Covenant Vows
Genesis 28:20-22
And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat…

I. Let us, in the beginning, consider what is taught us in God's Word about vows in general, and that will lead the way easily to the examination of those peculiar in the Christian dispensation.

1. The Old Testament is the main source of all profitable information. Indeed it hardly appears necessary to go beyond it. Classic history, however, makes clear the fact that all religions and schemes of faith have encouraged their devotees in the practice of making vows to their deities. Temples of every sort, the world over, are filled with votive offerings, presented by grateful recipients of Divine favour, when they have been delivered from danger, or prospered in difficult enterprises. Even the rituals of heathenism, the wildest and the wisest seem to agree in this. The custom, therefore, has very ancient authority. It was not an original invention of Jacob. Nor was it introduced by Moses, nor was it ever announced from heaven. Its history is as old as the annals of the race. The great law-giver Moses, acting under Divine direction, found this custom when he came to the leadership of Israel, He simply set himself to regulate the practice, and put it under some code of intelligent management.

2. The New Testament doctrine. No precept given; no regulation prescribed. The spirit of the New Testament is one of freedom. Freedom, however, is not lawlessness; liberty is not license. It is possible that there may be found in our churches some persons, or even in our own moods, some moments to which vows could be of service.

II. From these general considerations, it gives us pleasure and relief to turn to the special examination of what we term Christian vows.

1. We mean by this expression to cover a class of covenant engagements which stand in close relationship to the New Testament church. They are represented in the two ordinances of Baptism and the Lord's Supper.

2. The reach of these vows is universal. They cover our possessions — our ways — our hearts — our lives.

3. A reach so extensive as this flings over the whole transaction a spirit of profound solemnity. The parties to the covenant are not man and man, but man and God. The witnesses who stand around are the world, the church, angels — and devils. The sanctions of the covenant are expressibly sacred and awful. All the good and evil of this life, all the blessings and the curses of the life to come hang upon the question of our fidelity in keeping the faith we have pledged.

4. Now no mere human being could abide the pressure of engagements of such reach and solemnity, except for the alleviation annexed to them. There is a promise underneath each one of them all. God not only keeps His own covenant, but helps us keep ours.

5. The use which can be made practically of these covenant engagements of ours is threefold. They give us a profitable caution; they furnish ground for fresh hope; they remind us of former experiences of trust and deliverance. The stated, steady repetition of them at periodic times, is of prodigious service. They suddenly arrest us in the midst of daily life, and demand a return of thoughtful surrender. The moment temptation confronts us, a voice seems to speak in the air — Remember thine oath! And if we are intelligent, we are quite glad to remember it; for God covenanted when we did. There is a dowry in every duty, and a promise in every call. Our vows come to be burdens less, and badges more; they are not fetters on our limbs, but rings on our fingers.

(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on,

WEB: Jacob vowed a vow, saying, "If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and clothing to put on,

A Tenth of All
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