It is better to say nothing than to make a promise and not keep it. - Ecclesiastes 5:5 (NLT)
“Where is he? Where is he?” Tracy McDonald muttered to her self as she searched the Peterson’s backyard. “He’s not going to get away from me this time.” “Um!” said a man’s voice, “Who are you looking for, Tracy?” “HAROLD” Tracy shouted as she whirled around to see who was talking to her. It was Harold’s dad Bill.
“The last time I saw Harold,” he said, “Muffy was sitting on top of him. But I would say the chances are pretty good he is chasing Muffy which means he could be just about anywhere.” “Good thing I brought my dog whistle then.” Tracy told him, “I will just blow it and than Muffy and Harold will both come.”
“A dog whistle!” Bill exclaimed, “Not a good idea.” And before he could stop her, Tracy gave a blast on the whistle. A few seconds later Muffy came running toward Tracy at full speed. Bill quickly jumped behind a tree and Tracy got flattened. “HAROLD!”she yelled “GET YOUR DUMB DOG OFF OF ME!”
As Harold came running into the back yard, Muffy got up and ran off and Tracy jumped up and tackled Harold. “We need to talk.” she said as she dropped him to the ground. “If it’s about Muffy” Harold started to say but never got to finish. “It’s not about your dog.” Tracy interrupted as they sat up. “It’s about your promise you made to me because you got my Dad lost.”
“Promise.” Harold scoffed, “Yes.” Tracy responded, “And you’re going to keep it, this time.” “And who’s going to make me?” Harold said as he started to take off after Muffy. “I will!” said Bill as he stepped out from behind the tree. “Dad!” Harold shouted in surprise, “Where did you come from?”
“But, Dad,” Harold started complaining, “She wants me to take her to a movie about a girls club. I’ll just die if I have to take her.” “Well,” Bill started to say, “I might be able to get you out of taking Tracy to the movie.” “Oh thank you, thank you.” Harold said happily, “I knew you were a great dad.”
“Instead of taking Tracy to the movie you can do her chores for a week.” Bill told Harold. “That’s a great idea.” Tracy said with a giggle, “I’m sure he’d love to clean out the cow barn for me.” “Clean the cow barn!” Harold shouted “Cow manure stinks! Why did I make such a stupid promise. What time is the movie?”
How many of us have played the role of Harold, we've made a promise and than tried to to wiggle out of fulfilling that promise? Part of Harold's problem, make that one of Harold's problems was not defining his promise exactly and so was the problem of the man called Jephthah.
The story of Jephthah takes place in Israel during the time of the judges, a time when Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord … And they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, … They went after other gods, … And they provoked the Lord to anger. … So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies,... Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them. Judges 2:11-16 (ESV)
If you would like to read his entire story, you can find it in the 11th chapter of Judges. It is there that we learn that while Jephthah was a mighty warrior, he was also the son of a prostitute and was kicked out of his family by his brothers. We also learn that he settled in the land of Tob where he collected a band of worthless men, and sired a daughter.
Now trouble was brewing for the Israelites for the Ammonites were making war with them and they were in need of someone to save them and Jephthah was the man who was looked to for help. Jephthah said he would help them if they would make him their leader and the people agreed and he went to work.
After a battle of words between Jephthah and the king of the Ammonites over who actually owns the land that Israel was possessing in which Jephthah tried to convince the Ammonite king to leave, it was time for war.
Before heading into war, Jephthah thought it right to have the Lord on his side and he made a vow, a promise to God, that if He would give the Ammonites into his hands that whatever came out from the doors of his house to meet him when he returned in peace from the Ammonites would be the Lord's, and he would offer it up for a burnt offering.
Jephthah won the battle and when he returned home the first thing to come from his house met him not with bleating or mooing but with singing and dancing. It wasn't an animal but his only child, his daughter. His promise came back to haunt him.
When it comes to making promises and keeping them, we have a great example – God. Joshua reminds of that in Joshua 23:14-15 - It’s almost time for me to die. You know and fully believe that the Lord has done great things for you. You know that he has not failed to keep any of his promises. Every good promise that the Lord your God made has come true, and in the same way, his other promises will come true. He promised that evil will come to you and that he will destroy you from this good land that he gave you. (NCV)
When it comes to the rest of us we too need yo keep our promises, especially to God.
- Deuteronomy 23:21 - If you make a promise to give something to the Lord your God, do not be slow to pay it, because the Lord your God demands it from you. Do not be guilty of sin. (NCV)
- Ecclesiastes 5:4 - If you make a promise to God, don’t be slow to keep it. God is not happy with fools, so give God what you promised. (NCV)
When we make promises, we need to not only be careful to keep them, but we need to be clear about what we promise lest we end up doing something we never intended to do.
Here's Something To Ponder
- Are you careful to promise only what you are willing to keep?
- Do you try to get out of promises?