(Today's post by Britt Ozburn)
How many times in a day do we make promises to the Lord, or hear others doing the same? “Lord, if I can just pass this exam, I’ll tithe double this Sunday,” or “Lord, if you could get me a raise or promotion, I’ll be able to give more to the church and have more time to read the Bible.” It’s easy to pull one of these quick promises out in a light prayer, but how often do we desire the end result to be God’s Glory, not our own gain? I am so guilty of making light, shallow promises to God, only to later forget that it ever even happened.
A few books back from Judges, Numbers 30:2 (NIV) states:
“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.”
How easy it is to forget to take seriously everything we say to our Father, especially in making promises, or vows, as God’s Word calls it.
In Judges 11:29, we find Jephthah leading up to battle with the Ammonites. He knows that God is with him and his men as they are headed straight into Ammonite territory. As he’s going into battle, though, he cries out to the Lord:
“If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.” (30-31, NIV)
Why, oh why, is he vowing to sacrifice, with fire, whatever runs out of his front door when he returns? Is he so in the moment of battle that he’s not really thinking?
After a decisive victory for Jephthah and the Israelites, he returns home in triumph, beaming with pride. Upon arriving home, what runs out of his home to greet him, but his daughter, his only child, a dear love of his life? He falls down from his high of victory so hard that he rips off his clothes in such painful grief. He knows the vow he made, and he cannot (and will not) take it back. After allowing her to grieve for two months with friends, he fulfills his vow, and the chapter ends.
So did Jephthah know what he was doing when he vowed to God? Why did he select whatever runs at him upon arriving home to sacrifice, rather than something (likely) less painful? Is it that he is insane by the world’s standards, or that he’s so devoted to his God, that the Lord knew something we don’t?
I won’t pretend I know all the answers to these thoughts, but when I read this story, I see a man so devoted to his God that he gave back to God what he knew he should, though it brought more pain than I may ever know. God placed him in that position of leadership and brought victory for the Israelites. Though Jephthah may or may not have known what he was doing when he vowed to God, he took his vow seriously, and fulfilled Numbers 30:2 as he carried it out for God.
Though Christ’s final sacrifice upon the cross has released us from the Law and we are no longer required to offer burnt sacrifices, our God deserves the respect of sincere words from His followers and the effort and devotion to carry out our vows.
So what now?
Have you ever made a promise to God that you later regretted?
Do you have evidence today of God’s blessing for carrying out a promise or vow?