To you, God, in Tziyon, silence is praise;
and vows to you are to be fulfilled.
Psalm 65:1, OJB
The mention of a vow creates an interesting couplet to the verse.
Or as other translations put it,
Last week I talked about the first part of the verse, silence in praise.
However, the second part is equally intriguing, but much more complicated and difficult to consider. Mainly because of the weight of it in the Old Testament Law.
Vows and oaths were very important in the Jewish culture. In fact, there are two different words for a vow and an oath.
The vow, the neder, creates an obligation with respect to things, whereas the oath, shvu’ah, creates an obligation with respect to a person.
In this Psalm, the word for vow is used, like a promise of something to be given.
Breaking it is considered serious.
Ecclesiastes 5:3-4 says “If you make a vow to God, don’t delay in discharging it. For God takes no pleasure in fools, so discharge your vow! Better not to make a vow than to make a vow and not discharge it.”
And Proverbs 20:25 says “It is foolish and rash to make a promise to the Lord before counting the cost.”
The verses emphasize the importance of keeping vows and promises made to God .
Depending on your faith tradition, vows may or may not play an important role for you, although many acknowledge the significance of vows taken in marriage and some may be familiar with the custom of abstaining from things like meat during the Season of Lent.
The timeliness of this Psalm made me pause, because in our culture, January 1st tends to be the time we make vows and promises, maybe not to God, but often to ourselves and possibly others. Granted, these “resolutions” don’t carry the heavy burden of the law, but might that cause us to be a bit more loose and flippant in making them? It makes me consider the vows we make, but may not necessarily keep in our society.
Marriage vows dissolving in divorce.
Contracts renegotiated, or not fulfilled.
Election promises not kept.
Where in my life have I not followed through on something I said I would do? When have a said I would refrain from something, only to find myself right back at it? Is my word trustworthy? Am I faithful to what I promise?
Jesus has a way of getting to the heart of the issue. He warned his disciples, “Just let your ‘Yes’ be a simple ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ a simple ‘No’; anything more than this has its origin in evil.” Matthew 5:37
Another translation says it “comes from the evil one.”
The TLB says “just a simple ‘Yes, I will’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Your word is enough. To strengthen your promise with a vow shows that something is wrong.”
The MSG expounds a bit further, “And don’t say anything you don’t mean. This counsel is embedded deep in our traditions. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying, ‘I’ll pray for you,’ and never doing it, or saying, ‘God be with you,’ and not meaning it. You don’t make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.”
As I praise God in the silence, I will also consider the significance of my vows, my promises, my words.
Heavenly Father, Forgive me when I carelessly make promises and vows without considering whether or not I can or will follow through. Forgive me when my yes hasn’t been yes and my no hasn’t been no. Thank you, that despite my faithfulness, you are always faithful.