Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory
How God’s leaders can lose their own family in the victory of ministry
Continuing from the previous post about demonic retaliation and Jephthah’s unhealthy promotion as a leader over Gilead I would like to suggest a deeper analysis in order to unmask the spiritual situation to which Jephthah submitted himself. I would like to mention just two relevant points regarding the spiritual situation lived out by Jephthah.
Israel’s moral inconsistencies
We can characterize the spiritual environment caused by Israel’s leaders as spiritually fickle with a lack of zeal for God. A true leadership crisis had developed in this spiritually unhealthy environment. Jephthah entered battle without any spiritual covering. The very way that the nation established his leadership position revealed how it had no spiritual ceiling.
Discerning the real enemy: the Ammonites
The Ammonites were one of Israel’s worst enemies. The knowledge of one’s enemy can make the difference between victory and defeat. When you identify your enemies, not only can you discern the type of methods they use but also the strategies and subtleties of their attacks.
We can identify the demonic principalities that dominated the territory of the Ammonites by examining the spiritual roots of the nation.
Ammon and Moab were Lot’s sons conceived through incest with his own daughters. (Genesis 19:24-38) They were bastard sons, the fruit of incest. They became the people who represented the opposition to God’s salvation: “An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter the assembly of the Lord; even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the Lord forever” (Deuteronomy 23:3)
We can identify the demonic principality of Ammon as sexual perversion. Such were the stigmatic characteristics that persecuted Jephthah’s life. He was also a bastard child, the son of prostitution and adultery. Both transgressions involve the sins of immorality and perversion. By considering his tragic inheritance, we unmask Jephthah’s vulnerability relative to the enemy that he had to face. He was fighting a lost battle, the enemy having already infiltrating his life.
Sexual perversion is never an isolated sin but involves many other iniquities such as drunkenness, dishonor of mother and father, immorality, seduction as well as complexes of complicity, inferiority, shame, rejection and loneliness.
Lot, the father of the Ammonites had lost everything having reaped the bad fruit of his covetousness. While he was with Abraham, he lived in wealth and prosperity, but his covetousness for the plains of Jordan and the fertile valley of Sodom overcame him. Now he had nothing left. He was betrayed by his eyes and overcome by his own covetousness, which brought affliction and destruction to his family in the process. “He who is greedy for gain troubles his own house.” (Proverbs 15:27)
The Spirit of Sodom contaminated his family subjecting it to God’s judgment. His wife became a pillar of salt (perhaps she was petrified by falling lava for having left her heart in Sodom). Her death became an emblem of apostasy. Her and Lot’s children were on the same path: they lost their house, their city, their possessions, their mother, and now they lost their morals and respect for their father.
Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve the lineage of our father.” (Genesis 19:32)
Lot’s daughters, like all wives in Israel, couldn’t bear the shame of not having children. Just this circumstance alone represents the great misery and destruction suffered by Lot’s family. Such was the heritage left by Ammon and Moab. Illuminated by this knowledge, we can spiritually define and better understand who the Ammonites were.
It is worth questioning the possibility of whether what happened to the daughters of Lot has anything to do with what happened to Jephthah’s daughter. The truth is that the same spirit that destroyed Lot’s daughters also destroyed the daughter of Jephthah. Lot and Jephthah represent an evil paradox of two heroes of faith who lost their families. Milcom (Molech), the abomination and demonic entity of the Ammonites, destroyed the daughters of these two men through sexual perversion.
Immorality is a relentless enemy that draws near to us to the degree that we stray from the Lord. God himself made an interesting statement when he said, “Moab is my washpot” (Psalm 60:8) Solomon understood this powerful truth about God’s judgment, “For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites” (1 Kings 11:5), and thus confessed:
And I find more bitter than death The woman whose heart is snares and nets, Whose hands are fetters. He who pleases God shall escape from her, But the sinner shall be trapped by her. (Ecclesiastes 7:26)
When someone, especially a spiritual leader falls into the grip of immorality, it is because they have been displeasing God for a long time, “Those who worship the host of heaven on the housetops; those who worship and swear oaths by the Lord, But who also swear by Milcom. Those who have turned back from following the Lord, and have not sought the Lord, nor inquired of Him.” Be silent in the presence of the Lord God; For the day of the Lord is at hand, For the Lord has prepared a sacrifice; He has invited His guests. “And it shall be, in the day of the Lord’s sacrifice, That I will punish the princes and the king’s children, And all such as are clothed with foreign apparel.” (Zephaniah 1:5-8)
By analyzing the profile of the enemy and Jephthah’s internal conflict, we can understand the trap in which he fell when he accepted the challenge of defeating the Ammonites in exchange for the reward of becoming the leader of Gilead: “Come and be our commander that we may fight against the people of Ammon.” This invitation was the perfect bait for the type of spiritual breach in his life. Jephthah and his family were spiritually compelled and dominated by the territorial principality of the Ammonites.
The retaliation was sure to come. In a foolish vow “to God”, he committed himself to destroy the life of his only son as a burnt offering to God. In this manner, Milcom perverts the knowledge of God and blurs spiritual discernment. Jephthah became the leader of the city but destroyed his family lineage in the process. In his emotional revenge, he ended up becoming the person who suffered the most.
We must understand that under the principle of human responsibility, God uses only what we give him. He is great enough to use flawed men for his purposes but if his leaders refuse to abide by his principles, they will suffer adverse consequences at the hands of the enemy independently of how much God uses them for good.