Bible Topics: Promises, keeping

Definition: Making a pledge or a vow to perform or grant a specific thing.

1. By example of His Own faithfulness, Jesus teaches us that we, too, should keep our promises.

* 1 Kings 8:56b There hath not failed one word of all His good promise, which He promised by the hand of Moses His servant. [See also 2 Kings 10:10.]

* Acts 13:32,33a And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, 33a God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children.

* 2 Corinthians 1:20a For all the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him Amen.

* 2 Peter 3:9a The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward.

2. As the Lord is true to His promises to us, so He expects us to be true to our word with Him.

* Numbers 30:2 If a man vow a vow unto the Lord, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth.

* Deuteronomy 23:21 When thou shalt vow a vow unto the Lord thy God, thou shalt not slack to pay it: for the Lord thy God will surely require it of thee; and it would be sin in thee. … 23 That which is gone out of thy lips thou shalt keep and perform … according as thou hast vowed unto the Lord thy God, which thou hast promised with thy mouth.

* Ecclesiastes 5:4,5 When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for He hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. 5 Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.

3. Failure to keep promises to others is actually failing the Lord.

* Matthew 25:45b Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these [My brethren], ye did it not to Me.

* Ephesians 6:5-7 Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; 6 Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; 7 With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men. [See also Colossians 3:22b.]

4. Faithfulness in keeping promises is a reflection of our character.

* Proverbs 22:1 A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.

* Luke 16:10 He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.

* Acts 6:3 Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.

* Romans 12:17b Provide things honest in the sight of all men.

5. Once we have made a promise, we should keep it, even if it hurts or costs us more than we anticipated.

* 1 Samuel 1:11,27,28a And she [Hannah] vowed a vow, and said, O Lord of hosts, if Thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and there shall no rasor come upon his head. … 27 For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of Him: 28a Therefore also I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord.

* Psalm 15:1,4b Lord, who shall abide in Thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in Thy holy hill? … 4b He that sweareth to his own hurt [keeps his oath, even if it hurts], and changeth not.

* Proverbs 20:25 It is a snare to the man who devoureth [to speak rashly] that which is holy, and after vows to make inquiry [question his decision].

* Ecclesiastes 5:5,6a Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay. … 6a Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error.

* Jonah 2:9a But I will sacrifice unto Thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed.

6. Keeping our promises is part of love.

* Zechariah 8:16,17 These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates: 17 And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the Lord.

* Matthew 7:12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

* Romans 13:8-10 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. … 10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

7. We must be careful what we promise, lest we not be able to fulfill our vow.

* Matthew 5:33,36,37 Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths. … 36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. 37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

* James 4:14,15 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. 15 For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.

* James 5:12 But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by Heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.

8. The Bible offers several sobering examples of hasty, unprayerful promises which were later regretted.

* Genesis 25:30-34 And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom. 31 And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright. 32 And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me? 33 And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright.

* Judges 11:30,31,34,35 And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the Lord, and said, If Thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, 31 Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering. … 34 And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter. 35 And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said, Alas, my daughter! Thou hast brought me very low, and thou art one of them that trouble me: for I have opened my mouth unto the Lord, and I cannot go back. [The text seems to indicate that Jephthah followed through on his vow, although some scholars believe the verse means she was kept as a unmarried virgin, dedicated to special service to the Lord for the rest of her life.]

* Matthew 14:6-9 But when Herod’s birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod. 7 Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask. 8 And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John Baptist’s head in a charger. 9 And the king was sorry: nevertheless for the oath’s sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her.

* Acts 21:23-27 [Paul compromised with the concision by going to the temple to perform some Jewish ritual vows:] Do therefore this that we [the concision] say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them; 24 Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law. 26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them. 27 And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him.

9. On the other hand, don’t be stubborn and self-righteously cling to your vow if God tells you something new.

* Genesis 22:2-18 [Although Abraham agreed to offer up his son, and showed his willingness to do so in obedience to God, he hearkened to the angel who told him that he didn’t have to go through with it:] And he [God] said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. … 9 And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. 10 And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. 11 And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of Heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. 12 And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.

* 1 Samuel 14:24-30,43-45 [Jonathan resisted King Saul’s rash vow and spoke against it. The people stopped Saul from punishing Jonathan:] Saul had adjured the people [his soldiers who were fighting a battle], saying, Cursed be the man that eateth any food until evening, that I may be avenged on mine enemies. So none of the people tasted any food. 25 … And there was honey upon the ground. 26 … The honey dropped; but no man put his hand to his mouth: for the people feared the oath. 27 But Jonathan [who had just returned from a daring raid] heard not when his father charged the people with the oath: wherefore he put forth the end of the rod that was in his hand, and dipped it in an honeycomb, and put his hand to his mouth; and his eyes were enlightened. 28 Then answered one of the people, and said, Thy father straitly charged the people with an oath, saying, Cursed be the man that eateth any food this day. And the people were faint. 29 Then said Jonathan, My father hath troubled the land: see, I pray you, how mine eyes have been enlightened, because I tasted a little of this honey. 30 How much more, if haply the people had eaten freely to day of the spoil of their enemies which they found? For had there not been now a much greater slaughter among the Philistines? … 43 [Later, when Saul found out about Jonathan’s transgression, he confronted him:] Then Saul said to Jonathan, Tell me what thou hast done. And Jonathan told him, and said, I did but taste a little honey with the end of the rod that was in mine hand, and, lo, I must die. 44 And Saul answered, God do so and more also: for thou shalt surely die, Jonathan. 45 And the people said unto Saul, Shall Jonathan die, who hath wrought this great salvation in Israel? God forbid: as the Lord liveth, there shall not one hair of his head fall to the ground; for he hath wrought with God this day. So the people rescued Jonathan, that he died not.

* John 13:8-9 [Peter, when corrected, took back his rash vow:] Peter saith unto Him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me. 9 Simon Peter saith unto Him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.

* Acts 20:22; 21:4,10-14 [Paul stubbornly carried out his vow to go to Jerusalem in spite of the fact that he received godly counsel and direct revelations warning him not to go. The decision resulted in his capture and eventual death in Rome:] And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: 21:4 And finding disciples [at Tyre], we tarried there seven days: who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem. 10 And as we tarried there [Caesarea] many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus. 11 And when he was come unto us, he took Paul’s girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles. 12 And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? For I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the Name of the Lord Jesus. 14 And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done.

Copyright (c) 1998 by Aurora Productions

1 thought on “Bible Topics: Promises, keeping”

  1. You know, for decades I have been afraid to enter into a covenant with God, and my anxiety to do so, I believe, bewrays itself as a lack of trustworthiness in my character.
    On the other hand, those folks who claim faithfulness in covenanting with God, I am suspicious of. But one of the beauties of this particular missive, “Bible Topics: Promises, keeping,” gives me a bit of concrete guidance which, I hope, will result in a needed change!
    Please pray for me! I really need to become a newer creature in this area.


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