Rising Above Your Reputation

by APC on February 26, 2015

“Rising Above Your Reputation” is the fourth and final segment in a study of Judges, which centers around the story of Jephthah.

We find the story of Jephthah in Judges chapters 11 and 12. Judges 11:1–2 notes:

Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valour, and he was the son of an harlot: and Gilead begat Jephthah. And Gilead’s wife bare him sons; and his wife’s sons grew up, and they thrust out Jephthah, and said unto him, Thou shalt not inherit in our father’s house; for thou art the son of a strange woman (KJV).

Rising Above Circumstances

Jephthah’s brothers did not want him in their family because he had a different mother, and she was a harlot. This was an obstacle in his life he could not avoid, but Scriptures tell us in spite of his circumstances, he was a “mighty man of valour” (Judges 11:1). When we put our faith and trust in Jesus like Jephthah, our present circumstances will not matter. God will give us the power and resources to rise above our situation and overcome our enemies.

Numbers on Our Heads

We do not realize how much our past influences our present. We carry our past behaviors, circumstances, life events, etc. forward. Because of Jephthah’s birth circumstances, he had a horrible number placed on his head. His mother was a harlot, so he was placed in the lower end of society.

We need to realize that God is greater than our name or circumstances. It does not matter what other people think about us. It does not matter what we think of ourselves. It does not matter if the world tries to set the “bar” for our life. If God has a destiny in front of us, that destiny is greater than anything that can try to hold us back in life.

Jephthah’s Example: Rising Above

He Made Something Out of Nothing

When Jephthah’s family disowned him, he gathered up worthless men and went out raiding (Judges 11:3). While the world marked him and others as worthless, he made something out of his life. Jephthah is one of numerous people in the Bible who was mightily used by God who did not have a lot of resources—but he prospered because he used what God gave him. Jephthah was a mighty man of valour, so he built an army!

Scripture tells us to “prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (I Thessalonians 5:21, KJV). We need to hold on to good things in life and discard the things that are dragging us down. We need to seek out the positive things and do something with them!

Because Jephthah made something of himself, when the children of Ammon made war against Israel, the elders went to fetch Jephthah and asked him to be their captain (Judges 11:6–8). The very people who had rejected Jephthah wanted to serve him in the end. If we too stay positive, hold to the things of God, we will be blessed and have power over our enemies.

He Talked First and Fought Last

When we’re faced with a situation, our human nature is to fight first. Jephthah, when faced by an adversary, decided to try to talk out the difference first. Jephthah sent messengers to the children of Ammon to determine why they wanted to fight (Judges 11:12). The children of Ammon were incorrect regarding their justification for war, and Jephthah explained to them their error. Before Jephthah went marching into battle, he wanted to clarify the conflict, clearly articulate the issue, and try to resolve it.

Jesus gave a similar instruction to us when he said, “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother” (Matthew 18:15, KJV). If we have a conflict with someone, we need to go to them alone and try to resolve the difference. We need to reflect about the way we approach conflict. We need to be slow to anger (James 1:19) and seek to resolve conflict peaceably.

He Valued His Integrity

Due to Jephthah’s birth circumstances, people valued him little. They didn’t trust him or his word. But, regardless of what the world thought, Jephthah was a man of integrity—his own word mattered to him. Jephthah made a vow unto the Lord: if God would deliver the children of Ammon into his hands, he would offer whatever met him at his gate when he returned home as a burnt offering to the Lord (Judges 11:30–31). To his dismay, his only daughter met him at his gate. But, Jephthah did not go back on his word. He said, “…I have opened my mouth unto the LORD, and I cannot go back” (Judges 11:35, KJV).

Not only was Jephthah a man of his word, he shared this value with his family as well. When his daughter learned of his vow, she told him he must complete his vow (Judges 11:36). He passed on his values to his family—to keep your word, no matter how difficult, and to honor the Lord.

Lessons Learned

We can learn from Jephthah’s vow that decisions made in our emotional state never turn out well. We need to live our life with wisdom and seek after knowledge (Proverbs 4:7). When we do not make wise decisions, we make mistakes we wish we could go back to change. Wisdom helps us know and make the right decision before we know we’ve made a mistake.

Rising Above

Jephthah was a man that should have been forgotten, but he rose above his circumstances and made something of himself with God. He had faith that God was going to use him regardless of what others thought. He had faith that God would bring him through every trial and situation.

Because of his example, Paul mentions him in Hebrews 11:32–34. By faith Jephthah was able to “subdu[e] kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises…quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness [was] made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to fight the armies of the aliens…” (Hebrews 11:33–34, KJV).

We too have the power to rise above our situations if we just trust in God and seek after His plan for our life. Jephthah’s story is in the Bible for us to learn from. He is a witness unto us that even in our present circumstances, God is not done with us yet!

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on February 25, 2015