Judges 11 – Making promises

Making open-ended promises to others.

9Jephthah said, “If I come with you and if the LORD gives me victory over the Ammonites, will you really make me ruler over all the people?” 10 “The LORD is our witness,” the leaders replied. “We promise to do whatever you say.”

The people had wanted Jephthah to get rid of the enemies badly but what they promised him indicates that they have done so rashly. They promised to do whatever he says.

Don’t make the mistake of making open-ended promises to others. We may pledge loyalty or support to someone in an open ended way that will eventually put us in a tight spot.

Don’t make foolish promises without considering the implications.

30 And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD. He said, “If you give me victory over the Ammonites, 31I will give to the LORD the first thing coming out of my house to greet me when I return in triumph. I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.”

When Jephthah made his vow, did he stop to consider that someone he loves might come out to meet him? He had made the mistake of making promises without fully considering the implications. When we promise to help someone, do we first consider the implications and whether we are truly in a position to make that promise?

In the same way, we should not make promises to God you cannot keep. Someone said that Christians don’t tell lies but they sing them. How true! We sing of our commitment to surrender everything to God without seriously considering if we meant them.

What promises have you made to God lately? Were you serious in making that promise? How can you fulfill them?

Before making a promise, consider: Is it against God’s laws?

Jephthah may not have had a background in religious law. Perhaps he was ignorant of God’s command against human sacrifice. That is why it is so important to know God’s word so that we will not sin accidentally. Unintentional sin is still sin and we need to know the word of God well.

(Psalms 119:11) I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

Am I making the promise at the heat of the moment?

(Judges 11:29-31) Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah. He crossed Gilead and Manasseh, passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from there he advanced against the Ammonites. {30} And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD: “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, {31} whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.”

Jephthah was so happy about his victory that he made that foolish promise. Many things are promised at the heat of the moment when you have not taken time to seriously ponder. You may agree to help someone in the spur of compassion when you are actually not in the position to do so. You may promise someone you would marry him/her when you have not taken time to decide. Let’s not make promises on crucial matters at the spur of the moment.

Don’t make a promise just because it seems like the right thing to do.

Jephthah was from an area where pagan religion and human sacrifice were common. In his eyes, it may have seemed like the right thing to do.

You may be pressured to promise to help a friend in a certain way that is not proper because everyone thinks it is the right thing to do. Do not be pressured to make such promises. Make promises only when they are in accordance with God’s word.