Thursday, April 5, 2012

No Escape Clause

Have you ever made a promise you did not keep. Did you ever have a friend move away and you promised to stay in touch only to see that not happen? Did you promise to love your spouse until death and now you find yourself divorced from that person? Did you ever promise God that if he helped you get out of a situation you would never do whatever again and find yourself doing that very same thing just a short time later?

I think that we have gotten very lax in our views of vows. We are quick to make a vow and just as quick to break it. Look at what God's word says about vows:
Ecclesiastes 5: 4, 5 - 4When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. 5It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it.
As I was reading over the last few days I came across a couple of passages that made me think about this. The first passage I read was in the book of Joshua. In Joshua 9 we see where the Gibeonites were afraid of Israel and decided to try and deceive them into making a treaty with them.

Joshua 9:3-6  - 3 However, when the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, 4 they resorted to a ruse: They went as a delegation whose donkeys were loaded with worn-out sacks and old wineskins, cracked and mended. 5 The men put worn and patched sandals on their feet and wore old clothes. All the bread of their food supply was dry and moldy. 6 Then they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and the men of Israel, “We have come from a distant country; make a treaty with us.”
The men of Israel agreed to a treaty only to realize later that they had been lied to and deceived. In my mind I would think this would be an escape clause, a legitimate way to get out of this vow or treaty. Look what happened.

Joshua 9: 16-19 - 16 Three days after they made the treaty with the Gibeonites, the Israelites heard that they were neighbors, living near them. 17 So the Israelites set out and on the third day came to their cities: Gibeon, Kephirah, Beeroth and Kiriath Jearim. 18 But the Israelites did not attack them, because the leaders of the assembly had sworn an oath to them by the LORD, the God of Israel. The whole assembly grumbled against the leaders, 19 but all the leaders answered, “We have given them our oath by the LORD, the God of Israel, and we cannot touch them now.
They made a vow to these men who deceived them and even though they were lied to and tricked they did not break their vow.

The next example I came across was even more disturbing to me. This one is found in the book of Judges:

Judges 11: 29-31 -  29 Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah. He crossed Gilead and Manasseh, passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from there he advanced against the Ammonites. 30 And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD: “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, 31 whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the LORD’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.”
Now my guess is that maybe Jephthah was thinking that a goat or a lamb would come out of his house when he got back home. I'm not sure I would have made this vow but never-the-less he did and guess what came out of his home:

Judges 11: 34, 35 -  34 When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of tambourines! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter. 35 When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, “Oh! My daughter! You have made me miserable and wretched, because I have made a vow to the LORD that I cannot break.”
Did he break it or follow through:
Judges 11:  39 After the two months, she returned to her father and he did to her as he had vowed. And she was a virgin.
God takes vows seriously. We, as I mentioned earlier, seem to be quick to make vows and promises and just as quick to break them. I am grateful that God does not break his vows. He promised to save us from the power and penalty of sin. If he were like us he might have gotten frustrated at us and said forget it but he didn't. One of the most reassuring verses related to this is found in the book of Numbers:

Numbers 23: 19 - God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?
God follows through on his vows and so should we. Regardless of how difficult it may be, we either need to fulfill our vows or not make them. God does not use escape clauses, prenuptial agreements or fine print and neither should we.

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