Don’t Forfeit God’s Favor

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

God’s promise to bless is conditioned on our commitment to obey. When we walk away from our marriage covenant, or when we fail to love, respect, and serve our spouse, children or neighbor, or when we withhold the tithe, or when we withdraw from fellowship, or add a hundred other things we sometimes do—all for reasons we can humanly justify, or for no reason whatsoever—we will forfeit God’s favor. Don’t surrender your blessing. Keep it within your possession so you can enjoy it now, then perhaps pass it on to the generations who follow your footsteps of faith.

Going Deep // Focus: Numbers 36:5-9

So Moses gave the Israelites this command from the Lord: “The claim of the men of the tribe of Joseph is legitimate. This is what the Lord commands concerning the daughters of Zelophehad: Let them marry anyone they like, as long as it is within their own ancestral tribe. None of the territorial land may pass from tribe to tribe, for all the land given to each tribe must remain within the tribe to which it was first allotted. The daughters throughout the tribes of Israel who are in line to inherit property must marry within their tribe, so that all the Israelites will keep their ancestral property. No grant of land may pass from one tribe to another; each tribe of Israel must keep its allotted portion of land.”

The final chapter in Numbers is the story about managing a land grant. To most readers, the account will not be all that exciting, and beyond its historical value, it will be a stretch to find anything relevant for today. So why include this ruling about keeping a land grant within the ownership of a particular tribe?

The answer is a simple one, and one that was extremely important to the Israelites in that day: The land God granted to each of the twelve tribes as they entered their Promised Land in a powerful and perpetual way, represented his blessing. They had been given the land by divine decree, they didn’t buy it, and although they would have to fight to possess their land of promise, God was the real authority for the property coming under their family ownership. The land represented their means of wealth, and therefore, on many levels, their security—both in the present moment and in perpetuity.

Simply put, if the land passed to another tribe, then the tribe losing the land would be losing the divine blessing as well. Land equaled blessing, so it was a very big deal to forever forfeit the favor granted by the Almighty himself. In this particular case, the tribal leaders were correct in assessing this as a threat to their divine inheritance, and the Lord justly and graciously made provision for their land to stay within the control of the tribe for the generations to come.

Now how are we to apply this today? I would answer that legitimate question with another question: do we forfeit God’s blessings today? Do we, out of short-sightedness, for convenience, or in ignorance, surrender God’s favor in our lives for ephemeral gain? I am pretty sure the answer to that is a resounding “yes!”

Since the blessings of God flow to us as a result of his covenant with us, then whenever we fail to obey the conditions of the covenant we will forfeit his favor. Remember, the divine covenant is conditional, it is a two way street: God promises to bless our obedience to the conditions of the covenant. When we walk away from our marriage covenant, or when we fail to love, respect, and serve our spouse, children or neighbor, or when we withhold the tithe, or when we withdraw from fellowship, or add a hundred other things we sometimes do—all for reasons we can humanly justify, or for no reason whatsoever—we have in effect surrendered what God provided: his blessing.

The blessings God promises to give us come at a high cost. God pays a huge fee in the grace that he must give in order to transact with sinful people. We pay a huge cost in resisting our sinful flesh in order to give our obedience to God. The blessings are precious, more than we realize. So why cheapen what is so eternally prized for earthly convenience or in rebellion or out of ignorance? God doesn’t want you to lose what he has promised to provide, and neither do you.

Don’t forfeit God’s favor—it was hard earned. Keep it within your possession so you can enjoy it now, then perhaps pass it on to the generations who follow your footsteps of faith.

Going Deeper With God: Where has God blessed your obedience to his covenant? In your marriage or your finances or in the influence you now wield? Take a moment to reflect on the reason for the favor you are living under: it did not come by chance; it is the result of God’s grace that comes through your sustained obedience. Now assess if you are being tempted to neglect your part of the covenant. If you are, deal with the temptation and renew your commitment to walk in loving obedience to God.

The God of Contingencies

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

God really does think of everything, doesn’t he? Down to the smallest detail of individual and communal life, for every hypothetical question we could ask, God has already thought through how we as his people can pursue life, liberty and happiness within the confines of a kingdom society. He has made contingencies for everything that might concern us.

Going Deep // Focus: Numbers 35:6, 12, 15/h3>
The LORD said to Moses, “Six of the towns you give the Levites will be cities of refuge, where a person who has accidentally killed someone can flee for safety… These cities will be places of protection from a dead person’s relatives who want to avenge the death…. They are for the protection of Israelites, foreigners living among you, and traveling merchants. Anyone who accidentally kills someone may flee there for safety.”

God really does think of everything, doesn’t he? Down to the smallest detail of individual and communal life, for every hypothetical question we could ask, God has already thought through how we as his people can pursue life, liberty and happiness within the confines of a kingdom society. He has made contingencies for everything that might concern us.

In the case of Numbers 25, God even made it possible for people who accidentally take another life not to be forced to a fugitive life. By fleeing to one of the designated sanctuary cities, they could live without always looking over their shoulders, not having to worry about the victim’s family exacting revenge on them, knowing that they could move forward in spite of the tragedy they caused.

Of course, some in our current cultural context might attempt to squeeze from this chapter a justification for sanctuary cities that can overrule federal law regarding illegal immigration. That is a worthwhile discussion, but this is not about justifying willful disregard of a law. This was about accidental events. Accidents happen! Sometimes they are simply the result of a set of circumstances for which no one was at fault, at other times they are the result of someone’s negligence. But never were they intentional. And when that was the case, God set up protections to limit the outrage of the victim’s kin; the punishment was not to exceed the crime, so to speak.

Keep in mind also that the offender was not offered a day at the beach in these cities. These sanctuary cities belonged to the Levites, the clerics and religious workers of that culture. So the person who took up refuse in one of these cities would have to live under the watchful eye of Israel’s spiritual leaders. Furthermore, fleeing to a sanctuary city didn’t negate the judicial process. A murderer couldn’t leverage a gracious system to his own advantage. If there were more than one witness who could corroborate murderous intent, the murderer would face the death penalty. But if the community found that the killing was accidental, the accused could find refuge in the city. Even then, “though he was innocent of murder, he was still guilty of manslaughter. An accidental killing still destroyed a human life made in God’s image, polluting the land God had given (Numbers 35:33). A person guilty of manslaughter still had to pay for his actions.” (Quest Study Bible) In this kind of a tragic case, while no one was happy, everything would be fair.

Yes, God had thought of everything. Again and again in the Books of Moses, we see God involved in the affairs, large and small, of his people. He is a God who cares. He is a God who provides, not just materially, but through laws and processes that kept his kingdom society civil.

Which brings us to the point extracted time after time in Leviticus and Numbers: God cares about you, too. He watches over the affairs of your life, large and small, and he has made contingencies for every possible circumstance that you might face. When it comes to you, God has thought of everything.

Going Deeper With God: What has you flummoxed today? God has an answer. Go to him. Listen. Wait for discernment. He has already thought your situation through.

The Beauty of Boundaries

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Our Heavenly Father knows that we need the safety, warmth and nurture of a protective environment, and wherever he has established a boundary, it is for that very purpose. And while we might find his boundaries restrictive, we would do well to remember that one hundred percent of the time, they are for our good. Thank God for boundaries!

Going Deep // Focus: Numbers 34:1-2

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Give these instructions to the Israelites: When you come into the land of Canaan, which I am giving you as your special possession, these will be the boundaries.

Human beings have a love-hate relationship with boundaries. Intrinsically we know we need them, but throughout our lives we resist and resent them. Such is the rebellious nature of our fallen condition. So distorted is our view that we treasure the security that boundaries provide but crave the freedom of breaking lose from what we wrongly think holds us back. Somehow, we just can’t blend the two; we see boundaries and freedom as an oxymoron.

Yet boundaries are the Creator’s special gift to us—a gift that opens the way to another of the Creator’s special gifts: freedom. When we learn to accept the gifts and understand that both are two sides of the same coin, we can then come into a dimension of living that allows us to thrive in the abundance of a very wise and purposeful God.

Do you realize that God is a being of boundaries? From the very beginning, God established that Adam and Eve would have freedoms unimaginable to humans today, but there were limits. They couldn’t eat the fruit of just one particular tree. The limitation was both a test of their trust in the wisdom and love of God as well as a protection from the forces that would destroy them if they didn’t trust and obey him.

And now, in Numbers 34, as the Israelites are about to make their way into another land of abundance, a land flowing with milk and honey, God clearly defines the boundaries that will keep them safe, orderly and blessed within the freedoms of the inheritance he is giving them. The boundaries are a gift from their Creator. Embracing them will allow them the freedom to thrive. Living within them will demonstrate their trust in a loving, all-wise God. Honoring them will keep their nation safe. For Israel, these geographical boundaries were a special gift from their loving Father.

At the birth of our first child, the nurses at the hospital sat my wife and me down and gave us the Cliffs Notes version of Parenting 101. It was sort of a “Parenting for Dummies”—and while my wife didn’t really need it, I definitely did. And I distinctly remember the instructions on how to tightly wrap our little jewel in a baby blanket. When we laid our little girl down for her nap, they showed us how to tuck the blanket around her and into the sides of the crib so that she could barely move; she would be almost mummy-like. Why? Because they reminded us that she had spent the past nine months within the confines of a warm, safe and nurturing womb, and would not immediately know how to handle the freedoms of this new world.

We are no different before the watchful eye and tender care of our loving Heavenly Father. He knows that we need the safety, warmth and nurture of a protective environment. So wherever he has established a boundary, it is for that very purpose. And while we might find his boundaries restrictive, we would do well to remember that one hundred percent of the time, they are for our good.

What are the boundaries that God has given you? Just open your Bible and you will immediately see them. They are throughout his Word, both in the form of “thou shalls” and “thou shall nots”. They are found in the Ten Commandments and in the Sermon on the Mount. They are tucked into the epistles and scattered throughout the psalms. And each one, whether it makes sense or not, whether it challenges today’s conventional wisdom or not, is simply a reminder of how much your Heavenly Father treasures you and desires to bring you into the freedom of abundance.

Believe in the blessings of the boundaries! They will be what takes you into a land of incredible freedom.

Going Deeper With God: Anywhere your flesh is offended by a boundary, stop and think about it. Remind yourself that the boundary is a love note from your Father. Thank him for it. Trust that honoring it will lead to unimaginable freedom. And forever settle with your flesh that God’s boundary is non-negotiable.

Jesus Led Me All The Way

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Do you cast all your cares on God, knowing that he cares for you—and not only cares, but is competent to carry you all along the way? Do you know that God is sovereign over you—even the smallest details of your life are within his control? Whether you do or don’t does not diminish the fact that God is leading you all along the way. There is no question: God has taken charge of you.

Going Deep // Focus: Numbers 33:38-39

While the Israelites were at the foot of Mount Hor, Aaron the priest was directed by the Lord to go up the mountain, and there he died. This happened in midsummer, on the first day of the fifth month of the fortieth year after Israel’s departure from Egypt. Aaron was 123 years old when he died there on Mount Hor.

Do you trust God to watch over every day of your life? Do you believe that he is involved even in the minute details of all your moments? Can you relax about tomorrow, knowing that it is securely in God’s hands? Do you cast all your cares on him, knowing that he cares for you—and not only cares, but is competent to carry you all along the way?

Whether you do or not doesn’t diminish the fact that God is leading you all along the way. There is no question: God is in control of you. Even the day of your death is foreknown by God, which means that you will not live a day longer, nor die a day sooner than what your Creator will permit. We see that in Numbers 33 when God invited the High Priest of Israel, Aaron, up to the mountain to take back the breath of life that the Creator loaned him on the day Aaron was born. And in a very real sense, in the realm invisible to the human eye, when it comes time for you to die, God will invite you to give back what he loaned you—the breath of life—and he will exchange it for eternal air that will never be reclaimed from your lungs.

Yes, when you wing your flight to realms of day, this your song through endless ages: Jesus led me all the way. Praise his holy name!

King David offered this amazing insight about the Creator’s sovereign care over his life in Psalm 139:2-3, 7-12, 16,

You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways…
You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me…
Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,”
Even the night shall be light about me;
Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You…
And in Your book the days fashioned for me,
They all were written,
When as yet there were none of them.

As David prayerfully, worshipfully exclaimed, “such knowledge is too lofty for me!” (Psalm 139:6)

God is in charge of you, whether you are conscious of it or not. So why not practice awareness of the presence of God in your moment-by-moment life? It is better than carrying the weight of the world around on your shoulders!

Going Deeper With God: Reprint the above verses taken from Psalm 139, and read them morning, noon and night every day this week. Practice awareness of God’s presence and declare his sovereign control over you. It is the best way to live.

You Have A Choice, But Don’t Settle

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

When God allows you to determine how you will walk out your faith, just remember that what he permits is not always what he will bless. Never make a choice that sacrifices long-term blessing for short-term comfort. Stay alert if the choice is between better and best—and go for the best!

Going Deep // Focus: Numbers 32:5-8, 13

The men of Gad and Reuben asked Moses, “If we have found favor with you, please let us have this land as our property instead of giving us land across the Jordan River.” But Moses responded, “Do you intend to stay here while your brothers go across and do all the fighting? Why do you want to discourage the rest of the people of Israel from going across to the land the Lord has given them? Your ancestors did the same thing when I sent them from Kadesh-barnea to explore the land….The Lord was angry with Israel and made them wander in the wilderness for forty years until the entire generation that sinned in the Lord’s sight had died.”

This section begins the Israelites’ decades-long conquest of Canaan as they settle the Promised Land. God was giving them a land that geologically would provide a great deal of security because of its natural borders: the Jordan River on the east, the Mediterranean Sea on the West, the desert on to the south and the Lebanon Mountains to the north. Israel’s enemies would not have the easiest time physically invading the land.

Moreover, God himself had promised this land to their ancestor Abraham. Now it was time for the fulfillment of that promise; the land was theirs by divine decree. It was not their land by United Nations declaration or bilateral negotiation or some grand land for peace swap. God said it belonged to Israel—now and forever—end of story.

It had taken several hundred years for God to fulfill that decree. God had declared that the current occupants, the various tribes of the Canaanites, would have to leave, but interestingly, that time would not come until, as he had declared to Abraham, the sin of the Canaanites had reached its limit (cf. my devotional blog on Numbers 31 regarding the sin of Canaan). The inhabitants of the land had grown intolerably wicked, and divine justice demanded their expulsion, by any means necessary.

Canaan was now ready for conquest, and the Israelites were about to possess their promise, a land flowing with milk and honey. Some of the twelve tribes of Israel, however, didn’t want to go in. They didn’t want to take ownership of the land. They prefered to stay on the east side of the Jordan where there were lush plains of grazing land. From their pastoral perspective, this was the perfect place to feed their flocks, raise their kids and make a life.

Moses, however, didn’t take it kindly when the tribes of Gad and Reuben informed him of their hope to stay on the edge of the Promised Land. He charged them with being negligent in their duties to help expel the Canaanite nations on the other side of the Jordan River. He claimed their settling for the east would discourage the rest of the tribes forging ahead to lay claim to the west. He argued that they were simply repeating the same sin that kept their fathers out of the Promised Land. But after a good tongue lashing, he accepted their explanation for staying put as reasonable—not ideal, but reasonable. Yet even then, you get the feeling that Moses wasn’t totally comfortable with the idea, and his acceptance of their plan was couched in a severe warning about being unengaged in God’s mission for Israel in the years to come.

That’s the story. So what is the application for us today? Obviously there is a reason God included it in the Bible, so what are the take-away’s for us?

Perhaps there are many, but I will suggest this one: At times, God gives us a choice. Sometimes the choice is either this or that, and one is no better than the other. Then at other times, God says, “sure, you can choose, but what you want is less than my best.” So simply be aware that when God allows you to determine how you will walk out your faith, what he permits is not always what he will bless. At times God brings us to a place where the choice he allows us to make is not between good and bad, it is between better and best.

God’s deepest desire is to lead you to the best place a believer could ever hope for—but he gives you a choice. In that choice, don’t’ settle! Don’t surrender for second place. Don’t forfeit the potential for divine abundance because of a short-sighted desire for comfort and convenience. Don’t give up just shy of the thrill that awaits at the finish.

Too many Christians surrender to far less than what God has in mind for them just prior to the final push of obedience and sacrifice faith required to bring them into a land flowing with milk and honey. I am not sure what that means for you today, but I know that the choice you and I will face today and every day as we walk out our faith is settling for the good when God wants to give us the best.

Don’t settle, God has a land of promise for you!

Going Deeper With God: Is there an area of your life where you are tempted to settle for less that God’s best? Perhaps it is in waiting for a Christian spouse, or maybe the right job, or the resolution of a challenging problem or for the green light on a business opportunity. Sometimes it is perfectly clear that God he has not given you a choice in walking our his will for you. In that case, offer him 100% obedience and trust. But if he has given you options—a choice between this or that—be very careful: Don’t forfeit a future of blessing for comfort and convenience in the moment!

Holy War and a Loving God

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

With the things we don’t understand about God, and with the things the world shudders at about God, keep in mind that we don’t always need to defend him. God is perfectly suited to defend himself. We ought to arm ourselves with as much knowledge as we can through study, but at the end of the day, God is infinite—in being, in wisdom and in power. And we are not. So let God be God, and lean into his loving but just character!

Going Deep // Focus: Numbers 31:1-2,7,13-18

The Lord said to Moses, “Take vengeance on the Midianites for the Israelites.” …Israel fought against Midian, as the Lord commanded Moses, and killed every man. …Moses, Eleazar the priest and all the leaders of the community went to meet them outside the camp. Moses was angry with the officers of the army—the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds—who returned from the battle. “Have you allowed all the women to live?” he asked them. “They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and enticed the Israelites to be unfaithful to the Lord in the Peor incident, so that a plague struck the Lord’s people. Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

What are we to do with the concept of holy war in the Bible? How are we to handle when the Lord unleashes vengeance upon a nation? It is beyond our modern sensibilities that what we have come to understand as a New Testament God of love would order the annihilation of an entire people in the Old Testament. And annihilation is too clean of a word: men, women and children were put to death—by the sword—among other “atrocities.”

Many have set forth scholarly and reasonable explanations for the concept of holy war, so I will allow you to explore those on your own should you desire to gain greater knowledge. I would simply say here, as I have often said in this journey through the Pentateuch, that context is everything. Keep in mind the progressive nature of what God is doing here: he is forming a people for himself. They have been called out from among the pagan nation, are being purged of the ungodly and brutal influences of those nations they have been among, and are now being fashioned into a nation themselves that is to be uniquely God’s and set apart in holiness for his sacred purposes. So God starts with where they are—a people without form and function—and be begins to give them both. Some of the laws and regulations that we read about are to be observed forever, some are for that time and place only, and some are for an indeterminate but definite period of time. Some of those Divine decrees won’t be needed once they are established in their Promised Land and a great many of them will go away entirely when the promised Messiah comes to establish the reign of God in the hearts of his people.

And that is precisely where the student of the Bible has to distinguish between the rigid letter of the law and the eternal principles of God.

Now what about this idea of holy war—which wouldn’t you agree after reading this account—is hell? At this point, it will be helpful to consider the following article from the NIV Student Bible. While it doesn’t soften the tragedy of holy war, it does supply some of the contextual reasons for it:

The Old Testament makes clear that the Canaanites were not being uprooted on a sudden whim. God had promised the land to the Israelites over 400 years before Joshua. He had called one man, Abraham, to found a nation of chosen people. He repeated those promises often (see Genesis 12:1–3; 15:5–18; 17:2–8; 26:3,23–24; 28:13–14) and finally called the Israelites out of Egypt to take over the promised land. Almost from the beginning Canaan was a vital part of God’s plan. Israel’s inheritance, however, meant kicking out the Canaanites. How could innocent people simply be pushed aside, or killed? In answer to this question, the Bible makes clear that the Canaanites were not “innocent.” Through their long history of sin, they had forfeited their right to the land. Four hundred years before Joshua, God had told Abraham that his descendants would not occupy the land until the sin of its inhabitants had “reached its full measure” (Genesis 15:16). Later, just days before the onset of Joshua’s campaign, Moses stated, “It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the LORD your God will drive them out before you” (Deuteronomy 9:5). Historians have uncovered plenty of evidence of this wickedness. Canaanite temples featured prostitutes, orgies and human sacrifice. Relics and plaques of exaggerated sex organs hint at the immorality that characterized Canaan. Canaanite gods, such as Baal and his wife Anath, delighted in butchery and sadism. Archaeologists have found great numbers of jars containing the tiny bones of children sacrificed to Baal. Families seeking good luck in a new home practiced “foundation sacrifice.” They would kill one of their children and seal the body in the mortar of the wall. In many ways, Canaan had become like Sodom and Gomorrah. The Bible records that God has patience with decadent societies for a time, but judgment inevitably follows. For Sodom and Gomorrah it took the form of fire and brimstone. For Canaan it came through Joshua’s conquering armies. Later, God let his own chosen people be ravaged by invaders as punishment for their sins. The judgment pronounced on Canaan seems severe, but no more severe than what was later inflicted on Israel itself.

Keep in mind with the things we don’t understand about God, with the things the world shudders at, that we don’t always need to defend God. He is perfectly suited to defend himself. We ought to arm ourselves with as much knowledge as we can through study, but at the end of the day, God is infinite—in being, in wisdom and in power. And we are not.

Let God be God, and lean into his loving but just character. In the final analysis, God will be—and already is for that matter—justified in all his ways.

Going Deeper With God: If the reading today shakes you—and if you are ever shaken by the things you don’t fully comprehend about God—take a moment to prayerfully reflect on Hebrews 10:35, “Do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.” Even when you don’t understand, you can trust in a God who is never evil, is always kind, but is too deep to always explain himself.

Not Just Any Old God

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Making a vow while invoking the name of a deity was common in the ancient world. It is common in our day, too. God didn’t and doesn’t want his people to do that. He isn’t just any old god. He wants us to elevate his name. He is the Lord God, the Creator and Ruler of the universe, the Great I AM. His name is holy, and we must never profane it by treating it at any time and in any way as common.

Going Deep // Focus: Numbers 30:2

A man who makes a vow to the Lord or makes a pledge under oath must never break it. He must do exactly what he said he would do.

Making a vow while invoking the name of a deity was common in the ancient world. It is common in our day as well. Someone might casually blurt out, “I swear to God” or “by God” or something similar to impress upon the listener the seriousness of that oath. The problem is, when one swears an oath by the name of the Almighty, it is usually on the spur of the moment or in a fit of emotion, and it is usually done unthinkingly and it is not going to be dependable.

God didn’t want his people to do that. He wasn’t just any old god. And he wanted them to elevate their God’s name. He was the Lord God, the Creator and Ruler of the universe, the Great I AM. He was holy, and he took his holiness so seriously that he demanded his people eat, sleep, breathe and live 24/7 as his holy people. In fact, they were not to casually utter his name—to do so would be to profane it; to treat it as common. He even put that prohibition in the Top Ten of all his Commandments:

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. (Exodus 20:7)

Was Israel’s God serious about his people honoring his name? You bet! And here is a shocking example from Leviticus 24:10-14,

One day a man who had an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father came out of his tent and got into a fight with one of the Israelite men. During the fight, this son of an Israelite woman blasphemed the Name of the Lord with a curse. So the man was brought to Moses for judgment. His mother was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri of the tribe of Dan. They kept the man in custody until the Lord’s will in the matter should become clear to them. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Take the blasphemer outside the camp, and tell all those who heard the curse to lay their hands on his head. Then let the entire community stone him to death.

God was deadly serious about his name being profaned. He still is. Obviously, we don’t execute people for misusing it, but he is still the Lord God, the Creator and Ruler of the universe, the Great I AM. He is no less Yahweh today than he was in ancient Israel. He is still holy, and he still takes his holiness so seriously that he demands that we eat, sleep, breathe and live 24/7 as his holy people.

So as it relates to casually and unthinkingly uttering his name, don’t. And one of the ways to implement that kind of respect for the name of the Lord relates to this business of invoking his name in making an oath. To honor his wishes that he clearly expressed to the Israelite, keep the following in mind:

  • If you are making a vow and tempted to invoke his name to demonstrate how serious the oath is, never do it in the emotion of the moment. Never make it must rashly. Stop, think about it, know exactly what you are saying, what you are promising. Remember, if you invoke God’s name, you are putting his character on the line in your oath.
  • If you make a vow using his name, it must be fulfilled. Sorry, but you committed to it, and you chose to use God’s name as your earnest money. That is serious business, so that is why you must first clearly think it through before you do it. God will hold you to it.
  • If you make a vow by swearing to the name of your God, remember this: you did not make it by uttering the name of any old god, this was the Lord of the Universe you brought into the agreement. And even if you or the one to who you pledged didn’t take it seriously, God did.

Bottom line: Don’t swear to an oath and invoke the name of the Lord. Follow Jesus’ advice found in Matthew 5:33-37,

The law of Moses says, ‘You shall not break your vows to God but must fulfill them all.’ But I say: Don’t make any vows! And even to say ‘By heavens!’ is a sacred vow to God, for the heavens are God’s throne. And if you say ‘By the earth!’ it is a sacred vow, for the earth is his footstool. And don’t swear ‘By Jerusalem!’ for Jerusalem is the capital of the great King. Don’t even swear ‘By my head!’ for you can’t turn one hair white or black. Say 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.

Break the habit of uttering the name of the Lord your God unthinkingly in your conversations.  Don’t use him name casually in making promises, as if that somehow adds credibility to what you are committing to do. A simple “yes’ or “no” will do!

Elevate his name; reverence it. After all, he is still the Lord God, the Creator and Ruler of the universe, Yahweh, your Great I AM!

Going Deeper With God: Listen to how you use God’s name in your conversations throughout the day. Although you might never use it as a curse word, do you flippantly use it in your prayers, just as you would a punctuation mark, or as something so common as an “uh” or in a text message as an OMG. Stop—God’s name is holy!