The Weight Of A Promise

Posted: Monday, December 5, 2011 in Numbers, Old Testament

Numbers 30 (NLT) Then Moses summoned the leaders of the tribes of Israel and told them, “This is what the Lord has commanded: A man who makes a vow to the Lord or makes a pledge under oath must never break it. He must do exactly what he said he would do. “If a young woman makes a vow to the Lord or a pledge under oath while she is still living at her father’s home, and her father hears of the vow or pledge and does not object to it, then all her vows and pledges will stand. But if her father refuses to let her fulfill the vow or pledge on the day he hears of it, then all her vows and pledges will become invalid. The Lord will forgive her because her father would not let her fulfill them. “Now suppose a young woman makes a vow or binds herself with an impulsive pledge and later marries. If her husband learns of her vow or pledge and does not object on the day he hears of it, her vows and pledges will stand. But if her husband refuses to accept her vow or impulsive pledge on the day he hears of it, he nullifies her commitments, and the Lord will forgive her… These are the regulations the Lord gave Moses concerning relationships between a man and his wife, and between a father and a young daughter who still lives at home.

With the many rituals God asked the Israelites to follow, this seems to be another one and it seems rather biased towards men. What is God speaking to us through this passage?

Before we get any further, we need to remember Jesus’ instructions about making of vows.

“You have also heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not break your vows; you must carry out the vows you make to the Lord.’ But I say, do not make any vows! Do not say, ‘By heaven!’ because heaven is God’s throne. And do not say, ‘By the earth!’ because the earth is his footstool. And do not say, ‘By Jerusalem!’ for Jerusalem is the city of the great King. Do not even say, ‘By my head!’ for you can’t turn one hair white or black. Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one. Matthew 5:33-37 (NLT)

In the Old testament, we are also reminded by the wise King Solomon:

It is better to say nothing than to make a promise and not keep it. Ecclesiastes 5:5 (NLT)

Back in the time of the Exodus, Moses reminded the Israelites:

“When you make a vow to the Lord your God, be prompt in fulfilling whatever you promised him. For the Lord your God demands that you promptly fulfill all your vows, or you will be guilty of sin. However, it is not a sin to refrain from making a vow. But once you have voluntarily made a vow, be careful to fulfill your promise to the Lord your God. Deuteronomy 23:21-23 (NLT)

A man who makes a vow to the Lord or makes a pledge under oath must never break it. He must do exactly what he said he would do. Numbers 30:2 (NLT)

A vow is a pledge that we solemnly oblige ourselves to keep that we are either already bound to do or sometimes not expected to do. This could be because of struggles we are undergoing or when we seek God’s mercy but the fact is that when we make a vow unto God, we cannot go back.

There are many instances of vows being made as recorded in the Bible but one that comes to mind when we think of broken promises is that of Ananias and Sapphira. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Holy Spirit was unleashed on the Church and the body of believers started to put all they had into the hands of the apostles and live in communal harmony.

One such family was that of Ananias and Sapphira who sold their property but only bought a portion of the sale and misrepresented it as the whole of the sale proceeds. This lie cost them their lives and while the punishment sounds too severe, we must remember here that the vow was made to God and was to be kept.

God vowed to love us and went to the extreme extent of sacrificing His own son for us even though Jesus was His only son. This love was beyond any we will ever know and this sacrifice is the greatest we will ever witness but God did it because He wanted to reconcile us to Himself and His son willingly followed God’s instructions.

For me, I learnt today that I should never make a vow or promise that I will not be able to keep because it is made with God being my witness. Also I am reminded that my calling as an Ambassador for Christ requires me to be mindful of my actions or inactions and affects my testimony.

The concern for this instruction being biased towards men over women was lost the moment I understood the cultural context of the times where men did not respect women or children as equal and therefore what remains is the principle of not making vows if I had the option and if I did make them, to go through with it because God is our witness.

In His Loving Service,

If you would like to know about Jesus, then please click here.

  1. Debbie says:

    Thank you, Vineet. This is my second reminder today to keep our commitments . . .or don’t make them lightly. God bless you as you live your life always conscious of Him.

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