lord done much more to me?
Why has He been so good to me?”

This past Monday our long distance seminary marketer and developer, Chris
Hannah, didn’t show up for work. He
was supposed to go with me to a little conference and I called him and he said,
“Did you know? I’m in the hospital.
My wife got in a serious accident and we don’t know if she’s going to
make it. She’s broken about twenty
bones, internal bleeding.” I went
up to see him, hugged him. He
looked me straight in the eyes. He
said, “She’s alive. The Lord is
good and the Lord is righteous.”
That’s what he said. And he paused
and the tears flowed and he said, “Even if He takes her, He’s good.”
I don’t know if I could have said that if that was my wife, but that’s
spiritual maturity. It is
righteous. It is righteous.
When Eli looses both of his sons, he says, “It is the Lord.
Let Him do what seemeth Him good.”
When Absolom drives David from the throne, David says, “Behold here am I.
Let him do to me as seemeth good unto Him.”
When Shimei curses, let him curse. It is righteous.
I don’t deserve anything.

When I was twelve years old I got really upset with my mother one time because
my mother was so optimistic it was almost nauseous.
And I’d try to complain and try to get some pity from her and she’d
always say, “Well it could be worse.”
Finally I said to her, “You know mom, you can always say that about
anything, ‘It could be worse.’” She
said, “That’s right, it could be worse, because son, all we deserve is death and
hell and you haven’t suffered either one of those yet.”
Have you ever realized that?

Recently I was on an elevator going from floor one to floor seven in Butterworth
Hospital in Grand Rapids and you know people are very quiet on elevators.
And I try to strike up conversations because people are in need when
they’re in the hospital. So a woman
stepped on with me on floor one and I said, “Nice weather today, isn’t it?”
And she said, “Oh yes.”
“Good thing we’re not in control of the weather.”
“That’s right,” she said. I
said, “The Lord is good to us isn’t He?”
“Oh,” she said, “that’s right.”
I was thinking about how to evangelize her next and she turned to me and
she said, “My mama always told me, ‘Anything honey above ground is the mercy of
the Lord.’” Why, she’s evangelizing
me! Anything above ground — that’s
it! The Lord is righteous! That’s
what this woman said — that’s what this daughter said.
If it was even more than her perpetual virginity, even if it was to
sacrifice her on the altar, “It is righteous father.
I don’t deserve anything.”
That’s a beautiful place to be, but it’s only the second step.

The third step is to approve the Lord, to approve the Lord.
To say ___ is right, but to say, “It is well.
The Lord’s will is best.” — this young girl actually took this position
as well. She was willing to have
her father’s vow fulfilled even if that meant she would bear the curse of
perpetual virginity. She says,
verse 36, “For as much as the Lord hath taken vengeance for thee of thine
enemies, even of the children of Ammon” in other words, “If it’s the Lord’s will
to exchange my perpetual virginity for the victory you’ve received, father I
approve. If that’s the Lord’s will,
it’s good, it’s best. His will is
always best. He knows better for
me, what is good for me, than I do for myself.”
Now that’s contagious. When
you see believers in the midst of affliction “amening” the ways of the Lord and
saying it is well, even the world is impressed and that’s when the world is
watching you the closest my friend — when you’re afflicted.
When you’re afflicted, that’s our best opportunity to influence the
world. When Job lost ten of his
children he didn’t say, “Lord, I accept it that nine have been taken, but
couldn’t you have left me at least one?”
But he said, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.
Blessed be” — imagine that — “Blessed be” with all your children dead
“the name of the Lord. Now later on
it sat in Job’s flesh a bit, but initially, initially he fully approved of God’s
way with his children even in death.
This is profound, contagious submission, and yet the Bible’s full of it,
Church history’s full of it.
Ignatius called the chains that bound him and would lead him to martyrdom for
being a Christian his “sweet pearls” and reckoned suffering for the Lord Jesus
“an honor.” God says, “It’s not
only a gift that I grant you to believe in My name, in Jesus’ name, but also
that I grant you to suffer for My name.”
It’s a gift of God to suffer affliction for Christ’s sake.
Have you ever realized that?
Have you ever been able to amen God’s ways when they went directly against your
desires?

Step four, cling to the Lord, cling to the Lord.
“If I perish, I perish, but I will cling to God’s mercy.”
That goes yet beyond approving God, but it’s precisely what Jephthah’s
daughter was saying in verse 37 — “May I go up and down upon the mountains to
bewail” notice not my death “but to bewail my virginity, I and my fellows.”
Notice she was burdened.
True submission is not saying, “Well I’m not bothered by the problem.”
If you’re not bothered by it, there’s no submission involved.

Years ago there was a lady in my congregation who lost her husband and five
months later she came to me and she said, “The Lord’s been so good to me.
He’s given me so much submission I’ve never missed my husband.” And I’m
thinking, wait a minute.
Something’s wrong. True submission
is not not feeling the burden. True
submission is feeling the burden and then giving it to God and then clinging to
Him and then saying with Job, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”
That’s true submission.

Recently I was in a London
park and there was a young woman there with a dog and she had this ball and she
would throw the ball at the dog and hit him, “Smack!” on the side.
I thought, wow, she must not have meant to do that.
The dog’s going to be angry.
The dog wasn’t angry. The dog
picked up the ball and brought it back to her.
Over and over it went again — “Bam!”
He picked it up and would bring it back to her.
That’s the way a true Christian should be.
When God hits us with the balls of affliction, we should bring them back
to Him. “Thou He slay me, yet will
I trust in Him.” So there is a
bewailing, but it’s a submissive bewailing.

But then comes step five, honor the Lord, honor the Lord, by saying, “His glory
is greater than me and my salvation” and that’s where this daughter excels
beyond everything else. She was so
submissive that she would surrender anything than have God’s name injured on her
account. God’s glory meant more to
her than her own life. That is
profound submission, contagious submission.
She was saying as it were, “Father, do whatever you vowed, for the glory
of God is at stake father. My
future is nothing compared to the glory of God.
I give up all. I give up my
reputation for God’s reputation.”
You see, Jephthah’s daughter so identified with the cause of her father which
was also the cause of the covenant keeping God of Israel, that she was
spiritually one with her father and spiritually one with God.
She rejoiced in her father’s safe return.
The cause of God’s people was so close to her heart, she was willing to
approve whatever sacrifice the Lord asked of her so long as the cause of God
triumphed. So her submission went
beyond Jephthah’s. Jephthah wrent his clothes and was shaken when he saw his
daughter, but she rejoiced and remained strong in faith because the Lord had
remembered His covenant and vindicated the cause of His people.
Though thou she shed many tears when her father was gone battling the
Ammonites, but now that he was home, she was radiant with joy.
God’s honor made her forget herself.
And that is supreme submission.

Like Jonathan Edwards said, “The greatest moments of my life have not been those
that concerned my own salvation, but those when I have been carried and to
commune with God and beheld His beauty and desired His glory and forgot myself.
I rejoiced and yearned to be empty and annihilated of self in order that
I might be filled with the glory of God in Christ alone.”
Beautiful, self denial.

We’re so poor at self denial today.
We’re so rich and increased with goods and think we have need of nothing that we
don’t realize that we need self denial.
John Calvin said, “Self denial is the foundational ingredient of the
Christian walk of life.” And we
scarcely deny ourselves in anything.
Sometimes for us it’s even too much to give the Lord even one day of
seven. “Self denial is a
sacrificial dimension of true piety,” Calvin said.
“It means realizing we don’t belong to ourselves but we belong to the
Lord, and His will and His glory means more to us than our will and our glory.”
And Calvin lived that out.
We’ve got a long ways to go to get to that fifth step.

A member of my church that passed away a few month ago was going into serious
surgery a few months before she passed away and I was the last one to see her.
And the last thing I asked her before she was rolled away was, “How are
things going inside?” I meant
spiritually. And she grabbed my
hand and this is what she said, with a firm grip looking me straight into the
eyes, “Whether we live, we live unto the Lord, whether we die, we die unto the
Lord. Whether we live therefore or
whether we die, we live and die unto the Lord.”
Oh, sweet, self denying submission.
Could it be my friend that God has given you the trials He’s given you
just for this purpose, that you might learn to be a contagious, sacrificial
submitter in this world? Where
would you be without affliction?
We’d all be spoiled brats. That’s
what we’d be. We need submission.
We need affliction. And we
need to learn to submit under affliction.

Jephthah’s daughter has a lot to teach us.
You see, we often want to hold a few things back from the Lord.
We’re willing to give up this, maybe, and that, maybe.
But does it have to be our only daughter?
“I’ll go anywhere Lord, except to that place.
I’ll do anything Lord, except does it have to be that?”

The old Scottish preacher Douglass McMillan once told me a story of a member of
his church who said, “I’m willing to give everything to the Lord for my entire
life. I’m willing to submit no matter
what He does to me, except one thing I couldn’t accept if He did that.”
And McMillan said, “What’s that?”
“Well, she said, my dad had cancer and I just couldn’t cope if my husband
got cancer.” And then he said,
“What do you suppose the Lord did?
He gave her husband cancer. And how
did she do? She did just fine
because she learned to submit, even that, to the Lord.”
Do you really want to be a contagious Christian?
Now, don’t ask for afflictions, but also don’t ask to have no
afflictions. Leave the amount of
afflictions to God’s inscrutable providence, but ask that whatever afflictions
God deems fitting to put upon you in His inscrutable providence you will respond
to them with these steps of submission.

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