Do No Break Your Word

I want to share with you some examples in the Bible about how important it is to keep our word. I will start off with a story of why there was a famine in the land of Israel for three years. We have to first go back 400 years earlier in order to understand what took place.

In the book of Joshua, chapter nine, we see the background of the story. Joshua was a great military General, and he had many victories over the enemies of Israel. He had conquered 35 cities (MacArthur Bible Commentary pg. 262).

One of the enemies of Israel was the Gibeonites (Joshua 11:17-19). The Gibeonites knew they would be wiped out by Joshua and the armies of Israel. The Gibeonite leaders decided to implement a plan to deceive Joshua. They dressed in worn out shoes and clothes, took old moldy food, and old wine bottles, and went to Joshua and told him they came from a very far country. They had heard of the fame of Joshua in his battles, and their people wanted to make a league, or covenant with Joshua not to destroy them. In their return they would become his servants. The scripture tells us that God had said Israel could make peace with cities outside their land (Deuteronomy 20:11-15).

These men pretended to be outside Israel’s land. Joshua was fooled by them, and did what they asked and made a covenant with them. A covenant is a promise, a solemn oath binding oneself to fulfill an obligation. Joshua didn’t inquire of the Lord (vs. 14) and of course, he should have. Later, he found out that they lied, and that they were neighbors, and Israel’s enemies.

He now had to keep his word bound by the covenant, and spare the lives of all the Gibeonites. God had said never to break an oath (Numbers 30:2). So even though he was tricked into it, and they were enemies, he was still bound by the oath. However, Joshua then pronounced a curse on all of them, and said that all their generations would be laborers for Israel perpetually. 

Now 400 years later, when King Saul was at war, he killed many of the Gibeonites, thinking he was acting on God’s instructions to rid the land of the evil. This was true, and it is what God had instructed them to do (Deuteronomy 7:1-2), but the Gibeonites should have been excluded because of the oath. 

Now either Saul didn’t know about the covenant made 400 years earlier, or in his zeal, as the Bible says, he thought he was doing right for the Lord. Either way, it didn’t excuse his error. Now Israel was experiencing a famine and no rain for three years because of this broken covenant.

2 Samuel 21 states, “And the king called the Gibeonites, and said unto them; (now the Gibeonites were not of the children of Israel, but of the remnant of the Amorites; and the children of Israel had sworn unto them: and Saul sought to slay them in his zeal to the children of Israel and Judah.)

Wherefore David said unto the Gibeonites, ‘What shall I do for you? and wherewith shall I make the atonement, that ye may bless the inheritance of the Lord?’”

David wanted to make things right and asked the Gibeonites what he could do for them. They told him what they wanted, and David obliged.

The point is that the famine was because of King Saul’s actions. He was the leader of the people. The people all had to suffer because of either his disobedience, or because of his lack of knowledge. 

Even if our enemy lies to us in order to make a covenant, we are bound by it. It doesn’t matter that they are evil, but our words must stand because of what we have agreed to do. This makes us ponder what citizens of a nation can suffer because of the decisions of their leaders. Who we vote for is critical.

Always seek the Lord first before making any important decisions. We should seek the Lord in all matters, but especially before making something as sacred as an oath or covenant. God takes an oath very seriously.

Ecclesiastes 5:4, “When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed.”

Numbers 30:2, “A man vow a vow unto the Lord, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.”

If you want to live a life of peace, and pleasing to God, we must keep our word, even to our own hurt.

Psalms 15:4-5, “He that swears to his own hurt…shall never be moved.”

1 Peter 3:10, “He who would love life And see good days,
Let him refrain his tongue from evil.”

If you have broken a vow or promise to the Lord, you can repent and ask the Lord to forgive you. He will forgive you and He may instruct you in some way to make the situation right. May we realize the power of our words, honor our commitments, and especially, any promise we make to God.

Copyright 2007-2023 Soul Choice Ministries – All Rights Reserved
By Bill Wiese, author of 23 Minutes in Hell