Jephthah – The Manipulating Man of Faith
The story of Jephthah begins in Judges 10 if you want to turn over there with me this morning. If you don’t have a Bible, there are Bibles, right in the back of the seats in front of you. You can grab one of those. It’s on page 210, and you can follow along as we’re going through.
Tough passage! Somebody after the 8:30 service came up to me and said, “Man, they must not like you very much!” But I really appreciate the opportunity to open up the Word of God with you today and dive in together into a couple of the darkest, most troubling passages in all the Scriptures.
Jephthah is a polarizing figure, to say the least. You know, in reading about his life, there were authors who had nothing good to say about him, and there were authors who wanted to lift him up somehow as an example to be followed. But I think we’re going to find, as we do with most people, that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. And the longer I live, on some subjects, the less I seem to know. But one thing I know for certain — people are complicated. They’re multilayered beings. All people struggle with sin, and we know that that sin comes from inside of them, but that doesn’t always tell the whole story. There are also many outside factors we need to consider — things like culture, family issues, past trauma, physical deficiencies, genetic predisposition, socioeconomic considerations, PTSD. The list goes on and on. And while those outside factors do not excuse sin … I want to be clear about that … they can explain why people tend to do some things they do and say what they do and value what they value.
So, what I’d like to do today is encourage you towards sympathy and self-examination as we look at this story together. Our temptation with the struggles of others is to be very black-and-white. It’s easy for us on the face of things to judge somebody’s actions, their decisions, their words, their values and not really take the time to understand their story. What influences surround their decisions? Why do they value the things that they value? If you tell the starving person, “Hey, listen, food’s not the most important thing in life,” they’re not going to believe you because their value system has been impacted by their condition. Why do they respond the way that they do? What voices in their lives are louder than God’s voice?
So, I hope we’ll be sympathetic today, but I also want to invite us to some self-examination. It’s hard to do when the actions in a particular story are so egregious. The application of this message is not “Don’t kill 42,000 people.” But it’s hard to find the application sometimes. So, I want us to really self examine and to see if some of the things that impacted Jephthah in the decisions that he makes in Scenes 4 and 5 of the story today are not things that we ourselves don’t battle with as well. I think what we’re going to find is that if we’ll open our hearts, we have more in common with Jephthah than originally believed.
And so, Jephthah the Story fits nicely into really five scenes. The first two scenes give us some background information that I think will help us understand Jephthah the Man a little better. The middle scene is actually the high point of the story. It is Jephthah showing faith, and that was where his evidence of faith came from was that middle section, the last two scenes of the text that were read for us this morning, and they show an ugly side of Jephthah that is truly awful.
So, we’re going to dive into Scene 1. It’s found in chapter 10, verses 6-18. And what this section reveals is Jephthah’s religious culture, the culture that he grew up in. And when it comes right down to it, this story all revolves around the covenant love of God for his people. In fact, the whole book of Judges is really about the faithfulness of that covenant love for his people when their faithfulness to him waned, when they were becoming increasingly unfaithful. And when you think about it, that makes no sense. Why would the nation of Israel, why would the individuals within that nation have such a hard time loving a God who so consistently showed them and communicated love for them? Listen to God’s words to the nation in Isaiah 43:
“But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I’ve called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes and honored, and I love you.’”
His delight and love in his people was so intense! His desires for them were so generous! In Jeremiah 29 [verse 11] he unloads his heart again to them.
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.’”
And yet here in Judges 10:6-18, we see the same cycle that we’ve been seeing throughout the book of Judges and, in fact, throughout the entire Old Testament. The nation of Israel doubts and rejects the covenant love of God and worships idols. And their idolatry was on steroids in this story. Usually when you’re reading, you know, they’ll go to one other god or two other gods they begin to worship. Look at all the gods they began to worship in this story.
“The people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth, the gods of Syria, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites, and the gods of the Philistines. And they forsook the Lord and did not serve him.”
I mean, they went crazy. They served every false God imaginable, except the one that was real and actually loved them.
And even more egregious than the simple fact that they went out and they were worshiping all of these different idols was that many of these gods, what accompanied the worship of these gods was human sacrifice. This was a common practice among the people that surrounded the Israelites. The worship was all about appeasement, not about a relationship. It was all about appeasement and all about manipulation. If you really wanted to appease a god in the Canaanite nations … If you really wanted to appease a god or you wanted to manipulate a god into giving you what you wanted, you would sacrifice something of great import — another person’s life — it was an absolutely sickening practice, and it was an abomination to God.
So, the text tells us for worshiping this huge list of false gods, God put them in bondage to the Philistines and the Ammonites for eighteen long years. And even when the Israelites came to God and began to repent of this idolatry, it was still all about them. It was completely self-serving and had nothing to do with the glory of God. It had nothing to do with their love for God. It had everything to do with God alleviating their suffering and because there was an approaching army.
Well, God saw right through that, of course, and initially in the text, God turns them away and encourages them, “Hey, why don’t you go seek help from all the gods you’re worshiping?” God didn’t want a business transaction with his people. God wanted a relationship with his people. He wanted to have them delight in him as he was delighting in them. But as we know from the text, they cried out more and more. And once again, the Lord in his covenantal love for them, literally became grieved over their suffering.
When it would have benefited them to serve the Lord, they were among the most outwardly devoted people imaginable. When they did not see the benefit, they were among the most disloyal. Their relationship with God constantly followed the same pattern as the idol-worshiping nations around them. They tried to manipulate God into giving them what they wanted while forsaking his covenant love for them. They did exactly what the prophet Jeremiah wrote about the nation:
“Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit.”
And look how he encourages them to respond to that truth.
“‘Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate,’ declares the Lord, ‘for my people have committed two evils: [first] they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and [secondly] they’ve hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that don’t hold any water.’”
This was a nation who lived like they were not loved by God. And that was the culture, the religious culture in which Jephthah grew up. This is what he knew. But Jephthah was not only influenced by the culture that surrounded him.
In Scene 2, which is in Chapter 11:1-11, we see another influence, and that was Jephthah’s “family” dynamic. I put “family” in quotes because it wasn’t much of a family. It is in these verses that Jephthah’s actually introduced into the story. The Gileadites, his people, had chosen to approach Jephthah about saving them from the Ammonites. And now he’s described in the text as a mighty warrior, but there was a problem. Jephthah’s family had rejected him. They had stripped him of his inheritance, and they kicked him out. They drove him away because he was the son of a prostitute. They wanted nothing to do with him.
Now to lose one’s inheritance in that day was typically debilitating. In that agricultural society, owning and cultivating land was the way to wealth. The wealthiest people, the most secure people financially, were typically the landowners. And so, they would pass that land from one generation down to another. If one did not have land of their own, they were really forced to have to work the land of another, which was the honorable thing to do, or they could go Jephthah’s route.
Jephthah gathered to himself — remember last week, Peter talked about the empty, worthless people? Well, it uses the same word. He brought to himself empty, worthless people, and he became kind of a land pirate mob boss, who would go around, and they would raid and steal, or they would become soldiers for hire. But in this time, he’d gained himself a reputation as quite the fierce warrior, and as we’re going to find out, quite the opportunistic one.
You know, the Israelites had rejected God. And when they were in need, then they came back to God and said, “Hey, we need you.” Same thing happened with Jephthah. Tribal leaders come and ask him to be their leader in battle. “We want you to lead us in battle against the Ammonites.” And just like the Lord in the previous scene, he kind of turns them away. But it was not the same motivation as the Lord. Jephthah’s response is much different. He was not thinking primarily of the people and their suffering. He was thinking about personal advancement. He wanted to get back what he’d lost, and he manipulated the conversation to do just that.
Here’s kind of how it went, a shorter version. Jephthah says to them, “If you bring me home…” Now that’s an interesting phrase, and most people believe that what he’s actually saying was “if you bring me home and reinstate everything to fight against the Ammonites, and the Lord gives me victory over them, I’m not going to lead you into battle. I’m going to become your leader. I’m going to be the head of your clan. I’m going to be your governor.” If he was the head of the tribe, nobody can ever take his inheritance away again. And Jephthah is no fool. He knows how important that inheritance was, and he was shrewd enough to manipulate the situation to get it back.
And now the table’s all set. It’s good. He has everything in place, which brings us to Scene 3 in chapter 11, verses 12-28, and there we see Jephthah’s faithful response. As I mentioned earlier, this is by far the high point of the story. This is where we most clearly see the faith of Jephthah. Jephthah takes on the mantle of military leader, and he goes to the Ammonite king and inquires of him why his armies were amassing to go to war with his people. The Ammonite king responds that Israel had stolen their land, and they were now coming to reclaim it. And what follows after that is verse after verse of a thorough legal argument by Jephthah that has, as its main theme, the covenant love of God for his people.
The Ammonites had no claim on that land. God, Yahweh, in his covenant love for his people had generously given them the land. In fact, Jephthah uses this personal covenant name of God, Yahweh, more than anybody else does in the entire book of Judges. Jephthah knew about the goodness of God. He knew about the covenant love of God for his people. The god of the Ammonites was not strong enough. Yahweh was. So, why does the Ammonite king think this time around would be any different? The covenant God of Israel fought for them, and he would continue to do so. But the Ammonite king would not listen, which takes us to Scene 4 and to our text for this morning.
Scene 4 is found in chapter 11, verses 29-40. It recounts Jephthah’s doubting heart and tragic vow. The scene starts out with such hope, and it ends with such tragedy. Jephthah has just spent verse after verse celebrating the covenant love of God for his people and providing a land for them, and now the text tells us,
“Then the Spirit of the Lord was upon Jephthah.”
And you can just feel the excitement building, right? Jephthah knew. The Gileadites knew. They were not only backed by God’s promises of covenant love; God now graciously placed his Spirit upon Jephthah to empower him to go and defeat the Ammonites, and a great victory was about to happen. You could just feel it.
And then everything begins to unravel. God’s promises of love, his power were not enough for Jephthah to give him hope. So much was riding personally on his victory over the Ammonites. So, he tried to manipulate God into giving him what he so desperately wanted. Look at verses 30-31.
“And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord and said, ‘If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, then whatever comes from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.’”
The word “whatever” in that text could easily mean in the Hebrew “whoever.” The word “it” could easily be a personal pronoun “him” or “her.” And I think that’s exactly what Jephthah had in mind with that vow. He was trying to manipulate God to act on his behalf by offering a human sacrifice. Like generations of Israelites before him, Jephthah doubted the covenant love of God. He acted like God was somehow reluctant to act and needed a little more convincing to really pour out his love upon them. It was an absolutely unnecessary vow. He treated God like he was one of the gods of the Canaanites.
Now, God graciously gave Jephthah victory that day over the Ammonites, but the victory was nothing more than a postscript in the text — two verses with very little description because the real story begins after that. Jephthah returns home to enjoy the spoils of his victory. His inheritance returned. Status and acceptance among those who had rejected him restored.
But his excitement quickly turns into heartbreak.
“Then Jephthah came to his home at Mizpah. And behold…”
Behold. This is a strong word, and really, what it wants to, kind of, bring your attention to was the horror that was unfolding.
“Behold his daughter came out to meet him with tambourines and with dances. And she was his only child; beside her he had no son or daughter. And as soon as he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, ‘Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you’ve become the cause of great trouble to me. For I’ve opened my mouth to the Lord, and I cannot take back my vow.’”
Most likely when Jephthah had made that vow to the Lord, he was thinking about a servant. That’s what would typically happen. Master comes home from a journey, or master comes home from a war, and the servant would go out to meet him, figure out how to meet his needs. He certainly was not anticipating his only child coming out to meet him. And understandably, Jephthah is very grieved in the text, but his daughter’s response was remarkable, wasn’t it? Do you know what it was? “Dad, if you made a vow to God, you’ve got to keep it. You’ve got to fulfill it. Will you just do me one favor? Will you give me two months, where my friends and I can go up on a mountain and mourn my virginity?”
Well, it’s just heartbreaking. All of her plans, all of her desires gone in an instant because her father doubted the love of God and tried to manipulate him with something that God never would have put a stamp of approval on. I mean, human sacrifice was one of the reasons that God was punishing the Canaanite nations around Israel. Why in the world would Jephthah think that God would approve of it in his situation? The narrator’s words at that point are succinct and almost haunting.
“And at the end of two months, she returned to her father, who did with her according to the vow he had made.”
If Jephthah had known the law, if he’d known it well, he would have known that God provided actually for those who made rash vows. But apparently he did not know the law.
What actually happened to Jephthah’s daughter is a point of great debate. Did Jephthah really offer his daughter as a human sacrifice? At the end of those two months, did she really lose her life? Or, as some people think, did it mean that she lived, but that she would have to remain a virgin for the rest of her life and never have a family of her own? The answer to that is not the most important thing for our purposes today. No matter which of those two outcomes were true, his daughter’s life was in many ways ruined. And the inheritance that Jephthah had manipulated to get, fought hard to recover was now basically a moot point. He would have no ongoing line of descendants on which to pass that inheritance.
So, once again, in the book of Judges, even though there’s a victory, it feels so much like defeat. God didn’t give Jephthah the victory that day because of a rash vow that he made. God gave the nation of Israel a victory because that was what his loving purpose was for them. What could have been a thrilling day ends in tragedy. And the whole story, as Peter mentioned earlier, just makes you feel sick to your stomach.
The writer of Judges tells us in multiple places that during these days, the people of Israel neglected the truth of God and they did that which was right in their own eyes, and this is definitely evidence of that. And unfortunately it gets even worse. Just as it so often happens with those who resort to manipulation to get their way, they also resort to violence to guard what they have.
Those who doubt the love of God often show little love to others. And that is exactly what we find in Scene 5, which is in chapter 12, verses 1-7, Jephthah’s vengeful spirit. In this final scene, we see the Ephraimites again. Remember the Ephraimites? A few chapters ago the Ephraimites came to Gideon, and they said, “Why didn’t you take us into battle?” And here they come back, the same group comes back to Jephthah and say, “Hey, why didn’t you take us with you to go fight the Ammonites?” Do you remember Gideon’s response? He was full of flattery. Right? “Oh, what have we done in comparison to you Ephraimites?”
Well, Jephthah didn’t take the same tactic. He didn’t have the same response. Perhaps it was partly due to the fact that his heart was hurting so deeply because of what had just happened with his family. And I think most certainly, we see in the text that another reason was because the Ephraimites added a threat and an insult to their dealings with Jephthah. Look at verse 1 in chapter 12.
“Why did you cross over to fight against the Ammonites and did not call us to go with you? We’re going to burn your house over you with fire.”
In other words, “We’re going to burn your house down, and we’re going to make sure that you’re in it when that happens.” Now, when you take into account the context of the rest of the story, you can imagine how the threat of burning down Jephthah’s house with him in it would be received. But they weren’t finished. They wanted to add a little more fuel to that fire. In verse 4,
“And the men of Gilead struck Ephraim …”
Why? Jephthah had struck Ephraim. Why did he do that?
“Because they said, ‘You are fugitives of Ephraim, you Gileadites, in the midst of Ephraim and Manasseh.”
What do they mean? That word “fugitive” really means “homeless.” “You’re a vagabond. You’re a wanderer. You’re a person who has no real home.” It was an intended slight to bring up Jephthah’s past. And Jephthah did not try to flatter his way out. He didn’t simply teach them a lesson and send him home. He mercilessly slaughtered them. Even when it was apparent that his side had won, he was not satisfied. He wanted every last one of them killed. He even set up a little test for them at the fords of Jordan that they had won, where Ephraimites would have to go through to get home, and every person they would stop and say, “Are you an Ephraimite?”
And “No! I’m not an Ephraimite!”
“Oh, really. Say ‘Shibboleth.’”
Everybody who could not pronounce it, because the Ephraimites for some reason could not pronounce that word, were killed. I mean, these were not the Babylonians or the Canaanites or the Assyrians. These people are not the enemy of Israel. They were part of Israel. They were part of the covenant community of Israel. In the story of the tragic vow with his daughter, we see the love of God doubted by Jephthah. In this story we see the covenant love of God completely disregarded and 42,000 Ephraimites were killed that day. That’s a hard number to even quantify, isn’t it?
One of the ways we could try to do that is … I don’t know if you’ve ever been to the Peace Center downtown … When it’s a packed house, every seat is taken. It’s a lot of people. You could multiply that number by 20 to match the number of Ephraimites that Jephthah had killed that day. It’s tragic! It’s a tragic story! And just like that, the text of the story of Jephthah is over. The narrator says,
“Jephthah judged Israel six years. Then Jephthah the Gileadite was buried in the city in Gilead.”
Jephthah is the judge during one of the darkest chapters in Israel’s history, and yet, amazingly, this is not the last time that we see the name Jephthah. We’ve seen a lot of these names in Judges pop up in Hebrews 11, which is a chapter about people in the Old Testament who exhibited faith — Jephthah, the manipulating man who doubted the covenant love of God. And yet God in his grace saw something more. Even in the midst of Jephthah’s doubt, God saw genuine faith. And while every believer, every follower of Jesus … we want to grow in our faith, right? I mean, that’s something that we want to do, and we desire that. I think it’s important to note that the size of our faith is not nearly as important as the faithfulness of the object of that faith. God can use people who have faith the size of a small mustard seed to do miraculous things because really, at the end, it’s all about him. And Jephthah is proof of that truth.
So, how do we apply the story of Jephthah? There are actually many different ways we could go, but I want to key in on two points that I believe are of utmost importance. Number 1– Living life as if we were really loved by God.
Here’s a picture of our rescue dog, Rocky. Rocky came to be a part of our family almost exactly a year ago. And Rocky came from a really rough background. They rescued him from a kill shelter just a couple of days before we got him, and when he came to us, he was skin and bones. You could pet his back, you could feel his spine sticking up. When we would feed him, we never got to get over to the place where we usually put his bowl down. He would attack it. He would eat like he was never going to eat again. You would bend down, and you would try to pet Rocky, and he would curl up in a ball and shake. You would do simple things, like take your belt off to change your clothes, and Rocky would go into a corner and just cower. Rocky was now in a home who was going to show him nothing but love. We’re going to provide for you. We’re going to love you. And he acted, he lived as if he was not loved. And there are so many ways that we do the same thing with the covenant love of the Lord. J. I. Packer wrote of God’s love.
“God’s love is an exercise of His goodness.”
And I want to unpack that word briefly. Packer, in his book Knowing God, later goes on to describe this word “goodness” as “cosmic generosity” or “a generosity that is inconceivably vast.”
“God’s love is an exercise of his cosmic generosity toward individual sinners whereby, having identified with their welfare, He has given His Son to be their Savior, and now brings them to know and enjoy him in a covenant relation.”
God delights in his children and delights to show them that delight. Do we really believe that? Do you believe that? Do you believe God delights in you and he delights to show that delight?
In this story and in so many more, the Israelites lived as if they were not loved by God, like God did not delight in them, like God was not ready to pour out his fullness upon them. They constantly doubted the covenant love of God. A couple of chapters earlier … Remember Gideon? When he doubted the covenant love of God, it led to uncertainty. He kept on trying to test the Lord to see if God was really going to act on their behalf. And here in our story, when Jephthah doubted the covenant love of God, it led to manipulation. “What does it do for us? What does this look like for us?” Well, the answers to that question are actually really, really extensive. And I can’t answer for you.
So, I’ll speak about a few of the ways that I live at times like I am not loved by a cosmically generous God. There’s times in my life when I’m filled with guilt and shame. Do you ever feel that? I’m doubting the love of God, who sent his Son to bear my sin so that I would never have to experience guilt and shame again.
How about the times when I desperately try to earn his favor? You know what? I’m doubting the covenant love of God for me. The secret to living as a redeemed child of God is not waking up every morning attempting to be loved by God. It’s waking up every morning knowing that I’m already loved by him and that nothing that happens today or any day will ever separate me from that love.
When I’m overcome with worry and anxiety and fear about the trials and sufferings of life in the future, I am doubting the covenant love of God who promises that he will never leave me, he will never forsake me, he will always be my refuge, he will always be my very present help in time of trouble, and he will meet my needs. When I spend a lot of time complaining about the things that I don’t have instead of having a heart that’s full of thanksgiving for the things that I do, I’m doubting the covenant love of God, who generously gives to me all spiritual blessings in heavenly places. I’ve found in my difficult struggle with depression that one of the main factors for me is that I’m doubting the covenant love of God, who sent his Son Jesus to give me life and to give it to me more abundantly.
You know, you could make the argument that somebody who’s outright rebellious against God, who seeks satisfaction apart from the will of God for their lives … you’ve got that person on one side and on the far other side, you’ve got this person who’s embroiled in legalistic religion that tries to achieve righteousness on their own. You take a look at both of those groups, and I will argue that both of them are doubting the covenant love of God upon their lives.
Rocky is now fat and happy and secure and living more and more like he’s loved. And I want to be the same way in my relationship with the Father. I want to live more and more like I am covenantally loved by cosmically generous God, which brings us to the second and closely related point of application — Laying aside every impediment and following Christ.
When the writer of Hebrews saw the story of Jephthah and all those other stories that he’d just written about in Hebrews 11, all those Old Testament saints that showed faith … When he saw that story, he gave us actually the application for that passage. It’s already provided for us. It’s at the beginning of chapter 12, verses 1-3 of Hebrews.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” [Jephthah being one of them], “let us lay aside every weight and sin, which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”
Why was Hebrews 11 and the stories of faith in which Jephthah was mentioned written? It was to show every follower of Christ that we have been surrounded by testimonies of faith who have gone before us, and that no matter where we are in our journey — I don’t care where you are in your journey — we all have the same path forward. I don’t care if you’ve been saved for sixty years or sixty minutes. I don’t care if you have the faith of a giant like Joseph or if you’ve got the faith like Jephthah. I don’t care what your struggles are. I don’t care how deep those sin struggles may be, your past failures. We all have the same path forward, OK? Lay aside every weight, every impediment. Lay it aside — culture, your past trauma. We deal with those things, but we don’t let it stop us. Lay aside every sin which so easily entangles us so that we can run with endurance and perseverance the race that has been set before us individually. Your race is different than mine. My race is different than yours. But the glorious reality of this is we do not run this race alone. The text tells us we look to and depend completely on Jesus, who’s the founder and finisher of our faith.
In his book, He Loves Me: Learning to Live in the Father’s Affection, Wayne Jacobsen writes,
“God enjoys taking fearful slaves and teaching them to live as beloved sons and daughters. He knows how to peel off layers of selfishness and shame to shape his image in us. That’s why the writer of Hebrews called Jesus the Author and Perfecter of our faith. He initiated it on the cross, and with painstaking care he continues to carve, sand, and buff until we become the treasure he fashioned in his heart at the beginning of time. It’s a process he controls from start to finish, and it’s a journey that will last a lifetime. You can’t make it happen, but you can choose to cooperate with him and embrace the incredible process he’ll use to produce his glory in you.”
It’s fitting that today we celebrate Palm Sunday, the day that Jesus walked the road into Jerusalem to the shouts of adoration from his followers, who believed that very soon this Jesus was going to break their bondage to the Romans. But Jesus knew that he was walking that road because in a few days he would be breaking a bondage much bigger than Rome. He would be crushing the power of sin and death for us. He despised the shame and he endured the cross. He does not call us to run a race that he himself did not run. And in his covenant love for you, he knows the weights, he knows the impediments, he knows the sins which so easily entangle. He knows the temptation to that sin. He knows the power of those temptations because he experienced each and every one of those tests and did so perfectly. And as the Author and Finisher of your faith, guess what? He’s going to get you across the finish line. Your destiny is sure.
Now, if that’s true of my future, surely I can live today like I’m loved by God. There may be some here today who are not familiar with God’s covenant love through Christ. I encourage you: grab the person next to you after the service and ask them about it. Grab one of the elders here, one of the staff members at North Hills, and ask them about it. I know they would love to introduce you to that God of love.
Perhaps there are many here today who know the Lord. Maybe you’ve known him for a long time. But they spent so much of their lives doubting his generous, unfailing covenant love for them. I want to pray for you this morning. Right before we begin singing about Christ’s incredible love for us, I want to close by praying over everybody in the room this morning a prayer that Paul actually made for the believers at Ephesus in Ephesians 3. So, if you’ll stand with me as I pray over you. Listen to the words of this prayer. They’re beautiful!
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith — that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Gracious Father, help every one of us who belong to you live life as if we are truly, covenantally loved by a cosmically generous God. It’s in the beautiful name of Jesus that we pray these things. Amen.