He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Tragic Vow

Judges 11:29-40
Jephthah made a vow to the LORD and said, 'If You will indeed give the sons of Ammon into my hand, then it shall be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the sons of Ammon, it shall be the LORD's, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.'

... When Jephthah came to his house at Mizpah, behold, his daughter was coming out to meet him with tambourines and with dancing. Now she was his one and only child; besides her he had no son or duaghter. When he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, 'Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you are among those who trouble me; for I have given my word to the LORD, and I cannot take it back.' So she said to him, 'My father, you have given your word to the LORD; do to me as you have said, since the LORD has avenged you of your enemies, the sons of Ammon.'

... At the end of the two months she returned to her father, who did to her according to the vow which he had made...
I see many similarities in this passage to what the LORD has done for us, in offering his only Son as a sacrifice, in Jesus trusting in the will of God when in the Garden.

Yet, this passage also speaks of commitment to God. Even though Jephthah only had one child (and would be breaking the Law), he was willing to give her up, as promised. Just like Abraham. Too often, we renege on promises and commitments to each other and to God. And honestly, it isn't becoming of a Christian.

Psalm 15:4:
He swears to his own hurt and does not change...
Matthew 5:37:
Again, you have heard that the ancients were told.' You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.' But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be, 'Yes, yes', or 'No, no'; anything beyond these is of evil.
So, stick to your word, before God and men. People understand if there are legitimate reasons why you cannot, but don't promise something with no intention of seeing it through. This is as bad a reflection of Christ (the ultimate promise) as any which Christians present, and in many cases perhaps the Christian is more guilty than someone of the world.

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