Welcome to you all, I greet you in the name of our Master and Saviour Yahshua Messiah. Blessed be Yahweh our Elohim who has given us the privilege and honour to be together that we may praise His holy name, amen! The Scriptures tell us that the power of life and death is in the tongue – in other words the very words we speak are of vital importance. How often do we find ourselves so easily saying one thing and yet doing another? How often do you recollect on the promises you have made to keep and yet have found that you have simply forgotten you even made them? My message tonight is called, “The Words We Speak”, and I want us to be reminded tonight about how important the very words that come from our lips are! For it is out of the overflow of our hearts that we speak – and often a true indication of what is going on in a person’s heart is reflected in their words and how their actions line up with their words. Tonight, time permitting, we will do things a little different. I am going to share with you form the Word and then open up for a time of discussion around the very Word we will be looking at and so engage together in how this applies to each of our lives. Please turn with me to Judges 11. (Read)
This is the story of Yiphtah the Gil’adite. Now Yiphtah was someone from which we can learn some great lessons and as we can see from this chapter it starts off by telling us that he was a might brave warrior. Yiphtah is one of those mentioned in Hebrews 11 in the ‘faith hall of fame’, but what is it about him that got him mentioned? First up we are told, yes that he was mighty or brave, but also that he was a son of a whore – how is that for a nice description – possibly not something he would want to be remembered by, although he certainly did not have control over who his parents were. He was born out of an adulterous relationship and was rejected by his half brothers who told him he had no part in the family inheritance which caused him to flee from his brothers and hook up with some other worthless men. Israel was under threat from the Ammonites and Israel, as a result of their circumstances through disobedience, were crying out to Yahweh who told them to go and cry out to the mighty ones they had chosen in their disobedience and let them save them in their time of distress. Israel continued to cry out and Yahweh was grieved. Israel needed a strong leader to lead them and said that whoever would go and fight first would become their head, and now the elders of Israel went to call the very one they had been rejected. Yiphtah was the first born, and although born out of an adulterous relationship was still the firstborn and according to Torah was to receive a double portion of his father’s inheritance. His brothers had rejected him and twisted Torah telling him he had no inheritance, and so now when the elders asked him to come back and help, he confirms with them that if he does lead them that he would be made head over all in Gil’ad. In other words he was making sure his inheritance as firstborn would be restored. Just think how his half brothers must have felt – the man they had rejected and renounced was returning home to be their captain and leader of the land. Pretty similar to the account of Joseph who was also rejected by his brothers to only later be the one who would bring about their deliverance in the famine of the time. It took David 7 years to gain the full support of the 12 tribes of Israel. All of these events are wonderful foreshadows of Messiah Yahshua, who too was despised and rejected by men, by His very own and became the Saviour and is King of the armies of YHWH, that will come again and defeat the enemies of YHWH.
Yiphtah took up the role as judge and leader and we can see some great qualities that he displayed in his leadership. He was not just a hot headed guy who wanted to look for a fight – he first sought to resolve the issues, and we can see from this passage that he knew the Torah and the history of Israel.
The king of Ammon declared that he only wanted back what Israel had, under Moses’ leadership, stolen from them. And in response to the king of Ammon, Yiphtah presented four arguments to show and prove that the ammonites were wrong:
1 – He presented the facts of history: (v14-22)
You cannot deny facts - when we present the truth that the Catholic Church changed a whole lot by adding and taking away from the Word – you simply cannot deny that through the facts of history – we have been lied to!
He reminds the Ammonites that Moses and the leaders of Israel had asked for a safe passage through their territory, which was refused, and this led to war where Yahweh gave Israel the victory. Israel didn’t steal any land, they had captured it, and besides that the Amorites had taken the land from the Moabites, so their claim that the land was theirs was invalid. Yiphtah clearly knew the history of his people and the land in which they were dwelling. Yiphtah was a great leader – he was learned in the Torah and the History of Israel – he understood and knew the facts. As we lead people to Yahshua, we will do well to present ourselves as one who can rightly divide the Truth and present the facts of the Word through its purest form, knowing the historical and cultural context of the Word.
2 – Yahweh had given Israel the land: (v23-24)
Yiphtah was always careful in giving Yahweh the glory for any victories Israel had won, always remembering to give honour and praise to Yahweh who fights for us and gives us the victory. It was common among the other nations that when they would capture a territory they would claim that it was the ‘will of their god’ that had given it to them to possess and so now Yiphtah is declaring that the True and Only Elohim, Yahweh is the One who’s will was fulfilled in giving Israel the land. Yahweh the Living Elohim took possession of the land and so became Israel’s. We too can declare today that it is Yahweh who gives us the victory through Messiah Yahshua, amen! We must realise and always give recognition and praise that all we have is from Yahweh our Elohim!
3 – Israel had lived in the land for centuries: (v25-26)
Israel had lived in and around that area for 300 years – why now all of a sudden is the king of Ammon trying to claim it as theirs – they had no legal claim to the land. The work of Yahshua, done on the stake was done almost 2000 years ago and His promises are secure in His Blood, the enemy cannot steal that or take what does not belong to him!
4 – The Ammonites were actually fighting against Yahweh: (v27-28)
Yiphtah didn’t declare war on Ammon – Ammon declared war on Israel. Now if Yahweh had given the land to Israel then by Ammon coming against Israel they were coming against Yahweh, which would only lead to disaster. It is a dreadful thing to fall in to the hands of Yahweh, who Judges both the living and the dead.
So what we can see up to this point is that Yiphtah, who was now leading Israel, was clearly a man of courage and wisdom. He knew the Torah, the history of the nation of Israel and was bold to speak the truth, despite his past. Yahweh can and will use anyone He chooses, not based on their past, but on their ability to walk in obedience to His Word, one who can rightly handle the truth.
It is at this point in the text that we see the Spirit of Yahweh came upon Yiphtah. Yahweh is the One who qualifies and calls a person into service and not man. Filled with the Spirit of Yahweh he was now ready to go forward in great confidence and boldness. It is not by power nor by might but by the Spirit of Yahweh, amen! Yiphtah makes then a vow before Yahweh. Now a vow was always a voluntary decision, and was a definite commitment that was honest, sincere and holy. Some people argue that he made a rash vow and was stupid etc, yet we are just told that the Spirit of Yahweh had come upon him. Yiphtah made a commitment, which is an agreement or pledge binding oneself to do something. He was not under any obligation to make this vow or solemn promise to Yahweh but he did! And it was a conditional agreement – if you do this…then I will do that. We know that Yahweh fulfilled His part for He always keeps His promises.
Today there is a saying that say, “A verbal agreement isn’t worth the paper it is written on!” In other words it has become the norm to realise that no promise, whether verbal or written, is of any value except in relation to the integrity of the one who makes the promise. So if there is a lack of true integrity then what do promises mean today!!! How many people make promises only to break them and feel nothing for changing their mind, simply because it doesn't suit them anymore?
In the past it would often be stated that, “A man’s word is his bond”, and sadly we do not see that today. That does not mean that the consequence of breaking our word has changed!!! If we make promises we ought to keep them – Yahweh never breaks his Word.
1 Kings 8:56 “Blessed be YHWH, who has given rest to His people Israel, according to all that He promised. There has not failed one word of all His good word, which He promised through His servant Moses.”
Yiphtah’s vow was a devastating commitment – how about us today? The ‘whatever’s’ of our lives!!! Whatever it takes Yahshua Messiah – I will follow. Do we realise the need to keep that commitment based on our own confession? how many make this commitment only to break it without blinking an eyelid? Too many today have forgotten their commitment to walking in teh footsteps of our Rabbi and Saviour Yahshua Messiah! How awesome it would be if people would just remember their vows!!! Yiphtah didn’t forget his vow to Yahweh. You see all too often we find that vows or commitments are made in the storms of life and are then quickly forgotten in the calms. When you are in a fix, you can easily commit to something that may help, but as soon as relief comes you abandon your part of the commitment – sound familiar? Yiphtah knew and realised he had to keep his vow to Yahweh no matter what – he made the vow after all!!!
Numbers 30:2 “When a man vows a vow to YHWH, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he does not break his word, he does according to all that comes out of his mouth.”
Deuteronomy 23:21 “When you make a vow to YHWH your Elohim, do not delay to pay it, for YHWH your Elohim is certainly requiring it of you, and it shall be sin in you.”
We must realise the power of our words of commitment we make and the accountability to keep them.
His vow was a defining commitment – this was a test of his commitment – would he keep his word? Would he obey YHWH? Was it just talk? Was he serious? Yiphtah shows us what it means to remain true to one’s word by following through with the appropriate actions. A man of words and not deeds is like a garden of weeds! You can pretty much fix a lot of things, but not a broken promise!
Ecclesiastes 5:4-5 “When you make a vow to Elohim, do not delay to pay it, for He takes no pleasure in fools. Pay that which you have vowed. 5 It is better not to vow than to vow and not pay.”
There is a saying that says, “He who is slow in making a promise is the most faithful in keeping it.”
Proverbs 20:25 “It is a snare for a man to say rashly, “It is set-apart,” and only later to reconsider his vows.”
We must think before we speak. Yiphtah realised and knew that he cannot go back on his word – he tells his daughter, “I have given my word to YHWH and I am unable to turn back!” When we say something we need to be ready to do it an follow through regardless of the circumstances!!! Yes, I suppose Yiphtah could have turned back like so many today would quickly do, however disobedience to YHWH was not an option to him, and that is a great lesson for us today!!!
Another thing we need to realise is that vows do not need to be vocalised in order to be in effect!!! As soon as we say it in our hearts, Yahweh knows and expects us to keep it!!!! Acts 5 is a great example for us in the account of Ananias and Sapphira – they made a vow when laying down the money as if it were all they had received for the land they sold, but it wasn’t and Yahweh saw it in their hearts! The interesting thing to note here too is that nobody forced them to sell the land – they made this vow voluntarily yet still did not follow through with total obedience and we know what happened as a result!!! 1 Samuel 16:7 tells us that man looks at the eyes, but Yahweh looks at the heart!
Ananias was a fool, who not only wanted the praise of men, but also wanted the money that by his own vow was no longer his – he lied to Yahweh and paid the price for it. Back to Deuteronomy 23:21-23 “When you make a vow to YHWH your Elohim, do not delay to pay it, for YHWH your Elohim is certainly requiring it of you, and it shall be sin in you. 22 “But when you abstain from vowing, it is not sin in you. 23 “That which has gone from your lips you shall guard and do, for you voluntarily vowed to YHWH your Elohim what you have promised with your mouth.”
We must be careful what we say and what we so commit to understanding the implications of not keeping our word.
How many today commit to walking in fellowship with others and as soon as the relationship demands a deeper level of devotion, especially to walking in obedience to the Word of Elohim, do many simply opt out as it would cost them something and so easily criticise forgetting their commitment they made to walk together - why? Because it got too hard for them and would cost them to step out of their selfish comfort zone! The charachter of supposed love is revealed and suddenly what seemed to be 'good fruit' has turned sour!!! Why? All becuase of broken vows!!! The words we speak will hold us accountable before Yahweh!
Matthew 12:35-37 “The good man brings forth what is good from the good treasures of his heart, and the wicked man brings forth what is wicked from the wicked treasure. 36 “And I say to you that for every idle word men speak, they shall give an account of it in the day of judgement. 37 For by your words you shall be declared righteous, and by your words you shall be declared unrighteous.”
Yahshua teaches us that we must keep our word by letting our yes be yes and no be no!
Matthew 5:34-37 “But I say to you, do not swear vainly at all, neither by heaven, because it is Elohim’s throne; 35 nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Yerushalayim, for it is the city of the Sovereign; 36 nor swear by your head, because you are not able to make one hair white or black. 37 But let your word ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’, and your ‘No’ be ‘No’ and what goes beyond these is from the wicked one.”
What Yahshua was saying hear is not that you cannot make a vow, for He didn’t nullify Torah, but rather that when you make any form of vow do not do it falsely. Don’t say yes when you really mean no and vice versa. One thing we see today is that people keep there options open by saying maybe – we need to learn to commit to yes and no being yes and no, anything other than that is falsehood and falsehood is from the evil one! To swear falsely is to profane the name of Yahweh!
Yiphtah’s vow was twofold – ‘whatever’ would meet him when he returned home would be dedicated to YHWH, if it was a person; and if it was an animal it would be sacrificed! Why do I say that, well when you look at Scripture and understand that Yiphtah knew Torah then this passage makes great sense. He was met by his only daughter, and he gave her or dedicated her to Yahweh – to serve Yahweh at the tabernacle. We do know from Scripture that women did serve at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting (Exodus 38:8 / 1 Samuel 2:22). His daughter having been the first to greet him was now to remain a virgin, never marry, never have kids – never know the joy of motherhood and continue her father’s line of inheritance in Israel. This was enough to cause her and her friends to spend 2 months grieving. What did she mourn? Her virginity! Nowhere in Scripture do we see that Yiphtah actually killed his daughter, nor do we see anyone mourning her death. The emphasis is placed on the fact that she would remain a virgin. It is hard to believe that they would establish a custom to commemorate a sacrifice of a human being; but it is very clear that they would commemorate and celebrate the devotion and obedience of Yiphtah’s daughter in helping her father fulfil his vow. She certainly deserves to stand with Isaac as an example of a faithful child, willing to obey her father and Yahweh, no matter the cost. In verse 31 the word translated and is the Hebrew letter ‘ו’ (waw, pronounced – ‘vav’) which can be translated as ‘and’ but also as ‘or’. Yiphtah here is saying that whatever comes out – if it is a person they will be dedicated to service unto Yahweh ‘or’ if it is an animal it will be offered up as a sacrifice to Yahweh presuming that it is a clean animal that is!!! His daughter comes out and she is then dedicated to lifetime service unto Yahweh and she willingly obeys – she understood what Paul writes about in Romans 12 – that we are to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to Elohim – for this is our reasonable act of worship!
When we have accepted Yahshua as Saviour and Master, we must realise the cost of that commitment brought forth out of our hearts and spoken from our lips – our word to Him must be kept!!! As we can learn from Yiphtah – it doesn’t matter the circumstances of our upbringing or where we come from – we can know Yahweh and be used by Him!
What we have to understand in this account is that Yiphtah knew Torah and child sacrifices were against the Torah:
Deuteronomy 12:31 “Do not do so to YHWH your Elohim, for every abomination which YHWH hates they have done to their mighty ones, for they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their mighty ones.”
Deuteronomy 18:10 “Let no one be found among you who makes his son or daughter pass through the fire…”
Human sacrifices were an abomination to Yahweh and Yiphtah knew this – he would not willingly make a vow with Yahweh that was an abomination to Yahweh! The law of vows permitted monetary redemption of persons vowed to Yahweh, but a person devoted to Yahweh could not be redeemed. Yiphtah committed his daughter to life long service to Yahweh at the tabernacle, and only priests would have been allowed to offer sacrifices, and Yiphtah was not a priest and the priests would not have sacrificed a human!
In verse 40 we see that every year the women would ‘lament’ for four days – possibly during one of the feasts. The word we have translated as lament is the Hebrew word “Tanah” which is only used twice n Scripture and should be correctly translated as celebrated or commemorate or praised and rejoiced. This leads us to correctly assume that the women would go every year to rejoice and celebrate with Yiphtah’s daughter who was serving at the tabernacle.
I have mentioned these critical points in order for us to understand that Yiphtah was not rash or foolish in his vows and then kills his daughter, no he was a man who knew the Torah, lived by it and followed it wholeheartedly by faith and that is what got him listed is the faith hall of fame in Hebrews 11.
Some lessons we can take from this great sequence of events in the life of Yiphtah, which I would like us to discuss together is:
1 – There may at time be in the life of true believers some doubt and distrust, but we ought to take heart that the Spirit if Yahweh is with us to lead and guide us. Yiphtah had the Spirit yet still hesitated a little and so his faith was tested by his vows. His faith was tested by the very confession of his mouth!
2 – It is not evil to make vows with Yahweh, especially when in pursuit or expectation of His mercy. To make vows to Yahweh in terms of acceptable service to him, not as a purchase for favour we desire, but as an expression of gratitude to Him and the deep sense we have of our obligation to render unto Him our complete worship according to what he has done for us, is good and pleasing – we must keep our word!
3 – We must be very cautious and well advised before making any vows, so that we do not get caught up in a present emotion of zeal where we end up entangling our own conscience and be forced to say it was an error!
4 – That which we have vowed to do, according to the Word, we must do! Do not make vows that go against the Word! We must embrace the sense of powerful obligation that Yiphtah displayed. “I have given my word, I cannot turn back!” Apply this to your commitment to follow Yahshua – he who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is not fit for service in the Kingdom of Elohim! In our vow to the Covenant of Grace made with sinners in the Blood of Messiah, we must follow Him and His Torah!!! We should commit to an obedient life of worship unto Him, born out of a love for Him!
5 – Yiphtah’s daughter is a wonderful picture of children obeying their parents in Yahweh and magnifies the 5th commandment.
6 – Our friend’s grievances should become ours as we carry each others burdens. Yiphtah’s daughter mourned her virginity and so did her friends. Those who will only rejoice with you and not weep with you are unworthy to be called friends!
7 – Yiphtah’s rough childhood didn’t affect him from following Yahweh faithfully, he held no bitterness of the past!
8 – He was a peacemaker and appealed to Yahweh for the victory rather than relying on the arm of the flesh – He knew where his help came from!
9 – Most importantly – he didn’t go back on his word and had a wonderful trust relationship with his daughter which would have been built through the knowledge of Torah, for she too knew Torah – He had taught his daughter well, bringing her up in the Word of Truth that would cause her not to hesitate in following Yahweh with her all!
I thought it would be a great time to ask a couple of questions and have a short discussion on what you glean from the account of Yiphtah’s calling, commitment and his vow:
1 – Do you know anyone like Yiphtah, who was treated like an outcast by their family? How has this affected them in their lives and walk with Yahshua?
2 – When the elders came to Yiphtah to ask for his help in fighting the Ammonites, what was his response? How do you respond when those who have wronged you suddenly need something from you? What is the right response?
3 – Why do you think Yiphtah made a vow? Was it to raise the moral of his men?
4 – Have you ever made a vow to Yahweh? Did you keep it or break it?
5 – How important do you consider the words you speak? Do you think before you speak or are you a motor mouth?
6 – What can you take from this chapter in Judges?
7 – Other questions?
Let us pray and ask Yahweh to teach us to guard our hearts and minds in Messiah Yahshua that the words we speak will not be in vain but carry with it great authority an power in His name binging forth the good treasure that by His Spirit and Truth is stored up in our hearts as we obediently listen to, learn and walk in his Word!