Last week, we were challenged to make a vow to God. When we met, we discovered that many of us were reluctant to take that step. Some were concerned about the dangers of entering into a vow with God too lightly. It was asked, “Doesn’t the bible warn us about making vows?” We decided that maybe we were confusing this issue with Jesus’ command as recorded in Matthew 5:33-37.
Swearing involves invoking the authority of that which you swear by to bind your word. A person swears when one makes a promise to another, and in this promise is the understanding that a third party, that which is being sworn by (usually God) will oversee the promise. If it is broken, the one who made the promise will be punished by the one who was sworn by.
A vow is quite different. It is much more like a covenant. We take vows in partnership. We take vows in marriage when we make promises to be true to one another. And we make vows with God in the same way. A vow is a declaration of a partnership that already exists. We make vows as a statement of the strong commitment to one another that already exists. The vows itself makes the already strong commitment binding, and needs appeal to no third parry for oversight. There need be no mention of repercussions if the vow is broken, because the understood outcome of a broken vow is the end of the relationship.
But, as we see again and again in the biblical history of God dealing with His people, even when Israel broke its vow to Him, he continued to be faithful to Israel. When God’s chosen people strayed from following God’s ways by seeking security in financial strength, or military alliance or any “surety” other than God’s promise to take care of them, Israel was breaking its vow to God. God sent prophets to His people to correct encourage them to keep the vow, and Israel did not. Then God sent His people into exile as punishment, and in distress, Israel called on God to help, to honor his part of the vow. God did. He brought His people out of bondage, and restored Israel to the land in keeping with His promise.
We can learn from the history of God dealing with his people, that when we make a vow to God, God will always keep his part of the deal. And he will do all he can to help us keep our end of the deal, too.
So, after making a vow with God, what is next? Back in 1 Samuel, we see that the next step for Hannah was to continue dealing with God in prayer. And as she did, Eli the priest saw her there. She must have been a blubbering mess, because Eli though that she was drunk. He did not understand what she was doing until Hannah explained to him. She told Eli that she had been pouring out her soul before God. And Eli’s response, as a priest, as God’s mediator for God’s chosen people, Eli spoke as for God and said, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition which you have asked of Him.”
So, what is our next step? The challenge is to share what is going on between you and God with those around you. That does not have to mean that you need to give all or any of the details. Eli does not ask what Hannah wants, and Hannah does not tell him. Sharing may be as simple as allowing yourself to be seen by others as you are in front of God.
Now, I said that was simple, but it may not be. It may be a great challenge to be that open, that transparent in public, even if no details are given. I know how natural it is to put on the “I’m OK” mask and walk around pretending to be strong, together, independent, organized and in control, not needing anyone’s help or guidance. It may be a huge challenge just to admit to others that we need them or that we need God. So, why should we share?
God has designed us to live in community with one another. He does not make people out of dust anymore, he uses us to make people. In the same way, he does not stroll into our garden to sit down and talk with us anymore, he send us to each other’s gardens to help plant flowers and to help pull weeds. Just like God sent Eli to pronounce his blessing to Hannah, He may have somebody to encourage and support you, just waiting around the corner, ready to help and share, if only you will allow it. How do you allow it? By letting that person see that you need their encouragement.
Another great aspect of sharing, is that there is a built in element of accountability. If we tell others about what we have promised to do, they will ask us what we have done when they see us next.
So, this week, we practiced sharing our hopes and desires with one anothter before taking up the challenge to share with others around us this week. And so we challenge you to share what God is doing in your life.
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May you find that you cannot out-share God. May you see that He has come before you, preparing your way when you go out amongst His people sharing about how God is dealing with you.
–Amy Schwab, for those of us in search of The Next Thing