Today’s message is a hard one, but one that has been pressing on my heart for a couple of days now. It was one I shared with the junior high youth group last night. I told them it was going to be a hard one, but an important one. And I’m just as guilty of it as anyone else.
It’s extremely important that we carry through with what we have vowed to God. It is also extremely important that we carry through with what He has called us to do. It’s really easy, in the busyness of this world, to put things off. It’s also a simple matter to justify not doing something. But the problem is that what we think is a small thing may actually balloon into a big thing. Take, for instance, the following command:
Then Samuel said to Saul, “The LORD sent me to anoint you as king over His people, over Israel; now therefore, listen to the words of the LORD. Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.'” – 1 Samuel 15:1-3, NASB
At first glance (and second and third) it may seem that what God is advocating here is barbaric. But our God is a God of justice and He knows when it’s time to bring down the hammer. This was one of those times. But that wasn’t the only reason God was explicit about this command. There was another reason, which we’ll look at shortly. Unfortunately, Saul didn’t seem to pay much heed to it, as we learn here:
So Saul defeated the Amalekites, from Havilah as you go to Shur, which is east of Egypt. He captured Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were not willing to destroy them utterly; but everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed. – 1 Samuel 15:7-9, NASB
And we might here think, “No big deal. He got the king and just a little bit later Samuel takes care of him, too.” But verse 6 indicates Saul also let the Kenites go. In fact, he gave them advanced warning. Why do I point all that out? Later events reveal that likely a descendant of Agag got away. So whether the early warning or the lack of focus in taking all the Amalekites was the cause, it really doesn’t matter because that one descendant lived. And this descendant was no ordinary guy.
After these events King Ahasuerus promoted Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him and established his authority over all the princes who were with him. – Esther 3:1, NASB
Note the description of Haman. Jewish tradition holds he was a descendant of Agag, hence him being called the Agagite. He was put in a position of great authority. And because of this, he puts into place the events which almost lead to the Jews’ extermination from the Persian Empire. The whole book of Esther is about how God stepped in and intervened by putting one of His own, Hadassah, called Esther, in a position to bring the truth of this despicable deed to light before the king. So had Saul carried out his duty and responsibility as king over Israel and servant of the Most High God, we wouldn’t have the book of Esther. We wouldn’t have need of the book of Esther because there never would have been a Haman to threaten the Jews. That’s why Solomon wrote the following:
When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it; for He takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow! It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Do not let your speech cause you to sin and do not say in the presence of the messenger of God that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry on account of your voice and destroy the work of your hands? For in many dreams and in many words there is emptiness. Rather, fear God. – Ecllesiastes 5:4-7, NASB
God takes our vows seriously. One of those vows when we accepted His Son was to bow down before Christ as our Lord and Savior. That means He’s in charge. That means what He says goes. So if we’re not living a life where He’s truly in charge, we’ve busted our vow. We are in the very state Solomon has warned us against. When it comes to following His calling for our lives, there is no excuse. God is clear here: we must follow through and get the job done. Not every miss will lead to a Haman situation, but we just don’t have that kind of vision to know which ones will. So we can’t consider any command or any job from God too small. We don’t know what not doing it will lead to. I’m sure that when Saul did what he did, he never conceived that his disobedience would lead to the potential destruction of his race.
By the way, this also applies to the commitments that we make to God that we don’t see as all that serious. Stuff like saying we’re going to read through the Bible in a year. Or that we’ll pray every day. Or that we’ll do this task or that task and either we delay them or we just don’t get them done. If we say to the Lord, “I’m going to do this,” that’s a vow. We’re making a commitment, a promise to Him. And just as we don’t like it when promises are broken to us, God is the same way. So it may not even what we think of as a big thing that puts us in hot water with God. It may be things that we are naturally flippant about because we don’t see the harm in not doing it. If I don’t get around to reading my Bible, there’s always next year, right? Maybe, maybe not. That’s not the point. If we have said we’re going to and we haven’t, then we have broken a vow to God and that is significantly bad. I don’t need to go into more detail about how bad. It’s… bad. We’ll leave it at that.
This is a hard message. All of us are guilty of it. And it’s been weighing heavy on me for some of the commitments I’ve made for this year. I know that lamenting about the fact I haven’t gotten things done is not sufficient. I need to simply complete my vows. It doesn’t matter what I think with respect to severity or importance. I can’t see the future. So I must simply carry through with every vow. That’s the way it must be. That’s the only way I avoid breaking a promise to the God who loved me so much He sent His Son as a sacrifice for me.