WEIGH YOUR VOWS
Lord God, you are always faithful to your Word. Thank you that I can trust you in all things and for all things.
Read NUMBERS 30
30 [a]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.
3 “When a young woman still living in her father’s household makes a vow to the Lord or obligates herself by a pledge 4 and her father hears about her vow or pledge but says nothing to her, then all her vows and every pledge by which she obligated herself will stand. 5 But if her father forbids her when he hears about it, none of her vows or the pledges by which she obligated herself will stand; the Lord will release her because her father has forbidden her.
6 “If she marries after she makes a vow or after her lips utter a rash promise by which she obligates herself 7 and her husband hears about it but says nothing to her, then her vows or the pledges by which she obligated herself will stand. 8 But if her husband forbids her when he hears about it, he nullifies the vow that obligates her or the rash promise by which she obligates herself, and the Lord will release her.
9 “Any vow or obligation taken by a widow or divorced woman will be binding on her.
10 “If a woman living with her husband makes a vow or obligates herself by a pledge under oath 11 and her husband hears about it but says nothing to her and does not forbid her, then all her vows or the pledges by which she obligated herself will stand. 12 But if her husband nullifies them when he hears about them, then none of the vows or pledges that came from her lips will stand. Her husband has nullified them, and the Lord will release her. 13 Her husband may confirm or nullify any vow she makes or any sworn pledge to deny herself.[b] 14 But if her husband says nothing to her about it from day to day, then he confirms all her vows or the pledges binding on her. He confirms them by saying nothing to her when he hears about them. 15 If, however, he nullifies them some time after he hears about them, then he must bear the consequences of her wrongdoing.”
16 These are the regulations the Lord gave Moses concerning relationships between a man and his wife, and between a father and his young daughter still living at home.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Let this be your prayer and pledge today: ‘You are my portion, Lord; I have promised to obey your words.’1
God’s people were obliged to keep his laws, but they were not obliged to make vows. A vow was a voluntary promise to do (or not do) something. However, its voluntary nature didn’t mean that a vow could be taken lightly or dismissed. Although a vow was not required by law, a person was required by law to honor any vow made (v 2). This principle applied to those who were free to act independently, without any constraints in fulfilling their vows: men (v 2) and widowed or divorced women (v 9).
Moses also deals with some exceptions to this general rule (vs 3–8,10–15), situations involving women who were under the authority of either their father or their husband (v 16). These additional provisions served as safeguards against a young girl’s ignorance or recklessness. They also helped to preserve domestic harmony, since they ensured that ‘neither wives nor children may substitute self-imposed religious obligations for God-given duties.’2 Jesus himself rebuked those who were using pledges as a pretext to evade responsibilities toward their parents.3 As in the matter of daughters inheriting, these provisions were just a starting point. The New Testament goes further. Paul emphasizes the principle of mutual submission in relationships4 and specifically requires ‘mutual consent’ for any vow to abstain from marital relations.5
Today’s passage has three important takeaways. First, carefully count the cost before giving your word. Second, faithfully keep your word even when costly to do so. Third, in giving your word, be mindful that pledges involving your time, talents, resources, or affections affect more than just yourself and be considerate of others who are impacted by your commitments.
‘Does he [God] speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?’6 He does not! We can rely on God’s Word. But can he rely on ours?
Father, help me to be careful with my commitments; may others know they can always count on my word to be true and to be kept.
1 Ps 119:57, The Message 2 Wenham, Numbers, 1981, p208 3 Matt 15:3–9 4 Eph 5:21 – 6:9 5 1 Cor 7:3–5 6 Num 23:19
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