Moses said to the heads of the tribes of Israel: “This is what the Lord commands: 2 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. (Numbers 30:1-2 NIV)
What follows this pronouncement are the exceptions – when a young woman or wife may be released from such a vow or pledge. The principle seems to be that if someone has authority over the woman, that man can release her from the vow or object to its provision.
This vow is voluntary, made by the man of his own free will. The vow is binding – he must not break it.
This does not forbid the making of vows or pledges.
Words have power! We know this… but we forget it. Words can give hope or despair. Words can heal or harm. Words have power beyond our understanding. What we say matters…
Promises even more so. I struggle here sometimes. A promise binds me to a course of action that later I may not want to take. A promise shapes the future by making now a choice that has not yet presented itself. Author Tim Keller says (quoting Lewis Smedes – to get the attribution right) —
Smedes answers that we are largely who we become through making wide promises and keeping them.
Vows and pledges, promises made – they matter. And when we ask the Lord to witness them even more so. Lest someone say “Jesus said take no oaths” (which he did), remember that in the church we ask people to take vows all of the time – vows of baptism and church membership, vows of marriage, vows of ordination for some of us.
Faithful God, you fulfill your promises to me without fail or compromise. Help me today to do the same – to be faithful to what I promise you, to be faithful to what I promise others. Let me take seriously what I say, especially what I say I will do. And may I lean on you for the power to be faithful, the resources to be steadfast. In the name of Jesus, the one who was faithful above all others. Amen.