Vows for the New Year

As the new year dawns, many will chart plans and refocus on life goals. Many will have parties and fun. Some will make new vows to God.


A google search of “rash vow” or “vow” shows that use of these terms are primarily connected to marriage or to the Old Testament Judge, Jephthah.


Students of the Bible usually think of Jephthah’s vow in Judges 11:30 when mention is made of making a rash vow. Many have assumed that Jephthah was hasty and wrong to make a vow “that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.”


I am convinced that had Jephthah not made the vow and kept it by dedicating his daughter to “surely be the Lord’s” by serving night and day in the tabernacle, he would have missed God’s best for his life and for his daughter. He would never have been listed in the Faith Chapter (Hebrews 11:32), and would not have been among the great Judges listed by Samuel in his sermon to Israel (I Samuel 12:11). In fact, the Holy Spirit might not have inspired Samuel to dedicate more than an entire chapter (Judges 11) to his biography. Samuel certainly knew the story better than any modern commentator, and he evidently considered Jephthah to be one of the “greats” of the period.


In my book A Name Forgotten (Heritage Builders Publishing, Clovis, CA, 2015), I go into the details explaining why I reject the idea that Jephthah’s vow was rash and why making the vow was essential to his fulfilling God’s Purpose for his life. The book also makes the application: it is as wrong to fail to make a vow that God prompts us to make as it is to make a foolish, rash vow. [www.heritagebuilderspublishing.com or http://hourglassministries.com/store/]


Many have taken passages like Ecclesiastes 5:4-5 and assumed that it is always better to avoid making vows: “When 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.” 

Very little emphasis is usually laid upon verse 4, which assumes that indeed there will be timeswhen thou vowest…” Vows in the Psalms are viewed as vital and significant, and the Apostle Paul made and kept vows.


One might suppose that most churches in our day have adopted this view, since church services usually end without an urgent call to repentance. Public invitations are often perfunctory, as if they are merely a part of the liturgy rather than an expectant appeal to God’s people, a summons to appear and answer in God’s Court. The average sermon is not preached to a verdict, as the revivalist Charles Finney taught preachers to do. When was the last time you fell on your face at the church altar, crying out to God and making holy, binding vows? (I Corinthians 14:24-25) Why are so few of our young people making vows for a lifetime of Christian service, to become a missionary or evangelist, or to dedicate time every week to develop skill as a soul-winner? Have we taught them that making a vow is never appropriate?


King Saul did make a rash vow, “Cursed be the man that eateth any food until evening, that I may be avenged on mine enemies.” (I Samuel 14:24) Analyzing his few words, it is apparent that his heart was focused upon selfish goals, rather than upon doing the Will of God. Notice his reason for giving this order, which became a great hindrance to his famished soldiers: “that I may be avenged…” He was not concerned about damage to the Lord’s Name, but to his own. His desire for vengeance was not that the Lord’s enemies experience defeat, but he says, “mine enemies…”


Perhaps this is why the only significant vow expected of most Christians is the marriage vow? We have arrived at the place where young people only consider making a vow to God if they think there is some advantage in it for themselves. Unfortunately, many vows have been watered down, virtually ignoring God and His role in the marriage. The selflessness required in a godly marriage receives little emphasis in pre-marital planning. God in Heaven may take note that our marriages are in fact based upon rash, foolish, selfish vows.


George Matheson, a preacher, was engaged to be married when he learned that he would soon become blind. When he revealed this devastating news to his fiance, she broke the engagement. We might commend her for not making a vow which she might not have courage and endurance to fulfill. He never married. Later, he wrote the beautiful hymn, O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go. He might have quit the ministry, or blamed God for his plight. But instead, he devoted himself more fervently to his vows of service to Christ, and lived to an old age, still preaching the gospel.




Can ONE Lose Salvation in Christ Jesus - 201 Blog

TO MY FRIENDS WHO THINK THEY CAN LOSE SALVATION, although they know it is a gift from God (Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:8-9): Did the prophet Samuel preach a wrong concept of God, teaching that the Lord will NOT forsake his people?


When he reasoned with the Israelites about their insistence upon having a king in order to be like all their neighbor nations (I Samuel 12:7-25), Samuel told them that God was going to grant their desire (v.13) although it was evil (v.19). Yet, he told them not to fear despite the wickedness they had done (v.20), challenging them to “turn not aside from following the Lord” (although he reminded them that they had both “forgat” and “forsaken” the Lord). (v. 9,10)
Significantly, Samuel summarized his reasoning (v7) by saying FOR THE LORD WILL NOT FORSAKE HIS PEOPLE FOR HIS GREAT NAME’S SAKE: because it hath pleased the Lord to make you his people.” (v.22) He promised to pray for them to not turn aside (v.23). He ends with the reminder that if they continue to “do wickedly” they will be “consumed” (v.25).


John explains that when a “brother” (a believer who is saved) sins a “sin unto death” prayers for him will go unanswered because he has crossed a deadline. Even though it is right to pray believing God will grant what we ask, there are cases in which the prayer will be denied. In such cases, the “brother” will die an untimely death (I John 5:11-16). This does not mean that he has lost the gift of Eternal Life which God gives on the basis of His Grace (favor which is not based upon merit of the one receiving it). It does mean that he has lost his opportunity to serve the Lord in this life and gain eternal reward with which to show his gratitude for undeserved salvation, which he will lay at Jesus’ feet.


King Saul, the King so greatly desired by Israel, and who when personally converted, was “turned into another man” (I Sam 10:6) by the Holy Spirit, eventually chose a sinful path of jealousy and murder, consulting with a witch, and eventually dying an untimely death. Saul is perhaps the ultimate illustration of the carnal believer (I Corinthians 3:1-4) contrasted with the natural man (I Cor 2:14) and the spiritual man (I Cor 3:1). Many examples of those who sinned the sin unto death are found in scripture.


The contrast to Saul’s carnality is also presented repeatedly in the Bible. David is the most obvious contrast. He too, was a believer. He too, committed sins worthy of death. But, when challenged by the prophet Nathan, David repented wholeheartedly. David’s is one of the most detailed of biographies in Scripture. It is a story of many sins and many repentances. All the heroes of faith were flawed persons who sinned, but who chose heart repentance (as contrasted with false repentance -see II Cor 7:9-11). God, who looks on the heart, knows the difference. Notice that Paul tells us that there is a “salvation not to be repented of” (II Cor 7:10).


This is not to say that every individual Israelite during Samuel’s era was truly a believer. Salvation, throughout human history, has always been a personal matter. We are easily deceived. Tares look a lot like wheat (Matthew 13:30,40). It is difficult for us to determine whether or not another person is truly saved. That is why we must learn to pray for one another as Samuel did. Our wayward Christian friends need to repent and return to faithfully following the Lord in obedience, submitting to the correction of our loving Heavenly Father.


The Lord’s faithfulness to His unfaithful people remains in place “for His great name’s sake.” (I Sam 12:22) David reminds us of this truth in Psalm 23:3, “he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” It is not for the sake of my eternal salvation, but for HIS NAME’S SAKE. His name is at stake. Jesus taught us that before we pray for forgiveness or deliverance, we should pray “Hallowed be thy name” (Matt 6:9).


When we wholeheartedly desire to hallow His name, our attitude toward sin changes. Realizing that His name is on the line, and that he has chosen that we should bear his name, we honor His sinlessness (holiness) by acknowledging that His viewpoint about sin is accurate. When we embrace His outlook about it, He empowers us to be delivered from it, or perhaps to not be led into temptation at all (Matt 6:13). His name is on the credit card. He has guaranteed payment in full of our sin debt. He says, “him that cometh to me I will in now wise cast out.” (John 6:37) The only requirement is “believe” wholeheartedly, which implies repentance.


If your works cannot pay your sin debt, how can they avail to keep you from sin or keep you saved? If human righteousness is equal to “filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6), how can it deliver you from evil? Peter proudly proclaimed his loyalty, but human righteousness failed him and he denied Christ. But he did not lose his salvation, even though he quit the ministry and returned to fishing, taking six other disciples with him. Only the Lord Himself could restore Peter to the path of righteousness, which He did for HIS NAME’S SAKE.


Maybe that was what David realized when he prayed, “Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness.” (Psalm 4:1) He saw the inadequacy of his own righteousness and opted for God’s. In his distress, he longed for mercy, because like us, he was inclined toward shame and vanity. He understood that only the Lord could “set apart him that is godly for himself.” (v.3) My own efforts to become set apart from sin are useless. Both salvation and spirituality are gifts of grace, received by faith alone.


If you ever were saved, your only righteousness is HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS. Only Christ’s work on the cross, and his continued work through your life by the power of the Holy Spirit, are truly righteous. All other ground is sinking sand.