I once promised myself I would never cry over a boy…
I distinctly remember promising myself that I wouldn’t watch Gossip Girl…
I did that too.
And I can’t even count how many times I promised myself I wouldn’t eat seconds of this or buy that tempting snack…
Only to be scarfing it down two hours later.
Like this if you can relate.
But seriously, for every thousand promises we make that we end up breaking, are there any that we keep? Have you ever made a promise that you knew you would keep for the rest of your life, come what may?
At least when we do make promises, whether we keep them or not, they stay private. A promise is between you, yourself, and whoever you made the promise to. No one else needs to know anything about it.
If you were an Israelite in the Bible times, the same was true for you.
Unless, of course, if you were a woman.
When a man made a vow to God, it was his responsibility and his alone. It was between him and God.
When a woman took a vow, it was between her, God, and her dad or husband. The man present could confirm her vow, if he wanted. If he told her not to make a vow, then “none of the vows or pledges that came from her lips will stand. Her husband has nullified them…” (verse 12)
Is anyone else’s eye twitching?
A promise is a promise
So what’s the deal? Is this our familiar enemy sexism again?
I don’t know about you, but I don’t think so. Even though I’m 2,000% sure there were loads of sexist dudes in Biblical times, these laws have nothing to do with them. These laws are spiritual. They’re specifically about making vows to God.
So if culture isn’t to blame here, then who is? God? Well, we know the God who loves, died for, and cares for every last breathing person that’s walked this earth isn’t sexist (at least I don’t believe in a sexist God).
So what gives? If this law is spiritual, then its meaning is spiritual. And like so many other laws from the ceremonial law, this one has a shade of symbolism to it.
Fathers and daughters. Wives and husbands. These are the two relationships from this chapter that require vows to be a pair effort. These are also the two relationships that are always compared to God’s relationship with us. We are His children and He is our Father. We are His bride, and He is our Lover.
And that means more than just pretty words. The most glaring thing about the law in this chapter is that the woman has her agency taken away. She isn’t fully in control of the vows she makes. She isn’t fully in control of this decision. Her life isn’t her own. She can’t make a promise or vow without the input, whether explicit or implicit (verse 7), of her husband or father.
So if we are God’s bride and He is our Partner, what does that mean for you and me?
It means that just like the Israelite woman, our lives aren’t our own. We can’t just go and give ourselves to whatever or whoever we want. We can’t promise our energy, our money, our gaze, our blood, our sweat, our tears, or our hearts to just anything.
We can’t just decide to do whatever we want with our lives. We need God’s input. We need His approval.
Not because we are supposed to live our Christian lives frozen in line, a carbon copy of the next Christian down, unhappy and unfulfilled as life passes us by.
It’s because no one knows better what will fulfill us than the God who knit us together in the womb.
It’s because no one is more prone to destroy our lives with sin than we are.
It’s because God knows the plans He has for us. It’s because God wants to see us prosper. It’s because God wants to give us hope and happiness. It’s because God loves us in a wild, overwhelming, indescribable, unsurpassed way.
The question we have to answer is do we trust God with our lives?
“I’m a jealous God.”
If anything, this chapter shows that a vow is no laughing matter. It’s not like the silly promises we made to ourselves when we were younger. It’s not like all the jokes we laugh at on TV – promising to go to church if God fixes something, only to completely drop the idea when it’s all better.
No, this is different. What we give ourselves, our lives to – God takes that seriously, whether we do or not.
It might be no big deal to you or me if we say “from now on, I’m going to do me” or declare that our goal in life is to become a famous YouTuber or to decide that our own pleasure and comfort takes priority over what God asks of us.
But it makes God jealous. He wants us. He wants us to choose Him. He wants us to obey Him. He wants us to live our lives under His guidance.
Because He knows that’s the better choice for us.
Your Father, Your Lover, is calling to you. He wants to nullify your bad vows and create new ones with You.
He wants us to make a promise to Him – to love Him, to obey Him – forever.
This time will be different.
Let’s make Him a promise we’ll never break.
What do you think about this chapter? What vows should we make to the Lord? Comment below.