Flawed Saviors (Judges 10-12)


Have you ever made a vow that you had no intention of keeping?

  • My kids at trick-or-treating make me vow to not take a “Daddy Tax” because they know how much I like Reese’s. “Yes kids, I promise… fingers crossed!”
  • It’s ok, my kids return the favor when they promise never to complain or conflict again. “Yes Dad, I promise to never take my sisters shirt again / or never to throw the Captain America shield at my sister again.”
  • To GOD: If you just help me get a good grade or pass this class, then I’ll start reading my Bible.
  • To GOD: If you get me this job/relationship, then I’ll start going to church.
  • To GOD: If you perform this miracle/sign ___, then I’ll know you care and I’ll commit my life to you.

The problem with promised faith depends on the one who’s making the vow.

  • If we are making the vows, then our faith will always fail.
    Rom 7:18-19 “For I have the desire to do what is right but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want.”  
  • Broken promises create broken people. Therefore, we need to remember that Christianity is not about telling promises to God but trusting in promises from God. Our commitments are not based on our ability to carry something out but God working in us. We cannot bribe God with the rewards of our promises. Instead, we simply confess our need of His grace to grow in what we know He has called us to be and do.

Christianity is not about telling promises to God but trusting in promises from God.

In the life of our church, there are times where we make formal promises to one another.

  • Baptism is a promise from the candidate to follow Jesus and from the community to nurture faith.
  • Communion is a promise to forgive as God has forgiven us. So, we examine our heart before eating.
  • New membership is a promise of unity, love, and working together for the gospel.
  • Family dedication is a promise to raise a child in faith from parents and a church community.
  • Commissioning elders is a promise to submit ourselves one to another to look more like Jesus.
    • Hebrews 13:7, 17 “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith… submit to your leaders, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not groaning for that would be no advantage to you.”

Today at SPBC, we want to make some promises to one another. Our promises are not out of pretense for personal gain. As Christians, we should not often seek something from one another, but we should frequently seek something for one another. Biblical love is wanting for others to know the greatest good and deepest delight is found in Jesus Christ. So, today, as we confirm elders, by God’s grace we promise to help each other seek the LORD for faith, hope, and love.

*Elder Confirmation Vows

EXAMINE  Judges  10-12            Haste

Today’s message is about a man who makes foolish vows and ends up sacrificing what he highly valued.

Judges 10:1-8 “After Abimelech there arose to save Israel Tola the son of Puah, son of Dodo, a man of Issachar, and he lived at Shamir in the hill country of Ephraim. And he judged Israel twenty-three years. Then he died and was buried at Shamir. After him arose Jair the Gileadite, who judged Israel twenty-two years. And he had thirty sons who rode on thirty donkeys, and they had thirty cities, called Havvoth-jair to this day, which are in the land of Gilead. And Jair died and was buried in Kamon. The people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth, the gods of Syria, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites, and the gods of the Philistines. And they forsook the Lord and did not serve him. So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of the Philistines and into the hand of the Ammonites, and they crushed and oppressed the people of Israel that year. For eighteen years they oppressed all the people of Israel who were beyond the Jordan in the land of the Amorites, which is in Gilead. And the Ammonites crossed the Jordan to fight also against Judah and against Benjamin and against the house of Ephraim, so that Israel was severely distressed.”

We must choose between living for the dash or to make a difference.

From Judges 8:34 – 10:6; the LORD’s name is not mentioned. Even the successive chapters there will be few remarks of the LORD’s activity to raise up leaders and deliverers. Society continued its spiritual apathy and moral depravity in a downward spiral. Some individuals serve as judges in Israel – Tola and Jair – but both apart from the LORD’s initiative and appear to have little impact. These judges, and the nation, lived between the dash of their birth and death.

  • Tola judged Israel for 23 years, then he died and was buried.
  • Jair judged Israel 22 years; he had 30 sons with 30 donkeys in 30 cities, then he died and was buried.

The dash represents life on earth apart from eternity. So many people are focused on living for the dash.

  • Your ride may be fancier and more expensive than a donkey but it’s just as meaningless in the grave.
  • Your job may require more knowledge and experience than a judge, but neither is helpful to a corpse.
  • You can have a sizable or small family, but neither qualifies you for greatness.

You see, we can focus on so many different items to make us fulfilled in life, but if we neglect God, we miss the blessing. Our legacy is determined not by stockpiling on earth but storing treasure in heaven. And the only thing you can take from this life into the next is people. We cannot take possessions, accomplishments, retirement accounts, or anything else except that which we have dedicated for use in God’s kingdom.

Our legacy is determined not by stockpiling on earth but storing treasure in heaven. And the only thing you can take from this life into the next is people.

  • Who are you taking to heaven? This does not happen by default or intense desire, but the discipline of sowing gospel seeds and sharing Jesus, so the person will trust in Christ for salvation. Apart from a person’s faith in Jesus, they are not joining anyone in heaven.
  • We transition from living for the dash to making a difference by giving God our time, talents, and treasure.
    • Time: Ps 90:12 “teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
    • Talents: Mt 25:21 “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
    • Treasure:
      Mt 6:19-20 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven… For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
      Lk 6:38 “give and it will be given to you – good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”

*If we give little then God’s generosity will be little. So often we miss more blessing because we tried to bribe God with our little.

Israel lived for the dash, loved idols more than the LORD, and they experienced God’s passive judgment by handing them over to the consequences of their decisions, not to mention God’s active wrath of punishment by enemy nations like the Philistines and Amonites.

Judges 10:9-16

10 And the people of Israel cried out to the Lord, saying, “We have sinned against you, because we have forsaken our God and have served the Baals.” 11 And the Lord said to the people of Israel, “Did I not save you from the Egyptians and from the Amorites, from the Ammonites and from the Philistines? 12 The Sidonians also, and the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you, and you cried out to me, and I saved you out of their hand. 13 Yet you have forsaken me and served other gods; therefore I will save you no more. 14 Go and cry out to the gods whom you have chosen; let them save you in the time of your distress.” 15 And the people of Israel said to the Lord, “We have sinned; do to us whatever seems good to you. Only please deliver us this day.” 16 So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord, and he became impatient over the misery of Israel.”

We must choose between escaping earthly discipline or experiencing eternal deliverance.

Once more, Israel cried out to the LORD for deliverance. Yet, God saw right through the Israelites fake repentance. His repeated rescues were well documented, yet they continued to be ungrateful by never making any sincere changes. So, God condemned Israel by giving them over to their idols. He wanted them to see the absolute emptiness and vanity of worshiping false gods and idols.

Our troubles can lead us to call upon God but not necessarily repent. If we only regret the consequences and not the cause of our sin, then God will refuse to grant us the cure for sin. He will allow us to spiral downward and greater depths of rock bottom until we are ready to accept His discipline and deliverance plan. We should not mistake God’s patience for His approval.

A parallel NT passage describes this process in Romans 1, “Therefore, God gave them up to the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creation rather than the Creator… And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless… the not only do these things but give approval to those who practice them.” (v.24-32)

Our troubles can lead us to call upon God but not necessarily repent… We should not mistake God’s patience for His approval. #BookOfJudges

When Israel told God, “We have sinned; do to us whatever seems good to you,” (Judges 10:15-16) they were entrusting themselves to the LORD. They were acknowledging that it is better to experience the hard discipline of God rather than the hollow delights of the world.

  •  Where are you choosing to not confront what God condemns? Where are you enabling sinful patterns but still calling upon God to save? When will you face the LORD’s discipline, knowing it will be hard but the only true path to freedom?

Judges 11:1-10 “1 Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior, but he was the son of a prostitute. Gilead was the father of Jephthah. And Gilead’s wife also bore him sons. And when his wife’s sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out and said to him, “You shall not have an inheritance in our father’s house, for you are the son of another woman.” Then Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob, and worthless fellows collected around Jephthah and went out with him. After a time the Ammonites made war against Israel. And when the Ammonites made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to bring Jephthah from the land of Tob. And they said to Jephthah, “Come and be our leader, that we may fight against the Ammonites.” But Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “Did you not hate me and drive me out of my father’s house? Why have you come to me now when you are in distress?” And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “That is why we have turned to you now, that you may go with us and fight against the Ammonites and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.” Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “If you bring me home again to fight against the Ammonites, and the Lord gives them over to me, I will be your head.” 10 And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “The Lord will be witness between us, if we do not do as you say.”

Judges 11:30-35 30 And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord and said, “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, 31 then whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.” 32 So Jephthah crossed over to the Ammonites to fight against them, and the Lord gave them into his hand. 33 And he struck them from Aroer to the neighborhood of Minnith, twenty cities, and as far as Abel-keramim, with a great blow. So the Ammonites were subdued before the people of Israel. 34 Then Jephthah came to his home at Mizpah. And behold, his daughter came out to meet him with tambourines and with dances. She was his only child; besides her he had neither son nor daughter. 35 And as soon as he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you have become the cause of great trouble to me. For I have opened my mouth to the Lord, and I cannot take back my vow.”

Judges 12:7-15 Jephthah judged Israel six years. Then Jephthah the Gileadite died and was buried in his city in Gilead. After him Ibzan of Bethlehem judged Israel. He had thirty sons, and thirty daughters he gave in marriage outside his clan, and thirty daughters he brought in from outside for his sons. And he judged Israel seven years. 10 Then Ibzan died and was buried at Bethlehem. 11 After him Elon the Zebulunite judged Israel, and he judged Israel ten years. 12 Then Elon the Zebulunite died and was buried at Aijalon in the land of Zebulun. 13 After him Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite judged Israel. 14 He had forty sons and thirty grandsons, who rode on seventy donkeys, and he judged Israel eight years. 15 Then Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite died and was buried at Pirathon in the land of Ephraim, in the hill country of the Amalekites.”

We must choose between reacting to problems or proactive to God’s purposes.

Israel needs deliverance and God works behind the scenes with an unlikely judge and flawed savior. Jephthah is the son of a harlot and a scorned man. His brothers force him to exile and eliminate him from the father’s inheritance. Jephthah is a byproduct of his unfortunate circumstances as he surrounds himself with other worthless and ruthless friends. Yet, his reputation as a mighty warrior leads to Israel’s request for Jephthah to help them fight against the Ammonites. Their deplorable behaviors led to disastrous circumstances and desperate solutions.

So, Jephthah promises to help only if he will become their leader with the rewards of leadership (financial gain and pleasures). Israel vows to serve Jephthah and he leads them into battle.

Jephthah also makes a vow to God, that if he is provided victory, he will offer a sacrifice to God (11:30-31). While Jephthah expected to sacrifice one of his servants, He did not realize it would be his only child – a daughter! Horridly, it would not be uncommon to offer human sacrifice to pagan idols; yet entirely inappropriate for worship to the LORD.[1] Jephthah’s hasty vow to sacrifice whatever walked through the doors was foolish and shameful. Like many today, his faith was not based on God’s covenant love but contractual logic: If you grant my wish, I’ll give you token worship; If you do not do as I command, then I will cast you off. God showed Jephthah that true worship is costly – not that He wanted a child sacrifice but that He expected a sincere heart.

  • Ecclesiastes 5:2-7Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few. For the dream comes through much effort and the voice of a fool through many words. When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it; for He takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow! It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Do not let your speech cause you to sin and do not say in the presence of the messenger of God that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry on account of your voice and destroy the work of your hands? For in many dreams and in many words there is emptiness. Rather, fear God…”
  • Proverbs 20:25 “It is a trap to dedicate something rashly and only later to consider one’s vows.”
  • Our faith and worship can be disordered by the world. Jephthah was reacting to problems based on the world’s ways and false religions. He did not understand God’s purposes were not unholy behaviors. His concept of worship was flattery with religious sacrifices rather than grace-based faith.
    Likewise, we can be fooled into thinking we are celebrating God glory by doing something that entirely contradicts the character of God. The only way we can know God’s expectations for worship is from His revelation in Scripture. This is why personal devotion and corporate study is important.
  • Our faith and worship can be hurried and careless. Jephthah’s faith was not only unholy, but it was hasty. In effort to get his demands met by a rushed prayer, he made a foolish vow that cost his daughter’s life. Likewise, we can go through the motions and rush through worship. At best, hurried worship makes us hypocrites for our lack of sincerity, and at worse makes us tempted to speak in ways that are unholy or serve in ways that are unhelpful.
  •  To not be reactive to our problems and proactive for God’s purpose requires us to consistent interaction with God’s word and God’s people. Spiritual un-involvement carries severe consequences.


Easy temptation to shake our heads in pride that we are not like Jephthah. We would never murder a family member for an idol! YET, do we not see individuals

  • Tearing apart families with selfish ambitions in careers or actions in adultery.
  • Sacrificing children, obviously with radical abortion, or whether even by training them in the wrong and worldly priorities. If our children grow up as intelligent honors students and scholars, trophy-holding and award-winning athletes, or well-rounded social and skillful trailblazers BUT without spiritual foundation in Christ – – then were our sacrifices worth it?

Jesus is the greater Judge.

  • Like Jephthah, Jesus had a suspicious background and related to those of sketchy character.
  • Like Jephthah, Jesus was despised and rejected by his family.
  • Like Jephthah, Jesus will return to save an undeserving people.
  • Like Jephthah, Jesus offered an undefiled pure sacrifice to God – yet it did not come at a cost to someone else but himself.
  • Like Jephthah, the Father was grieved at his child’s sacrifice – but that destruction and grief was not without resurrection victory. Instead of ending a father’s lineage, the offspring of Father God multiplies as a blessing to every nation.
  • Jephthah was a flawed savior but Jesus was a perfect Savior who paid the penalty for the flaws of others.

[1] See Lev 18:21; 20:1–5; Deut 12:31; 1 Kgs 11:7; 2 Kgs 23:10; Jer 32:35. Cf. also Jer 7:31–32; 19:5–6, 11; Ezek 16:20–21; 20:25–26, 30–31; 23:36–39.[1]

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