Tuesday, July 26, 2022
The Very Steps We Take
21 A bonanza at the beginning
is no guarantee of blessing at the end.
22 Don’t say, “I’ll get you for that!”
Wait for God; he’ll settle the score.
23 God hates cheating in the marketplace;
rigged scales are an outrage.
24 The very steps we take come from God;
otherwise, how would we know where we’re going?
25 An impulsive vow is a trap;
later you’ll wish you could get out of it.
-Proverbs 20:21-25 The Message
21 An inheritance gained hastily in the beginning
will not be blessed in the end.
22 Do not say, “I will repay evil”;
wait for the Lord, and he will deliver you.
23 Unequal weights are an abomination to the Lord,
and false scales are not good.
24 A man’s steps are from the Lord;
how then can man understand his way?
25 It is a snare to say rashly, “It is holy,”
and to reflect only after making vows.
-Proverbs 20:21-25 ESV
Verse 21 study: Rusing in the beginning before gaining the wisdom to handle it, or by the wrong mean not necessarily great.
Verse 22 study: The directive parallel warns against taking the law into one’s hands and undermining the order of society. The deliverance is not upon the nation, but possibly the meaning of due legal process, but ultimately with the Lord Himself as its source.
Verse 23 study: “Differing weights” refers to the loaded sales a merchant may use to cheat customers. Dishonesty is a difficult sin to avoid. People look the other way; it is easy to cheat if someone is not looking. Dishonesty shows how you are as a person to the core. It makes you untrustworthy and untrusting. The advice given is don’t take dishonestly lightly. Just a little bit of dishonesty is enough to kill your spiritual life. If you have dishonesty, tell God about it.
Verse 24 study: We stay confused by the events around us. We will never understand the many things that happen around us. Yet, as we look back on how God worked, things will fall into place, and we will realize how he worked years later. This proverb is counseling us not to worry if we don’t understand everything as it happens. Instead, we should trust that God knows what he is doing regardless of how we feel about his timing or work if it’s clear to us. Again, this goes back to knowledge from observation. God’s sovereign purposes alone are specific.
Verse 25 study: To say something is holy means dedicating it and giving it as an offering to God. Dedicated standards are set apart for religious use. This proverb shows the evil of rashly making a vow and then reconsidering it. God does take vows seriously, and they should be carried out.
21 “If you make a vow to the Lord your God, you shall not delay fulfilling it, for the Lord your God will surely require it of you, and you will be guilty of sin. 22 But if you refrain from vowing, you will not be guilty of sin. 23 You shall be careful to do what has passed your lips, for you have voluntarily vowed to the Lord your God what you have promised with your mouth. -Deuteronomy 23:21-23 ESV
We may have good intentions when making a promise to please God, but Jesus tells us it’s best not to make promises to God because he knows how hard it is to keep them. (Matthew 5:33-37)
Oaths 33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. -Matthew 5:33-37 ESV
If you feel it is important to make promises, at least consider the consequences of breaking that vow. Read Judges 11 to learn about Jephthah’s rash promise to sacrifice the first thing he saw on his return home. When it happened, he saw his daughter as the first person.
Jephthah Delivers Israel 11 Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior, but he was the son of a prostitute. Gilead was the father of Jephthah. 2 And Gilead's wife also bore him sons. And when his wife's sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out and said to him, “You shall not have an inheritance in our father's house, for you are the son of another woman.” 3 Then Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob, and worthless fellows collected around Jephthah and went out with him. 4 After a time the Ammonites made war against Israel. 5 And when the Ammonites made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to bring Jephthah from the land of Tob. 6 And they said to Jephthah, “Come and be our leader, that we may fight against the Ammonites.” 7 But Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “Did you not hate me and drive me out of my father's house? Why have you come to me now when you are in distress?” 8 And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “That is why we have turned to you now, that you may go with us and fight against the Ammonites and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.” 9 Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “If you bring me home again to fight against the Ammonites, and the Lord gives them over to me, I will be your head.” 10 And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “The Lord will be witness between us, if we do not do as you say.” 11 So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and leader over them. And Jephthah spoke all his words before the Lord at Mizpah. 12 Then Jephthah sent messengers to the king of the Ammonites and said, “What do you have against me, that you have come to me to fight against my land?” 13 And the king of the Ammonites answered the messengers of Jephthah, “Because Israel on coming up from Egypt took away my land, from the Arnon to the Jabbok and to the Jordan; now therefore restore it peaceably.” 14 Jephthah again sent messengers to the king of the Ammonites 15 and said to him, “Thus says Jephthah: Israel did not take away the land of Moab or the land of the Ammonites, 16 but when they came up from Egypt, Israel went through the wilderness to the Red Sea and came to Kadesh. 17 Israel then sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying, ‘Please let us pass through your land,’ but the king of Edom would not listen. And they sent also to the king of Moab, but he would not consent. So Israel remained at Kadesh. 18 “Then they journeyed through the wilderness and went around the land of Edom and the land of Moab and arrived on the east side of the land of Moab and camped on the other side of the Arnon. But they did not enter the territory of Moab, for the Arnon was the boundary of Moab. 19 Israel then sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, king of Heshbon, and Israel said to him, ‘Please let us pass through your land to our country,’ 20 but Sihon did not trust Israel to pass through his territory, so Sihon gathered all his people together and encamped at Jahaz and fought with Israel. 21 And the Lord, the God of Israel, gave Sihon and all his people into the hand of Israel, and they defeated them. So Israel took possession of all the land of the Amorites, who inhabited that country. 22 And they took possession of all the territory of the Amorites from the Arnon to the Jabbok and from the wilderness to the Jordan. 23 So then the Lord, the God of Israel, dispossessed the Amorites from before his people Israel; and are you to take possession of them? 24 Will you not possess what Chemosh your god gives you to possess? And all that the Lord our God has dispossessed before us, we will possess. 25 Now are you any better than Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he ever contend against Israel, or did he ever go to war with them? 26 While Israel lived in Heshbon and its villages, and in Aroer and its villages, and in all the cities that are on the banks of the Arnon, 300 years, why did you not deliver them within that time? 27 I therefore have not sinned against you, and you do me wrong by making war on me. The Lord, the Judge, decide this day between the people of Israel and the people of Ammon.” 28 But the king of the Ammonites did not listen to the words of Jephthah that he sent to him. Jephthah's Tragic Vow 29 Then the Spirit of the Lord was upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh and passed on to Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he passed on to the Ammonites. 30 And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord and said, “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, 31 then whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the Lord's, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.” 32 So Jephthah crossed over to the Ammonites to fight against them, and the Lord gave them into his hand. 33 And he struck them from Aroer to the neighborhood of Minnith, twenty cities, and as far as Abel-keramim, with a great blow. So the Ammonites were subdued before the people of Israel. 34 Then Jephthah came to his home at Mizpah. And behold, his daughter came out to meet him with tambourines and with dances. She was his only child; besides her he had neither son nor daughter. 35 And as soon as he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you have become the cause of great trouble to me. For I have opened my mouth to the Lord, and I cannot take back my vow.” 36 And she said to him, “My father, you have opened your mouth to the Lord; do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, now that the Lord has avenged you on your enemies, on the Ammonites.” 37 So she said to her father, “Let this thing be done for me: leave me alone two months, that I may go up and down on the mountains and weep for my virginity, I and my companions.” 38 So he said, “Go.” Then he sent her away for two months, and she departed, she and her companions, and wept for her virginity on the mountains. 39 And at the end of two months, she returned to her father, who did with her according to his vow that he had made. She had never known a man, and it became a custom in Israel 40 that the daughters of Israel went year by year to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in the year. -Judges 11 ESV
The overall story is not to make promises you know you can’t change later. It is better to count the cost beforehand and then fulfill them. It’s worse to have a rash vow you can’t honor.