Tuesday, April 03, 2012

120403 - Leviticus 26-27 - Vows to the LORD

Tuesday SOAP: Vows to the Lord - what can and cannot be redeemed. A macabre example of a vow in the Old Testament reveals a few important principles about our free will, God's sovereignty, how His impowerment may work, and why we should be grave and humble about assumptions about the future.


S:     The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, If anyone makes a special vow to the LORD involving the valuation of persons, then the valuation of a male from twenty years old up to sixty years old shall be fifty shekels of silver, according to the shekel of the sanctuary. If the person is a female, the valuation shall be thirty shekels. (Leviticus 27:1-4)

“But no devoted thing that a man devotes to the LORD, of anything that he has, whether man or beast, or of his inherited field, shall be sold or redeemed; every devoted thing is most holy to the LORD. No one devoted, who is to be devoted for destruction from mankind, shall be ransomed; he shall surely be put to death. (Leviticus 27:28-29)

O: It seems that you could pledge something to the LORD, then change your mind about it and redeem it. But if you pledged it to be offered a sacrifice, it could not be redeemed.

A: This passage makes me immediately think of the story of Jephthah, a Gileadite judge of Israel, who vowed to offer whatever first met him from his house at his return from the slaughter of the Ammonites as a burnt-sacrifice. (Judges 11:29-40) His daughter, his only child, met him first and so he apparently carried out his vow. Jephthah is mentioned briefly in the (Hebrews 11:32) "Hall of Faith," so it would seem this very flawed man was nevertheless a man of sincere faith.

Here a few points of application from this troubling story:

  • If nothing else, this story reveals the uncompromising honesty of the Bible.
  • It teaches us we must excercise great humility in all things, for we don't know the way events may turn. (See James 4:13-16)
  • It teaches us that we can make decisions with tragic consequences because of the freedom and accompanying responsibility God allows us.
  • It graphically illustrates how serious vows to the Lord are. (See Deut. 23:21-23, Numbers 30:3-16, also Acts 5:1-11) God may deliver us from severe consequences in His mercy - but He may not! It's therefore presumptuous to vow, and not a sin to refuse to do so. (Deut. 23:22)
  • Interestingly enough, it also implies a principle about an individual empowered by the Spirit of the Lord. Jephthah vowed that vow while under the influence of God's Spirit, which (in the narrative) came upon him before he travelled to Ammon, and empowered him to slaughter the Ammonites. Someone acting in the power of the Holy Spirit is not infallible in everything, and (referencing Jephthah's humble and troubled background) God does not always move to correct our flaws in one area, even while He uses us in another.
Even the heroes of the faith, then, can provide occasion for the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme; (2 Samuel 12:14) showing that I certainly am capable of the same.

P: Father, how clearly I see myself in such reflection. I greatly fear acting rashly and bringing harm upon my family, providing an excuse for the skeptic, or misrepresenting you. Above all, I fear you - protect me from such presumptuous sin.

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