"I wish you had never been born! You're good for nothing! In fact, you're absolutely worthless!"
Perhaps you have grown up in an abusive home, and your parents or another adult have said derogatory things to you so many times that now you believe their words. You feel insignificant and inferior to those around you, and you see no way to rise above your past to embrace a better future.
Judges 11 tells the story of an outcast, a prostitute's son, who was berated and driven out of town.
"You're not our brother; you're the son of a prostitute!" How often had Jephthah heard those words? "You'll not share in our inheritance," his half-brothers told him, and they forced him to leave Gilead.
The leaders of Gilead also shunned him. Driven out of his hometown, Jephthah fled northeast to Tob in Syria (v. 3).
In spite of this mistreatment, Jephthah still trusted in God. Eventually, a group of young men joined him, and he became known as a mighty warrior. Some time later, when the Ammonites made war on Israel, the elders of Gilead visited Jephthah and begged him to lead their army to victory over their enemies. Apparently, no one else had been willing to take the job. The leaders promised to make him the ruler over all the people in the town.
Understandably, Jephthah replied, "Didn't you hate me and drive me out? Why do you come to me now, when you're in trouble? How can I trust that you will keep your promise?"
The elders stated, "The Lord is our witness." Jephthah finally agreed and sent a letter to the king of Ammon, attempting to settle the dispute peacefully. When the king ignored Jephthah's message, God enabled him to defeat the Ammonites.
In Hebrews 11, which lists the heroes of the faith, Jephthah is included in the same sentence with King David, the prophet Samuel, and Gideon!
How did the prostitute's son go from being an outcast to a respected man of faith?
1. Jephthah did not try to get even with his brothers, the town leaders, or any others who had abused him.
He recognized that vengeance belongs to the Lord (Deut. 32:35; Rom. 12:19). When the people of Gilead needed his help, he assisted them.
2. He trusted God and found his self-worth in serving Him.
Although family members had called Jephthah worthless, God saw him as a person of value and promise. God had made Israel victorious in the past, and Jephthah trusted that He would help him defeat the enemies (Judg. 11:21–24).
3. Although he had been victimized, Jephthah did not seek to dominate others; instead, he tried to avoid a war with the Ammonites.
"‘I have not wronged you, but you are doing me wrong by waging war against me. Let the LORD, the Judge, decide the dispute this day between the Israelites and the Ammonites'" (Judg. 11:27, NIV). Romans 12:18 states, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone" (NIV).
4. He kept his promises and took his vows to God seriously.
"Jephthah made a vow to the LORD:
‘If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the LORD'S'" (Judg. 11:30–31, NIV).
Like Jephthah, it's not how you start out in life that determines your destiny; it's how you live your life every day.
If you accept Christ as your Savior and earnestly try to follow Him, His love will help you learn to see yourself as His child, a person of dignity and worth. As you allow Him to guide your choices, He will help you to become the person He created you to be and to fulfill His wonderful plan for your life.
Howard W. Stevens