“Then the men of Ephraim gathered together, crossed over toward Zaphon, and said to Jephthah, ‘Why did you cross over to fight against the people of Ammon, and did not call us to go with you? We will burn your house down on you with fire!’” (Judges 12:1)
Because of their sin, Israel had been oppressed by the Ammonites for 18 years (Judges 10:7-9). When God could no longer endure the misery that was happening to His people Israel (Judges 10:16), following their repentance God raised up another judge, Jephthah, to deliver Israel from the Ammonite oppression (Judges 10:10-11:28). Following a needless, hasty vow made by Jephthah in which offers to sacrifice whatever comes out of his house to meet him when he returns in peace to his home from fighting, God gives Jepthah victory over the people of Ammon (Judges 11:29-33).
Upon returning home from battle, Jepthah’s daughter is the first to come out of his house to meet him. Even though God did not expect him to do this, all indications are Jepthah followed through with keeping this vow which he had rashly made to God and sacrificed his daughter (Judges 11:34-40). This is just further proof of how far the Israelite nation had fallen from serving God. The leaders of the nation were less than ideal.
As the opening verse above indicates, instead of celebrating the victory God had given Israel over the Ammonites, one of the tribes of Israel, Ephraim, is upset because they were had not participated in this victory (Judges 12:1). They are so upset they threaten to burn Jepthah’s house down!
They showed no appreciation for the work Jephthah had done in leading the Israelite army to victory. They showed no compassion to this man who had just lost his daughter because of a foolish mistake he had made. They appeared to be only focused on themselves and their pride had been wounded because they did not get to share in the glory. They had done this before following the Israelite victory led by Gideon over Midianites(Judges 8:1).
Jephthah mentions that he had called upon them, but they had not come to help. So he went to battle against the Ammonites without them (Judges 12:2-3). As a result Jephthah and his men fight against the men of Ephraim in a civil war in which 42,000 men of Ephraim are killed (Judges 12:4-6).
How utterly senseless all of this was! As I consider this, I wonder how often God’s people today find themselves fighting over senseless things. Unfortunately, I have been part of a church recovering from a church split. Over the years, I have seen brethren leave the church because their feelings had been wounded or their pride had been hurt. I have also witnessed brethren leading rebellions within the church which could lead to a church split.
I appeal to my brethren that we need to remember who the enemy is. It is Satan and his allies. It is not our own brethren! We may disagree at times, but we are still brethren. With the exception of those who teach, we may even disagree on matters about which the Bible teaches. As fellow “disciples” or learners” we need to have patience with each other and give each other room to grow.
For example, the apostle Paul could work with a church in which the members had so many doctrinal misunderstandings such as the church at Corinth (e.g. doubts about the resurrection, misunderstanding about the use of spiritual gifts, etc.) and still call them brethren. This doesn’t mean we can’t challenge each other regarding “doctrinal issues” or rebuke false teachers. We should. Those who teach are held to a higher standard and must make sure they are teaching the truth (James 3:1). But, above all we must conduct ourselves in a spirit of love remembering they are our brethren!
Today, I rejoice in my brethren. They are fellow soldiers of the cross who are striving to serve Jesus and implement His Will in their lives. I will be considerate of them and give them room to grow as they, like me, mature in the knowledge of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:9-10).
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1)