DAILY DEVOTIONS: "Promises" -Bob Caldwell

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"Honoring God in the Morning"

“If a man makes a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.” –Numbers 30:2

Chapter 30 deals with the social accountability of promises or “vows” made before God. This process of vows is similar to what we do now by giving our signature to legally validate a promise or contract. In ancient cultures, women typically were not independent from authority of the males in their lives. 

Fathers or husbands would ultimately be liable for the promises made by the women in the family. The clarifications about vows spelled out in this passage, protected men from being held responsible for things they were unaware of or had not agreed to. 

Though in our culture women have equal authority and the responsibility that comes with it, there is still a lesson to be learned from this law on vows. 

A person’s word should be worth something. Our agreements with each other should be something we are accountable to God to keep.

Our “yes” should be “yes” and our “no” should be “no” as Jesus warned His disciples concerning vows. He said, “For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (Matt. 5:37). The evil that Christ warns of is something we live with every day. From buying a cell phone to a new car, we encounter a lot of fine-print that can make what seems like a great deal turn out to be a rip-off. 

We often must navigate through a web of half-truths. The fine print associated with a “free phone” can result in increased fees and an extended contract. An ad offering a car at “dealer’s cost” may not really be true. But it’s not just in business. We are all tempted to have unspoken qualifiers that minimize how fully we will keep our word.

What we must all pursue is a life that is simple in its straightforward honesty. If we say yes, that’s what it means. If we promise to do something and say, “I’m working on it,” we had better be doing more than working on putting off completing the task.

1 Then Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes concerning the children of Israel, saying, “This is the thing which the Lord has commanded: 2 If a man makes a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.
3 “Or if a woman makes a vow to the Lord, and binds herself by some agreement while in her father’s house in her youth, 4 and her father hears her vow and the agreement by which she has bound herself, and her father holds his peace, then all her vows shall stand, and every agreement with which she has bound herself shall stand. 5 But if her father overrules her on the day that he hears, then none of her vows nor her agreements by which she has bound herself shall stand; and the Lord will release her, because her father overruled her.
6 “If indeed she takes a husband, while bound by her vows or by a rash utterance from her lips by which she bound herself,7 and her husband hears it, and makes no response to her on the day that he hears, then her vows shall stand, and her agreements by which she bound herself shall stand. 8 But if her husband overrules her on the day that he hears it, he shall make void her vow which she took and what she uttered with her lips, by which she bound herself, and the Lord will release her.
9 “Also any vow of a widow or a divorced woman, by which she has bound herself, shall stand against her.
10 “If she vowed in her husband’s house, or bound herself by an agreement with an oath, 11 and her husband heard it, and made no response to her and did not overrule her, then all her vows shall stand, and every agreement by which she bound herself shall stand. 12 But if her husband truly made them void on the day he heard them, then whatever proceeded from her lips concerning her vows or concerning the agreement binding her, it shall not stand; her husband has made them void, and theLord will release her. 13 Every vow and every binding oath to afflict her soul, her husband may confirm it, or her husband may make it void. 14 Now if her husband makes no response whatever to her from day to day, then he confirms all her vows or all the agreements that bind her; he confirms them, because he made no response to her on the day that he heard them. 15 But if he does make them void after he has heard them, then he shall bear her guilt.”
16 These are the statutes which the Lord commanded Moses, between a man and his wife, and between a father and his daughter in her youth in her father’s house.

1 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 2 “Take vengeance on the Midianites for the children of Israel. Afterward you shall be gathered to your people.”
3 So Moses spoke to the people, saying, “Arm some of yourselves for war, and let them go against the Midianites to take vengeance for the Lord on Midian. 4 A thousand from each tribe of all the tribes of Israel you shall send to the war.”
5 So there were recruited from the divisions of Israel one thousand from each tribe, twelve thousand armed for war. 6 Then Moses sent them to the war, one thousand from each tribe; he sent them to the war with Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, with the holy articles and the signal trumpets in his hand. 7 And they warred against the Midianites, just as the Lord commanded Moses, and they killed all the males. 8 They killed the kings of Midian with the rest of those who were killed—Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian. Balaam the son of Beor they also killed with the sword.
9 And the children of Israel took the women of Midian captive, with their little ones, and took as spoil all their cattle, all their flocks, and all their goods. 10 They also burned with fire all the cities where they dwelt, and all their forts. 11 And they took all the spoil and all the booty—of man and beast.

v. 2 Man Makes a Vow - This simply means to promise before God, i.e. a signature, promise, or a contract. In this case, a man was totally accountable to his word.
All that Proceeds out of his Mouth - A man who made a promise to God must do exactly as he has promised.
v. 3 A Woman Makes a Vow - Women in the ancient Hebrew culture were protected from being pressured into rash pledges. An unmarried woman was under the covering and protection of her father, and a married woman was under the covering and protection of her husband. A father or husband could overrule a “rash utterance.” The Lord’s specific conditions of these protective laws are laid out in verses 3-8 and 10-15.
v. 9 Shall Stand Against Her - A woman who did not have a man as her covering was a free agent and would be directly accountable to God for her utterances.  

v. 2 Take vengeance - The Midianites were the people who had tempted Israel to sin and caused them to fall through the scheming of Balaam and Balak (Num. 25:1-9, 17-18). Because of this, the Lord instructed Moses to “take vengeance” or revenge, by the retaliation of war (v. 3).
Vengeance - The word translated vengeance here is “naqam” (Heb.). This word can have either a negative or positive connotation depending on its usage. Self-serving vengeance are forbidden because it occurs for personal reasons. This type of behavior was strictly forbidden to the Jews (Lev. 19:18). However, the Scriptures do speak of a righteous vengeance, which involves the pursuit of justice and the defense of God’s majesty. While righteous vengeance is ultimately the Lord’s (Deut. 32.35), He sometimes uses people to carry out His will.
Gathered to your People - This is another way of telling Moses that he was going to die and join his ancestors (Num. 27:13; Deut. 32:50).
v. 3 Midian - Midian was the son of Abraham by Keturah (Gen. 25:1, 2). His descendants became the Midianites. Midian means “strife.” The land of Midian was in the desert north of the Arabian Peninsula.
v. 6 Holy Articles and the Signal Trumpets - It is unclear what “holy articles” refers to. Phinehas, the son of Eleazar the priest, was leading the charge (v. 6), so perhaps the holy articles refer to the breastplate of the priest which included the Urim and Thummim (Ex. 28:4-14). This phrase may simply refer to the holy articles and trumpets the Lord commanded be built for this very purpose (Num. 10:8, 9).
v. 7 They Killed all the Males - This was instructed in Deuteronomy 20:13.
v. 8 Balaam - Balaam the prophet was the chief cause of the fall of Israel because he advised king Balak on this matter (Num. 31:16). The New Testament also has much to say concerning Balaam (2 Pet. 2:15; Jude 11; Rev. 2:14).


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