Deuteronomy 23:21-23 – From This Day Forward…That’s A Pretty Darn Big Vow!

Posted: March 27, 2017 in Book of Deuteronomy
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Deuteronomy 23:21-23

Making Vows to God

 

According to Webster’s dictionary, the English word, “vow”, is a solemn promise or assertion by which one binds themselves to an act, a service, or a condition. How often do we make vows to God? How often do we keep them? I swear to God that I will never drink again. I swear to God that I will take my school work more seriously. I swear to God that I will get up and exercise every morning. I swear to God that I will read my Bible daily. I swear to God that I will make better food choices and lose weight. These are some of the vows we say before the Lord. Most of these are rarely kept. We aspire to greatness but rarely put for the discipline or the effort to keep the vows that we make.

 

Aspiring for the greatness that we claim in our vows requires discipline and effort. One of the most important vows that we express in life are our wedding vows. Since I come from a Protestant tradition, our standard wedding vows are this:

 

“I, ___, take thee, ___, to be my wedded husband/wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I pledge thee my faith [or] pledge myself to you.”

 

It seems though this is just another vow we no longer take seriously. It is one that we break with impunity these days just like saying “I swear I will get up and exercise every weekday morning!” We start off nicely with our exercise regimen. Then we miss a day. Then two. Then tree and all of sudden we are no longer setting the alarm and we are sleeping in til the last possible moment just like we used to do. In today’s America, 50% of all marriages end in divorce. The statistics get worse with each subsequent marriage that a person enters into. We no longer take the vows that we make before the Lord seriously. There is a whole lot of lawyers out there that make their living solely from the breaking of our marriage vows. Divorce law is a $28 Billion a year industry.

 

Maybe, if we took as much time and money getting into marriages as we do on divorces, we would have fewer divorces. Maybe if we took the wedding vows seriously, we would think twice about getting married and think twice about throwing away our marriages. God would rather us not make vows before Him if we do not intend to expend the effort and the discipline to keep them. He says as much in today’s passage, Deuteronomy 23:21-23:

 

21 If you make a vow to the Lord your God, do not be slow to pay it, for the Lord your God will certainly demand it of you and you will be guilty of sin. 22 But if you refrain from making a vow, you will not be guilty. 23 Whatever your lips utter you must be sure to do, because you made your vow freely to the Lord your God with your own mouth.

 

Breaking a vow amounts to withholding a pledge from God so it is important for us to keep them to the point of not making the vow in the first place if we are not going to keep them.

 

Let’s go back to our wedding vows. Let’s look at each part and see if we are willing to make this vow before God and these witnesses.

 

To have and to hold – this is a promise of not only of exclusive sexual intimacy but in intimacy period. Without being intimate with one another outside the bedroom, there is no intimacy in the bedroom. We must see what the emotional needs of our spouses are and meet them. Many of us see our marriages as one-way streets and they so are not. Marriage is a two-way street. We must meet our spouses needs on their terms not ours. True intimacy comes from saying to ourselves that this marriage is about me meeting your needs. Sounds doormat-ish but it is really not. When we go out of our way to meet the needs of our spouse on their terms, a funny thing happens. They return the favor. Whether they do or not is not the predicating point of love. Jesus loved us so much that He died on the cross for us not caring whether or not we reciprocated His love by accepting Him as our Savior. He loved us anyway.

 

From this day forward – that means just what it says. From this point onward. Not just til we get a better offer from a newer, younger looking version. We vow before God to have and to hold from this day forward. That is an open-ended vow. This day forward. This means today and all the days that follow. This means that even when things get tough, when things get boring, when things get hurtful, we stick to it. The only athletes in professional sports that become legends are the ones that work just as hard at their craft 10 years into their careers as they did when they first got drafted into the pros. Sometimes, these athletes actually work harder 10 years in. When they were fresh out of college and at the height of the physical capabilities, it all came naturally. It was easy to train. It was easy. Later in their careers when their bodies are slowing down and after years of the bruises, bangs, and injuries that come from professional sports, they must work harder to maintain peak physical condition. They must work harder and play smarter to continue to compete at a high level. We must do the same in our marriages. Sometimes, we must work harder to keep our marriage performance at a high level. Sometimes, because of the bumps and bruises of life and within our marriages, it is not as easy as it once was. That is when we must take this vow of “this day forward” most seriously. When the oo-la-la of marriage goes away, and it will and it does, that’s when we must work harder at just loving our spouse. Taking a vow to stay married means loving unconditionally and accepting unconditionally. Take a look at your future spouse right now and ask yourself, is this a person I can find joy with 20 years from now after seeing them at the best and their worst? If not, then, run. Don’t make that vow!

 

The rest of the vows are offshoots from these basic vows. If we cannot get these first two right then the rest are meaningless. For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death parts us. If we cannot make our marriages about meeting the needs, all of them, of our spouse and being committed to that effort for the rest of our lives, then we will fail miserably at the better and worse, and the richer and poorer, and the sickness and the health, and we won’t make it to the death parts us part. Marriage is not about us. Marriage is about loving someone so much that we dedicate our lives to meeting their needs. This is so antithetical to our modern sensibilities. Everything is about meeting our needs and getting the world to bend to our way of thinking. It’s all about us. We think that about marriage too! Marriage is not about us. It is about the person that we love. It is symbolic of Jesus’ love for us,  His church. Our marriages should not be about us. It should be about loving someone so much that we make our lives about meeting their needs. In the process of putting the needs of our spouse first, we learn something about selfless love and it changes us and makes us into a person that our spouse wants to please. Funny how that works. In giving ourselves up to the greater good of our marriage, we find that we get our needs meet – when we no longer see getting our needs met as our top priority.

 

Let us begin to be a people that takes our vows before God seriously. Let us be a people with the discipline and the effort to keep our vows. Let it begin in our marriages. Let us be a generation that begins to put divorce lawyers out of business. Let us shrink the demand for divorce lawyers. Let us be vow-keepers…beginning in our marriages. Let us remember that it is a vow before the Lord…not just some flippant thing we do. It is from this day forward a vow to the Lord.

 

Amen and Amen.

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