July 20

Inner Vows, Part 1

Psalm 22:25 My praise shall be of You in the great assembly; I will pay My vows before those who fear Him.

Psalm 76:11 Make vows to the LORD your God, and pay them; let all who are around Him bring presents to Him who ought to be feared.

Vows are a solemn promise or pledge that binds us to perform a specific act or to behave in a certain manner. Vows in Scripture were made to God as a promise in expectation of His favor or in thanksgiving for His blessings. All were voluntary, but after the vow was made, it had to be performed.

Perhaps the most famous vow in Scripture was made by Hannah, the prophet Samuel’s mother, who had been unable to conceive (I Samuel 1:10-11). It was a thanksgiving offering, done from a pure heart, and one that realistically reflected her ability to fulfill the vow.

The most notorious vow in the Bible is described in Judges 11, when Jephthah promised in exchange for a military victory to make a burnt sacrifice of whoever came out of the door of his house to greet him after the battle. It turned out to be his daughter. He foolishly fulfilled his vow.

Here are just a few things that are wrong with Jephthah’s vow:

• The idea came completely out of his own mind. It had nothing to do with what the Lord asked of His people. In fact, was just the opposite, reflecting the ungodly and idolatrous nations around them.

• Jephthah never asked God what he might do to thank Him for a victory.

• He never even prayed for victory—he just made a “deal” with God. We don’t make deals with the Almighty God.

• Lastly, he blamed the one he hurt! Instead of taking responsibility for his own sin, he got angry at his daughter for being the one greeting him first! This is similar to the abusive husband who blames his wife for doing things that make him angry, as if his anger is her fault!

We live in an age that encourages loose and thoughtless speech, and it can be easy to make a vow and not even realize it. Jesus preached simplicity of speech: “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37; see also James 5:12). Remember that vows, once made, are expected to be fulfilled. We want to make sure that whatever we utter as a vow is godly and realistic. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

• Be real. Never make a vow beyond your source of strength or ability to fulfill it.

• Once you make the vow, commit yourself to keeping it.

• Never make a vow to do anything against God’s word.

• Never make a vow as part of a “deal” with God.

• Never let a vow about tomorrow substitute for obedience today.

Vows are serious expressions, and we need to view them with sincerity and a desire to honor God.

Prayer: Father, help me not to utter the wrong kind of vow. Help me understand how serious a spoken vow is, and how it fits in my relationship with You. May I never make a vow as part of a deal, but only as thanksgiving and honor.

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