Sunday, November 01, 2015

Vow taking

Vow breaking... Vow breaking is a serious matter. Some people have made vows privately, some publicly and some have only been whispered in the silent halls of our hearts. Either way, God hears all of our vows. As a matter of fact, the Apostle James said vow taking did not need to be made on anything to be binding; in other words, one does not need to "swear to God" for that vow to be sacred. One's word is enough, but, by whatever we swear, we shall be held strictly to it. James said, "But most of all, my brothers and sisters, never take an oath, by heaven or earth or anything else. Just say a simple yes or no, so that you will not sin and be condemned." (James 5:12 NLT) I believe James was reminding his readers of Jesus's teaching concerning the matter: "Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.' But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply 'Yes' or 'No'; anything more than this comes from evil." (Matthew 5:33-37 ESV) In other words, be a person of honor who keeps your word. Give vows cautiously, after much thought. Make promises carefully; thoughtfully. IF we swear by heaven, we "swear" by God's throne room, and that most certainly is ground for much caution and care. The real heart of Jesus's teaching was to be such an honest and honorable person that we do not have to invoke God's name to be believed. The side lesson: be careful what you vow to who and by what cause.

There's plenty more to be said on the subject! Consider Solomon's words: "Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. For a dream comes with much business, and a fool's voice with many words. When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Let not your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands? For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear." (Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 ESV)

The warning here is clear; be careful not to utter rash words or to make hasty commitments and to be careful to understand what you are saying on holy ground (and, I might contend, being as God is omnipresent, every place lays open before His

Someone might be thinking, "I will just never promise anything to anyone!" It's not that simple. We are often called to give our word! The warning is simple, be careful what you promise because you'll be held to your word by the Lord. Moses said, "If you make a vow to the LORD your God, you shall not delay fulfilling it, for the LORD your God will surely require it of you, and you will be guilty of sin. But if you refrain from vowing, you will not be guilty of sin. You shall be careful to do what has passed your lips, for you have voluntarily vowed to the LORD your God what you have promised with your mouth." (Deuteronomy 23:21-23 ESV)

Moses also said, "If a man vows a vow to the LORD, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word. He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth." (Numbers 30:2 ESV) In this case, vows have to do with what we promise TO DO and a pledge has to do with what we promise NOT TO DO.

Think about how your walk with Jesus began... Are you keeping those vows? Did you ask God to help you in some way and make a promise to Him the process? Are you keeping your word?

Married? Did you make vows? Sure you did. How is that going? Did you promise to work hard for your employer? How is that progressing?

Did you promise anything to and through your local church? Are you honoring your vows?

Finding folks to keep their word these days runs in short supply. People treat many things that are meant to be forever like recyclables. We, as people, are weak; we don't commit and, often, when we do, we fail to keep our word.

Take heart! God forgives! God restores! Even the OT Law had a provision for rash vow giving and breaking: "or if anyone utters with his lips a rash oath to do evil or to do good, any sort of rash oath that people swear, and it is hidden from him, when he comes to know it, and he realizes his guilt in any of these; when he realizes his guilt in any of these and confesses the sin he has committed, he shall bring to the LORD as his compensation for the sin that he has committed, a female from the flock, a lamb or a goat, for a sin offering. And the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin." (Leviticus 5:4-6 ESV)

Surely, as New Testament believers, we know God is a God of much grace: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9 ESV)

We are people of promise! God is a promise keeper! Likewise, we ought to reflect His nature, will and way; we ought to be people who keep our word too!

The Psalmist has the right idea: "I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD, I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people. Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. O LORD, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant. You have loosed my bonds. I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!" (Psalm 116:13-19 ESV)

Whether to God or to others, I walk to walk in wisdom, make good vows and keep my word. God, grant me to be like You, a promise keeper.

What have you promised to who? How is that going?

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