Summary: God expects us to be honest in our dealings with others, and when we are it will eliminate the need for vows in most cases.
Good as Your Word
A. Truth is sometimes hard to find.
1. There was a time when people were as good as their word and some still are.
2. There were no written contracts (try to buy a car now and tell the guy, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll pay you.”)
3. We have a credibility gap.
4. What do people associate with your name?
5. Parents once taught the importance of a good reputation and warned the children not to ruin it.
B. My aunt once engaged a man to cut trees on her property.
1. Made only a verbal agreement.
2. He came, cut and took off and she lost out.
C. Paul Harvey’s famous story.
1. Four high school boys late to their morning class.
2. Told their teacher they had a flat tire.
3. Missed a test but could make it up.
4. Gave paper and pencil and sent one to each of the four corners of room.
5. They would pass if they answer one question, “Which tire was flat.”
D. Many individuals are suspect.
1. The proverbial used car salesman.
2. Preachers and lawyers.
4. Those who falsify income tax returns.
5. Cheating over the Internet, finding papers on the Internet and plagiarizing.
E. Roman orator Cicero, “Nothing is sweeter than the light of truth.”
F. English poet, Chaucer, “Truth is the highest thing that man may keep.”
G. Daniel Webster, “There is nothing so powerful as truth-and often nothing so strange.”
H. Even Jewish rabbis recognized lying-along with scoffing, hypocrisy and slander, as one of the four great sins that would keep a person out of God’s presence.
I. Jesus’ day.
1. Truth was revered but buried under a pile of tradition.
2. God’s law was brought down to their level.
3. We need a higher code, God’s, as in our courts, “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”
J. Our Scripture. We have three choices.
1. What the Law of Moses said.
2. What the rabbis said.
3. What Jesus said.
THE TEACHING OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
A. Based on several passages in Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
1. Speaks of perjuring oneself or swearing falsely.
2. In oaths, the name of something or someone is added for credibility.
3. May use God’s name (“I swear to God”).
4. Oath is to be the absolute truth.
B. God provided for oaths to be made by his name.
1. Abraham sends servant Eliezer back to his home for a bride for Isaac.
2. Makes him swear by God’s name not to find a wife among the pagans.
3. David and Jonathan who agreed together when Saul was trying to kill David.
4. God’s name was used in the covenant, “So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, May the Lord call David’s enemies to account.” (I Samuel 20:16)
C. God sometimes made oaths using his own name.
1. After Abraham demonstrated his willingness to give up his son, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies.” (Genesis 22:16)
2. Just as God accommodated in divorce, so he does in making oaths.
3. God knew humans were prone to deceit and lying.
4. Made provision for oath giving in his name.
5. Had the propensity been toward honesty, there would not have been any need for oaths.
6. Oaths increase the motivation to tell the truth.
D. Oaths are only as reliable as the people who make them.
1. Peter in his denial denied with an oath that he had been with Jesus.
2. Oath did not make his words true.
E. We too can make rash oaths.
1. Jepthah, judge of Israel, as he advanced against Ammonites.
2. “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.” (Judges 11:30)
3. Daughter was the first to meet him.
F. Mosaic law established the seriousness of vows.
G. Henry David Thoreau, thinker and naturalist, “Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.”
THE PERVERSION OF GOD’S LAW
A. Like many of God’s laws, this one had been perverted.
1. Emphasis placed in the wrong place.
2. Missing ingredient was the proper and serious circumstance to make a vow.
3. Any vow was permitted for any purpose as long as it was fulfilled.