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Bible Studies/Joshua and Jephthah


QUESTION: Hi, I am so worried about vows and breaking them. It seems that Joshua and Jephthah both made sinful vows (Joshua 9 and then Jepthah with his daughter) but they seemed to have kept them. Does this mean that we have to keep vows we make even though they may be sinful? What if someone vows to God to murder a certain group of people because they are angry with them? Or what if someone makes a vow to harm a child? Or what if someone makes a vow to harm themselves or commit any other various sin? Not much is said about what God thinks of Jepthath's action...I would assume that He wouldn't be in agreement with Jephthah's actions but the Bible seems to not say much about it. And in Joshua's case, was/is there anything that would show that God is displeased with Joshua following through with the disobedient vow? Are we really required to keep vows that are sinful or risk going to hell for not following through with them?

ANSWER: Dear Kristen,
   I apologize for being so late in responding.  I had some company and forgot to put myself on vacation for a couple of days.
   About your last thought, ďAre we really required to keep vows that are sinful or risk going to hell for not following through with them?Ē
the Bible teaches us that nothing we can do is good enough to keep us out of hell, Eph.2:8-9, Is.64:6, Phil.3:9, etc.  Only the righteousness of Jesus, through His payment for our sins, can keep us out of hell. Rom.10:3-4, Rom.6:23
   That said, how do we know how we should live after we HAVE entrusted our life to God for the righteousness of Jesus and His forgiveness of our sins?  You are right that we donít want to vow or do anything else that might be a sin since we now belong to God and trust His point of view on the harmfulness of sin. I Corinthians 6:19-20
   The answer to how we should live is to grow and reach out toward the goal of keeping in touch with God constantly.  Read the Bible every day, pray more and more often, spend time with other Christians, and share about God to people in your life.  The more you respond to Godís prompting (the more you obey), the more sensitive to Him and easier it becomes to obey His good advice that you learn from reading the Bible, from other Christians, and from ideas the Holy Spirit brings to your mind.  How do you know itís not just your thinking?  If it fits the principles of the Bible and isnít something you would normally think on your own, especially if it doesnít necessarily benefit you anyway, it probably is something God wants you to do.
   A serious vow should be talked over with mature Christians whom you trust, before making it. Proverbs 11:14  Marriage is the most important vow that should be given much consideration and time.
   Joshua should have taken more time and reliance on Godís leading to discern that the Gibeonites were lying, so they should not have made a league with them.  God wants most of all to have an ongoing relationship with us so that we realize how much we need Him to reflect His glory, thus fulfilling the purpose with which He created us. Gen.1:26  We are made to reflect or mirror His image, His likeness.  Having the Gibeonites around as servants would remind the Israelites of their need for Godís advice, so I suppose that worked out.
   Jephthahís history would be more of an example of some of the more stupid things people can do and the harm to others.  Jephthah vowed to commit a sin, which isnít the same as believing the Gibeonitesí lie because Joshua didnít rely on Godís help to discern the truth.  Making a league with them would not have been disobeying God if what they said had been true.  A burnt offering of anyone, even a slave, would be disobeying God.  Two sins donít make a right, so Jephthahís vow should not have been fulfilled.  Instead, he should have repented of his sin, asked Godís forgiveness, and made the proper animal sacrifice God had ordained for that time.
   Adultery and remarriages can often bring terrible harm to children, and sometimes causes murders or financial ruin.  Sin is never worthwhile, even if pleasant or enjoyable temporarily, so trusting in Godís point of view and relying on His strength and guidance to withstand temptation and made good choices, is always better for us in the long run.
   Itís good that youíre concerned with whether something is right or wrong.  I pray that you will vow to ďseek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousnessĒ (Matt.6:33) by asking God to help you read His word, the Bible, and keep in touch with Him, more and more.  Be sure that you first of all accept His salvation from your sins, so His Spirit can be in you for that relationship with Him for which He made you.      
   When we have His salvation, we can pray that God will help our family and others to accept Godís salvation also, and to help them not sin by vowing to hurt others.  However God gives people a choice to reject him even as He reaches out in love to all, through our prayers and through other circumstances.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi Priscilla,

Thanks for your response, it's awesome.

About Joshua though, I guess I just struggle with that whole story. I mean shouldn't he have not kept the vow with the Gibeonites? Because he was deceived..does the Bible make any hint as to whether or not God would agree or disagree with his decision?


I guess I wasnít clear that Joshua DID keep the vow with the Gideonites.  They were not wiped out, even though God told the Israelites they needed to wipe out the whole, utterly corrupt culture of Canaanites.  God knew that if they left remnants of this rotten culture, it would infect the Israelites, which it did.          
   Whether it was right or wrong that Joshua did keep the vow so that the Gideonites survived, I donít think is the main point.  The point is that God was right about the need to kill the complete corrupt culture or suffer the consequences, which was that the Canaanite cancer of corruption spread to the Israelites.  
   The lesson we can learn is that God wants us to have a loving relationship with Him where we recognize our constant need for Him and trust that He loves us and wants the best for us.  In that kind of relationship, we would not be deceived and make bad decisions.
   Keep reading the Bible faithfully.  Itís the daily food that God provides to keep us healthy in a close relationship with Him.  That is, provided we first admit our need for this relationship, admit our inability to earn this relationship, and admit that we trust God to provide the means for this relationship through the death and resurrection of God in the flesh, Jesus Christ.  Have you begun this relationship with God?
   Hope to hear from you again.

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Mrs. Priscilla Lyons


I have time for you. The Bible has been my guiding light for most of the 56 years of my life. My missionary parents in Brazil kindled a love for God`s Word by their example and their love for truth. The Lord has blessed my husband and me with responsible, independent children who love and serve the Lord and are our best friends. I would enjoy discussing any subject or problem from a Biblical perspective.

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