Shine Your Light‏

Once, while sitting in a dark building made of volcanic rubble used as a church in central Africa, my team and I were watching the dance of some young girls. I leaned over to my traveling companion and was explaining something when one of the elders of the city began to translate the words of the song and dance being performed. I can not recall this ever being done before in all of my travels in Africa.

The song they were enacting through dance was the story of Jephthah’s daughter, whom they said was burned alive in order that her father could win a battle and keep his word to God. I was shocked at this misinterpretation of scripture. I had to correct this misunderstanding as it was being used by the powers of darkness to feed the spirit over the area as we had heard that the sacrifice of daughters was still a custom in the area.

Many Christians in the west also misunderstand what Jephthah did when his daughter came out to meet him after his military victory over Ammon.(Judges 11) . The scripture says that Jephthah promised to offer as a burn offering what ever came out to him first. Had it been an animal he would have killed it as a sacrifice, but since it was a human – his daughter – he offered her as a “burnt offering.” Many interpret this to mean that he sacrificed her by killing her, but Jephthah is in the Hebrews 11:32 “Faith Hall of Fame” for his righteousness and faith. I do not think he would have been placed there by the Holy Spirit if he had murdered his daughter. One thing we must keep in mind as we interpret scripture is that the bible is an eastern book and we westerners do not always see it in light of its culture.

Jephthah promised to offer as a burn offering what ever came out to him first. As I pointed out, if this had been an animal he would have killed it as a sacrifice, but since it was his daughter he offered her as a “burnt offering” which meant she was dedicated as a servant of the tabernacle for the rest of her life. So she went out and every year after that and “bewailed her virginity” because the result of her father carrying out his vow is that – “she knew no man” (Judges 11:39) – like a nun in our day. I know this goes against our minds in the west but it also says this is “the custom in Israel”. (See Judges 11:38-40). Had she been killed as was the custom with the pagan nations she would not have bewailed her virginity but bewailed her LIFE. You can see this also in Bible dictionaries, mine is the New Unger’s Bible Dictionary.

What we discovered by bringing biblical clarification to this story was that this area in Africa, known for spiritual darkness, the wrong understanding of this scripture was being used by the animists in the area to justify their practices . By correcting this understanding we were able to bring spiritual light into the region and give the Christians more authority to combat the darkness of their surroundings. Sometimes a little leaven leavens a large lump, and a little light expels a great darkness.

Romans 13:12, “The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.”

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