Does God really expect us to keep our end of a bargain with him? How seriously does he take our bargaining with him? - Bargaining - TouchPoints

Does God really expect us to keep our end of a bargain with him? How seriously does he take our bargaining with him?

Numbers 30:2A man who makes a vow to the Lord or makes a pledge under oath must never break it. He must do exactly what he said he would do.

God does hold us to the promises we make. It is a serious mistake to think that we can manipulate God by telling him we will do something in exchange for his help while assuming we can back out of our vows later. When we do this, we reveal our shallow or wrong understanding of God.

Numbers 32:23If you fail to keep your word, then you will have sinned against the Lord, and you may be sure that your sin will find you out.

This verse is part of Moses’ warning to the tribes of Israel that claimed lands on the east side of the Jordan before Israel had conquered the Promised Land. The vow they were being challenged to keep was a promise both to God and to their fellow Israelites to fight for God’s people when the need arose. Our promises to God are not in a separate category from our promises to one another—God expects us to keep both.

Deuteronomy 23:21-23When you make a vow to the Lord your God, be prompt in fulfilling whatever you promised him. For the Lord your God demands that you promptly fulfill all your vows, or you will be guilty of sin. However, it is not a sin to refrain from making a vow. But once you have voluntarily made a vow, be careful to fulfill your promise to the Lord your God.

If you doubt your ability to keep a promise, it is wise not to make it at all. God doesn’t demand vows, but once we have made one, he expects us to keep it.

Matthew 5:33-37Our ancestors were told, “You must not break your vows; you must carry out the vows you make to the Lord.” But I say, do not make any vows! Do not say, “By heaven!” because heaven is God’s throne. And do not say, “By the earth!” because the earth is his footstool. And do not say, “By Jerusalem!” for Jerusalem is the city of the great King. Do not even say, “By my head!” for you can’t turn one hair white or black. Just say a simple, “Yes, I will,” or “No, I won’t.” Anything beyond this is from the evil one.

Jesus’ words not only demonstrate his understanding of the Old Testament (see Deuteronomy 23:21-23 above), but they also illustrate the principle that elaborate vows are worthless if they can’t be believed. Yes and no should be perfectly sufficient answers.

Ecclesiastes 5:4-5When you make a promise to God, don’t delay in following through, for God takes no pleasure in fools. Keep all the promises you make to him. It is better to say nothing than to make a promise and not keep it.

Because we live in an age of empty promises and worthless words, the very idea that God takes our promises and vows seriously is sobering news. When we think we are getting away with something by not following through on our promises, we are merely showing how little we really understand God.

1 Samuel 1:10-11, 2:11Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord. And she made this vow: “O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, if you will look upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you. He will be yours for his entire lifetime. . . . Then Elkanah returned home to Ramah without Samuel. And the boy served the Lord by assisting Eli the priest.

Hannah made a costly vow and then demonstrated her integrity by keeping it. Perhaps God’s willingness to give her Samuel, who would become a great servant of his, was based on God’s awareness that Hannah wouldn’t change her mind. How might your integrity affect the way God answers your prayers?

Judges 11:30-32, 34-36 Jephthah made a vow to the Lord. He said, “If you give me victory over the Ammonites, I will give to the Lord whatever comes out of my house to greet me when I return in triumph. I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.” So Jephthah led his army against the Ammonites, and the Lord gave him victory. . . . When Jephthah returned home to Mizpah, his daughter came out to meet him, playing on a tambourine and dancing for joy. She was his only child; he had no other sons or daughters. When he saw her, he tore his clothes in anguish. “Oh, my daughter!” he cried out. “You have completely destroyed me! You’ve brought disaster on me! For I have made a vow to the Lord, and I cannot take it back.” And she said, “Father, if you have made a vow to the Lord, you must do to me what you have vowed, for the Lord has given you a great victory over your enemies, the Ammonites.”

Before making any bargain with God, ask yourself what it would cost to immediately fulfill your part. This is particularly true, as Jephthah’s story painfully illustrates, if the price for keeping your promise might be borne by someone else. Reckless vows are frequently regretted.

Joshua 2:12-14, 17-21, 6:17, 22-23, 25[Rahab said,] “Now swear to me by the Lord that you will be kind to me and my family since I have helped you. Give me some guarantee that when Jericho is conquered, you will let me live, along with my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all their families.” “We offer our own lives as a guarantee for your safety,” the men agreed. “If you don’t betray us, we will keep our promise and be kind to you when the Lord gives us the land.” . . . Before they left, the men told her, “We will be bound by the oath we have taken only if you follow these instructions. When we come into the land, you must leave this scarlet rope hanging from the window through which you let us down. . . . “I accept your terms,” she replied. And she sent them on their way, leaving the scarlet rope hanging from the window. . . . Joshua said to the two spies, “Keep your promise. Go to the prostitute’s house and bring her out, along with all her family.” The men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab, her father, mother, brothers, and all the other relatives who were with her. They moved her whole family to a safe place near the camp of Israel. . . . So Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute and her relatives who were with her in the house, because she had hidden the spies.

Before she haggled with the Israelite spies for the lives of her family, Rahab had already revealed her fear of and faith in the God of Israel by protecting the spies from their enemies (see Joshua 2:8-11). She was not only protecting her family, but she was also applying for citizenship among God’s people. She had faith that God’s people would follow through on their promises to her. When we make promises to people, we should remember that we represent the character of God himself, and he never breaks his promises.