Jephthah... what can you say about a guy like Jephthah? This was the man God used to win a decisive victory over the Ammonites and to lead Israel for six years. The Lord was definitely with him, but he was so... flawed. I mean, in the previous chapter, it seemed that Jephthah thought he would have an easier time securing the Lord’s favor if he "bribed" Him with a sacrifice—the first person who stepped out of the house on his return home. Unfortunately, that was Jephthah’s daughter. He paid dearly for that misconception of God.
And in this chapter, he seemed to think that if the power of God was with him, then it was alright (heck, even sanctioned) to get some revenge on his fellow Israelites. He must have thought that’s what God was like—someone who would strike back at those who weren’t "on His side."
I don’t know about you, but I know that this is a poor picture of God. If anything, the testimony of Jesus revealed that God doesn’t require human sacrifice in order to bestow favor... nor does He get revenge on His enemies. So, if that’s true, why would God’s power rest with a man like Jephthah? How could He allow such a flawed person be His representative?
The fact is, God meets us in our misconceptions. I believe that there are many places in the Bible where God appears to someone as they think He is... in order that they will recognize Him, and then He can work to set the record straight. For instance, I think this is what God was doing at the end of the book of Job. He came to Job in such a way that Job’s friends would recognize Him as God. Then, they were in a much better position to hear the important truth: "You have not said of Me what is right, as my servant Job has."
Jephthah may have had a great many misconceptions about the kind of person God was, but it certainly didn’t stop God from coming to him, choosing him, and using him to lead Israel. Jephthah’s misconceptions about God apparently didn’t render him unwilling to work with God, nor did they render God unwilling to work with Jephthah.
Paul once wrote that we currently don’t see things as they are—as if we’re trying to look through a thick, dark glass. I guess that means that, to one degree or another, we all have misconceptions about God. And that’s why it’s great news that misconceptions don’t turn God off. He takes 'em and works with 'em!