Emotional trauma in leadership
Jephthah’s trauma vs. Gideon’s victory
In this contrast between Jephthah and Gideon, I would like to demonstrate the great difference that a redeemed family can make in the results reaped through spiritual warfare. The story of Jephthah speaks of a man who lived in the famous region of the healing balm of Gilead, yet who was never healed himself.
This was the tragedy of Jephthah; the danger of a leader who failed to receive God’s healing and ended up having neither descendent nor successor. He single-handedly destroyed his own posterity. He brought death to his own house. The price of entering into certain levels of spiritual warfare without receiving sufficient healing first can be very costly. In Jephthah’s case, the price was extremely high; it cost him the life of his own child. His story confirms that the main point of the enemy’s attack is against our families.
Gideon on the other hand, understood all aspects involved in his call to spiritual battle. He had completed the healing and restoration process thus was able to restore his own family and safely triumph over the enemy in great victory.
Jephthah’s post victory failure
And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord, and said, “If you will indeed deliver the people of Ammon into my hands, then it will be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.” So Jephthah advanced toward the people of Ammon to fight against them, and the Lord delivered them into his hands. (Judges 11:30)
This was Jephthah’s famous vow to God. What would cause a person to make such a vow? The declaration “whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me” implies that in some way, Jephthah had exposed his own family. He opened the door of his house to the spirit of death. I seriously doubt that Jephthah ever imagined that the price of victory would be the life of his daughter. How could anyone, knowingly and willingly sacrifice his own daughter for personal success? What could cause a father to do this? To discover the answer, we need to enter Jephthah’s soul and allow the Scriptures to give us insight and illumination concerning the real situation.
Looking back to the beginning of Jephthah’s story, we can follow a series of dramatic events that promoted dangerous alterations in his personality.
Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valor, but he was the son of a harlot; and Gilead begot Jephthah. (Judges 11:1)
On one hand, we have:
- Jephthah was from Gilead, the blessed land of balm and prosperity (Jeremiah 50:19). The city of Gilead was famous for its citizen’s dexterity, power and health.
- He was a courageously great and valiant warrior.
- He had excellent leadership potential. In every situation, his leadership stood out.
- He was a valiant man of his word, serious about serving God, to the point of keeping his vow to sacrifice his only daughter.
Many times, God’s balm is present in the churches we attend and we experience tremendous blessing. We have the desire and the courage to serve God and we possess great leadership potential. We are sincere and we seek to walk uprightly before the Lord, just as Jephthah did.
But, on the other hand: Jephthah was the son of a prostitute.
This great “but” in his life is the factor that disrupted all his potential. This became the mark of his identity with his family and consequently with society as a whole. The weight of such a legacy can easily arrest or distort the psychological development of an individual and compromise his destiny.
Jephthah was under a terrible cursed legacy of immorality and rejection and suffered discrimination as a consequence of his sordid past. As a bastard son of adultery, he was literally the living expression of his father’s sin and shame.
This shameful legacy was tearing him up inside as he constantly suffered the blows of rejection to his soul. Time after time Satan would goad him with the memory of this painful reality so that he couldn’t live for one moment without forgetting that he was inferior and impure; the son of a prostitute. These factors pulled him emotionally lower and lower causing him to withdraw within himself in an existential prison.
Satan’s most vicious attack is rejection. Rejection lodges itself so deeply in the mind that it produces orphanhood and sterility. Every generational and family curse is propagated primarily through rejection. A history of unresolved orphanhood produces a future of sterility or loss of children. We can easily understand how an unresolved situation can weigh against us when we choose to go to the front lines. In this breach of rejection, Satan inserted his demonic wedge and began to hammer away at Jephthah’s self-identity. Strong, calculated blows ended up estranging Jephthah from his family.
Rejected by his brothers
His brothers openly called him “son of another woman”. Because of the identity which he gained (Son of a prostitute), he immediately found himself without an inheritance. When his identity was damaged, his relationships became threatened and his future inheritance was stolen.
Gilead’s wife bore sons; and when his wife’s sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out, and said to him, “You shall have no inheritance in our father’s house, for you are the son of another woman.” (Judges 11:2)
His family disinherited him and threw him out of this house without any rights to an inheritance. He was also rejected by and thrown out of his community.
So Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “Did you not hate me, and expel me from my father’s house? Why have you come to me now when you are in distress?” (Judges 11:7)
This statement of rejection nurtured a huge wound in Jephthah’s life.
His father’s indifference
Gilead had apparently done nothing to deal with the situation, which he created and was, therefore, the most responsible for it. Well just suffered the consequences, Gilead remained feeling guilty, but kept quiet and did nothing about it.
When his brothers disinherited him, his father did nothing. When time after time he was mortally attacked for being the son of a prostitute, his father did nothing. When the elders of the city kicked him out of his own house, his father continued to do nothing. I assume that this only wanted to Jaffa more deeply.
Jeff does biggest problem wasn’t the open right rejection of his brothers, but the passive rejection of his father. He lived a painful life of an abandoned child who was totally unprotected by his father. It is clear that Jeff that was a child who was disregarded by his father.
His mother shame
His mother was a prostitute, a vile woman despised by society. Imagine how many times Jephthah saw his own mother with other men each time driving the embarrassing wound deeper and deeper as chronic shame progressively built up in his life.
I recall hearing a story of a dear Christian brother who came from the underworld of crime. As a little child, he lived in a small shack in one of the most drug-infested slums of Rio de Janeiro. The shack was so small that he slept underneath his older brother’s bed. Many times, from under the bed, he would witness his mother bringing in men. Those sexual relationships tormented him, but he knew it was the only source of income for his family. He has no doubt that the feeling of powerlessness and moral shame that he suffered during those tender years ended up transforming him into one of the most dangerous criminals of the “barrio”.
Such was also the shameful nightmare that Jephthah suffered, having to carry the burden of his mother’s shame on his shoulders as well as on his face. Wherever he went, this shame would torment him.
Abandoning his home
Then Jephthah fled from his brothers … (Judges 11:3)
This was the point where Jephthah responded to the rejection he had received by choosing to rebel. He could no longer take the impact of emotional pain, leaving home in retaliation and disgust. Because of these years of emotional lynching, Jephthah ran away from home. However, even though he left this terrible situation behind, the situation obviously didn’t leave him. He took the great pain and heavy burden of all the beatings he suffered with him. He carried an emotional wound that remained open to the possibility of emotional revenge as the rejection he suffered continued to perforate his soul. This became his reason for living, transforming him into an endangered and potentially dangerous man.
Outcast by society: the curse of the bastard son
… and dwelt in the land of Tob; and worthless men banded together with Jephthah and went out raiding with him. (Judges 11:3)
Feeling hurt and spiritually unprotected, Jephthah chose to become an outcast, segregating himself from society, which only further validated his feelings of rejection. He believed in rejection. “The land of Tob” is the spiritual environment of orphanhood where we disown our family and feel disowned by its members.
This is the place of many traumas and wounds. Tob is the “road” so many take by running away from their home when they perceive it as a place of feeling threatened. Unfortunately, the “road of Tob” isn’t an external geographical location but an inner emotional one.