By Dianne Neal Matthews
Chad caught his breath at the familiar voice on the other end. He hadn’t heard from his son in almost two years, not since the day Derek stormed out of the house vowing to never come back again. An endless string of phone calls and letters had gone unanswered; holidays and birthdays had passed without any contact. Although Chad’s first reaction was a thrill to hear Derek’s voice, he couldn’t help thinking, He must be in some kind of trouble. “Dad, I need some bail money,” his son began.
In Judges 11, Jephthah was surprised when his countrymen contacted him after so much time had passed. As Gilead’s illegitimate son by a prostitute, he still remembered the stinging names and insults. He hadn’t forgotten how his half-brothers had chased him out of the country, vowing that he would not receive any family inheritance. But after moving 80 miles away to the land of Tob, Jephthah had gained a following—albeit one involving men of questionable character, and apparently, a reputation.
Now that Israel had been invaded, the leaders of Gilead came to ask for Jephthah’s help with waging war against Ammon. The elders asked him to be their military commander in the coming conflict. Jephthah wasn’t about to let them off that easy.
“Didn't you throw me out of my father's house?” he reminded them. “So why are you coming to me now when you're in trouble?” (verse 7)
The delegation persisted in their request, promising to make Jephthah leader over all of Gilead after he achieved a military victory. Jephthah agreed and God used him to free the land of the Ammonite threat.
Sometimes I wonder if God ever feels like asking the same question that Jephthah used to challenge the elders of Gilead. Our government insists that prayer has no place in public life—until a national crisis hits or a threat surfaces. Many people sail through life without giving a thought to their Creator—until they face a serious problem they feel unable to handle on their own. Even Christians may neglect regular communion with God while things seem to be going smoothly. Then when trouble strikes, we suddenly regain our interest in prayer. But a crisis is not the time to develop a prayer life or work on a close relationship with God; we already need to have those things in place, giving us a strong foundation to face life’s storms.
God always has his ear tuned to his children, but it’s an insult to treat him like a crisis hotline—using prayer as a last resort or only in times of emergency. Where would we be if our heavenly Father responded to us the way many people do when they feel used or taken advantage of? God deserves to hear from his children not just when we’re in trouble, but just because we’re in love with him.
I love the LORD because he hears my voice, my pleas for mercy. I will call on him as long as I live because he turns his ear toward me. Psalm 116:1-2 (GW)
Ask yourself: Do I neglect my prayer life until I find myself in trouble?
This Devotion is adapted from Drawing Closer to God: 365 Daily Meditations on Questions from Scripture with permission. (Baker Books) © 2010 Dianne Neal Matthews
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Dianne Neal Matthews is a freelance writer and the author of four daily devotional books. Her newest release is Designed for Devotion: A 365-Day Journey from Genesis to Revelation (Baker Books). Visit her at her website, on Facebook, or on Twitter.
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