Mind your own business

One of the signs of a dysfunctional family is everybody getting into everybody else’s business. There always seems to be at least one instigator who spends all his time finding out what everyone is doing and spreading the news to others. Whether you want to think of them as busy bodies, gossips, or trouble makers, they feel it is their job to keep everyone informed.

My family is no different than any other. Our instigator happened to be the grandma with too much time on her hands. She thought she was doing the family a service, but in reality, she was just stirring the pot and perpetuating conflict. I believe the instigator in our family was motivated by a need to be the center of attention and a deep concern for the well being of her family. In a sense, you could say she was a worry wart that was not able to trust God for her family’s protection.

The men of Ephraim appear to be the instigators among the children of Israel. On two occasions, they asked why they had not been contacted regarding battle plans. Jephthah’s response to their question “Wherefore passedst thou over to fight against the children of Ammon, and didst not call us  to go with thee?” (Judges 12:1) my have been sarcastic because he uses a different word for call when he says “I and my people were in great strife with the children of Ammon; and when I called you, ye delivered me not out of their hands” (Judges 12:2).

The word Jephthah used for called, zâ‘aq (zaw – ak´) is typically used in reference to crying out to God for deliverance. “Its first occurrence is in the record of the Israelites bondage in Egypt” (2199). There is a distinct difference between za‘aq which refers to divine aid and qârâ (kaw – raw´) which “signifies the specification of a name” (7121). So Jephthah may have been trying to make a point: I didn’t call you because only God has the ability to deliver us from our enemies.

“Then Jephthah gathered together all the men of Gilead, and fought with Ephraim: and the men of Gilead smote Ephraim…and there fell at that time of the Ephraimites forty and two thousand” (Judges 12:4, 5). Family conflicts are sometimes necessary and can serve a purpose, but often the damage is not worth it. The loss of 42,000 men was significant. The Ephraimites might have been better off to mind their own business.

In process of time

The phrase “in process of time” (Judges 11:4) appears only a handful of times in the Bible, exclusively in the Old Testament. In all but one instance, the phrase “it came to pass” (Judges 11:4) accompanies it. The reference to time in conjunction with process gives the impression that there is a dependency between time and process, but it is not clear which one drives the other. It is possible that the process determines the amount of time that needs to elapse for it to be completed or it is possible that there is a time-table that is being followed and the process is being executed according to a schedule. Either way, there is a mechanism of control that is being revealed in these verses.

Since we know that God controls everything, we can assume that God uses process and time to control the actions he takes. Therefore, it is either the steps he is planning to take or his time-table that determines when we will get an answer to our prayer. I believe God is working to a schedule because it says in the Bible that he knows when the end will come. If you think of saving the world as a project plan that God executed after Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, then he project was completed when Jesus died on the cross. Milestones in God’s project plan may have been marked with the phrase in process of time so that we could follow along and be aware that progress is being made according to a time-table.

If it is true that in process of time statements are indicators of milestones in God’s plan to save the world, then the fourth of five milestones is recorded in Judges 11:4, “And it came to pass in process of time that the children of Ammon made war against Israel.” The children of Ammon were descendants of the son that was born to Lot’s daughter through incest (Gen 19:38). The Israelites had begun to serve the gods of the children of Ammon (Judges 10:6). Molech was the chief Ammonite deity (1 Kings 11:7) and was sometimes worshipped by the offering of human sacrifice (Lev 18:21, 20:2-5, 2 Kings 23:10).

And it was so, that when the children of Ammon made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to fetch Jephthah out of the land of Tob…And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said if thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering…And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and behold, his daughter came out to meet him…And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed. (Judges 11:5, 30-32, 34, 39)