COMMUNICATION 02 – Oaths & Covenants

Deu 5:20                                        false witness
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”
  • no false witness in court nor to anyone about anything anywhere any time > no lying
Deu 23:21-23                                keeping vows, oaths, promises
“If you make a vow to the LORD your God, do not postpone fulfilling it, for he LORD your God will surely require it of you, and you would incur guilt. 22 But if you refrain from vowing, you will not incur guilt. 23 Whatever your lips utter you must diligently perform, just as you have freely vowed to the LORD your God with your own mouth.”
  • A person’s freedom to not vow, to not make an oath, to not promise is affirmed
  • In the case of making vows to God the same principle applies: Whatever your lips utter you must diligently perform.
Lev 19:12                                         swearing falsely

“And you shall not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God: I am the LORD.”

  • Swearing by God’s name – giving weight to one’s word by calling on God – is not seen lightly: It links God’s character with performance of the oath. You’d better do it.
Lev 27:1-34                                      performing vows to God, votive offerings

“When a person makes an explicit vow to the LORD concerning the equivalent for a human being … an animal … unclean animal … inherited landholding … firstlings”

  • There is a whole chapter in Leviticus on how to fulfil vows spoken to God!
  • Again: vowing is optional. Once vows are spoken they must be performed.
Joshua 9, 2 Sam 21:1-14               Case study: Peace treaty with the Gibeonites
  • Gibeon is the next city to be conquered by Israel after Jericho and Ai.
  • Gibeon’s population is of the Hivite people group (Jos 9:19), a people on the list of the 7 peoples to God commands to be destroyed by Israel (Exo 3:8).
  • The Gibeonites pretend to be people from far away. They fool Joshua and he makes a peace treaty with them.
  • This is therefore a treaty made by deception and with people God commanded to destroy … is such a treaty binding? Should Joshua keep this peace treaty?
  • It is seen: Joshua considers himself bound and keeps the peace treaty (Jos 10:6-7).
  • Did God agree with this? Should Joshua have kept it?
  • Much later in history King Saul kills many Gibeonites, breaking the 350 year old treaty.
  • In answer, God sends a 3 year famine on Israel during King David’s reign.
  • David inquires of God. God explains the reason for the famine. David apologizes to the Gibeonites and makes restitution as they demand.
  • So: 350 years later God still holds Israel accountable to this very treaty!!
Importance of Covenant faithfulness
  • Once spoken or promised, even if it wasn’t God’s will, it is binding now (Example: marriage against God’s will). Once the oath is spoken, God will hold you to it.
  • Some examples of oaths or covenants:

Malachi 2:16                                     Marriage covenant

“The LORD was a witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. … For I hate divorce, says the LORD …”

Leviticus 19:13, Deu 24:14-15       Work contracts

“You shall not keep for yourself the wages of a laborer until morning …”

Leviticus 19:35-36, De 25:13-16    Oral trade contracts

“You shall not cheat in measuring length, weight or quantity”

Amos 1:9                                            National covenants

“Tyre … I will not revoke the punishment … because they delivered entire communities over to Edom and did not remember the covenant of kinship.”

  • God is faithful to his every word, he fulfils every promise, he is the covenant-keeping God … You need to be like him: faithful, reliable, trustworthy.
Judges 11:31-36                              Case study: Jephtah’s rash oath
  • Jephtah is one of the judges to deliver Israel. Though imperfect, God uses him to deliver Israel from the oppression of the Ammonites.
  • Before going out to war he makes an oath: “whoever comes out of my house to meet me, when I return victorious … shall be the LORD’s, to be offered up by me as a burnt offering.”
  • After returning victorious, his daughter, his only child, comes out to meet him, dancing, rejoicing over the victory. Jephtah grieves, but says he can’t take back vow
  • His daughter answers: “If you have opened your mouth to the LORD, do to me according to what went out of your mouth.” Jephtah sacrifices his own daughter!
  • Before all else: we should be amazed at their respect for the spoken word.
  • In the Law there is a way to redeem an oath about a person: take responsibility, give a sacrifice or gift instead (Lev 27:1-2). This is what Jephthah should have done.
Oaths versus normal meaningful language
  • Why do we make oaths? > to give importance and surety to my words, to declare our commitment, to give assurance, especially when people doubt my words.
  • Often with an oath I over-commit myself to convince myself, others and God.
  • This leads to a vicious cycle: the less reliable I am, the more I try to prove my reliability by swearing. An inflation of words: I say more but it means less.
  • Are oaths evil then? > No, for God swears oaths in Deu 29:12 and Heb 6:17. The oath is not the problem. The problem lies in keeping them.
  • Mth 5:33-37      “Do not swear at all … Let your word be ‘yes, yes’ or ‘no, no’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.”
  • If you are faithful and your word is reliable       > an oath is not needed
  • If you are not faithful nor reliable                        > even more so: don’t make an oath!
  • We need the fear of God on us in this! Even our normal every day word need to stand. How much more so our promises, covenants, contracts and oaths!
  • Word-faithfulness and covenant-keeping is God’s non-negotiable standard.
Internal childhood oaths due to hurt
  • Sometimes, when hurt as children, we make strong inward commitments that then drive us, though we are no longer aware of them.
  • “I will prove them wrong.” … “I will never be able to do this.” “… I will never ever talk to her again.” … “I will never let that happen to me again.”
  • These become strong mental patterns, often unconscious and never re-evaluated.
  • Sometimes these oaths were necessary to survive … but later they limit and cripple.
  • Ask God for forgiveness for these oaths, ask for help to break them
  • Replace lies with truth in your mind consciously and continually!