We see the bitter grief of a father’s heart in Jephthah. He was truly a man of faith, and is listed among the “faithful” in Hebrews 11. But it was his own folly in making a rash and hasty vow that brought such bitter trouble on him, even the loss of his only child.
How often we parents fail as Jephthah failed! How often we utter a rash or impatient word! A word that we would give anything to recall, but it is too late. The damage has been done.
I well remember an evening long ago when our eldest boy was perhaps four years old. He and I were planting seeds in the garden. He loved to help me, and I loved to have him help. He seemed to thoroughly believe in the word “He that soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully”, and he sowed with such a lavish hand that my little stock of seeds was rapidly diminishing. I tried without success to change his methods, and at last in desperation I said, very impatiently, “Oh…!” The little child was terribly hurt, and without a word he turned and left me. It was, I suppose, months before he would help me again. Gladly would I have given him all the seeds and all the garden to be able to recall those two words: but it was too late. The tone in which I had spoken, (more than words, perhaps) had wounded him so deeply that the scar may always remain.
How little we realize at times how exceedingly sensitive some children are, and how even a smile, a gesture, or a thoughtless or impatient word may be like a poisoned arrow “left carelessly, cruelly rankling” in the little one’s heart.
And how lightly and rashly do we make “vows”, or promises, to the children: “If you do that again I will whip you.” The child knows you do not mean it, and does it again, and escapes the whipping. It is a victory for the child, and a help towards his ruin. Most of us badly need to learn our lessons from Jephthah.