Judges 9-12, Psalm 73
Andy Pettitte, Christian and former pitcher of the New York Yankees made a vow to his girlfriend, later to become his wife, that he would go to a Christian retreat with her. When he found out after making that vow that a number of scouts were coming down to see him that same weekend while he was in school, he kept his vow and went to the retreat anyway. In Jon Courson’s commentary, page 773, he gives the account of a young lawyer who was invited to deliver the welcome address for the Governor of Georgia on a Monday night. It was moved to Wednesday night, which was a night he had committed to the Lord for his regular prayer meetings, he excused himself and maintained his vow to the prayer meeting. We must all ask ourselves if indeed we make a vow to do something for someone, how seriously do we take that vow? Do we retract our vow once a better offer comes along? Do our words actually mean something?
We see in today’s reading a very troubling vow to God. Jephthah in his zeal, made a rash vow. We read in a Judges 11:30-31, “And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord, and said, “If You will indeed deliver the people of Ammon into my hands, then it will be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.” Look at his response in 11:34-35, “When Jephthah came to his house at Mizpah, there was his daughter, coming out to meet him with timbrels and dancing; and she was his only child. Besides her he had neither son nor daughter. And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he tore his clothes, and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low! You are among those who trouble me! For I have given my word to the Lord, and I cannot go back on it”.” Bible commentators are divided as to whether Jephthah actually offered his daughter as a burnt sacrifice or whether she remained a perpetual virgin with her life forever dedicated to the Lord. Some Bible translators use the word “or” instead of “and” in Judges 11:31, “…shall surely be the Lord’s, or I will offer it up as a burnt offering”. (“or” is used in the Kings James Version). What is amazing to a society like ours, whose vows and words are often meaningless, is that he actually kept his vow. We see the keeping of vows, even when those making them realize how rash and faulty they are, time and time again in Scripture not only by those dedicated to God, but often by pagans (King Darius with Daniel in Daniel 6, King Ahasuerus against the Jewish people in Esther 3, Herod Antipas to Salome in Matthew 14).
We are told in Matthew 5:37, by Jesus, “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’, and your ‘No’, ‘No’. For whatever is more than these is from the evil one”. We should refrain from vows, and instead be people whose word means something. But when we do make a vow, let’s not rationalize it away by saying, no one really thinks I meant it, or I made that vow under a lot of stress, or I didn’t realize something more important would come in conflict with the vow. When we make a vow to God, let us seriously honor it. The world is watching if we are people of our word.
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: