We live in a culture in which words seem to mean very little. Words that used to be labeled as “dirty words” have suddenly become acceptable to many. Using the Lord’s name in vain is now a common-place among, seemingly, most. Lies are told and passed off as being “necessary.” Vows are made rashly and then not kept.
Yet, the Scriptures indicate that words are extremely important – they are able to do great good, and, they are able to do great damage (Jas. 3:1-12). That is not only true in a physical sense, but, how much more is it true in a spiritual sense! We will be judged for every “careless word” (Matt. 12:36; ESV).
While this is certainly true with regard to all types of words we may speak, let’s focus on the words we say in making a vow. Daily, vows are made; and, daily, vows are broken. Sometimes we break vows made between ourselves and another. And, sometimes, we break vows that we have made specifically to God. However, in every vow, God is involved, and God knows when we are true to our word. Very simply, when we break a vow, we become a liar. Consequently, God will punish us, for, all liars will have their portion in the lakes that burns with fire and brimstone – the second death (Rev. 21:8).
The Foolishness Of Jephthah’s Vow
Jephthah was judging Israel at the time he made the following vow to the Lord: “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, then whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering” (Jdg. 11:30-31; ESV). After God had done His part in keeping the vow (delivering the Ammonites to Israel), it was time to see if Jephthah would keep his part.
When he returned to his home at Mizpah, his daughter was the one who came out of his house to meet him. The Scriptures record Jephthah’s response: “And as soon as he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, ‘Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you have become the cause of great trouble to me. For I have opened my mouth to the LORD, and I cannot take back my vow’” (Jdg. 11:35; ESV). Jephthah recognized that he had made a foolish vow, but still a vow that must be kept!
A warning! Jephthah’s vow ought to serve as a warning for each one of us. God expects us all to keep the vows that we make. Therefore, think before you make the vow! Determine that you are willing to make any sacrifice in order to pay off the vow. If you make a rash, foolish vow, you will be “stuck” with the responsibility to perform it. Think about it seriously. Pray about it.
Jephthah Fulfilled His Vow
Unlike many of our society, Jephthah, though foolish in his vow-making, was a “man of his word.” He accepted the foolishness of his vow and determined to do exactly as he said he would. The text says that he “did with her according to his vow that he had made” (Jdg. 11:39). Sad? Absolutely. Difficult? You better believe it. Yet, Jephthah recognized his responsibility to fulfill his vow.
Will You Be “A Man (Or Woman) Of Your Word?
The sin of making a vow that you do not keep is the sin of lying. To say that you will, or will not, accomplish something and fail to do so is a falsehood. Paul wrote, “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Col. 3:9-10; ESV). Two things are striking about this passage. (1) The fact that lying is part of the “old self.” Lies are often part of a man’s life before he becomes a child of God – while he is a child of the devil (the father of all lies, John 8:44). Yet, as a child of God, lies are not to be in your character! (2) You must strive to be the image of God. That is, you must strive to imitate the characteristics of God. God, according to Titus 1:2, cannot lie. How pitiful of a condition would we be in if we could not count on the promises of God?! Yet, how marvelous a comfort we have in the fact that God cannot lie, for, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5; ESV).
Won’t you make the determination to fulfill your word? Don’t be an individual who cannot be relied upon. Rather, be diligent to do all that you have said you will do; and, to forego all that you have promised to abstain from! Christian, keep your word!
Our Marriage Vows
Perhaps there is no one area in which vows are so often broken as in marriage. Vows are exchanged between a man and a woman promising to love, honor, and cherish for their entire lives – “Till death do us part.” Yet, one look around our neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces will manifest a societal, and even church, problem – broken marriage vows!
Jesus taught that marriage was a life-long contract between a man, a woman, and God (Matt. 19:1-9). In a marriage, it is God who joins the two together. And, “what therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matt. 19:6; ESV). Yet, how many are quick to do just that!
Sadly, only one part of Jephthah’s vow often gets repeated in such a circumstance – the foolish decision part! Many choose marriage without being fully willing to accept any of the consequences that come along with that choice! Or, perhaps, for a time he/she is willing to live with those consequences, but, down the road, it becomes “too much” and divorce is pursued.
Therefore, unlike Jephthah, after making the foolish vow, he/she will not simply live in an honest way – fulfilling the vows that were made. Yes, even in such a bad situation, God expects you to fulfill the vows that you made to your spouse and before Him! God still expects husbands to love their wives as Christ has loved the church, and He still expects wives to submit to their own husbands as the church is subject to Christ (Eph. 5:22-33).
We learn two important lessons from Jephthah’s vow: (1) We must avoid making rash vows. We must carefully ponder every course we desire to pursue and consider any potential consequences in each. And, (2) we must be willing to fulfill our vows once we have made them. Whether in marriage, or in any other area of life, we must do what we have said that we will do!
- Eric Krieg -
”Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version ® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”