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88. Numbers 30: “Personal Vows”

Golden Nursing Center in Mannington, NJ –Evening

Service on 3/15/2018

and

South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton, NJ –Men’s Evening Chapel on 3/18/2018

(edited September 2021)

 

This chapter is part of God’s final instructions, through Moses, to His Old Covenant People. It’s a long list of reminders and admonitions before God’s Children will finally get to enter the Promised Land. Joshua will lead them there, but Moses’ final assignment is to “prep” them for the conquest of the land.

 

In Numbers chapters 26-29 a full census of the People has been recorded, their calendar of rituals re-established, and many of their ritual offerings reviewed in great detail. Many well-known Bible teachers through the years have found this section of God’s Word to be very tedious! But most agree that there is much to be learned from it. Is this detailed section of the Old Testament relevant to our lives as Christians today? I would say, of course it is! Look at what Paul tells us about our relationship with Ancient Israel. This is in the New Testament:

 

I Corinthians 10:11

“Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.”

 

So, even though we are sure that we cannot be saved by the Old Covenant Law, we can definitely benefit from studying it. I have often said it this way, “Different covenant, same God.” So, let’s turn now to Numbers chapter 30 and see what examples are set there for us. Chapters 26-29 are mostly about formal, public matters, but chapter 30 is much more personal. Let’s check it out:

 

Verses 1-2:  And Moses spake unto the heads of the tribes concerning the children of Israel, saying, This is the thing which the Lord hath commanded. If a man vow a vow unto the Lord, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth.”

 

I don’t know about you, but I am still very capable of being less than honest, both to God and to men. I really have to watch it, because it can all come so naturally to me. Sometimes Satan, “The father of lies,” helps us to so easily deceive each other. Unfortunately, he is just as good at helping us to deceive ourselves! But Our Heavenly Father stands against lying and deceit.

 

Look at what Christ said about the words we speak:

Matthew 12:33-37

“Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit. O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.  But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.  For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.”

 

We all sin through words, or reveal our sins through our words. I have many times, even as a Christian. But by faith in Christ, we have full access to the internal Helper and internal Filter that is the Holy Spirit of God!

 

Way back in Moses’ day, God was clear that when we speak, He LISTENS. It matters to Him. He also remembers the things we say, especially when we drag Him into the conversation by saying something like, “No, really! I swear to God!” It matters how we speak to others and it matters how we speak about the Lord to others. That’s why even Pastors and teachers have to be especially careful. I try to have mercy on those who minister in the Word of God and teach it to others. And I hope and pray that others will have mercy on me! Before we go back to Numbers 30, let’s take a quick look at what the Apostle James had to say about teachers, or what he called “masters,” in the New Testament:

James 13:1-18

“My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh. Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.”

So, this whole thing about the things we say to and about God definitely still matters today. Let’s do a quick read through of the rest of Numbers chapter 30. Then we will close with a look at some details:

 

Verses 3-16:  If a woman also vow a vow unto the Lord, and bind herself by a bond, being in her father's house in her youth; And her father hear her vow, and her bond wherewith she hath bound her soul, and her father shall hold his peace at her; then all her vows shall stand, and every bond wherewith she hath bound her soul shall stand. But if her father disallow her in the day that he heareth; not any of her vows, or of her bonds wherewith she hath bound her soul, shall stand: and the Lord shall forgive her, because her father disallowed her. And if she had at all an husband, when she vowed, or uttered ought out of her lips, wherewith she bound her soul;  And her husband heard it, and held his peace at her in the day that he heard it: then her vows shall stand, and her bonds wherewith she bound her soul shall stand. But if her husband disallowed her on the day that he heard it; then he shall make her vow which she vowed, and that which she uttered with her lips, wherewith she bound her soul, of none effect: and the Lord shall forgive her. But every vow of a widow, and of her that is divorced, wherewith they have bound their souls, shall stand against her. And if she vowed in her husband's house, or bound her soul by a bond with an oath; And her husband heard it, and held his peace at her, and disallowed her not: then all her vows shall stand, and every bond wherewith she bound her soul shall stand. But if her husband hath utterly made them void on the day he heard them; then whatsoever proceeded out of her lips concerning her vows, or concerning the bond of her soul, shall not stand: her husband hath made them void; and the Lord shall forgive her. Every vow, and every binding oath to afflict the soul, her husband may establish it, or her husband may make it void. But if her husband altogether hold his peace at her from day to day; then he establisheth all her vows, or all her bonds, which are upon her: he confirmeth them, because he held his peace at her in the day that he heard them.  But if he shall any ways make them void after that he hath heard them; then he shall bear her iniquity. These are the statutes, which the Lord commanded Moses, between a man and his wife, between the father and his daughter, being yet in her youth in her father's house.”

 

I want to try to break this all down for you. Notice I said TRY!

 

Passage verses

Comments

3-4: “If a woman also vow a vow unto the Lord, and bind herself by a bond, being in her father's house in her youth; And her father hear her vow, and her bond wherewith she hath bound her soul, and her father shall hold his peace at her; then all her vows shall stand, and every bond wherewith she hath bound her soul shall stand.”

Ancient Israel was a patriarchy where the fathers ruled their families by Law.

5: “But if her father disallow her in the day that he heareth; not any of her vows, or of her bonds wherewith she hath bound her soul, shall stand: and the Lord shall forgive her, because her father disallowed her.”

Some would say that we should not have a patriarchal society in modern times. I won’t argue either way on that. But that’s what Ancient Israel had in Old Testament times. Well, they lived in tents during this period too and I’m not advocating that for most of us, but still, we can learn from their experiences. We still serve the same God they served though we view Him differently in the light of the Cross.

6-8: “And if she had at all an husband, when she vowed, or uttered ought out of her lips, wherewith she bound her soul; And her husband heard it, and held his peace at her in the day that he heard it: then her vows shall stand, and her bonds wherewith she bound her soul shall stand. But if her husband disallowed her on the day that he heard it; then he shall make her vow which she vowed, and that which she uttered with her lips, wherewith she bound her soul, of none effect: and the Lord shall forgive her.”

 

Feminists may cringe at this today. But our purpose here is not to humiliate women in any way. We are looking for general principles that could help us, and here’s one: Anyone’s personal vows, their personal relationship with the Lord, DOES affect those around them. For example, in that society whatever the wife promised to God or to others in His name would have obligated and bound her husband or father also.

Why? Well, in that society at that time, a woman might not be very likely to have the power or resources on her own to see a costly promise through to the end. In that sense it would only be fair to allow the men, who would also be obligated by the law to fulfill her promises, to have a say in her vows and oaths.    

9-12: “But every vow of a widow, and of her that is divorced, wherewith they have bound their souls, shall stand against her.  And if she vowed in her husband's house, or bound her soul by a bond with an oath;  And her husband heard it, and held his peace at her, and disallowed her not: then all her vows shall stand, and every bond wherewith she bound her soul shall stand. But if her husband hath utterly made them void on the day he heard them; then whatsoever proceeded out of her lips concerning her vows, or concerning the bond of her soul, shall not stand: her husband hath made them void; and the Lord shall forgive her.”

 

Whoa, even a former husband might be given a chance to have had input to the degree that he, by his relationship to the women was obligated by her vow. 

13-14: “Every vow, and every binding oath to afflict the soul, her husband may establish it, or her husband may make it void.  But if her husband altogether hold his peace at her from day to day; then he establisheth all her vows, or all her bonds, which are upon her: he confirmeth them, because he held his peace at her in the day that he heard them.”

 

This guy heard his wife’s vow but wasn’t paying attention, or was shy or inattentive on the day she said it. Guess what? He then confirmed the vow by his silence and was obligated right along with her!

15-16: “But if he shall any ways make them void after that he hath heard them; then he shall bear her iniquity.  These are the statutes, which the Lord commanded Moses, between a man and his wife, between the father and his daughter, being yet in her youth in her father's house”.

 

The next day, or month, or year was too late for the husband to make a retraction of the vow. He had to object right away, or never.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


How do our religious beliefs and commitments affect those around us in our time? We can see in this ancient example we are studying that personal relationships, even back then, got very complicated and tangled. The point is, how we feel about God and what we think of Him affects others around us as well as ourselves. Many, many broken relationships could be healed if attitudes about the Lord and His Word were changed. I know my relationships (even with my enemies!) would ALL be improved if I could just walk a little closer with Jesus. No question about it. Peace with God brings peace and restoration to our other relationships. And our personal vow to the Lord (or lack thereof) affects MANY others besides just ourselves. Wouldn’t you agree? Let’s pray.

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