A Vow, A Pledge, A Promise
There is a good chance you won’t read this if you have had a problem keeping a vow, a pledge, or a promise you’ve made. You know you’ve messed up, and you’ve already justified yourself right out of that responsibility, so you would rather not rehash that debate in your head. The truth is we need to know what the Bible says about vows and the commitments we make with our mouths.
When we think of a vow or a promise, the marriage vow most often comes to mind. Gene and I married in 1972 using the traditional marriage vow, long before the day when couples began writing their own vows. One line in particular threw my nervous groom for a loop. “And thereto I plight thee my troth” came out “And I to there plight my troth,” in front of many witnesses, no less! We didn’t even know what a “plight” and “troth” were! However, God knew the loyalty and faithfulness Gene and I committed to each other that day, and with His help, it has stuck.
Often, someone will sign a pledge form to give a certain amount of money in a specific time frame for a worthy cause, possibly to a church or other religious organization. This is a vow, a promise, made by an individual before God. Why is it so easy for us to write off this commitment when we change our mind or change churches? However, God remembers our commitment. The words of my mouth are very important to God. “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken” (Matthew 12:36).
Joshua kept the vow, though impetuous, he made to the Gibeonites even though the Gibeonites were guilty of deception. “This is what we will do to them: We will let them live, so that God’s wrath will not fall on us for breaking the oath we swore to them” (Joshua 9:20). Joshua knew that a vow was a serious obligation in God’s eyes.
“If you make a vow to the Lord your God, do not be slow to pay it, for the Lord your God will certainly demand it of you and you will be guilty of sin. Whatever your lips utter you must be sure to do, because you made your vow freely to the Lord your God with your own mouth” (Deuteronomy 23:21, 23).
Hannah prayed earnestly for a son, and in the process vowed to God, “I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life” (1 Samuel 1:11). Do we even realize how agonizing it was for that mother to give her young child to the priest? But she kept her vow, and God blessed her with three more sons and two daughters. Moreover, Samuel grew up to be a mighty prophet used by God to guide Israel’s transition from a theocracy to a monarchy.
Jonah learned the significance of a vow the hard way from inside the belly of a big fish. “But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’ And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land” (Jonah 2:9-10).
Are you guilty of breaking a vow made before God? Confess that to God and repent. Then make it right as much as it is in your ability to do so. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
When we all get to heaven, more than anything else, we want to hear Jesus say these words to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21).