In this climate of corruption and lies in politics, business and finance, we’ve become calloused to promises of leaders in our world. They’ve become meaningless as grand speeches unravel with scandalous revelations in the news. There has been such a glut of scandals lately that it’s almost impossible to absorb and process it all—our default setting has now become, “So what next, they’re all a bunch of liars!”
When Joshua and the armies of God were fighting to take possession of the Promised Land, God gave him specific instructions (Exodus 23) not to make any treaty with the people who were living in that land. The entire land was meant for them, and they were to be strong and courageous in His might, to take it for themselves. But after they had overcome much of the territory of the Promised Land, the Gibeonites were afraid of Israel, and decided to be crafty. They dressed up as poor travellers from a distant country, came to Joshua, and lied about who they were. They showed them their dried out bread and worn out clothes, and convinced Joshua to make a covenant with them, and that they would serve Israel forever. The Bible says that Joshua and his leaders forgot to consult the Lord, and so they were deceived into making a covenant against God’s wishes.
In a situation like that, many of us would imagine that a covenant made on false pretenses wouldn’t hold. The deal would be off. But even when Joshua and his mighty men realized they’d been fooled, the vow had to stand. The Israelite soldiers were furious and wanted to kill them, but a vow was a vow. Their promise before God was not a thing to be toyed with or scrapped. So the Gibeonites gratefully became their manual laborers instead of having to fight against God’s people, and that arrangement was honored for generations.
Fast-forward to around 400 years later when God tells King David that Israel has been suffering a three-year famine because bloodthirsty King Saul had killed the Gibeonites before he died. The ancient vow had been broken, giving the devil permission to ravage all of Israel with drought and death. The strange response to this problem was for David to ask the remaining Gibeonites what they wanted done to make the problem right again. They asked for the lives of seven of Saul’s sons, and David agreed. Two of Saul’s sons from a concubine, plus five sons from his former wife Michal (who had mocked David when he had worshipped God) were handed over to the Gibeonites, who hung them all. Saul’s concubine mourned and repented for the sins of Saul and his sons in breaking that vow, and God poured down rain to end the famine. In other words, the evil of that broken vow was alive in the hearts and minds of those sons, and had to be cast out. Ending their lives, ended the curse on Israel. That was how seriously God treated vows, and how seriously we must treat them today.
“So you’re saying that if I break a promise, God’s going to strike me and my children down with death?” I’m saying that what we solemnly declare in faith, before God, has spiritual implications that run far deeper than we realize. Breaking vows gives the devil permission to attack us, even those we might have made hastily or with the wrong motives. Yes, God has made allowances for divorce in the Bible, but it’s a serious and painful process, even when done under God’s covering. But so many other vows are treated casually in this day and age that open doors for demonic attack, and people are oblivious to the cause of their problems and unanswered prayers.
Ask yourself to see if you have vowed to be a faithful parent, but have failed your children out of selfishness and pride, if you’ve vowed to be faithful in your finances towards God, but have chosen to give only when it’s convenient, if you’ve vowed to abstain from gossip or self-promotion or ungodly behavior, but indulge in it now and then, or if you’ve vowed to obey God no matter what, when or where, but have chosen the comfortable route instead. God doesn’t send lightning bolts to strike us in judgment, but He does permit Satan to sift us when we reject His protection. Nations suffer these consequences, as well as individuals. We can only do so much to hold our leaders accountable these days, but we can make sure we honor our own vows beginning now.
When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it because He has no pleasure in fools. Fulfill what you have vowed. Better it is that you do not make a vow than you make a vow and not fulfill it. Do not let your mouth cause you to sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was an error. Why should God be angry with your words and destroy the work of your hands? For when there is an abundance of dreams and futilities, then words increase too. Therefore it is God you should fear. Ecclesiastes 5:4-7 MEV