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Making and Breaking Vows

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            In the old days a person’s word was their bond and if they told you something you knew they would keep their word and business deals were made with nothing more than a spoken word and a handshake for they believe in that integrity and that a man was as good as his word and there was no need for contracts and fine print and all the things we see today as men have to try to protect themselves from fraud and deceit. The younger generation doesn’t even seem to understand that such a day could have existed. Do you remember when you could get your car repaired and didn’t have to wonder or worry if you were going to get ripped off of and if the mechanic would be honest and just fix your problem and not make another or claim something you didn’t have to make more money and just inflate your repair bill, giving you the big surprise when you cam back for your car. Unfortunately, those days are long gone as we have become a nation of liars and deceivers, out for quick profit and gain at any cost without honesty or integrity. No longer does a man’s word stand for his character and who he is. It is whatever you can get by with and get by being dishonest and deceitful. There are no real personal morals because morality is no longer tied to truth or the Word of God and the knowledge that one day we will give an account for our actions. Instead morality is whatever you want to make it and that you decide is right for you. Today, few will keep their word or commitments. We are an uncommitted generation, uncommitted to anything or anybody but self. And as in the natural so it is in the spiritual realm as men will also make promises to God as if He is just some guy next door and not keep their promises or vows that they have made to Him, whatever they may be, whether to be faithful in going to church, paying tithes, reading their Bible, to be faithful to their mate or anything else.

            How many today speak on the subject of making and breaking vows or the different types of vows found in the Bible and how important they are, how they relate to our situation and the consequences of the one who makes a pledge or vow and doesn’t keep it? It’s time that we understand once again this concept and principle found throughout scripture. So we will look for some illumination on this subject from God’s Word and just look at the highlights of this subject.

            Ecclesiastes 5:4-7When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay. Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands? For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities: but fear thou God.” A vow in this instance is a promise and God says it is better not to make a promise than to make and break a commitment or promise and yet today this is a common everyday thing and people treat their word as nothing, as if it has no importance - thinking it is okay to lie or deceive others as long as it serves your purpose, benefits you or gets what you want, or that they think they can get by with and this has gotten far worse in our society since President Clinton made such a mockery of even the vow or oath he took to tell the truth in court. Yet God pays attention to our promises and vows and takes them very seriously. God listens to the words of our mouth and what we promise.

            Some of the kinds of vows that men make are like this. A child is sick in the hospital and maybe there is question of whether or not they will live and so a parent, father or mother make a vow or promise to God and say something like, “God, if you will heal my child and let him or her live, I will do this or that. I will serve you, I will read my Bible daily and go to church regularly and pay my tithe.” Usually the vow is to do something for God that they know is right and that He wants but that they are not doing. They will then begin to pay the vow, go the church, do what is right, turn in the right direction for a few months and soon they get tired of it and just go back to doing what they were before they made the vow to God to change. It could be that someone in the family was involved in a serious accident of some kind, as a car accident and they are in critical condition and the person who knows they have not been true and faithful to God makes a promise to God and says, “God, if you will heal and spare the life of my loved one I will serve you, I will do this or that.” But then they don’t follow through and keep their vow to the Lord. Others would loose their job and maybe they were not faithful in tithing to God. So they promise God, “Lord, if you will just give me another job, I promise that I will be faithful in tithing and giving to your work.” Then after they get a good job they don’t carry through and give as they promised.

            The fact is that many make promises to God that they don’t intend on keeping. Many times when men make such vows to God, God will take them at their word and give them a chance and grant their request. But then they fail to understand that God said that He has no pleasure in fools who make vows to Him that they have no intention of keeping. All they have accomplished in the end, unless they repent and start doing what they promised is make their own judgment worse for lying to God, which is far different and worse than lying to your neighbor, though that is also sin.

There is the story of a young man who had gotten saved and wasn’t making much money, but began to tithe as he was taught to do by the pastor on what little he had. But then as time went on, he began to prosper and be blessed in his business and make more money and so one day he went to his pastor and said, look, since I am making a lot more money than when I first started coming, it is costing me a lot more to tithe so I don’t think I will be able to keep tithing the way I used to. The pastor then said, “No problem I have a solution for that, if you don’t want to tithe on your current income.” And he put his hands on the man and prayed, “Lord, give him the same income as he had when he first came here.” At which the man then quickly replied, “No, no, please, I get the point, I’ll tithe.”

Why is it that those who have little have an easier time of tithing and it is no big deal to them, but then when they start making more, it becomes a big deal and they don’t want to tithe but keep it. Somehow they think it is no problem when the sum is small, but it’s too much when they have more and can really afford to give more because no matter what you have, God still asks the same and the tithe is still only 10%. So would you rather have $500 per month to tithe on or $5000 to tithe on, which is equal to the lower salary? There is no logic to it; but only that as a rule more money people make the more selfish and greedy they become.

            Remember, the Lord hears what you speak and the promises you make and he requires it. To one whose family was falling apart, the man says, “Lord, if you will put my family back together, we will faithfully go to church.” But then instead, they are going to the park, going swimming or to a ball game on Sunday and aren’t serving the Lord. It is important that these verbal commitments we make to the Lord with our mouth are called vows in the Bible. A vow is a promise and a commitment to do something, not just one or the other. The general word for a vow Biblically is: A promise made in the form of a prayer or petition. It is not claiming a promise, but making a promise! We believers are always claiming the promises of God, but that is to find a scripture based on the New Covenant that has to do with healing, salvation or whatever and claiming it and holding on to it. But a vow or promise is saying, “Lord I will do this or that if you will do this for me, if you will grant me this petition.” It is making a promise to do something for God if He will help you, heal you, provide for you, or someone in your family.

            In the Old Testament a vow involved an offering or sacrifice of an animal or money brought to the temple. However, vows also have to do with our relationship to God and to people. Vows are promises based on many things, whatever we desire of God and petition Him for.


            In the Old Testament there is a verb for making a vow, (neder, neh'-der; or  neder, nay'-der), meaning to make or present a gift to God. Then there is the noun (nadar, naw-dar') which is to vow a promise to God. There is also a word that means to bind your heart or soul to someone (acar, aw-sar). It is translated as bound in verse 4 of Numbers 30:4-11. “And her father hear her vow, and her bond wherewith she hath bound her soul, and her father shall hold his peace at her: then all her vows shall stand, and every bond wherewith she hath bound her soul shall stand. But if her father disallow her in the day that he heareth; not any of her vows, or of her bonds wherewith she hath bound her soul, shall stand: and the LORD shall forgive her, because her father disallowed her. And if she had at all an husband, when she vowed, or uttered ought out of her lips, wherewith she bound her soul; And her husband heard it, and held his peace at her in the day that he heard it: then her vows shall stand, and her bonds wherewith she bound her soul shall stand. But if her husband disallowed her on the day that he heard it; then he shall make her vow which she vowed, and that which she uttered with her lips, wherewith she bound her soul, of none effect: and the LORD shall forgive her. But every vow of a widow, and of her that is divorced, wherewith they have bound their souls, shall stand against her. And if she vowed in her husband's house, or bound her soul by a bond with an oath; And her husband heard it, and held his peace at her, and disallowed her not: then all her vows shall stand, and every bond wherewith she bound her soul shall stand.”

            If I make a commitment to God to tithe, that is a nadar, naw-dar' vow. If I am married and have a marriage vow that is a acar, aw-sar vow, meaning to bind my heart, mind and soul to be faithful to her and love her. We make these marriage vows and say, for richer, for poorer, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, until death do us part. Well, that seems to work for about half the people, as long as it is for better, for richer and for healthier. As long as she is healthy, rich and good, then you better hold onto to that one, but if it happens to turn to poorer, unhealthy or worse, they split.

            Genesis 26:3Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father;” This is the Lord making an oath to man and the Hebrew word is shaba', shaw-bah'. When God would make a vow to a man, as in this example it was called “swearing an oath.” This is remarkable. The word to swear, when it says the Lord sware to Abraham, remembering that we were taught to not swear but to merely affirm because of James 5:12But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.”, so if we went to court we would say, I affirm, not I swear. But God swore to Abraham and the Hebrew word means to complete, to seven oneself. They would repeat the promise 7 times. If God said “I will bless you” they would repeat it seven times. To swear an oath was to repeat the oath seven times. This may be why the number seven is used so much in the Bible. The seventh day is sabbat, meaning the seventh day. Note the similarity of the word.

            When God made an oath the number seven is used man times. The number 7 is used in relation to God’s promises in the Bible. The number seven is found in the Bible 372 times. There were seven days before the rain came to the earth in Genesis 7:4. In seven days the dove returned to Noah in Genesis 8:10. Seven days later the dove went out and never returned in Genesis 8:12. Abraham slew seven rams as a covenant with Abimelech in Genesis 21:28. Jacob served Laban seven years, twice in Genesis chapter 29 to get the wife he wanted. Laban pursued Jacob for seven days in Genesis 31:23. Jacob bowed seven times to Esau in Genesis 33:3. There were seven years of plenty in Egypt and then seven years of famine in Genesis chapter 41. Seven days of mourning of Jacob’s death in Genesis 50:10. The Nile was made blood for seven days in Exodus 7:25.

            There are positive promises in which the number seven is used but also in judgment. Revelation 5:1And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.” 8:2And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets.” 13:1-8 Verse 1 says; “And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.” 15:7And one of the four beasts gave unto the seven angels seven golden vials full of the wrath of God, who liveth for ever and ever.”

            Leviticus 26:21And if ye walk contrary unto me, and will not hearken unto me; I will bring seven times more plagues upon you according to your sins.” Here is a verse talking about disobedience bringing a seven times judgment. But Revelation chapters 2 & 3 makes seven promises to the overcomer.

            Revelation 2:7To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.2:11 He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.” 2:17 To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.2:26 And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:” 3:5 He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.” 3:12 Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.” 3:21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.

So we see that seven keeps coming up when God made a covenant or oath with Abraham, Jacob or whomever, it was to seven oneself or be repeated seven times.

            So when God establishes His oath to you He will seal it either seven times or in the number 7 or be connected to the number 7 in some form or another.

            Back to vows. There is the conditional vow and the unconditional vow. Luke 6:35But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.” An unconditional vow is I will give you this but you owe me nothing in return. That is when something is given or promised with asking noting in return. Then the conditional vow was as Jacob made to God in Genesis 28:20-22And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, So that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God: And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.”

            Jacob did return back to the land and at the time there was no temple in Jerusalem, Melchidezek was no longer around. But when Jacob returned to the promised land he gave Esau this tremendous gift. Genesis 32:13-15And he lodged there that same night; and took of that which came to his hand a present for Esau his brother; Two hundred she goats, and twenty he goats, two hundred ewes, and twenty rams, Thirty milch camels with their colts, forty kine, and ten bulls, twenty she asses, and ten foals.” This was a present twenty years later when he returned to the land, keeping his vow to the Lord.

            The old timers in the old days in the church, people could pray and get answers to prayer, they would pray through until they got answers. They got answers but also they kept their vows that they made to God and their commitments to the church and in their own personal spiritual lives. Vows need to be made upon scripture, not opinions of men. Then they didn’t go to movies, didn’t mix with the world and dance, smoke or whatever. Some vows were made by man’s interpretation or tradition and so you have to separate the difference between a vow to something man made and the Word of God. But in the old days they were concerned about how they dressed and looked; their church attendance and tithing. They went to church if they had to walk in the snow, they made and kept their commitments to the Lord which people don’t do today. Today people are fair weather church goers. Then they made commitments and kept them no matter what it cost them. They lived by their word. This is why God blessed and honored them and answered more of their prayers than He does for many today. Because we don’t keep the promises and commitments we have made to men and God.


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