“And it came to pass in process of time, that the children of Ammon made war against Israel. And it was so, that when the children of Ammon made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to fetch Jephthah out of the land of Tob. And they said unto Jephthah, ‘Come, and be our captain, that we may fight with the children of Ammon.’”
Judges 11:4-6, K.J.V.
“Present Pomp and Puffery!”
“The present is the point of power.”
Have I ever used my position in the “present” to take advantage or to gloat, forgetting that in the past and possibly in the future I may be in a tough spot again?
“The present was an egg laid by the past that had the future inside its shell.”
“That was then, this is now.”
S. E. Hinton
Do I have a story for you today.
I’m going to modify our tale by gender so to all the men who faithfully come to the garden, I give you permission to change all the “hers” to “hims.”
Sally and Joe got married and for many years things seemed fine. Then Joe’s dad, who was wealthy and had supplied the couple with everything their hearts could desire, up and died. This was when the trouble started. Over the next few months, Joe and Sally seemed to be drifting apart and one day Sally confronted Joe.
“Is there a problem?” she asked.
“As a matter of fact,” Joe replied, “There is a big problem!”
I want to divorce you, now! Furthermore, I’ve done some research on how I can keep dad’s money away from you, so hit the road – you better get out of town.” With the threat of her husband’s vengeance hanging over her head, Sally left.
She ended up living with a group of young actors – bohemian types – who longed for the day when they would get their big break. But surprise of surprises, Sally ended up being the one who got one great movie role after another. Soon the red carpets she’d seen rolled out for others, were spread beneath her feet. And her empty bank account was filled to overflowing.
All of a sudden, who do you think looked Sally up – Joe, of course! Things weren’t going so well for him and after “thrusting” Sally out of their home, old Joe had seen his fortune go downhill. Now that Sally was on top of the world, Joe wanted to make nice!
Oh, Sally reminded him in no uncertain terms of his own lousy behavior but then she turned the tables on Joe. He could come back, but he would no longer be in charge. He would no longer have a say in anything. Joe’s new role was to be seen not heard. He could sit in the corner, for all Sally cared. All the power was in her corner now – and use it, she would! Every day and every moment Joe would live to regret his move against Sally because she was going to make him pay. The past had reared its ugly head – and the chickens had come home to roost.
Now please don’t think Sally and Joe’s story sounds far-fetched, for it isn’t. Oh, my version is a little different. The names have been changed. And the experience is not the same. But in Judges 11, we find the same scenario played out.
Jephthah’s half-brothers “divorced” him and sent him out of town when they realized they’d have to share the family fortune with a brother who was the son of a harlot, no less.
However, a few years later, when their half-brother had a well-deserved reputation as an effective warrior and they found themselves backed into a corner by the people of Ammon, the children of Israel went crawling back to Jephthah begging for his help.
The past was gone. Time had moved on. The present was Jephthah’s day for demanding the respect he thought he deserved. And demand he did!
Quite simply, he informed his relatives, who were in deep trouble, he would help them only if he was made “head” or as the Hebrew states, the “chief” or “person at the forefront.”
You might say Jephthah was getting back what he thought he had lost. But what a contrast his demanding demeanor is to that of Deborah whom the people asked God to place in charge of them.
Sometimes, when we look back on how unfairly we’ve been treated in the past, when the tide turns and things begin to go our way, it’s easy to have a little “I’ll get even” attitude in the present!
When these thoughts enter our minds, it is wise for us to remember the words of God to the children of Israel in Deuteronomy 5: 15 when He reminded them, “And remember thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt.”
When our present confronts our past, we need to remember we’ve all been down in our lives and when blessings come our way and we’re “riding high” again, we should have a spirit of humble gratitude and not an attitude of glorified gloating.
Several months ago on our local evening news, a gentleman was interviewed who every Christmas dresses up like Santa Claus and passes out food. He was asked by the news reporter why he did this every year and his answer was: “Many years ago, I was the one who needed food and I never want to forget where I came from and what I faced in the past. I want to always remember and share.”
As we will learn in upcoming days, while the demanding brashness of Jephthah, his “I have arrived and I’m in charge” attitude may have been a result of a painful past, by seeking his own way in the present, his behavior ended up disastrously impacting his future.
In the words of Pierre de Chardin, it is unfortunate that Jephthah’s past, “revealed the structure of his future.”
May we learn from this story that a remembrance filled with humility will guide us through the hurtful memories of our pasts and give us compassion for all those who walk with us on our present journey.
“With compassion, we see benevolently our own human condition and the condition of our fellow beings. We drop prejudice. We withhold judgment.”
“O Lord, open my eyes that I may see the need of others, open my ears that I may hear their cries, open my heart so that they need not be without succor. Let me not be afraid to defend the weak because of the anger of the strong, nor afraid to defend the poor because of the anger of the rich. Show me today, in the present, where love and hope and faith are needed, and use me to bring them to these places. Open my eyes and ears that I may, this coming day, be able to do some work for Thee.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
Available where books are sold and at Amazon.com and Christianbooks.com
For more from Dorothy, please visit transformationgarden.com.