“I will come to your temple with burnt offerings and fulfil my vows to you, vows my lips promised and my mouth spoke when I was in trouble”.. “I will fulfil my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people” (Psalms 66:13, 116:14).
The psalmists often made vows to God. And then they reminded themselves that they must fulfil their vows. The writer of Ecclesiastes warns us, “When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it”.
Do you remember the vows you made in 2001?
Some of us were driven to make vows in times of crisis – crises brought about by particular sins. We pleaded with God to rescue us and vowed that if he did, we would never return to those sins. And God intervened. He averted the disaster we feared. We were grateful. And for a little while we remembered what we had vowed. But now? How easy it is to drift back to the old ways!
Some of us asked God for special blessings. We vowed that if he gave us what we asked, we would never complain again or question his kindness. He gave us what we asked for and we were grateful. Are we still?
Some of us vowed that we make prayer a greater priority. Or we vowed that we would contact that Christian with whom we quarrelled years ago and try to sort it out. We vowed we would invite round our neighbours for a meal and try to tell them of Christ. We vowed that we would keep our home tidy or our car clean.
Have we kept our vows? Have we done the things we promised?
We may have forgotten our vows but God has not. Our unfulfilled vows stand like unpaid IOUs in God’s books. We must remember them. And we must pay them.
Perhaps we made foolish vows. We made vows we could not or should not fulfil (remember Jephthah?). Then let’s confess our foolishness before God. Let’s ask him to release us from our vows. We can ask him to cancel the debt for the sake of Christ. But if the thing we vowed was good and right, let’s repeat those vows again at the beginning of another year. And let’s renew our determination, with Christ’s help, to keep them. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”.
Especially, let’s remember the vows we made when we became members of the church. Every member of this church has made solemn vows in the presence of God. We have bound ourselves to one another in a covenant. We searched the Scriptures. We discovered the duties every Christian has to his fellow-believers in the local church. And we vowed that, God enabling us, we would fulfil those duties. We made our vows in obedience to Christ.
Do you recall the vows you made when you became a member? How often did you read them through last year? Did you pray, asking for help to keep them? Did you make it your business to perform your vows in the presence of his people?
Let’s all take time now, at the beginning of this New Year. Sit down. Study again the covenant we signed. Ask yourself what each clause means in practice. Where we’ve broken our vows, let’s pray for forgiveness and grace to start afresh. If we’ve failed in love towards our fellow members, let’s commit ourselves again to loving them as brothers in Christ. Let’s renew our covenant first with Christ and then with one another.