“Alas, my daughter!” Judges 11:35
In today’s section of reading we meet Jephthah, a prostitute’s son whom the LORD has chosen to be a Judge of Israel for six years. In the middle of today’s reading we find Jephthah with the Holy Spirit upon him, uttering a vow that makes me question what in the world he was thinking when he utters it. “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, then whatever comes out 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.” Judges 11:30-31
Honestly, what did he expect to come out of his door to greet him? A chicken??? But there it is, all the same. And as we read down the paragraph we see the victory over the Ammonites and we cringe when Jephthah’s daughter walks out of the door with her little tambourines. His only child, I can’t even begin to imagine how he felt at that moment. As I read about this virgin daughter mourning with her friends for two months I began to think of all the budding young women in my own life. The thought of their sweet lives being cut short brought me to tears. And in that moment I questioned God “Why”. Why is this story in here? What message could it possible have? God doesn’t always answer all my questions, but in this case He did answer some.
Jephthah’s daughter spent two months mourning, but she wasn’t mourning the loss of her life, she was mourning her virginity. This really stuck out to me. I put myself in her shoes at that time in history; a woman’s purpose in life was to get married and bear children, as many as possible. When a man or a woman was murdered the murderer was responsible for more than just the life of the man or woman, they were held responsible for the lives of all the children still within the body of the deceased. So this young girl was mourning so much more than the life she was no longer going to get to live, she was mourning for the man she would no longer be joined with and the children she would never get to hold. Her virginity represented so much more than we today could understand. (I could write on THAT all day! But I won’t today because I already have in my book, True Intimacy!)
As tearful as I already was over the thought of my own virgin daughters’ death, I plunged forward into the deeper waters of the Word. There was more here I could feel it, and I wanted to find it. Why is this story here, what possible deeper meaning could it hold other than simply a tragic story of a father’s quick tongue? I prayed in tongues, seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance in knowing the deeper truths, hidden and waiting for those willing to look for them. Connections like these don’t come from human wisdom; they come straight from God Himself. And as I prayed the connection played out before my eyes and I sobbed at the Truth. We all were that virgin daughter, once upon a time, destined to a death without having known a man and children.
Humanity was created to be the Bride of Christ, but through original sin we became destined for a virgin death. Because of sin, our path led to a death where we had never known the caress of a Man who loves us tenderly, a death where we would never know what it was like to be united as one flesh with the One. Because of sin we would never know what it would be like to birth spiritual children and watch them grow and mature in the faith. And because of sin there are some out there today that will still die not knowing or having experienced any of those things. This truth breaks my heart into a million tiny pieces.
In Luke 15 we find a trio of parables. The story starts with the Pharisees and scribes grumbling about Jesus saying “This man receives sinners and eats with them”. (Gasp! The horror!) Jesus responds to their grumbling with these three parables, the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son (or better known as the prodigal son). All three things lost from the sight of the one who tends and cares for them. I’d like to take a closer look at the parable of the lost coin in order to better flesh out the parable of the death of Jephthah’s virgin daughter.
The Lost Coin:
“What woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:8-10
In the original Greek version of this parable the silver coins were Drachmas which were worth about a day’s wages. So let’s say she had a decent job and made roughly $10/hour, and worked 8 hours a day so she lost a coin worth about $80! Is that a pretty big deal? If you lost a birthday check for $80 would you scour the house looking for it? Absolutely! But what if it meant more to her than that? What if, as some scholars say, that Drachma was part of her dowry? At that time it wasn’t uncommon for a woman to wear her dowry around her neck as a necklace. Without a dowry it was extremely difficult to get a husband. There’s a decent chance that this lost coin was from the chain around her neck and was part of her dowry, hence the frantic search to find it! That one coin was worth so much more than just a day’s wages to this woman, it was worth a husband and children. It was hope and a future to her! She was willing to do whatever it took to find that lost coin.
In Matthew chapter 25 we find another parable about ten virgins: “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying. ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
In this parable there are ten virgins, five with oil for their lamps and five with out. Throughout the Bible oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. So these women represent servants of Christ, five with the Holy Spirit and five without. While praying and meditating over this verse God reminded me of Isaiah 10:17 “the Light of Israel will be for a fire, and his Holy One for a flame; it will burn and devour His thorns and His briars in one day.”
What was the purpose of the oil in this parable? To burn in their lamps to create fire that brings light to the darkness surrounding them. Without the oil for their lamps there could be no flame, no light. My friends, the Holy Spirit is the fuel for our fires, the fires that burn within us causing us to glow with the Light of the Truth in a world filled with darkness and lies. The Holy Spirit is our seal, our promise, not of just what is to come, but has come and is already here! Jesus tells us that He came, not just for Light, but for abundant LIFE! Light nor abundant Life are possible without the Holy Spirit living and breathing His life into our flesh. Just like in the parable, the virgins without oil and light weren’t admitted to the party, people who call themselves Christian but have not invited the Holy Spirit to live in their hearts won’t be allowed through those pearly gates of heaven. (Boy this is hard for me to tell you!!!)
In the gospel of Matthew we find Jesus saying “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness.'” (7:21-23) That word “knew” in Greek is the word “gino-sko” and according to the Thayer Greek dictionary is also a Jewish idiom for sexual intercourse between a man and a woman. (Woo, is it getting warm?)
This reading has been an excerpt from Tamar’s book Waiting…, if you would like to read more it is available HERE in multiple formats.