We make promises everyday of our lives. To our friends and family, to those around us including our employers. What is it about the word promise? What is significant about the idea of someone who promises you something?
Why make promises in this life? Is there power in the making of a promise? Is our intention to convince those we make the promise too that we are sincere in our commitment. Think back to your last promise. Why was it made, did you keep it?
The fact is that promises are something that are made every single day of our lives. Either by us or by those around us. Perhaps some of us have been let down by others making promises and that word ‘promises’ gives us flashbacks of how we have been let down before.
So the question is, what promises should we make and does it really matter if we fail to live up to our end?
Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evilMatthew 5:33-37
Jesus in this passage is talking about making an oath. We would call it a promise. People swore oaths to guarantee their truthfulness. Jesus calls on His followers to practice honesty without the use of oaths. Imagine a world where promises were not needed…a world where people would simply do what they said they would.
For those who confess Christ as their Lord and Saviour that is the sort of lifestyle we are called to live. Instead of making an oath to ensure the truthfulness of a particular statement, Jesus requires us to tell the truth in all speech. An answer of “yes” or “no” is enough for the person of character.
Think of a trust as a wall that is built in the relationships that we have. Every time that we fail to live up to our word we slowly destroy this wall that is meant to protect the relationship.
Eventually, if we continue to fail, the wall is destroyed and the relationship is open to attacks and eventually is destroyed.
So we should simply say yes and no to those around us and honour our word when we say it. However what about God? What about our promises to Him?
When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. 5 It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay.Ecclesiastes 5:4-5
How often have we made a promise to God? In times of trouble, times of pain, times of sadness. These are the times that we seem to promise God our devotion or the fact that we will never do that ‘thing’ again. The question is how often have we honoured that promise?
Vows when made in situations of distress, often included a promise to return something to God. We see an example of this when Hannah in the Old Testament vowed to dedicate her child to God if she was blessed with a son. Jephthah rashly vowed to sacrifice whatever greeted him at his door, a decision he regretted.
In scripture we see vows being made to God regularly. There was one vow in particular that was called the Nazarite vow. This vow could be made by both men and women and was to be made voluntarily. It also had specific timeframes on how long this vow would last. Simply put these people that made the vow were to be separated or consecrated for service to God. These vows had specific guidelines and restrictions such no wine or strong drink was to be consumed, they were not to cut their hair or go near a dead body just to name a few.
This vow was something done in the Old Testament and no longer something that is done today however the apostle Paul state in Romans.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfectRomans 12:1-2
As believers we are separated form the world around us and be transformed in our thinking. Not that we have nothing to do with the world, we are simply set apart in order to be a light to those around us.
God is the one who is faithful and vowed to restore us in relationship with the Father. He is the one who demonstrated his love and trustworthiness for us on the cross. Out of all the promises that people make in our lives His word is trustworthy and faithful.
It is up to us to trust in his word and take him up on his promise. There is power in a promise. The power is in the one who makes it and the one who has proven to be faithful to us.
Whoever you are, take a chance and trust in the promise that is Jesus and see what he can do in your life