Paying Our Vows To God

God's blessing rests on those who pay the vows they make to God. It's no accident that some people are constantly behind the eight ball.

"O God, if you will get me out of this hell hole and back to my family I'll give you my life and serve you for the rest of my days." How many times did God hear that prayer in times of war? Was that a good prayer to pray?
How many students have prayed, "O God, if you will help me pass this test I'll give you . . . . . " "O God, if you will save my marriage I'll never . . . . . . . again" Vows, most of us have made them in one form or another.

In our Bible story, Hannah made a vow to God. "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 Samuel 1:11 NIV) I wonder how many mothers have made similar vows.

This message will look at the nature of vows and promises and what our responsibilities are in making them. Last we'll look at the merits of Christians making vows and then confront the realization that it's time to pay our vows.

I. The Nature of Vows and Promises to God.
Is there a difference between a vow and a promise? A promise is like a contract without any conditions attached. In Vicki and Harvey's marriage ceremony Harvey made the following promises to Vicki. Harvey said, "I will take you to be my wife. I will love you, comfort you, honour you, cherish you and keep you in sickness and in health? I will seek your emotional, physical and spiritual health? I will be loyal, faithful and true to you as long as we live."
That was an unconditional affirmation of love. Vicki was not obligated to do diddley squat to receive that wonderful TLC. Immediately after Harvey made those sacrificial promises to Vicki, she made identical promises to Harvey. Now they have to perform on their promises.

So what difference is there between a promise and a vow? The recorded Biblical vows are more like contracts. In these contracts some benefit accrues to each of the parties involved in the making of the vows.
We see an example of this in the Bible's first recorded vow. Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father's house, then the LORD will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God's house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth." (Genesis 28:20-22 NIV)

It's interesting to notice that Jacob asked God to make the first move and trust that Jacob would keep his part of the contract. Based on Jacob's track record of swindling and lying, God took a chance. Before you marry someone, examine their track record for keeping promises.

The second circumstance that surrounds the making of a vow is the element of desperation. The Psalm writer said, "I will come to your temple with burnt offerings and fulfill my vows to you-- vows my lips promised and my mouth spoke when I was in trouble." (Psalms 66:13-14 NIV) For most people vows are fire escapes.

When Jacob was fleeing the wrath of Esau his brother he desperately wanted God's blessing and protection. One of the conditions Jacob included in his vow was that God would return him to the security of his home.
Another person who used vows as a fire escape was Jephthad. The Ammonites threatened to make war against the Children of Israel. Jephthad made reasonable appeals to them which they rejected. Next the Scripture tells us that the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthad so that he could lead the Israelites in victory.
Just before going into battle, Jephthad made a reckless vow unto God. "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." (Judges 11:30-32)

The Israelites whipped the Ammorites and a triumphant Jephthad returned home. The door of his house opened and out rushed his daughter, his only child. The Bible says, "When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, "Oh! My daughter! You have made me miserable and wretched, because I have made a vow to the LORD that I cannot break." (Judges 11:35)

It's interesting to notice his words of blame to his daughter. "You have made me miserable and wretched because I made a vow unto the Lord that I cannot break." She didn't make the vow, Jephthad did. The vow didn't enhance his chance of winning the war. You noticed that even before he made the vow the Spirit of the Lord was upon him to lead him in victory. Now he's faced with the cruel prospect of paying his vow. This brings us to our second point.

II. We Have a Sacred Obligation to Keep Our Vows and Promises.
This is one point that God is very clear on. "If you make a vow to the LORD your God, do not be slow to pay it, for the LORD your God will certainly demand it of you and you will be guilty of sin. But if you refrain from making a vow, you will not be guilty. Whatever your lips utter you must be sure to do, because you made your vow freely to the LORD your God with your own mouth." (Deuteronomy 23:21-23 NIV)

"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 30:2 NIV) Further in Numbers 30 special instructions were given for girls and wives who took vows. They were not binding if their father or husband did not know about the vow. Remember, in those days women did not have legal status.

"When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow." (Ecclesiastes 5:4-6 NIV) "Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king," says the LORD Almighty, "and my name is to be feared among the nations." (Malachi 1:14 NIV)

Question. Is the blessing of God eluding your life? Perhaps you have some outstanding vows that need to be paid. Today God says, "I kept my part of the vow, now I'm asking you to pay up."

Jephthad kept his vow and sacrificed his only daughter in a burnt offering. How do you feel about his actions? They make me sick. The Bible says, "It is a trap for a man to dedicate something rashly and only later to consider his vows." (Proverbs 20:25 NIV)

You don't correct a foolish reckless act by breaking the commandments and committing murder. Jephthad could have come before God and repented of his foolishness and paid the price of redemption as required in the law.
We have a sacred obligation to fulfill our vows and promises. We also must refrain from making rash vows and promises that have hidden costs and unlimited liability. The reality that you're faced with today is that you made a vow. Now its time to pay up.

III. When We Live For The Lord, Vows Add Nothing to our Lives.
I've come to the conclusion that vows are a type of power play we try on God. Vows have the attitude that we have something God lacks but needs. It's like saying to God, "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine."
he making of vows comes from a low view of God. A view that has a limited comprehension of His goodness and grace. It's a view that sees God as being miserly and reluctant to bless unless we bribe Him with a vow. When we make vows we forget that God is anxious to open the windows of Heaven and pour great blessing upon us. We have a problem. We have a distorted value system that's programmed us to equate God's blessing in terms of cash and things. Thus we fail to recognize the blessings God send our way.

We make vows because we don't understand that God has appointed us to be stewards of His property. We forget that all we have and are belongs to Him. Thus when Hannah gave Samuel to the Lord, she was doing what God expected her to do.

The night the Children of Israel came out of Egypt God clearly stated His expectations of His people. The LORD said to Moses, "Consecrate to me every firstborn male. The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me, whether man or animal." (Exodus 13:1-2 NIV)

It was not practical that all firstborn males be priests and that all firstborn animals be sacrificed. Thus in Numbers 3:40-51; 18:16 and Leviticus 27 a process is described whereby the firstborn can be redeemed. The deal Hannah made with God was that she wouldn't redeem Samuel. He would be raised in the temple.

The New Testament teaches that we are bond slaves of the Lord. We use the term bond slave because Jesus redeemedóbought us back from the slave market of sin. He died for me therefore I'll live for Him.
Because I'm the Lord's slave I have no right to come before Him and say, "God, if you'll do this for me, I'll do this for you." I can hear someone protest, "But Eugene, what can I do when I'm desperately in need of God's help? What's my recourse? God seems to be ignoring me." Making vows is not the answer. The greatest power we have with God is the power of worship. The Psalmist said, "From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you will I fulfill my vows." (Psalm 22:25 NIV) "Then will I ever sing praise to your name and fulfill my vows day after day." (Psalm 61:8 NIV)

There is one vow all of us need to make and its this, "God, if you'll be my Lord and Saviour, I'll serve you the rest of my life." That's one vow you can spend your lifetime fulfilling.
This week I felt the winds of discouragement and I prayed, "Lord, would you release me from the responsibility of shepherding these people." The reply came back, "No Eugene, my grace is sufficient for you. Worship me and pay your vows."

"What vows are you talking about Lord?" "The vow in which you said that if I would be your Saviour you would serve me for the rest of your life. Eugene, worship me and pay that vow."

The third birthday celebration for little Samuel is over. The sack of clothes in the corner of the house is full. The time has come for Hannah to worship God and pay her vow. Good-byes are said to his playmates and Elkanan, Hannah and Samuel leave for Shiloh and Samuel's new home. Hannah is an honourable woman who pays her vows.
Notice what Hannah said when she presented Samuel to old Eli the priest. Here are the literal Hebrew words. "For this child I prayed and Jehovah has given me my asking which I asked of Him: and I also have given back what was asked to Jehovah; as long as he lives he is asked for Jehovah."(1 Samuel 1:26-28)

As each of my children reached the age of three I wondered how Hannah could turn that precious little bundle of joy over to old Eli the priest. On Saturday I discovered the answer. It lies is the use of the 4th asked that Hannah uttered.
Notice the words, "He is asked for Jehovah." >>From day one she knew who held the birth certificate and it wasn't Elkannah and Hannah. When she cried our to God she said, "I want to be a mother who bears a son for the Lord." Hannah worshipped the Lord and paid her vow. Now its time for us to go and do likewise.
Pastor Eugene P. Harder B.Th. * July 7, 1997 * 1 Samuel 1:19-28 * S96\1SAM1-S.071

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Pastor Eugene Harder
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