Jesus told a parable of the unjust judge. A woman came before a judge asking for justice and he ignored her for two reasons. He did not fear God and he did not care about people. Yet because of her persistent pleading he granted her request to relieve himself of the annoyance.
Jesus told his followers that God was NOT like that judge. Instead Jesus wanted them to pray and not give up because God does in fact care and he will grant us justice with all haste.
Sometimes we don’t know what to do with bible stories because we can’t figure out how to interpret a positive lesson of any kind from them. But sometimes we need to realize that God knows the strange and twisted notions men will have about him and he sets stories in place to tell us what he is NOT like.
One such story is that of Jephthah. It is so bizarre and offensive that no one preaches it or uses it because no one knows what to do with it. There might seem to be no redeeming lessons in the story, only tragedy due to a man’s stupidity.
So as the story goes Jephthah (another judge mind you) is so desperate that the Lord give him victory in battle that he makes the dumbest vow in human history. In fact vows like this should be illegal and should be declared null and void due to their recklessness. He vows that if God gave him victory in battle, he swears to sacrifice as a burnt offering the first person who walks through the door when he gets home. Well he won the battle and who walks out to meet him but his own daughter.
The horror. What a dilemma. I have made a vow and I must keep it. My honor, my word, they must not be disgraced. I am bound to what I said I would do. I would not even break my vow for someone I claim to love so dearly. Justice demands that I do this thing. I am without choice. I must burn the person I have always loved. “I have opened my mouth unto the Lord and I cannot go back.”
Guess what Jepthah means in Hebrew by the way. It means to “open the door”. What a coincidence.
So the daughter, in epic, tragic style acquiesces dramatically to the Fathers vow. She asks only that she be allowed to mourn her virginity with her friends for two months upon the mountains. Her fate became the cause of a yearly four day mourning among the daughters of Israel.
Soooo…..he really burned his daughter as a sacrifice? Yep. That’s the inference.
To any reasonable person this story is the height of absurdity. In fact we will call it Mt. Absurdity it’s such a tall tail.
But I actually believe this story is divinely inspired legend. That’s right. God wanted the story in there to tell us something very important about what kind of judge God is NOT.
God is not a judge who is trapped by his own words into burning people to death whom he actually has always claimed he loved. Who does God claim to love? How about all human kind?
You see there’s an absurd doctrine thats been floating around in the church toilet thats been waiting to be flushed for a long time and it goes like this: God must burn sinners in hell forever for to not do so would be to violate his righteousness and justice and dishonor his holiness. God‘s love is trapped into burning his children in hell forever in order to fulfill His Word.
Well guess what?…that ain’t the kind of judge God is and the story says that by way of the same rhetorical device as Jesus used in the parable of the unjust judge.
It’s almost as if God is saying “Do you think I’m so stupid as to claim victory in the battle against Satan at the expense of the billions of souls I claim to have loved and sent Jesus to die for? What kind of victory would it be to say, “Well I defeated my enemy, but now I’m bound by my oath to burn forever most of the ones Jesus died to save who just happened to walk through the wide door in life.”
Now does that mean there won’t be a fire judgement? There will, but it’s nothing that fits in Jephthah’s story, except maybe with one exception. Jephthah means “open the door”.
How do you open a door? If it’s locked you need a key.
Jesus said, “I hold the keys of hell and death”.
Jephthah opened his mouth and got his daughter killed.
Jesus is going to open the door of hell and then open his mouth and call out all God loves!
Why does Jesus need keys to hell and death if no one is ever coming out anyway? Every entrance is also an exit. If people go in then Jesus has the keys to let them out. Did you imagine hell and death having doors or did you imagine a canyon with fire at the bottom? Religious culture teaches us hell is a pit. Jesus says it’s a place where there are doors. He said that in Revelation by the way which is supposed to be the big story of the end of time. So Jesus is standing at the end of time twirling the keys to hell and death on the finger of his nail scarred hand basically saying, “I can do what ever I want to do and no theologian is gonna tell me any different.”
“I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.”
“Who are you Oh man to talk back to God?”
Now, let me just say, there’s only one thing more stupid than the idea of God burning people forever. That’s the idea that you can bank on that to go out and live a life of sin anyway. What if it’s not forever but it’s still as long as you were alive on earth?. That would be a really dumb decision. So repent and be washed in the blood now, love others and avoid hell altogether.
That concludes our lesson on what God is NOT like.