Oaths, and Vows — Supported by Biblical Law by H.B. Clark

A somewhat interesting and alarming fact about Christians in this day and age is the fact that we don’t take promises, covenants, oaths, and even swearing (in both terms) very seriously. If we look back from Genesis all the way to the New Testament, we see that the bible is VERY VERY serious about the act of making an oath and keeping it. More specifically making an oath to God.

A book I recommend you look at for both this topic and for anything relating to law and the bible is Biblical Law by H.B. Clark (published by American Vision). It’s a wonderful resource for explaining in great detail the laws of the bible, how they pertain to us, how they were used back then and now, the exceptions, and the application of it.

In Chapter 21 of Biblical Law, H.B. Clark goes in to great detail explaining covenants, oaths and agreements and now they pertain to the bible. Page 101 describes how frequently and how important covenants and contracts were in the days of primitive law and in the Old Testament. If you look in Genesis, you’ll see numerous creations and executions of covenants, made both by God, and by man.

There were also a number of ways to create one, it could be spoken verbally, written down, or created via an action. In Genesis 15, we see God walking thru the animal carcasses to finalize the covenant with Abraham. In Genesis (24:9), Abraham has his servant make an oath to bring his son a wife from his kindred and not from Canaan. In this instance, Abraham had his servant put his hand on his thigh to finalize the promise. With the two instances above, the promise/covenants were wise ones. Each person in the covenant knew exactly what he was accepting/executing.

Meanwhile, God also shares with us in Judges 11:30-40 the very harsh consequences of making a vow/promise with haste and without thinking of all the possibilities. This sad story tells us of Jephthah when he made one of the most sorrowful decisions of his life. Jephthah swore an oath that he would sacrifice anything that comes thru his doors to meet him personally will be sacrificed for God, and to his sorrow, his one and only daughter came in to greet him. The truth of her being physically sacrificed or not still remains a hot topic to discuss, but for the purposes of this post, it serves as a very good reminder to take covenants very VERY seriously.

In page 103 of Biblical Law, Clark also mentions James in the New Testament which speaks of this issue, in James 5:12 he tells us to have our yeses be yeses and our nos be nos. It is recommended to not even make vows anymore “…lest you fall into judgement.” It’s not a sin to vow or make a covenant, but the New Testament makes it perfectly clear to tread VERY carefully to the point where it’s most certainly best to not make a vow at all.

 

Fortunately, hope isn’t lost if you do make a vow and break it. Nowhere in the bible does Jesus prohibit being forgiven for breaking a vow. Jesus says ALL sins are forgivable Mark 3:28, this would necessarily include vows and promises, as Jesus specifically says the only exception to forgiveness is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, that’s it. If you do break a vow, I do hope you sincerely repent of it and don’t make another one again for at least a long period of time.

Conclusion:

I hope this short post helped you understand the topic of vows and promises and how serious they are. I’ll close with this: It is NOT a sin to make a vow or an oath. However the bible highly recommends to not make vows, especially on hastily.

I would recommend that if you are going to make a vow or an oath, that you do the following:

  1. Make sure it’s reasonable. Specifically, that you are 100% certain that you are capable of carrying out the oath.
  2. Pray a lot about it. Ask God if its acceptable and His will that you make this vow. Nothing is greater than praying about a hard topic like this.
  3. Think thru every possible aspect of the vow. Take your time. Only accept the vow once you are fully confident in God telling you to do it, and in yourself to accomplish the vow.

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