Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valor, and he was the son of an harlot: and Gilead begat Jephthah.…
I. HOW THE LORD SUFFERETH GOOD MEN AND WISE MEN TO SNARE THEMSELVES, AND BRING NEEDLESS SORROWS AND WOES ON THEMSELVES BY TEMERITY AND RASHNESS (1 Samuel 25:34; Matthew 26:31).
1. The folly of man's heart, which would walk at large, unconfined within the rules of wisdom; this makes men rash even in the things of God, as here.
2. God's just desertion of good men, for their humiliation; and to give them experience of themselves, and how their own wisdom will make them befool themselves, as David did after his rash numbering of the people, and cleave more close to God and His counsel, when they see their own counsels prove fit for nothing but to cast them down. To be well advised in that we do or speak, avoid temerity and rashness, by which, making more haste than good speed, men do but brew their own sorrow. Consider —
1. That rashness doeth nothing well (Proverbs 15:22). "Without counsel thoughts come to nought," and the hasty man, we say, never wants woe. Herod himself, as wicked as he was, was sorry for his rash oath; and yet how mischievous was it, against the life of John Baptist! A man going in haste easily slideth (Proverbs 19:2).
2. A note of a man fearing God is to carry his matters with discretion (Psalm 112:5). "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of true wisdom."
3. The law rejected a blind sacrifice; the gospel requireth a reasonable (Romans 12:1); and all sacrifices must be seasoned with the salt of discretion.
4. Rashness and temerity lays us bare and naked to the lashes of God, of men, and of our own consciences. Rules of direction to avoid this sin of rashness, attended with so much sorrow.First, watch carefully against thine own rashness in —
5. Passions.Secondly, arm thyself with the rules of Christian prudence to avoid this sin, and the sorrow of it; as knowing that it is not enough to be a faithful servant, but he must be wise too.
II. THE LORD COMMONLY EXALTING HIS SERVANTS WITH SOME HIGH FAVOUR, BRINGS SOME STINGING CROSS WITH IT, TO HUMBLE THEM.
1. The Lord spies in us a lewd nature and disposition, even like that of the spider, which can turn everything into poison. There is in the best a root of pride and vanity which in prosperity and warm sunshine sprouteth and grows wonderfully stiff. Paul himself is in danger to be exalted out of measure by abundance of revelation; and therefore the Lord, as a wise physician, adds a dose of affliction to be an antidote to expel the poison of pride, and with a prick lets out the wind of vainglory.
2. This height of honours, success, etc., easily gaineth our affections and delights, and so draws and steals away our delights in the Lord. We are prone to idolise them, and to give them our hearts, and therefore the Lord is forced to pull our hearts from them, and by some buffetings and cooling cards, tells us in what sliding and slippery places we stand, and therefore had need still keep our watch about us, and not pour out our hearts upon such momentary pleasures.
3. We are as children in our advancements who, having found honey, eat too much. If the Lord did not thus sauce our dainties, how could we avoid the surfeit of them? Alas! how would we dote upon the world if we found nothing but prosperity, who are so set upon it for all the bitterness of it.
4. The Lord spies in us an unthankful disposition, who, when He honours us, and lifts us up that we might lift up His name and glory, we let the honour fall upon ourselves.
III. GOD DOTH OFTEN TURN THE GREATEST DELIGHTS AND EARTHLY PLEASURES OF HIS SERVANTS TO THEIR GREATEST SORROW.
1. From the transitoriness of all outward comforts; here below there is never a gourd to cover our head, but a worm to consume it. And therefore what a man doth chiefly delight in the fruition, he must needs be most vexed in the separation and want of it.
2. From the naughty disposition of our hearts.
(1) Hardness of heart which will not yield without such hard and smart strokes.
(2) That we can turn all kind of comforts, natural and supernatural, to bewitching vanities, and yield them strength enough to allure us and draw us from the sound comfort of them; there is no ordinance, no creature, no gift, no comfort that can escape us.
3. From the jealousy of God who hath made all His creatures, ordinances, gifts, His servants as well as ours, and cannot abide that any of them should have any place but of servants with us; His zeal cannot abide that they should gain our hearts, or souls, or any power of them from Him, and therefore when men go a-whoring after the creatures, and lay the level of their comfort below the Lord Himself, then He shows the fervency of His zeal, either in removing the gift or them from the comfort of it.
IV. ALL PROMISES TO GOD OR MAN LAWFUL AND IN OUR POWER MUST BE RELIGIOUSLY AND FAITHFULLY PERFORMED; OF ALL WHICH, THOU OPENETH THY MOUTH TO THE LORD, OR BEFORE THE LORD, THOU MAYEST NOT GO BACK.
1. I say, all lawful promises, for no promise may be a bond of iniquity, and the performance of such is but tying two sins together, as Herod tied to a wicked oath, murder of John Baptist.
2. All promises in our power, for nothing can tie us to impossibilities, as when the bishop makes the priest vow perpetual continency — a thing out of his power and reach.
3. To God or men.
(1) To God (Numbers 30:3).
(2) To man; fidelity and veracity are of the weighty points of the law (Matthew 23:23).And of the heathen given up to a reprobate sense it is said, they were truce-breakers (Romans 1:30).
4. They must be performed religiously and faithfully. To a conscionable performance three things are required.
(1) Perform them willingly and cheerfully; for God loves as a cheerful giver, so a cheerful performer.
(2) Fully and wholly, not by halves (Numbers 30:3). He shall do all that is gone out of His mouth, not taking away a part, as Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5).
(3) Without delay; every seasonable action is beautiful. Besides the express commandment (Ecclesiastes 5:4).
(T. Taylor, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valour, and he was the son of an harlot: and Gilead begat Jephthah.