You Cannot Manipulate God

Growing with God: A daily devotional with Tonia Slimm.

Judges 11:34-35 (NIV)
When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of timbrels! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter. When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, “Oh no, my daughter! You have brought me down and I am devastated. I have made a vow to the Lord that I cannot break.”

Judges 11:34-35 (MSG)
Jephthah came home to Mizpah. His daughter ran from the house to welcome him home—dancing to tambourines! She was his only child. He had no son or daughter except her. When he realized who it was, he ripped his clothes, saying, “Ah, dearest daughter—I’m dirt. I’m despicable. My heart is torn to shreds. I made a vow to God and I can’t take it back!”
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“Then Jephthah came to his house at Mizpah, and this is what he saw: his daughter coming out to meet him with tambourines and with dancing. And she was his only child; except for her he had no son or daughter. And when he saw her, he tore his clothes [in grief] and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me great disaster, and you are the cause of ruin to me; for I have made a vow to the Lord, and I cannot take it back.” -AMPLIFIED

Yesterday we made note of the fact that the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah, but as he was on his way to confront the Ammonites he made a rash vow to God. We can only assume that he did this in order to guarantee his victory (so he thought), but it was not necessary since God was already on his side. (Manipulation is not the way!)

Scripture tells us that Jephthah went over and fought the Ammonites and that the Lord WAS with him. In fact, Jephthah devastated twenty of the Ammonite towns. “He devastated twenty towns from Aroer to the vicinity of Minnith, as far as Abel Keramim. Thus Israel subdued Ammon.” -Judges 11:33 (NIV)

The vow that Jephthah had made was totally unnecessary. Jehovah gave Israel an amazing victory. Jephthah then headed home, probably rejoicing and filled with great happiness, but that happiness soon turned to sorrow. For what happened to be the first thing to walk through his doorway to fulfill his vow to God? We find to Jephthah’s great sorrow it was his beloved daughter who had come out to welcome him home.

There has been much debate on whether Jephthah actually gave his daughter as a burnt sacrifice to God (which was totally against God’s Law) or did he have her consecrated in service to God for the rest of her life? In view of the divine commands given against human sacrifice many theologians believe that Jephthah did not offer his daughter as a burnt sacrifice, but just the same he did lose out on spending the rest of his days with her. What a sad position he had put himself in; all because of a foolish choice in trying to guarantee his victory by trying to manipulate God.

“There was no need of such a vow to obtain God’s favor. Our vows should not be made to win God’s help, but as an expression of our gratitude and love. We do not need to bribe Him to do aught for us. Not the burnt-offering as an inducement for God to deliver, but God’s deliverance an inducement to the burnt-offering. Whether or not Jephthah did really offer his child is not material to our present consideration, for it must have been as great an agony to shut her away from the cherished hope of an Oriental woman, as to see her consumed on a funeral pyre.” (F. B. Meyer. CHOICE NOTES ON JOSHUA THROUGH 2 KINGS)

F. B. Meyers brings across a very good point; one must be careful that we are not trying to bribe God with a vow. Instead any vow or promise that we make to God should be an expression of our gratitude and love to Him.

Why do we do things for God? Is it because we love Him and want to thank Him? Or is it instead because we are trying to buy His love or gain leverage with Him? God will not be used by us. Nor can we gain His favor by exploiting God.

The Apostle Paul reminds us of this: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked [He will not allow Himself to be ridiculed, nor treated with contempt nor allow His precepts to be scornfully set aside]; for whatever a man sows, this and this only is what he will reap. For the one who sows to his flesh [his sinful capacity, his worldliness, his disgraceful impulses] will reap from the flesh ruin and destruction, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not grow weary or become discouraged in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap, if we do not give in. So then, while we [as individual believers] have the opportunity, let us do good to all people [not only being helpful, but also doing that which promotes their spiritual well-being], and especially [be a blessing] to those of the household of faith (born-again believers).” -Galatians 6:7-10 (AMP)

Let us be careful of how we are treating the Almighty. He deserves to be treated with reverence, love and graciousness; not manipulation.

My Prayer:
Lord, I am grateful for all you have done for me in my life. Thank you for your constant companionship, love, guidance and blessings. There is never any need for me to try to force you to do more for me; for you love me with an everlasting love that has been given freely and does not need to be bought. Forgive me for those times that I have tried to buy your favor. Help me to accept that love that love that you have so freely given to me.

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