People make vows every day. In the church, when a couple gets married, they say their vows. In older Christian traditions, priests/pastors are said to “take their vows” when they are ordained.
What about vows and your yes is yes and your no in no (see Matthew 5:36)? Swearing and vowing are different things. They have similarities. Part of it is our own language use.
We swear oaths (i.e., oaths of office or service). Yet, in a number of cases (military and police oaths of service for example), it might actually be better to say vows. They are making a structured and defined commitment.
A dictionary difference is that an oath is a personal affirmation of a statement; a vow is the commitment made in words. Sounds pretty similar, doesn’t it? If the dictionary standard holds true than many wedding vows are oaths. The English language is fun, isn’t it?
A Nazirite was supposed to be a person who willingly took a vow of consecration to God (Numbers 6:1–21). However, the first Biblical example is that the Nazirite lifestyle choice was made for someone who wasn’t even born! A vow was supposed to be part of the lifestyle choice, but Samson didn’t have that choice to start with.
Which, in many respects, was the situation with the Rechabites. They followed a commandment of a family ancestor, and none of them were alive at the time, either! It should be noted that the Rechabites obedience to Jonadab may not have included obedience to God. It isn’t mentioned either way, yet God uses their obedience to Jonadab as the example, not their obedience to him.
Paul made “Jewish” vows himself. Based on the head shaving, there was a least some similarity between this and the Nazirite ritual. This is not the first time that Paul has done this. It also appears that this tradition was maintained (at least at the beginning) in early Christian circles.
There is certainly something to vows and oaths. We may not entirely get it. We still do it.
Jesus, you gave us guidance on our yes and no. Help us in our weakness, as we still try to cover for the failings of ourselves and others in keeping our word, and being people of our word. Amen.
1) Yes, no, oath, or vow? What’s the difference? When would you use each of these?
2) What are some oath’s you can think of? How about vows?
3) How does obedience fit into vows and/or oaths?