I have always made promises to God because I believed it was the right thing to do. For example, I would tell God that I’ll be more thankful for my situation if He blesses me with a new one. When I read that now, it kind of sounds horrible, but sometimes we make promises to God just to prove our loyalty to Him.
Usually, when we make a promise to God it’s because we want to return the favor. We understand all of the blessings God has given us, so we feel like we have to prove how thankful we are! The promises we make to God aren’t easy to fulfill. They usually involve some element that is out of our control.
The story of Jephthah, in the Book of Judges, is a great example of the promises we may make to God, but question if we can honestly fulfill them.
Jephthah’s story is very dense and he’s had to overcome a lot of adversity in his life. He was the son of a man in Gilead, but couldn’t inherit anything because he was also a son of a prostitute. So he was forced to flee Gilead and care for himself in another town (Judges 11:3).
Jephthah didn’t have a great life. It’s like being born into privilege, but not being able to take advantage of that privilege. You literally have to work for your own life! Jephthah was living on the streets, so he became very street smart. That later came to his advantage when there was a war to come in his homeland, Gilead.
The elders of Gilead came to him and said, “Come and be our commander, that we may fight against the people of Ammon” (Judges 11:6). Despite the people of Gilead casting Jephthah out of their land, they agreed that if he wins the war, he would be the head and commander over Gilead.
This is one of those situations where it’s bittersweet: you’re given the opportunity of a lifetime, but you also haven’t forgotten the past (In other words, when someone ruins your life, then comes to you for help that will be beneficial to you). Jephthah couldn’t turn this opportunity down! This was definitely a sign from God, literally.
While Jephthah prepared for the war, the Holy Spirit gave him a visit, “Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah..” (Judges 11:29). But Jephthah also made a vow to the Lord stating, “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” (Judges 11: 30-31).
Let’s pause the story there: So the Holy Spirit comes to Jephthah telling him that the Lord will be with him during the battle. Yet Jephthah still decides to make a promise to the Lord, despite what the Lord has promised him…
To finish the story, the Lord delivers the people of Ammon into Jephthah’s hands (i.e. Jephthah defeats the people of Ammon!). Keep in mind, Jephthah made a promise to the Lord that if he defeats the people of Ammon, he will sacrifice the first person who comes through his doors to meet him. Tell me why Jephthah’s ONLY daughter was the first person to greet him after the war. She walked in all happy, dancing for joy because of the good news (Judges 11:34).
I included the way she walked in to greet her father because in a situation like that, I would’ve been HEATED and Jephthah was: “And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he tore his clothes, and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low! You are among those who trouble me! For I have given my word to the Lord, and I cannot go back on it.” (Judges 11:35). In that moment, Jephthah knew he had messed up and had put his foot in his own mouth!
I’m going to end the story there, but to make that connection to our lives, we aren’t obligated to make promises to God! God is ALWAYS with us and He will NEVER leave us.
If you don’t have confidence in yourself, you won’t have confidence in God!
We have to learn to trust God and believe that God CAN do for us. There may be so much pain in our lives, that we use that pain to make decisions. In the case of Jephthah, he didn’t believe in himself, nor did he have confidence, despite God telling him that He’s got his back! We don’t have to make promises to God because He already knows our pain…He knows what we go through.
Although the promises we make to God aren’t with bad intentions, they may display a lack of faith. You have to ask yourself this: Why am I making this promise? Am I allowing outside influences to affect this promise? Or if I don’t make this promise, is God going to leave me?
It’s hard to please God without having Faith in Him.
God created us, so He knows EVERYTHING about us. God is like our parents (He is our Father, literally) and all He wants the best for us and doesn’t expect anything, except, respect in return! It doesn’t sound hard, but maybe that’s why we make those promises….
What type of promises have you made to God?