What a negotiator! Despite the fact Jephthah was known as a brilliant warrior, he used his words first. He was not trying to avoid action but to begin the action. You might think of it as setting the stage. If you can avoid unnecessary bloodshed that is still a victory. We can tell early on in the negotiations that the Ammonites were set on getting their revenge on the Israelites.
Jephthah was not afraid to use other means when the verbal attempt failed. He had done his best to recount the history of the Israelites travels to put them in the best light possible. In fact, it was actually God who had orchestrated the events that had the Ammonites so upset.
“So you see, it was the LORD, the God of Israel, who took away the land from the Amorites and gave it to Israel. Why, then, should we give it back to you?” For hundreds of years, the Ammonites had been stewing over their loss of the land. By this time, it’s not surprising their anger and intent on destroying the Israelites was at an all-time high.
I thought this statement was brilliant! “You keep whatever your god Chemosh gives you, and we will keep whatever the LORD our God gives us.” I may have even laughed out loud when I read those words. Certainly, Jephthah knew that their god would not be able to give them anything! It was a polite way of being a bit of a tease.
Jephthah’s closing statement sets up beautifully what is going to happen next, despite the fact his words were ignored by the king of Ammon. “Let the LORD, who is judge, decide today which of us is right—Israel or Ammon.” Any time we can defer to God in our negotiations, we know that we have power, wisdom, and love on our side.
Can you think of a time when you had to negotiate something that involved you standing firm in your faith or resolving a conflict that was tearing you apart? A lot of times, we are fearful of having those kinds of conversations. Why is that? Probably because we fear our own frailty or believe we’re going to stumble over our words.
It’s easy to look at those who have a talent for negotiation, like Nelson Mandela for example. “He ultimately achieved through negotiation an outcome that could never have been accomplished solely through violence or resistance.” (quote from Harvard Law School professor Robert H. Mnookin’s book, Bargaining with the Devil, When to Negotiate, When to Fight.)
What battles are you facing today? Is there a way you can negotiate through them? Ask God to give you the words you need to bring a peaceful resolution.
Lord, you know my heart and my struggle. Empower me with your wisdom to overcome the challenges that stand in my way. Shower me with your grace as I attempt to navigate uncomfortable conversations. I want to be a shining light for you, Lord. Refresh me and renew me. May people see you alive in me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.