Vows - Made to God, Not People

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, October 31, 2013 0 comments

When I was growing up in my home, my parents had a little sign on the wall which said “marriage takes three”. Obviously, I didn’t understand it much as a child, but as I got older I realized that the third “person” needed to make a marriage work is God. After all, He IS the one who created marriage in the first place (see Genesis 2:24). But it was still more of just a “Christian cliché” than anything else until I began to realize why God is so necessary in a marriage. I’ve heard multiple Christian couples over the years say that they had gotten to a point where they were willing to throw away the vows they made to each other, and that the only thing that kept their marriage together was the vow they made to God. I bet you didn’t know that in the Bible, according to William Mounce, there is no word that translates to our word “vow” except the one that specifically refers to a vow made to God or another deity. So in those days, you didn’t make a vow to someone else. You could swear an oath before another person, but a vow was taken much more seriously. It makes sense when you think about it. Why vow to another person, who essentially can do very little if anything to hold you to it. We have evidence among both Christian and non-Christian couples of how seriously we take our vows with the divorce rate for both being right around 50%. By nature, we do a lot of things based on how we feel at the time, including making promises we really won’t fully understand down the road. This is why the marriage vow has to be viewed as being made to God, and not your partner. God is really the only one who can do something about it if you break your vow, and a healthy fear of Him is the best accountability there is!

Two very prominent members from the history of the Christian church were in their positions mainly because of vows made to God. Martin Luther feared for his life in 1505 when he was about four miles from his home and was caught in a horrendous storm. Terrified, he vowed to God, through calling out to a saint as was typical, that he would become a monk and serve Him only if he was spared. After his life was saved, Luther held to that vow by quitting law school and entering a monastery. God would use him to begin the Reformation of the Church. Likewise, John Wesley was used by God as a preacher and helped create the Methodist denomination. Many don’t know he was in a terrible house fire when he was a boy that destroyed his family’s home. He was the last one out and was pulled from the home just moments before it collapsed. His mother made the declaration that he was “a brand plucked from the burning”, signifying that he was not just saved from death, but “plucked” by God for a specific purpose. Wesley’s vow was in response to what God did for him.

Making vows to God out of desperation is nothing new. Take a look at 1 Samuel 1. Hannah was the wife of Elkanah, but she was not able to bear him children, so he had another wife. Even though he loved Hannah, Elkanah had children with the other wife, Peninnah, which essentially gave her bragging rights over Hannah. By the way, the fact that these people made these choices DOES NOT mean that God condoned them. The boasting, bitterness, despair, and family strife prove that the choices were not godly ones. But our God is big enough to work His purposes in the midst of our sins. Rather than bless Hannah with children as soon as she wanted them, He allowed her to become so desperate that she finally cried out to Him. “And she made a vow, saying, ‘O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head’” (1 Sam. 1:11). Do you really think that is what Hannah wanted, to finally have a child only to give him over to the Lord’s service? That would mean she can’t be in control of what happens to him pretty much from day one. How many of you parents out there willingly and happily sign up for that? The point is that, regardless of what Hannah wanted, the Lord had a plan for Samuel’s birth and his life, and He used the circumstances of Hannah’s desperation that led to a vow to carry out that plan. You can read the rest of the first chapter to see how Hannah kept the vow, and the rest of 1 Samuel to see how God used Samuel from the time he was a boy to speak truth in Israel.

It all really comes down to whether or not you truly fear God. It’s another “Christian cliché” you’ll often hear in churches, but I assure you it is definitely real. To know who God truly is and what He can do is to have a healthy fear of Him. Knowing that He can hold us to our vows and that the consequences for not doing so are in His control is a motivating factor for us to only make vows we plan on keeping. Whether it’s your marriage, your children, your calling, or something else, you MUST know that any vow that you make is really made before God. He’s the one you have to deal with should you choose not to follow it. Let that be a warning in truth and love!