Today we read about two men who became leaders of Israel. Jephthah, described as a mighty warrior, led the people in some decisive victories in a civil war against their warring family. Samson, a man with super-natural physical strength, led Israel against the Philistines. They were both great leaders, albeit flawed individuals.
I am struck by their very different beginnings. Jephthah was the son of a man named Gilead and an unnamed prostitute. His brothers, as soon as they were old enough, drove Jephthah out of their lives. No son of a prostitute was going to get any of their inheritance! But Jephthah used his gifts and abilities, and eventually rose to a position of power in Gilead.
Samson, on the other hand, was born to a married, God-fearing couple whose goal was to raise their son exactly according to God’s plan. It would not have been easy to raise a Nazarite, even back then. But these godly parents were determined to do just that. We’ll read that Samson grew up to be a great leader in Israel.
Sometimes we might be tempted to use our own beginnings as a weight to hold us down. Maybe we weren’t born into a middle class Christian family. Maybe our parents never married, never went to church. Maybe we weren’t able to afford college. So we let our past dictate our present.
In contrast, maybe we were born with that proverbial silver spoon in our mouths, went to the best schools, wore the best clothes, drove the coolest cars. Maybe our parents made sure we were in church every time the doors were open, and we can quote Scripture like a Baptist preacher.
Does one past guarantee success in God’s kingdom while the other guarantees failure? Is how we were raised an indication of our ability to serve God? The answer, of course, is NO!
Your past is past. It’s your choices today that render you useful or useless in God’s plan. A privileged child needs to come to God in exactly the same way as a child who grows up on the streets.
Neither Jephthah nor Samson allowed their past to be a “thing.” Both men followed God and chose obedience.
Here’s something else God has laid on my heart. Sometimes we let our own past sins hold us back from serving God. We tell ourselves we have no room to talk about sin, being the filthy sinner we were. We tell ourselves no one would take us seriously, considering the bad choices we’ve made in our past. I think God would remind us that when He forgives sins, He buries them, washes them away, never to remember them ever again. The past, under the blood of Jesus, is the past.
You can’t control or change your past. But God has given you today – this minute – to choose Him.
…Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13b-14)
Choose God today. Then see what He can do with a yielded heart. I know that God can use even the likes of you and me.