A one-year vow
Faith & Inspiration | Pursuing a right and Biblical perspective
by Andrée Seu Peterson
Posted on Thursday, December 22, 2016, at 9:12 am
On Dec. 8 I decided on a one-year experiment. Some of us will not be here in a year, which I hasten to acknowledge, under advisement of Scripture that those who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit” should rather say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that” (James 4:13-15).
I have embarked on a one-year vow in hopes of God moving powerfully in the lives of my children. There is little else but prayer that one can do at this stage for adult children, but prayer is no mere consolation prize. Let those parents who have regrets take heart and pray. Can you imagine that there are children in the world who have never once been prayed for by anyone in their lives?
As I was contemplating these things, verses came to me quite spontaneously, conferring confidence that it was the Spirit and not the flesh endorsing the plan (the flesh and the devil don’t talk like that): “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1), and, “Greater love hath no one than this …” (John 15:13).
Then there were the “who knows” passages, a number of sightings in the Bible that invite godly speculation about a powerful work of God based on His character as gracious and merciful. (See Joel 2:12-14 and Esther 4:14).
Especially germane is the King David “Who knows?” regarding the death of his newborn. He fasts and prays prostrate for days to appeal to God to change His mind about requiring the life of his son for his sin with Bathsheba. When the infant dies and David rises up and washes and changes his clothes and goes to the house of God and worships, David tells his baffled servants: “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me” (2 Samuel 12:15-23).
This is the right perspective in making a vow. Not a “Who knows?” about the power or love of God. But a “Who knows?” about whether God will answer my plea in exactly the way I am hoping.
My husband had struck the same note. When I asked him what he thought of the one-year plan—since it is a husband’s right to veto a wife’s rash vow (Numbers 30:8)—he got thoughtful and said, “The only danger will be to try to make it a quid pro quo.” That was a good word.
There was the question of whether a vow is even Biblical. This was not problematic for me. The Bible says, “Do not take an oath at all” (Matthew 5:34). But it also says, “I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people” (Psalm 116:18).
“In the presence of all his people” settled the matter of whether a vow needs to be secret. “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them,” says Matthew 6:1, and, “when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites … that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret” (16-18). But I will not look gloomy, and you will not see me in any case. Daniel’s Babylonian eunuch knew he was acting on a vow. Come February or March you will forget. And by December next I will have a report that, God willing, will glorify Him.
I decided to wait a few days lest resolve be proved impetuousness and I be put to shame like the builder who set out to build before he knew he had the resources to go through with it (Luke 14:28-29). As the king of Israel rightly said to Ben-hadad of Syria: “Let not him who straps on his armor boast himself as he who takes it off” (1 Kings 20:11).
I will see you in a year, Lord willing.
Andrée Seu Peterson
Andrée is a senior writer for WORLD Magazine. Her commentary has been compiled into three books including Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me. Andrée resides in Philadelphia, Penn.