21 February 2014

Jephthah's Daughter: No Ram For Me

Judges 11:30-40

Where is the ram caught in the bush?
Where is the angel to sweep me away?
I'll accept it, let it happen
if you don't stay his hand -
but tell me this: why
is there no ram for me?

So many things I'm going to miss.
I cry for the man I never will meet,
the first kiss that I'll never know,
his touch I'll never feel;
it is too late now -
and there's no ram for me.

Sometimes I've wondered how it feels
in the arms of a man. I used to dream -
only daydreams. Or was it wrong?
But now I'll never know.
They go up in smoke,
for there's no ram for me.

Is it because I am a girl?
No link in the chain of greater events?
Nothing special, no mother blessed,
no daughter of promise;
not special enough
to have a ram for me?

So a child will walk through fire,
and you don't let it stop - oh God, why not?
There's nothing here to save me now,
no lightning, no angel,
no voice from above,
and there's no ram for me.

But soon I'll be with you, safe and at peace
in the arms of the God I don't understand
most of the time - like now.
I will love you nonetheless,
and trust and hope that you know best
and have your reasons which I cannot see.

I'll swallow down my wishes,
forget all my regrets -
let it happen, and when it's through
the first thing that I'll ask of you
is: why
was there no ram for me?


[December 2011] [Commentary February 2014]

The ram refers to the sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22). God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, but in the last minute provided a ram to sacrifice in Isaac's stead - a beautiful image of what later happened with Jesus taking our place on the cross. But why did Jephthah's daughter not get rescued in that way?

I also had to think of this verse: "You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the LORD hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods." (Deuteronomy 12:31) - did God even want Jephthah to make such a sacrifice?

Jephthah found himself before an alternative: my child, or my God. I believe that was a false alternative. Are we understanding God correctly, if we get the feeling we have to hurt others in order to please him? The pharisees also thought they were pleasing God by getting rid of Jesus. I believe at the Cross God clearly showed: This is not how it's done. God is on the side of the suffering - because He suffered like them, with them, for them, on the Cross. There He also showed that He does not take pleasure at the brutal things done in His name. Because if we keep doing such things, at some point we kill God Himself - that's what the pharisees ended up doing.

What about Jephthah's daughter? Maybe she did not understand why God was letting this happen to her. Sometimes there is no explanation. God has a purpose, but sometimes it just really remains a mystery and we can't understand why He does what He does. Two child sacrifices in the Bible: one He stops, one He doesn't. Why? Do we have to, in the end, know why? Maybe sometimes it's better to accept the fact that not everything can be explained. More important than trying to find explanations is to trust God and that He knows what He's doing and loves us, even if we can't understand.

But I do think God gave an answer to this question, "Where is the ram?" - on the Cross. Because Jesus became like Jephthah's daughter, suffering at the hands of people who thought they were doing God a service by killing Him, and in that showed that this is not right, and that He is on the side of those innocently and needlessly suffering.

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