Tag Archives: vows

Broken Promises (Leviticus 26-27)

Most of us have reneged on a promise or broken a vow at some time in our lives. We get caught up in the moment and make a rash declaration we are unable to fulfill. These days, when a promise is not kept we often hear the words, “My bad,” as though that negates the promise. We expect everyone to just move past it.

But what if the promise is made to God? In a desperate attempt to bargain with God, we might pray “If You… then I will…,” or “If You… I promise I will never…” Oh we absolutely mean it at the time we say those words. But life happens, and so often our promise is forgotten.

Does God forget? What does God do with those promises and vows we break? Leviticus suggests there is a price to pay if we can’t fulfill the promises we make to God.

Now I know we live after the cross, that we are under grace, that God forgives our sin when we ask Him. I know there is nothing we can “do” to earn God’s favor, or to make up for something we did or did not do. But does that make breaking a promise to God a moot point?

Leviticus has me considering the broken promises I’ve made to God. When I recognize them as sin and confess them to God, I know He forgives. But I wonder if that act of forgiveness changes me. Does the fact that my God extends grace to me make me more aware of my choices, does it encourage me to choose my words and my actions so as not to repeat the sin of breaking my promises to Him in the future? Do my broken promises to God break my heart?

The Jews were to buy back the vow they could not keep, plus add a fifth of the value to the purchase price. It reminds me if – when – I break a vow, God expects me to do better next time. With His help, I can.

May I be aware that my words are heard by God, that when I make a promise to Him He does not take it lightly, and may I keep the promises I make to Him because He loves me and keeps His promises to me.

It’s the least I can do. And personally, I don’t want to be satisfied with doing the least I can, in response to His marvelous grace.

March 10; The Seriousness of Vows

Numbers 30-31

When  my first niece was born in the early ’80’s I held that tiny, beautiful baby and made a vow. I said, with her parents and grandparents in the room, “If your first words are ‘Aunt Connie,’ I’ll buy you a car.”

Everyone laughed, and like most babies, she said “Mommy” and “Daddy” long before she said my name. I made the same vow 18 months later when her little brother was born, and for the next ten years whenever one of my sisters had a baby I’d make the same vow. “Say ‘Aunt Connie’ first. I’ll buy you a car.”

I knew I was pretty safe, that I’d never really have to buy a car. Until my oldest niece was 15, and my sister had her fourth child. I, of course, made my silly vow, but this time in front of three teenage siblings who immediately began coaxing their baby brother to say, “Aunt Connie.” I will admit, I was a bit worried. But thankfully, “Mommy” won out.

I was off the hook. That is, until my nieces and nephews began having their own children. You’d think I’d learn. Not so much! Just last year one of my nieces had a baby boy, and Great-Aunt Connie made her silly vow. This time his teenage step-brothers began coaxing him to say my name. (I’m pretty sure I distinctly heard him say, “Dada” last time I was home.)

I share all that as I think about the Scripture I read today. It addresses the seriousness of our vows to God.

“This is what the Lord commands; When a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said.” (30:1-2)

Now Moses goes on and gives instructions how a vow might be annulled. But those circumstances are few and far between. The seriousness of vow-making is not lost on me.

I want to be a woman of my word. That means I need to speak thoughtfully, not making rash promises. Like when I promise to pray for someone, then immediately forget that I promised to pray. Like when I promise to call a friend, and then not pick up the phone. I know these are not the same kinds of promises we read about here in Numbers. But if I represent God, and I do, I want my word to mean something for His sake.

And when I promise God to turn from a sin, to change behavior that doesn’t please Him, to obey Him with all my heart, I want Him to know I mean it. The cool thing about God is, when I do make those vows, He Himself gives me the ability to follow through. I love that about Him!

I take my relationship with God seriously. I want to please Him in all ways, including the vows I make.


April 5

Judges 10:1-13:25

I will admit Jephthah’s story upsets me. He made a stupid statement, a ridiculous vow and God held him to it. As the result of a hastily spoken vow, Jephthah sacrificed his own daughter as a burnt offering. I’m kinda mad God didn’t let Jephthah off the hook.

But wait a minute. What does that say to me this morning? Maybe God’s not the jolly old buddy we’ve made him out to be. Maybe he is holy. Maybe we need to honor his name. 

How many times have I heard, “I swear to God…” or how many times have I said, “God, if you… then I’ll…”

Is Jephthah’s story telling me there is no such thing as a casual vow? When before God a man and woman vow to love and honor each other does God really intend to hold them to that? When I promise God I’ll change, or stop doing something, does he really take me seriously?

Breaking a vow to God is a sin. And God is in the business of forgiving sin. I wonder if Jephthah had confessed his vow as a sin if things would have turned out differently for his daughter? I don’t know. But I do know God is faithful to forgive sin when we confess it.

Dear ones, we need to weigh our words carefully. Promising God – making a vow – is not something to take lightly. God is honest with us and demands we be honest with him.

Remember what he didn’t say to Jephthah. He didn’t say, “Oh, that’s ok, don’t worry about it”. He didn’t say, “Your heart was in the right place so just forget it.” What God didn’t say to Jephthah he is not saying to us today.

Holy God, may I not make promises I can’t keep. Help me to live up to the promises I’ve already made, knowing you take me seriously. And help me to confess the sin of broken vows. May my thoughts and the words of my mouth be acceptable to you today.