"The terrible tragedy of making RASH VOWS to God"
Jephthah the Gileadite stands condemned in history as someone who made a rash and foolish vow to God even though he was a mighty man who led the Israelites to win a decisive battle against the enemy. We read in Judges 11:30-31 like this: And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord, and said, "If You will indeed deliver the people of Ammon into my hands, then it will be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord's, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.". By the very wordings of this vow, it is clear that Jephthah expected an animal at his door when he returned back victoriously from battle. Jephthah’s vow however turned out to be rash and cruel as his only daughter was the one who greeted him at the door and he had to ultimately consecrate her as a sacrifice to God (Judges 11:32-40).
In ancient Israel, vows were solemn promises made to God (Psalms 76:11) in reference with devoting a person (Num 6:2) or dedicating children (1 Sam 1:11) or devoting property to God (Gen 28:22). Vows needed to be voluntary (Deut 23:21-22), and performed faithfully (Num 30:2) without any delay (Deut 23:21, 23). However there was danger of inconsiderately making vows. "It is a snare for a man to devote rashly something as holy, and afterward to reconsider his vows" (Prov 20:25)
Several important lessons are to be learned from Jephthah's rash vow:
- There may be doubts in our hearts concerning our future but that should not drive us to make foolish vows to God.
- We should never make vows to God as a purchase of a favor we desire but only to express gratitude to Him.
- We need to carefully consider the consequences before making a vow, and the golden rule is: “we should only make vows that we can keep”.
- Finally, what we have solemnly vowed to God, we must perform even though it is hard – this is the least that God expects from us.