Psalm 116:14 I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people.
Making and fulfilling vows was an important expression of Old Testament Faith. If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey . . . then the Lord will be my God . . . and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth (Genesis 28:20-22), said Jacob.
Likewise, when Hannah wanted a baby she said, Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life (1 Samuel 1:11).
But here is the problem: many are better at making vows than keeping them. Many have vowed to do something if God would answer their prayer. But when God answered their prayer, they did not fulfill their vow.
Imagine a man lost in the woods who prayed, Lord, if you save me, I will serve you. Then he heard children playing, and walking in their direction, he found his way out. Later he wondered if God had really answered his prayer, or if it was just a coincidence. Since he could not be sure, he decided the vow was not binding, and went on living as before.
It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it (Ecclesiastes 5:5), wrote Solomon. In fact, oaths and vows were so abused that they are never taught in the New Testament as an expression of Christian faith. They are not forbidden, but they are not encouraged.
Soon after I believed in Jesus Christ, a minister encouraged me to make a vow to God that I would read four chapters of the Bible per day. I wanted to please my heavenly Father, so I made the vow and kept it—for about a week. If I had not made the vow, I would not have been guilty of sin. But since I made the vow, and broke it, I was guilty of sin.
Breaking a vow is a serious sin, but it is handled like every other sin. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9), wrote John. It is not wrong to tell God what we want to do for him, but because of human weakness, it is better not to vow.
Psalm 119:1 Blessed are those whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord.
This psalm is the longest chapter in the Bible, and is a celebration of God’s word. It begins with the word blessed, which occurs over two hundred times in the Bible, and refers to the happiness of those who belong to God and follow his ways. The ways of God are not always easy, but they are always best for us, and lead to our greatest happiness. Most of our sorrow comes from disobeying God, not from obeying him.
Psalm 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
Few things are more helpful to resisting sin than committing God’s word to memory. Satan wanted Jesus to turn stones into bread, but Jesus replied, It is written: Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4). Then Satan urged Jesus to throw himself off the temple. But Jesus replied, It is also written: Do not put the Lord your God to the test (Matthew 4:7). Then Satan urged Jesus to worship him. But Jesus replied, Away from me, Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only (Matthew 4:10).
Three times Jesus was tempted by the devil, and three times Jesus quoted God’s word. By committing God’s word to memory, we are able to use it against Satan whenever we are tempted.
Psalm 119:14 I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches.
Likewise, The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold (Psalm 119:72). And again, God’s word is more precious than gold, than much pure gold (Psalm 19:10), wrote the Psalmists.
An archaeologist uncovered five million dollars worth of jewelry from the fifteenth century, just a foot and a half beneath the kitchen floor of a cottage. The owners never worried about the economy, medical bills, or having enough to eat, because they were sitting on a fortune.
After they died, the cottage was occupied by others for hundreds of years. Many sat at the kitchen table wondering how to pay their bills, while a fortune lay just beneath their feet. Whoever has a Bible, but does not read it, is ignorant of their treasure. Whoever reads the Bible often is richer than a king.
Psalm 119:16 I will not neglect your word.
Like everyone else, the writer had commitments that competed with his desire to study God’s word. Instead of rising early and staying up late, he may have been tempted to get extra sleep. But he resolved not to neglect God’s word regardless of other commitments.
If a minister stood in front of a church and tore out pages of the Bible, many would object. But unless we study every page of the Bible, we may as well tear it out. Everyone who believes the Bible should be able to say with conviction, I will not neglect your word.
Reflection and Review
What are some benefits of memorizing Scripture?
How does the Bible enrich our lives?
Why do people neglect God’s word?