Judges 11:29-40 – Keeping Your Vow

Read Judges 11:29-40

two wedding rings in sitting on an open page with words blurred out

When we think of vows in our day, our minds go immediately to a bride and groom standing before God and a room full of people. The wedding vow is meant to be the promise or pledge that seals the marriage with God looking on. Fun fact: In doing a little google search, I learned that not all cultures or religions use vows during a wedding ceremony.

Unfortunately, some people don’t take their vows as seriously as they should. If you aren’t able to keep your word, you shouldn’t give it in the first place. I held on for years as a battered wife because of the vow I had made to my first husband. I had made this vow in the presence of God. For me to break it and seek divorce would mean I was letting God down, didn’t it? I struggled with that for years.

Don’t worry, this is not going to be a reflection on divorce, be it right or wrong in God’s eyes. There are plenty of Biblical texts that deal with that. I will say, only briefly, that the choice I made to break my vow was for the safety of my children, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. I serve a loving God who I believe wants his children to live lives free of fear and abuse.

Jephthah made a vow, too. His vow was directly to God, not to another human being. A vow like that most certainly should not be broken. We can look at Jephthah’s circumstance in hindsight and say he should never have made that vow. He didn’t need to. God was with him. We hear, “the Spirit of the LORD came upon” him. God was going to use him to conquer the Ammonites like he had used the other judges before him. God was not going to let him fail.

So, what happened? Was Jephthah’s faith too small? Had Jephthah not heard about how God had used others before him? Surely, he had heard stories of Moses, Joshua, and probably even Gideon. Alternatively, it could be said that Jephthah’s boldness in making such a vow could have been used to give his army more confidence in battle. We can speculate all day long.

Not only did God have a victory that day, we hear Jephthah “crushed” his foe. Imagine what Jephthah, the son of a harlot, must have been feeling that day! And then it happens. Jephthah returns home and of all the people who should run to greet him first, it was his daughter. His only child was the one who exuberantly waited for her father’s return and entered the scene with dancing.

Jephthah had made a very foolish vow. How could it be a good idea for a vow to God to include sinful behavior? It would certainly not be the will of God for someone to needlessly be murdered. Jephthah made a very bad choice and didn’t believe he could take back his vow, no matter how much he wanted to spare his daughter’s life.

What about the daughter? Can you imagine what she was saying when she said, “Father, if you have made a vow to the Lord, you must do to me what you have vowed.” For a young girl, a virgin, Jephthah’s daughter needed some time to process what was going to happen to her. What did you think about that? We often don’t get a chance for regrets or bucket lists.

How are you living your life today? To its fullest? What if you were called home tomorrow? Would you have regrets? We have a choice how we spend each day. Some of us have more freedom of that choice than others. Believe me, that can be a blessing and a bit of a curse. When there are no boundaries for the day, it can often be sundown before you have accomplished a single thing, other than maybe brushing your teeth! (Not really!)

Seriously, we should be careful about vows made to God or others. People should be able to rely on our word without it being a “vow.” Are there any changes you’d like to make your life right now to put you more in alignment with how God has created you? How do you want to be responding to God?

praying hands looking up

Let’s pray …
Lord, I want to do a better job of being faithful to you and attentive to your leading in my life. I need your help to see the direction you have for me today. Help me to follow through in the ways I have promised. Thank you for the reminder today to not take this life you’ve given me for granted. Jesus’ name. Amen.

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