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Matthew 5:33-37

Refrain from Oaths

33 Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: 34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: 35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. 36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. 37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

Twila Paris' musical hit, God Is in Control, reminds us that our future is in God's hands. "We will choose to remember and never be shaken. There is no power above or beside Him...," the song says. It is one of my favorite songs. We sang it daily in one of our Vacation Bible Schools and the children in my multihousing ministry also loved it. It is reassuring to know that God is in control.

Jesus' words in our text for today are based on the principle that God is in control. There is no other power beside Him, therefore, only He knows what we will be able to do in the future. If we are to be honest people, we cannot swear to do anything while all the time knowing that we are not in control of our own future.

Jesus begins once again by calling our attention to the O.T. laws, apparently referring to Leviticus 19:12, "And ye shall not swear by my name falsely..." The Jews were mostly concerned with the performance of any oath that was made to God or in God's name. No one would disagree that God abhors perjury, but the Jews were overlooking the problem of vanity that is inherent in any oath.

Making oaths in God's name is certainly a violation of the third commandment to refrain from using His name in vain. Jesus teaches us that to swear by anything, be it heaven, earth, Jerusalem or even our own heads, is to take His name in vain. All of these things are God's. They are in His control. We do not even have control over the natural color of our own hair. How then could we honestly swear by them?

Jesus taught that we should simply say, "Yes" or "No", and that anything more than that is evil. Anything more than that implies that we have some power over the future. We are in fact setting ourselves in God's place, denying that we are His possessions, and promising to perform on our oaths in spite of His will. Anything more than a simple "Yes" or "No" is evil, because it comes from a vain heart.

Furthermore, as God's people we should have a reputation for honesty that would eliminate the need for an oath. Our "Yes" should be trustworthier than any sworn oath. The Jewish historian Josephus wrote about the Essenes, saying, "Any word of theirs has more force than an oath; swearing they avoid, regarding it as worse than perjury, for they say that one who is not believed without an appeal to God stands condemned already."

This sort of integrity is lacking in our modern society and even in our churches. People arrive late or not at all for agreed upon meeting times, forget to do many things that they commit themselves to do, and even make commitments and plans for months and even years into the future.

Years ago, when I worked in the retail business, a credit manager told me that pastors were considered to be bad credit risks. I have never forgotten that and I pray that it is no longer the case. God's people should begin to set the example for the rest of the world to follow. Our word should be trustworthy.

Before The Throne:

Pray that God will help you to keep all of the commitments that you have made. Pray for the Christian community to be recognized by the rest of the world for its integrity. Ask God to bring an awareness of the importance of a person's word among His people.

For Further Study:

** it hath. 23:16; ** Thou. Exod 20:7; Lev 19:12; Num 30:2-16; Deut 5:11; Deut 23:23; Ps 50:14; Ps 76:11; Eccl 5:4-6; Nah 1:15;

(v.34) ** Swear. Deut 23:21-23; Eccl 9:2; Jas 5:12; ** heaven. Matt 23:16-22; Isa 57:15; Isa 66:1;

(v.35) ** the earth. Ps 99:5; ** the city. 2Chr 6:6; Ps 48:2; Ps 87:2; Mal 1:14; Rev 21:2, 10;

(v.36) ** shalt. 23:16-21; ** because. Matt 6:27; Luke 12:25;

(v.37) ** let. 2Cor 1:17-20; Col 4:6; Jas 5:12; ** cometh. Matt 13:19; Matt 15:19; John 8:44; Eph 4:25; Col 3:9; Jas 5:12;


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