The Lord said to Moses, Speak to the Israelites and say to them: If anyone makes a special vow to dedicate a person to the Lord by giving the equivalent value, set the value of a male between the ages of twenty and sixty at fifty shekels of silver, according to the sanctuary shekel…
There are several categories of vows listed in this chapter. They largely apply to the then-prevailing conditions of the nation Israel in their relationship with God. Yet the principles behind them are of permanent application. There are several items which require comment in that passage.
First of all, the nature of this vow is that it was made about persons, either about the individual who made the vow himself, or often it was a vow made out of desire for the benefit of someone else a parent, a child, a servant, or a friend. There are times when we become concerned about someone and tend to pray, Lord, if you’ll just do such-and-such for this person, then I’ll do something for you. I’ll invest to an unusual degree in your work. What it amounts to here is that in Israel they were saying to God, I’ll support the work of the priesthood and give above and beyond what I ordinarily would give if you’ll just benefit or bless or help so-and-so.
When a promise of this nature was made there was a scale of values predetermined by God which Moses was to transmit and from which he was not free to deviate in any degree. If the person in question were a certain age and sex then there was an amount set for him or her, and that had to be paid if the blessing was received. God gave careful instructions to his people regarding this kind of promise.
On the spiritual level, of course, this applies to us. If we promise God certain things in moments of danger, or if we try to bargain with him, try to get him to work for us, God expects us to pay to the full, exactly what we promise. But if a man recognized that he didn’t have what it took, that he was too poor to pay the price, he could still offer a promise to God out of thanksgiving and gratitude, but the priest, the representative of God’s grace, would enter the picture and, in a sense, intercede on his behalf and establish a valuation he could meet.
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This is a beautiful picture of those vows and promises we make not to bargain with God but to express to him our thanksgiving for all that he has been to us. When our hearts are melted by grace and we stand awed in his presence and say, Lord, here I am, take me, or Here are my children, Lord, take them and use them as you like, these are vows made on a gracious basis, and God promises to meet any attendant need himself. What the people of God cannot gain by the Law they can have by grace and, as the New Testament puts it, exceeding abundantly above all they could ask or think… (Ephesians 3:20 KJV). That is the way God always operates in grace.
Father, I don’t want to come bargaining with you or making rash promises I cannot fulfill. I want to come trusting your love and grace, returning to you what is rightfully yours. Keep me from robbing you, Lord Jesus, of your rightful inheritance.
God’s promises to us are sure, depending on His character, while our best intentions often falter, when we depend upon our own resources. Are we making life commitments by faith in His power at work in us?