Volume. XXIII, No. 1
Sunday, 06 July 2008

From The Pastors Heart: Vows

Consecration and vows are inter-related to each other one way or another.  Let me begin with definitions of both words. Firstly, according to 1828 Noah Webster\'s English Dictionary, consecration means, "the act or ceremony of separating from a common to a sacred use, or of devoting and dedicating a person or thing to the service and worship of God, by certain rites or solemnities. Consecration does not make a person or thing really holy, but declares it to be sacred, that is, devoted to God or to divine service; as the consecration of the priests among the Israelites."  In order to make such a separation, there has to be a determination and resolution on the part of the consecrated people.  Quite often such determination and resolution come out in the form of promises.  "I will do this, or I will not do that," is an example.  It is an act of setting goals and boundaries upon themselves.  Or, we may need to pay attention to the meaning of the word again.  "It is an act of separating from a common to a sacred use."  It means that consecration does not lie in the realm of wishful thinking, but of actions.  Another word, "vow," means according to Webster\'s dictionary, "A solemn promise made to God."  "A vow is a promise of something to be given or done hereafter."  Again it refers to "a solemn promise, as the vows of unchangeable love and fidelity.  In a moral and religious sense, vows are promises to God, as they appeal to God to witness their sincerity, and the violation of them is a most heinous offense."  There is another word related to these two words, which is "swear."  We know that quite often this word is used in negative ways.  However, as you may imagine, I use it in a positive way by defining the word as "to affirm or utter a solemn declaration, with an appeal to God for the truth of what is affirmed." It also means to “promise upon oath."    

There is always a fear in the hearts of believers concerning making vows, taking an oath, or swearing anything in the name of the Lord.  It is because Matthew 5:34-37 says, "But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God\'s throne: 35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. 36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. 37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil."  We need to know the meaning behind this teaching.  Firstly, we need to know that making a vow is a legitimate practice for the children of God.  Deuteronomy 6:13 says, "Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name."  Basically, it means that the name of God is to be used with holy fear and reverence in vows or oath taking.  [Westminster Confession of Faith, 22.2].  We must know that making vows is not against the Bible.  In fact, the purpose of making vows, or taking an oath is mentioned in Hebrews 6:16, "For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation /is /to them an end of all strife."  Then, why did Jesus say in Matthew 5:34-37 that we should not swear in the name of the Lord?  The reason is found in verse 37, "But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil."  There were people who took the name of the Lord lightly by making vows with an intention not to keep them.  They said yea with nay, and nay with yea.  They misused and abused the name of God to settle the issues they had with wrong motives.  Therefore, Jesus commanded us not to use such practices.

Christianity sanctions oaths, but they are to be used only to put an end to contradiction in disputes and for confirmation of solemn promises.  God, in condescension to man\'s mode of confirming covenants, confirmed His word by oath.  Look at Hebrews 6:13, "For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself."  He also says in 6:17, "Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath."  Hebrews 7:21, "(For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:)." 7:28, "For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore."  Paul made a vow and paid his vow in Acts 18:18, "And Paul after this tarried there yet a good while, and then took his leave of the brethren, and sailed thence into Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila; having shorn his head in Cenchrea: for he had a vow."  The various forms of the word, vow, occurs 93 times in 68 verses.

How to make vows?  Firstly, we must know that no man should vow to do anything forbidden in the Word of God.  For example, some Jews took an oath to kill Paul in Acts 23:12, "And when it was day, certain of the Jews banded together, and bound themselves under a curse, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. 13 And they were more than forty which had made this conspiracy. 14 And they came to the chief priests and elders, and said, We have bound ourselves under a great curse, that we will eat nothing until we have slain Paul."  Secondly, we must not take an oath with double tongues.  James 5:12, "But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation."   Thirdly, taking vows must be a voluntary act.  It means that it is a conscious act.  Leviticus 7:16, "But if the sacrifice of his offering be a vow, or a voluntary offering, it shall be eaten the same day that he offereth his sacrifice: and on the morrow also the remainder of it shall be eaten."  We cannot be forced to make vows that we do not want to make.  We cannot make it in an unconscious state or unhealthy state of mind.  Leviticus 27 is a chapter of making vows.  Even though children make vows, parents can cancel them.  If a wife makes a vow that her husband does not agree with, such a vow will be canceled.  Therefore, there has to be even a safeguard from making vows wrongly.  If there is any exception to this, it must be a mother\'s vow for her child.  Proverbs 31:2, "What, my son? and what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my vows?"  Fourthly, vows are found in prayers.  In other words, it is a part of prayer.  Jacob made a vow in the form of prayers. As you can see, you may not be able to make a distinction between vows and prayers.  In a sense, it was a matter of making a request known to God and expressing his desire to repay the Lord\'s grace as He has heard his prayers.  Genesis 28:20, "And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on."  God has answered to Jacob\'s prayers. It means that God remembers our prayers. He remembered that Jacob made a vow to Him.  Genesis 31:13, "I am the God of Bethel, where thou anointedst the pillar, and where thou vowedst a vow unto me: now arise, get thee out from this land, and return unto the land of thy kindred."  Here, we learn a lesson that vows are not to be made lightly because God listens to them and remembers. Fifthly, vows are offered to God like offerings.  The Hebrew word for vow is also translated as "votive," or "votive offering."  Deuteronomy 12:6, "And thither ye shall bring your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and heave offerings of your hand, and your vows, and your freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herds and of your flocks."  Deuteronomy 12:11, "Then there shall be a place which the LORD your God shall choose to cause his name to dwell there; thither shall ye bring all that I command you; your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, your tithes, and the heave offering of your hand, and all your choice vows which ye vow unto the LORD."  "Vows" in this verse is translated as "votive offering" in the NAS, and "choice possessions" in the NIV.

Finally, vows must be kept.  Psalm 50:14, "Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High."  Numbers 30:2, "If a man vow a vow unto the LORD, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth."  Deuteronomy 23:21, "When thou shalt vow a vow unto the LORD thy God, thou shalt not slack to pay it: for the LORD thy God will surely require it of thee; and it would be sin in thee." Deuteronomy 23:22, "But if thou shalt forbear to vow, it shall be no sin in thee."  Deuteronomy 23:23, "That which is gone out of thy lips thou shalt keep and perform; even a freewill offering, according as thou hast vowed unto the LORD thy God, which thou hast promised with thy mouth."

Then, some of you may say that we should not make any vows.  Well, the idea of consecration brings us to making vows.  It is because consecration requires decisions and actions to the consecrated.  For example, let us see a Nazarite\'s vow in Numbers 6:2, "Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the LORD."  This separation requires serious actions on the Nazarite\'s part.  He is supposed to do certain things and not to do certain things.  There are many biblical examples of making vows.  Elkanah made vows, on a seemingly annual basis according to 1 Samuel 1:21, "And the man Elkanah, and all his house, went up to offer unto the LORD the yearly sacrifice, and his vow."  Making vows is encouraged in Psalm 76:11, "Vow, and pay unto the LORD your God: let all that be round about him bring presents unto him that ought to be feared."

Having made vows, we are expected to keep them. 1 Samuel 1:11, "And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head." Job 22:27, "Thou shalt make thy prayer unto him, and he shall hear thee, and thou shalt pay thy vows." Psalm 22:25, "My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him." Psalm 50:14, "Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High." Ecclesiastes 5:5, "Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay." Jeremiah 44:25, "Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, saying; Ye and your wives have both spoken with your mouths, and fulfilled with your hand, saying, We will surely perform our vows that we have vowed, to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her: ye will surely accomplish your vows, and surely perform your vows." Jonah 1:16, "Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows."  Jonah 2:9, "But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay /that /that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD."  Psalm 61:8, "So will I sing praise unto thy name for ever, that I may daily perform my vows."


It is an honor that we can make a vow to God for His name\'s sake.  Thus, our promises must be sanctified before Him, and we must keep our vows.  Vows are like presents to God, or they are used as means to make our requests known to God in prayer.

More Lively Hope




Warm Welcome back: Pastor Ki from Sabbatical Leave.

Fellowship, Ministry & Committee Reports for ACM are to be handed to Dn Edwin D’Mello by next Lord’s Day, latest. Your cooperation is greatly appreciated.

Invitation to Choir members, Sunday Service musicians & Sunday School teachers for dinner at the home of Dn David & Sis Giok Yeo at 63 Wyfield St. Wattle Park, this evening, at 6pm.

Service Rosters for Jul– Sept available in the foyer.

Kitchen Rosters on Notice Board & kitchen door. For any changes please see Dn Ediwn D’Mello.

Condolence to Mrs Van & her family on the death of Mr Van.


Looking Ahead

Choir practice starts next week.

Vacation Bible School - July 14-18. Speaker: Bro Hai Seng Lim.

ACM on Sat, 26 July. Members please keep this date in your diary.


Praise & Thanksgiving

Journey mercies: Ps Ki (Adl); Dn Tony & Sis Sally Law (Hobart); Bro Peter & Sis Mary Ting & family (World); Bro Joseph Lo (Adl); Sisters Judy Li (Dalian, China), Suzane Lim (NT) & Jie Hui Teo (Adl) & others who are travelling.

Church activities: BBK; BSAG, Joy & Maranatha; Sparks4Christ.

God’s guidance & provision for Ps Ki while on Sabbatical Leave & his recent ministry in Ebenezer B-P Church (Melbourne).

God’s mercy & help for Session members while Ps Ki was away.


Prayer Items

Health & God’s healing - Rev George & Sis Nan van Buuren, Rev Peter Chua, Rev Peter Clements,  Rev Timothy Tow, Dr S H Tow, Preacher Zhang, Dn Yaw Chiew Tan; Bros Tommy Brooks, Colin Creaser, S Dhamarlingam, Makoto Kobayashi, Raphael Ng’s father, Richard Pearson, Winston Selvanayagam, Hans Ziegelmann; Grandpa Ki; Sisters Myung Ki, Alice Lee’s father, Auntie Oei, Fiona Paauwe; Margaret, Dianne, & Sarah Pearson, Aranka Rejtoe, Susan Veradi, Irena, Giok Yeo’s sister-in-law; & others in affliction.

Critical care ward: Rev John McKenzie (Modbury Hospital)

Surgery: Sis Sylvia White (FMC)

Cambodia Missions - Khmer pastors and believers

Laos Missions - Believers in Laos.

India/Pakistan Missions - Pastors & Believers.

Kuching Missions - Teo family.

Sketch n’ Tell Ministry - Bro H S Lim

Journey Mercies - Brothers Jonathan Liaw (S’pore) and Perryn Ng (Adl/Melb); Sisters Joyce Chen, Shu Ai Cho, Vanessa & Felicia Tan, Maybelline Tan, & Wendy Yong (Melb).

Job - Bro Cong Pham

Pr David & Sis Susan Weng - God’s will for their future ministry in S’pore & elsewhere.

Provision of a Pastor for our Church.

Vacation Bible School: Speaker, organisers, helpers and children.

Sister B-P Churches in Australia: Faithful to the Word of God.





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14 Bedford Square, Colonel Light Gardens, South Australia 5041