Impossible Vows (7/5/13)

Read: 1 Chronicles 1:1-2:17, Acts 23:11-35, Psalm 3:1-8, Proverbs 18:14-15

The next morning a group of Jews got together and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. (Acts 23:12)


Relate: Mitsutaka Uchikoshi holds the world record. He didn’t do it intentionally, but there it is, all his own, and nobody else even comes close. On October 7, Mitsutaka left his friends, fellow hikers, to climb down Mount Rokku all by his lonesome. He didn’t make it to the bottom. When they later descended and he was nowhere to be found, they started searching. 24 days later, on October 31, he was found. Amazingly, he wasn’t quite dead yet. Apparently he had fallen and then he fell asleep. Hibernation like deep sleep. There is no other explanation for how he could have survived so long without water.

They say the body can go as much as 8 weeks without food. I don’t believe it. I made it half that time when I started getting really sick and had to break my fast. 40 days? Sure, some can make it that long. 56? I’m a skeptic. As for water, Mr Uchikoshi aside, nobody can make it a week. Most will die of dehydration in 3-5 days. Under perfect conditions, you might be able to throw another day in there but that’s with maintaining perfect body temperature under near comatose conditions.

In the many times I’ve read Acts, whenever I read about the men making this vow, I always wonder, “Did they die?” When three or four days went by and they hadn’t killed Paul yet, did these guys start dropping from the dehydration? After the first few died, did the rest decide to start drinking but still not eat? After another month or so without food, did they switch that out to a “Daniel fast”? (I, in my cynical moments, call it the fake fast) Maybe they sought escape on a technicality. Did some other poor guy with the misfortune of also being named Paul die so they could keep their vow? Most likely they simply tried for a while then gave up on their vow. If that’s the case, did they go around for weeks afterwards feeling guilty because they weren’t disciplined enough to keep their vows?

React: I know I do. I’ve made some pretty dumb promises to God and I beat myself up plenty when I’ve failed. I promised God that I was going to pray for three hours a day every day for the rest of my life. Seriously, I did. Stop laughing. I’ve also promised Him that I would never again hit the snooze button. That promise made it all the way to the next morning. I said I was going to go running every morning as soon as I woke. Made it three days. I promised God if I wasn’t married by 30 I was going to adopt a child. I did adopt a World Vision child around that time so I guess that’s my technicality.

There are two ways I could look at all these broken promises and failed goals. I could beat myself up for not being good enough, trying hard enough, being disciplined enough, etc. Or I could celebrate the smaller victories that were mine even in my failures. These Jews with their evil vow did not manage to kill Paul, but they did scare his protectors into getting him out of town and country. I clearly haven’t been praying three hours every day. But I have a better, more disciplined prayer life thanks to the years I spent trying and castigating myself for my failure. I didn’t stop hitting the snooze. But I did manage to split the casing on my alarm clock one morning. OK, so maybe that isn’t the best example.

The Bible clearly states that I am to keep the vows I make to God. So I need to be more disciplined in making keep-able vows. It is good to dream impossible dreams and set challenging goals. Even my failures when doing so are victories for their partial accomplishment. but when it comes to making vows… I need to let my yes be yes, and my no, no. If I am to make a vow before God (like a marriage vow) I have a responsibility before God to keep it, no matter what.


God, I vow to continue to pursue all of my days. I’m sure I am going to make more stupid promises in future moments of passion. Please accept the heart from which they are offered while overlooking the arrogance in thinking it is up to me to keep them or that I will know what the future holds. All my successes are only because of Your grace. My failures, because I chose not to continually rely on that grace. Even as I strive to be holy, as I struggle and fail to be good, help me to remember that is You who have justified me at the cross.

13 thoughts on “Impossible Vows (7/5/13)

  1. Yeah–I think that’s what always worried me when I made a stupid promise and then couldn’t keep it–I thought that was going to carry over into more valid and important promises like the marriage one. So far so good, but I guess it’s something of which to be vigilant all the time.

    Also–I always wondered the same thing about those guys who wanted to kill Paul. (I also always secretly thought the whole scenario was kind of funny.)

  2. I thought I was the only one who made vows to God, crazy ones to be exact, that I couldn’t keep.

    I enjoy reading your blog. Especially the way you personalize the scripture and your message in a way that I can relate to.


  3. This is an interesting post! I used to make promises to God that I didn’t fulfill, but after reading Matthew 5: 33-37, I stopped doing it. In the passage Jesus told us “not to swear (or promise) at all.” It seems that for Him, every time we promise anything to Him, or in His name, we are bound by our words for real, and when some time later we don’t take it seriously, we fall into sin. It is a serious matter to offer something to God, and then not carry it out. Better safe than sorry!

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Interesting little thought. In ancient Biblical culture, when they would make a vow, they would cut animals in half and walk down the middle saying “may this happen to me if I break the vow.” Moreover, in Hebrew, the word is ‘sheva,’ the same word as the number seven. When we make a vow to God, it is as if the repercussions for breaking the vow be seven times. Think of when Joshua made the vow with the Hivites and then Saul fought against them. The payment they demanded for that broken vow to be made up was the lives of seven of Saul’s sons. Now, a vow and a promise might have their slight differences, but I think I’ll stick with yes be yes and no be no.

    • Normally, two parties would both walk through the cut and separated animals. Interesting thing, when God made his covenant with Abraham, Abraham cut the animals but only God walked through. (Genesis 15:17) At that point God was the only one responsible to hold the bargain. Israel became God’s covenant people when He reciprocated at the Red Sea. This time God separated death, the waters, and the people passed through.

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