These sample verses are from Mattot, a passage dealing with
nedarim, or vows. Vows are promises to do or not to do something. By taking both the male and female instructions together, two important principles become one:
A vow is something "upon" us. It hangs over us until we complete it. When we do not keep our word, we
profane our word. Scripture tells us that not performing a vow requires forgiveness, which establishes that it is a sin to leave our promises unfulfilled. Perhaps this is why Yeshua warns his listeners to keep their words simple. It's better not to vow than to vow and to not to complete the action.
The Hebrew word for "profane" is
yachel in the text. It has two meanings that help a disciple to comprehend the importance of keeping one's word. The first is "to wait," such as in Psalm 130:7. If we give our word, then we shouldn't make it "wait." Slow-walking to perform the promise profanes it by making it wait, therefore leaving ample time for circumstances to interfere in the completion. Give life a day or two, and it will throw innumerable obstacles in the way of keeping a promise.
Another meaning of
yechal is "to begin," like in the day of Noah, men "began" to call on the Name of the LORD (Ge 4:26). This implies empty words. The root word is
to begin as if by an 'opening wedge'; to play (the flute):-begin
pipe, player on instruments
When people make promises without fulfilling them, it is like someone blowing into a flute. It blows a lot of hot air through the instrument, and it makes beautiful music, but the air just blows through the instrument. A promise is a wedge opening the way to the promise, but unfulfilled, it produces nothing. It is empty, like wicked men who "began" to call on the Name, but they produced only the fruit of wickedness.
When human beings make promises they don't keep, the empty words are sin. When they swear by God's Name and do not perform it, then the empty words bring pollution and wickedness into the earth. It is an act of mercy that so many wicked people do NOT know the Name, for they would profane it with empty words that fill the earth with violence (
We have all broken promises, but is a promise the same as a Biblical vow? A vow is a nedar. From the Strong's definition, a promise does appear to have the same weight as a Biblical vow:
a primitive root; to promise:-(make a) vow.
The good news is that as soon as we realize we have spoken foolishly, we can repent. We can ask for forgiveness and for annulment of vows or promises we have spoken that incurred sin. Messiah Yeshua is our advocate, but we should not wear him out with idle promises. We should strive to fulfill our words.
"Many people who are incredibly gifted still lack discipline and drive to get them where they need to be. If the person is perpetually late, lax in his assessments or performance, then he has discipline issues." - F. McGloghlen
As I transition from a career in law enforcement, I find that this maxim is also true in ministry. I can teach someone a study skill or technique, and I can give an opportunity or platform, but I can't instill discipline in adults. In most cases, it
's just too late. Correcting chaotic, sloppy behavior is something an adult has to do for herself/himself. God-given gifts and talents are wasted like water poured on the ground by an undisciplined person.
I know a lady who is always on time (early) to Shabbat service. She told me that years ago, she was late to things a lot. One day she made up her mind that she didn't want to be known as the person who was always late, so she changed. No one else changed her; she changed herself at the most difficult time, as an adult. This is a skill to admire and emulate.
Now I look for ministry partners who say "I want to..." instead of "I wish..." and people who have a spiritual gift ALONG WITH self-discipline. Most important is finding people who know the difference between saying, "I'd like to..." instead of "I will..."
Keeping one's word is paramount, whether in law enforcement or ministry. If a person perhaps will not fulfill her/his word, the correct phrase is "
I'd like to" or "
I intend to with God's help," or "
If I am able," not "I will."
"I will" implies a vow or promise, and all the dire consequences or reward of spiritual growth that go with it.
Team efforts require team members with self-discipline. Self-discipline is self-discipleship, and it does not require any special gift or talent. Great talent does not require anyone to forgive repeated sloppy behavior. In fact, those who believe that their great talent is a good reason to make others wait are simply not that great. Those who run late will eventually run alone.
Teach children young to respect others' gift of time on this earth by being on time as much as possible and presenting careful work to the group, whether in career, family, or ministry. Teach children to keep promises, for they will certainly point out when their parents don't keep one!
It matters with appointments both earthly and Divine.