The Israelites once again cheated on God and served pagan deities. So God allowed them to be crushed by their enemies. Eventually, the Israelites were in such great distress they cried out to the Lord and confessed their unfaithfulness. At first, God was reluctant to save them again: ‘Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen. Let them save you when you are in trouble!’ (v.14).
However, the desperate Israelites got rid of the foreign gods among them and served the Lord. Then God ‘could bear Israel’s misery no longer’ (v.16).
Jephthah, from Gilead, was a mighty warrior’ (11:1). He was illegitimate and his half-brothers had forced him to flee. A group of individuals gathered around him and, eventually, the elders of Gilead asked him to be their commander, fighting against the Ammonites.
The Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah and he advanced with his army against the Ammonites. He made the unwise vow to the Lord that if God gave his enemies into his hands, he would offer ‘whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return as a burnt sacrifice’ (v.31). What could possibly go wrong?
Jephthah defeated the Ammonites and devastated twenty towns. When he returned to his home, his daughter came out to meet him, dancing with joy to the sound of tambourines. She was an only child. Jephthah was heart-broken. His daughter told him to keep his word to the Lord – but she would like two months to roam the hills and weep with her friends. Jephthah granted this request. She faithfully returned and was sacrificed. This is a strange story as we know that God does not like human sacrifice. God stopped Abraham sacrificing his son Isaac at the last minute. Jephthah should have prayed to God and asked for confirmation that he should go through with this and God would have stopped him. I don’t think it is a good way to pray: Lord if you do this, I will do that. We shouldn’t bargain with God. We should do his work out of our love for him, because he loved us first. We should pray to find out his will in all things and pray for his help, without bargaining, in Jesus’ name. There is nothing we can bargain with. He owns everything already. He wants obedience and faith, not sacrifice.
The crowd chased after Jesus to the other side of the lake. They wanted some more of the delicious bread he had multiplied when he had fed the five thousand. However, they should not ‘work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life’ (v.27). Jesus will give us this spiritual food.
For the debate about whether salvation is based on faith alone or on faith together with deeds, Jesus explained that the work of God is: ‘to believe in the one he has sent’ (v.29).
Jesus is the bread of God who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world (v.33). So, when we are praying the ‘Our Father’: ‘And give us this day our daily bread’, we are also praying for a daily infilling of Jesus.
Jesus is the bread of life and we are invited to eat this bread during the Holy Eucharist. ‘If anyone eats of this bread, he will live for ever. This bread is my flesh which I will give for the life of the world’ (v.51). ‘For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink’ (v.55). ‘The one who feeds on me will live because of me’ (v.57). If we look to Jesus, come to him and believe in him, we will never go hungry or thirsty (v.35). Jesus will never drive away those who freely chose to come to him (v.37) and he will raise us up to eternal life on the last day (v.39).
Jesus confirmed that ‘No-one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father’ (v.46). Therefore, all the physical appearances of ‘God’ in the Old Testament e.g. Abraham meeting the three visitors (Genesis 18), Jacob wrestling with God all night (Genesis 32), must have been with Jesus himself. Jacob marvelled that he ‘saw God face to face, and yet my life is spared (32:30).
Jesus offering himself to us as Living Bread is infinitely better than the provision of manna, the supernaturally provided food that sustained the Israelites in the desert for forty years. The forefathers of the Jews were just physically nourished by manna. It did nothing to their spiritual life. As we come to Jesus and eat his blessed body we become incrementally more like Jesus both physically and spiritually, ‘He who feeds on this bread will live for ever’ (v.58).
King David is once again asking God to deliver him from his enemies. He calls for justice because he is being attacked when he has done no wrong (v.4). When we make it publicly known we are Christians, we can expect attacks from friends, colleagues and strangers for no offence or sin of ours.
These people spew out evil words and twist our message of eternal life. They call good things evil and evil things good.
God is laughing at these evil people and He scoffs at nations run by them. Justice will always prevail in the end and we will be delivered.