The first reading gives us an excellent opportunity
To learn how really to read Scripture.
We can imagine someone citing this story, saying,
“See, how mixed up the Bible is.”
Let’s look closer.
Jephthah is one of the Judges of Israel.
And we hear that the Spirit of the Lord came upon him.
So we might think: Ah, God approves of him!
No doubt that’s what Jephthah thought, too.
Note this: we hear someone make a promise to the Lord,
and we hear them talk about the Lord—
but do we ever hear what the Lord himself has to say?
This is the story of the Judges in a nutshell.
The book began with God’s People seeking God,
And God speaks to them.
As the story advances, we hear God’s voice less and less—
And that is the problem.
Jephthah’s regret wasn’t that his rash vow meant
he had to murder someone.
That is what he promised to do!
He said: whoever comes out of my house.
Notice, he blames her!
And they both assume God expects Jephthah
to keep this vow.
Once again—do we know this is what the Lord wants?
There’s a good principle we can mention here:
The principle of the “spirit of the law.”
Laws and rules exist to protect values.
But the value they serve to protect
Is more important than the law itself—
That’s common sense.
So we don’t observe a mindless legalism.
We respect the law, but above all, we keep in mind what the law is there to promote in the first place.
But above all, this is a warning;
It’s not enough to talk about God.
We need to make sure we are talking with God—
And we listen to hear him talk to us.