Sunday, August 17, 2008

On Vows and Covenants

"Make vows to the LORD your God and fulfill them." (Ps. 76:11)

A major theme of the Old Testament is one of Covenants and Vows between man and God. In fact, the Old Testament itself can be interpreted as the "Old Covenant" while the New Testament can be interpreted as the "New Covenant." So, since covenants are made in the Old and New Testaments, the doctrine of covenants is critically important to understand.

Several examples of Old Testament vows include Jacob, Jonah, Samuel and Samson:

Jacob said, "If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father's house, then the LORD will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God's house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth." (Genesis 28:20-22)

Later on God reminds Jacob of his vow, He says, "I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and where you made a vow to me. Now leave this land at once and go back to your native land." (Genesis 31:13)

Hanna made a vow with God by offering her son Samuel for temple service, ". . . made a vow, saying, 'O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant's misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.'" (I Samuel 1:11)

Jonah also used the vow as a bargaining chip. While in the belly of a large fish, Jonah prayed, "When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the LORD.' And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land." (Jonah 2:7-10)

The most popular vow in the Old Testament involves the Nazarite vow:
"Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the Lord:" (Num. 6: 2)

The Law of the Nazarite is complex but generally was associated with a person taking a vow or making a covenant to abstain from 1. grapes, alcohol, vinegar, 2. cutting of ones hair and 3. avoiding corpses and graves. There also may have been an associated vow of chastity or celibacy. Those who make and keep the Nazarite vow become separate or consecrated to God. Samson is a famous Nazarite in the OT was well as John the Baptist. Several other early Christians are thought to have been Nazarites.

Samson in association with his Nazarite vow was promised Gods Spirit which gave him great strength and success in battle against the Philistines. However, after Samson had violated his Nazarite vow he was captured by the Philistines, had his eyes put out, and served as a slave.

However, at the end of his life Samson repented of His sin allowing his hair to grow out. Samson prayed to the Lord, 'O Lord God, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.' (Judges 16:28)." "Samson said, 'Let me die with the Philistines!' (Judges 16:30) Down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more as he died than while he lived." (Judges 16:30).

So, why does God choose to tell us about the Nazarite in the OT. What is God trying to teach us? Does the law of the vow still apply to us?

Paul taught that the Mosaic Law of Covenant was intended to teach us the impossibility of keeping the law. While it is impossible to keep all the Law of Moses, the Nazarite vow was something that could be kept 100% perfectly. Tithing is also a vow that can be kept perfectly. So, while we cannot keep all of Gods commandants, man can keep certain ones. And it turns out that both in the Old and New Testament God honors those vows.

Of course, ultimately, as all man fall short from the perfection of God; the New Covenant involves taking upon us the name of Christ who was the only being who was able to keep all the covenants and commandments of our Father in Heaven and paid the price for our disobedience and sin.

However, just because we are commanded in the New Testament to accept Christ because of our inability to keep all the commandments of God; that doesn't mean that God doesn't welcome covenant making and covenant keeping. And it doesnt mean that God doesn't expect us to perfectly keep those vows like chastity, the law of health, and tithing that we can keep perfectly. And, as we do so, we can be filled with a greater measure of the Spirit of God, and we will be blessed both temporally and spiritually.

However, when we fall short and break our vows with God like Samson, even when we believe in Christ, that doesn't free us from the consequences of our sins. Not until Samson truely repented, turned from his sins, and re-established his vow with God was he again filled with the Spirit of God and given the strength the destroy the Philistine temple.

For being in the Old Testament, Samson's story is a great example of the the New Testament concept of faith and repentance that is only made possible by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. While Christ did pay for our sins, He did not come to save us in our sins, but to save us from our sins. While all fall short from the perfection of God, by making and remaking covenants with God, we become more and more sanctified, purified, and perfected until at the day of judgement after the Millennium (or sooner), through the power of Christ, we will have become perfect and holy and ready to stand in the presence of God.

"Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world." (1 Jn. 4: 17)

Other scriptures which teach about keeping vows:
(Psalm 22:25) (Psalm 50:14,15) (Psalm 116:12-14) (Psalm 66:12-14)(Deuteronomy 23:21-23) (Ecclesiastes 5:4,5) (Proverbs 20:25)

Sections of this post are based on the following link:


Bryce Haymond said...

Great post on covenants in the scriptures. Thank you for sharing this.

Anonymous said...

this has truly blessed me; during meditation s thiscweek my wife and I simultaneously had an unction concerning covenants and vows. this article really rings home for us. thanks.
Ivan Tate