Today’s Reading — Ecclesiastes 5:4-7 — When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it; for He takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow! It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Do not let your speech cause you to sin and do not say in the presence of the messenger of God that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry on account of your voice and destroy the work of your hands? For in many dreams and in many words there is emptiness. Rather, fear God.
In Acts 18:18 an interesting verse appears with little explanation. Paul, having remained many days longer, took leave of the brethren and put out to sea for Syria, and with him were Priscilla and Aquila. In Cenchrea he had his hair cut, for he was keeping a vow. When Luke wrote that verse, the cultural understanding of vows was well understood and explanation was not required. Paul had, for some unstated reason, made a Nazirite vow to God (Numbers 6). Trained at the temple, Paul would have known the nuances of the requirements, but I’ll paint you a general picture. The vow would have required him to abstain from all forms of fruit from the vine, to abstain from being nearer than about six feet to a corpse, and to abstain from cutting his hair. Vows like this were often taken as a sign of dedication or consecration to God, but they were offered with a time limit. When the time expired, the vow was completed. Verse 18 above speaks of the completion of the vow. As a sign of completion, Paul had all his hair cut off. The day of completion of a vow was a day of celebration because of the difficulty of keeping a vow to God.
Have you ever made a vow to God and then walked away from it? Are we, as New Covenant believers, free from any responsibility for vows to God? Here’s what the Lord taught — Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, `YOU SHALL NOT MAKE FALSE VOWS, BUT SHALL FULFILL YOUR VOWS TO THE LORD.’ “But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is THE CITY OF THE GREAT KING. “Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. “But let your statement be, `Yes, yes’ or `No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.
The Scribes and Pharisees taught that it was sin to swear an oath including God’s name, but it was fine to swear using anything else. Jesus points out that all creation is God’s so that He is included by implication even when we fail to mention His name. But the greater point is that we should not make vows to God that we are unable to carry out. If you don’t make the vow, you won’t break the vow. Just say yes or no. Even the Pharisees understood this. That’s why they assigned a time limit for the vow. No man could keep his vows forever.
We can take two important lessons form these verses. First, don’t make unnecessary vows to God. His Grace and Forgiveness are offered and waiting, but often at the alter, I hear Christians bartering with God for these free gifts, offering some vow of performance in exchange. The offer is not only not required, but it often places the person in immediate sin as they begin to fail to perform as promised. In Galatians Paul points out that when we move back into the paradigm of performance under the Law, we exit Grace. Just turn from the sin you are repenting and instead of promising perfection, promise failure saying — Lord, unless you help me I will surely fail. Ask Jesus to empower holiness of your heart. Most vows we make are soon-to-be-broken-promises of Law keeping. If we were capable of that, Jesus’ death would have been unnecessary. Guzik wrote — Having to swear or make oaths betrays the weakness of your word. It demonstrates that there is not enough weight in your own character to confirm your words. How much better it is to let your “Yes” be “Yes” and “No” be “No.
Promise less, especially to the Lord. If you promise God more than you know you can deliver, fail and then re-promise, you are creating a cycle of failure that will allow the devil to whipsaw you with condemnation. Do you have a string of broken promises you have made to God? Repent. He’ll forgive you, but He expects change in direction, change in your promise paradigm. The good intentions behind your vows are unnecessary sacrifices to God. Repent and move on, living up to what you have said. Don’t vow what you will deliver. Instead, obey what He instructs, and ask for His help in doing so. Grace is ever present. Forgiveness is always looking down the road for our return.
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. (Luke 15:20)
Copyright 2008 © Stephen Faulkner and Mission of the Master Ministries, Inc. OnemanofGod88@aol.com