The Brick Testament made another appearance at church this morning. Last week’s story about Ehud the Ninja was always going to be hard to top. I went with another story from Judges (the one just after my least favourite story in the Bible).
Jephthah did something silly – but then he kind of redeemed himself a little, teaching a rogue tribe of Israel a lesson in the process. Jephthah was like a secret agent. Because all secret agents have passwords. It’s how they identify themselves to their helpers and friends in foreign countries.
As an aside – has anybody else noticed that the story of Jephthah and his daughter is exactly the same storyline as the Beauty and the Beast, and that he’s essentially Robin Hood.
Here’s the talk.
Today we’re going to learn about a guy who was a bit like a spy. A secret agent. Who here wants to be a spy when they grow up? Does anybody know about any spies?
Today we’re going to learn a story about a man named Jephthah. He was the leader of Israel a little while after Ehud.
Jephthah went off to fight some of the enemies of Israel – called the Ammonites – but one group of Israelites – didn’t help with the battle. And then they got angry at Jephthah and decided to fight him…
So Jepthath and the army of Israel fought against the Ephraimites.
And they drove them all the way to a river. The Ephraimites couldn’t beat Israel so some of them ran away.
Later, some of the survivors came back to the battlefield and tried to cross the river. But Jephthah, being a clever secret agent, came up with a plan to stop any of the Ephraimites escaping.
Ephraimites had different accents to the people from Israel. They were a bit like people from New Zealand and us. Have you ever heard a New Zealander say “fish and chips”. It sounds a bit different to how we say it. Well, there was a word that the Israelites said differently to the Ephraimites. Shibboleth. So Jephthah made that word the password. And he told his men at the river to check how people wanting to get past said the word.
And the Ephraimites couldn’t do it.
And when they couldn’t do it the Israelite “secret agents” judged them, and killed them.
We’re a bit like the Israelites. And Jesus is a bit like a secret agent. See, one day, God is going to judge the whole world. A bit like Jephthah judged the Ephraimites. And we have a password – a bit like Shibboleth – a password that God uses to sort people out.
Our password is Jesus. The Bible says that anybody who calls on the name of Jesus will be saved. Anybody who calls Jesus Lord. And only God’s people can do that. People who aren’t God’s people will be like the Ephraimites – they’ll be in trouble.
And do you know – that if you like people, and you want them to be part of God’s family – all they need is the password. They need to know that Jesus died for us, and them too. And because he died for us – we know the secret password.