Have you ever bargained with God? Have you ever said, “God, if you’ll just get me out of this I promise I will ….”? Most of us have. Most of us have found ourselves in some uncomfortable predicament and our first response was to make a deal with God for a quick rescue. “God, I’ll do this… if You’ll do that.” At the core it is an attempt at a contractual leveraging that is actually foreign to unconditional love. Let’s see where that comes from, and through an odd story in the Old Testament, find Abba’s better way.
Here’s an example: first Israel, and then an “orphan” named Jephthah, whom Israel chooses as a leader. It would be helpful if you would read Judges, chapters 10 and 11, as full background. In these chapters we come upon another painful drama of Israel’s wayward heart which leads them to idol worship, subsequent crisis, and deal-making. The orphan spirit works corporately because it works personally, and bargaining is a certain indicator.
The tribes of Israel are facing a war with the Ammonites but have no moral compass – they have been worshipping all the gods of the surrounding foreigners (11:6) and have no real relationship with God or confidence in Him. Rather than seek the Lord for His direction, they only ask for deliverance and, as most of us have done at one time or another, they repent … with a bargain, “We have sinned. Do with us whatever You think is best, but please rescue us now. Then they got rid of their foreign gods…” (11:15).
Notice carefully, that though Israel had just “repented,” they still acted as orphans. Rather than seek the Lord for His voice, they assembled together to seek out the most courageous man among them. They say, “Whoever will launch the attack against that Ammonites will be the leader of all Israel” (Judges 10:18). They are willing to bargain, to make a deal. That makes perfect human sense, right? But they don’t even realize that they are leaning on the arm of human strength and capability as their source of deliverance.
Chapter 11 opens with the background of Jephthah and introduces him as “a mighty warrior,” but he wears the typical garb of the orphan spirit. His father was Gilead and his mother was a prostitute. Gilead’s actual wife “bore him sons, and when they were grown up, they drove Jephthah away” (11:2). Do you see the picture? He is raised in rejection – a bastard son, slandered by the “real brothers” – and eventually (when it was time to step into inheritance) his brothers drive him out of the house. His sonship is challenged, his inheritance denied. He is driven from his home and from his father. How does someone live with such rejection? He compensates by becoming a “mighty warrior” (Judges 11:1-3).
Facing the imposing Ammonite armies, and compromised due to their own idol worship, those who had driven Jephthah away call him back to lead them, not on the basis of relationship, but because he could perform – he’s a mighty warrior. They said, “Be our commander, so we can fight the Ammonites” (11:5-6).
Jephthah becomes a leader of Israel, not because he knows God and has learned to depend upon God via communion and relationship, but because he has learned to fight (the game of human power). From a human perspective it seems Jephthah’s strategy worked: “Prove that you are better than they said by becoming the best in your field. Prove the world wrong.” He becomes a mighty warrior and is elected as their leader.
The problem is, the orphan spirit doesn’t leave just because a person is promoted into leadership. In fact, the new pressures of leadership will only bring the insecurities and bargaining to the surface. This becomes clear when Jephthah, facing the greatest challenge of his life, cannot actually trust his own warfare abilities and makes a vow to the Lord saying, “If You will indeed deliver the people of Ammon into my hands, then it will be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering” (Judges 11:30-31).
You can read the sad account of Jephthah arriving home after the victory to have his only child come out to greet him (Judges 11:34-39). His bargaining cost him dearly.
If we have misconceptions about God, we may read that story and immediately question Him. Why would God want Jephthah to offer his own daughter in sacrifice? Is He that kind of angry, vengeful god? No. The reality is, God graciously gave the armies of Ammon into Israel’s hands because they repented, but neither Israel nor Jephthah sought the Lord concerning how He wanted to win that battle. There is no indication that God put Jephthah up to that bargain (though we can admire Jephthah for keeping his vow).
What kind of supernatural victory would Jephthah and Israel have seen if they had sought the Lord and listened to His voice, rather than making bargains with God? How often do we bargain with God – “God, if you’ll just do this for me, just this time, I’ll never do so-and-so again… I’ll serve you the rest of my life… quit that addiction…”? What kind of “birthmark” do you carry that seems to drive you to either victimization or hyper-victory?
Daniel, among others, would be a great contrast in narrative. He knows who he is, stays in communion with God, listens, and when the pressure is on, he trusts himself to God, who preserves him supernaturally in the lions’ den. Could it be that we don’t see more miraculous interventions because we’re bargaining instead of listening and resting in a revelation?
Bargaining with God reveals a lack of trust that Father really knows what we need and has already made provision for it (Matt. 6:28-34). Bargaining implies that I must leverage God –overcome His reluctance to do good. Bargaining implies I haven’t been good enough and have to “put my thumb on the scales”. It means that we don’t know God as Abba, an infinitely-loving father who only wants good for His children. So we approach Him as a boss, merchant, or corruptible judge who is looking to make a deal. If we don’t know God as a Father who accepts us as we are, we will try to “power up” to prove our identity.
You see, it’s really about your identity – knowing and living in the revelation of your sonship through Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. Without a revelation of your sonship, you cannot simply change your mind, think new thoughts, and decide to walk as a son. All the “change your
thinking” training does no good without a spirit of wisdom and revelation – the Holy Spirit convicting you in your spirit that you are a son/daughter of God. You may even learn the “sonship language” and be able to use the words of sonship and the orphan spirit, but without transformation in your spirit, you will revert to orphan thinking when the pressure is on.
How would life be different if you had nothing to hide, nothing to prove, nothing to fear, and nothing to lose? Ask the Father to reveal Himself in your inner man, and to open your ears to listen, so that you never have to bargain again.
2018 All Rights Reserved | Dr. Kerry Wood
#TheAbbaFactor by Dr. Kerry Wood | Available at http://www.Dr.KerryWood.com and Amazon.com