You have heard . . But I say; False Vows and Oaths Matt. 5:33-37
October 12, 2014 Series: The Gospel of Matthew
Topic: Sunday AM Passage: Matthew 5:33–5:37
33“Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT MAKE FALSE VOWS, BUT SHALL FULFILL YOUR VOWS TO THE LORD.’ 34“But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is THE CITY OF THE GREAT KING. 36“Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37“But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.
OK, this isn't as straight forward as last week. Last week was somewhat problematical thinking about how christians embrace and deal with the problem of divorce. Pretty basic stuff, even if never popular.
What is Jesus talking about here? Who's he talking to? And how do the principals relate to us today?
Let's define a modern term I want to use. Bypassing.
In communication, bypassing is when there is a conversation and the first person says something, and the second person hears the words delivered, but the meaning in the 2nd persons mind is not the same as what person 1 intended.
Our rotten kids do this to us all the time. They think it's funny. And the kids will know what each other meant, but I'm out in the cold somewhere thinking something totally different was said.
And that's partially what Jesus was talking about in this passage, except what's going on here is that party no. 2, not only doesn't understand correctly, but party no. 1 is deliberately causing the double speak to work in his favor and the other persons detriment.
There is purposeful deliberate misleading. Can you think of another word for that? Right, these folks are lying.
All of these Chapter 5 discussions have taken the form of thesis, challenged with antithesis, and all of them have to do with God's moral commandments.
In this one, Jesus is exposing a distortion of revealed truth that goes all the way back to the 9th commandment. You shall not lie. And a breaking of the 3rd commandment also in a way. Taking God's name - in vain.
In Psalm 58:3 there is an interesting truth about the human race.
3The wicked are estranged from the womb;
These who speak lies go astray from birth.
If you number yourself among those who were born, you can learn this from the Word of God. You were estranged from God, seperated from Him, when you entered this world. And, you were born a liar.
All of us, the entire fallen human race, are born liars. It's in our fallen nature. It's what we do.
How many of you taught your children how to lie? Anyone feel the need?
No, we came out that way. Perfectly proficient at it. Ever ask your 1 1/2 year old, who doesn't have a full vocabulary, "who put that poop in your diaper? Did you do that?" Before they can even speak, they'll shake their heads, no. It wasn't me.
And we just get more creative at it as we go.
There are two final warnings right at the very end of the book of Revelation, in case we begin to forget the gravity of this sin.
Rev. 21:8 "But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."
Rev. 22:15 Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
What we have here is an elaborate system of oath's and swearings that had grown out of their infamous traditions, which by the way, trump the very Word of God.
The traditions of the scribes and the pharisees were substandard to scripture because they, as wicked men, devised a system, where if you adhered to all the traditions, you were righteous.
It was righteousness by pure invention. Righteousness by human effort. God is out of the loop. And Jesus blows it up in this sermon. Every phase of it. This is just one of many. All of these "you have heard" "but I say" discussions are exposing their phony system of quasi-righteousness as below what God both stated, and accepts.
So, let's begin by looking at what Jesus states about their oaths and swearings.
33“Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT MAKE FALSE VOWS, BUT SHALL FULFILL YOUR VOWS TO THE LORD.’
Here Jesus takes a composite of at least three OT quotes.
Leviticus 19:12 says;
"'Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the LORD.
Numbers 30:2 says: When a man makes a vow to the LORD or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said.
And Deuteronomy 23:21 says; If you make a vow to the LORD your God, do not be slow to pay it, for the LORD your God will certainly demand it of you and you will be guilty of sin.
Since we're born liars, God allows us to swear an oath by a higher authority when we make promises or statements of great importance.
We see this throughout the Bible. Even God reaches down and joins us in this. He swears by himself since He can swear by none greater.
Hebrews 6 talks about God swearing an oath, and how an oath sworn with God as witness is the end of every dispute. 13For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, 14saying, “I WILL SURELY BLESS YOU AND I WILL SURELY MULTIPLY YOU.” 15And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise. 16For men swear by one greater than themselves, and with them an oath given as confirmation is an end of every dispute. 17In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, 18so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.
We still do this. And it's OK. Jesus isn't forbidding the taking of important oaths here.
In Romans 9, Paul swears an oath using Christ and the Holy Spirit to elevate his claim of truthfulness 1 I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, 2that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. 3For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh,
When we go to court we swear to tell the truth, so help me God. Not sure how that works in a nation that doesn't believe in God these days, but we do it.
When we get married we take our oaths before God and witnesses.
A few years ago there were popular christian gatherings and conferences under the title, Promise Keepers. The idea that in our society, a promise keeper is something unusual, and that is true.
The Bible honors those who swear an oath and then keep it, to their own hurt. In a list of who will stand at God's Holy hill, David includes He swears to his own hurt and does not change, in Psalm 15:4
We've lost a lot of ground on this in our national life. Pam taped that 20+ hour series about the Roosevelts for me. She wasn't very interested, but I'm a history junkie, and I enjoyed watching them.
Something that stood out to me that fits our discussion this morning was how Teddy Roosevelt made the biggest blunder of his life by saying he would not surpass the model of George Washington by seeking more than 2 terms as president, even though there was no law against it.
It didn't take him long to realize, that was a mistake. The people wanted him. There was no one else like him, and the nation needed him.
But he honored that pledge and paid for it the rest of his days! Today the politicians wouldn't blink while they said, oops, I mis spoke, or some other lie, and then go right ahead and do the thing they swore they would never do. Our world has changed that much in just 100 years.
The 3rd commandment is in here also. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
We've most often learned that this is a commandment against cursing. But a person who invokes God's name in a pledge or an oath, and then fails to do the thing, has broken this commandment. God says He will not leave them unpunished. And He keeps His oaths.
So, it's no accident that this section follows immediately on the tail of divorce. We promise before God and witnesses to never falter in our love and care and singular devotion, and then we turn our backs on all we've promised and walk away.
That's a picture of our spiritual loyalty. We're just as flippant with our devotion to God as we are with our partners. God says, through Hosea the prophet; What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? For your loyalty is like a morning cloud And like the dew which goes away early.
We make big promises. We invoke God's name. Then, poof, it's gone like the morning dew.
Jesus says, don't do that. Better to say, yes, and mean it. or No, and mean it, and do it. Leave God's name out of it. We're prone to failure, and God has promised not to leave those failures unpunished in the 3rd commandment.
Jesus paints a perfect picture of what He's talking about in these verses on the mountain. Talking to the Pharisee's and Scribes in chapter 21, nearing his death, he tells them this parable; vss. 28-32
28 “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’ 29“And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he regretted it and went. 30“The man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, ‘I will, sir’; but he did not go. 31“Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you. 32“For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even feel remorse afterward so as to believe him.
The pharisees and scribes, the religious leaders of Israel, who thought God would open up some new positions in the trinity for people as righteous as them, are the second son in this picture. They say Yes! Yes! and swear it so, and then they deliver nothing.
We'll see how their traditions had compounded this sin.
To begin with, it's OK to swear an oath in important matters, but the Bible requires that oath to invoke God's name, and then the fear of a God who punishes those who put His good name in the mix and then do not perform what was promised, is to motivate you to keep your word, and do it in a timely manner.
Isaiah 65:16 says, "He that swears shall swear by the God of truth." Deuteronomy 10:20 says, "You shall fear the LORD your God, Him shall you serve, and to Him shall you cleave, and swear by His name."
But the jews had come up with an interesting work-around. Leave God out of it. We're going to avoid this sin by leaving God out of our oaths. We'll swear by everything and stop short of invoking God, like the commandments said to do above, and then we won't be guilty of taking His name in vain.
They had an elaborately complex system of swearing by everything you can think of, all day long, in matters of no importance.
And then the scribes and pharisees would argue forever over where all these different swearings would fall on a scale of importance to whether you really had to do them.
There's a little window into that scheme in Matthew 23, the woe's chapter, where Jesus pronounces a woe on this very thing he's addressing here.
16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple is obligated.’ 17“You fools and blind men! Which is more important, the gold or the temple that sanctified the gold? 18“And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, that is nothing, but whoever swears by the offering on it, he is obligated.’ 19“You blind men, which is more important, the offering, or the altar that sanctifies the offering? 20“Therefore, whoever swears by the altar, swears both by the altar and by everything on it. 21“And whoever swears by the temple, swears both by the temple and by Him who dwells within it. 22“And whoever swears by heaven, swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it.
Their whole elaborate system of swearing was nothing but trickery and deceit. And you had to have an inside track to stay up with what was "in" and what was "out".
So if you're a hill billy from Nazareth visiting Jerusalem, and you want to worship by presenting a dove or whatever in the temple for a sacrifice, first you go to the money changers in the temple, and they swear up and down by the 'temple' that their rate is accurate and their scales of measure are fair, and then they rob you blind.
Kings X! They're OK because they didn't swear on the gold in the temple, they just swore by the temple.
Then you take what little money you got and go to purchase a dove, and that guy swears by the altar that this dove is fresh and perfect and a certain size and blah blah blah, and he robs you blind too, but you're held captive if you want to offer a sacrifice to God.
But Kings X on all his lies and thievery because he only swore on the alter, not the offering on the alter.
Now magnify that by about a 1000 and that was their system of swearing and oath's. God, never mentioned, so kings X on his punishment. Plus, they're up on all the latest trending from the scribes and pharisees about what has weight and must be carried out, and what does not.
Any wonder that Jesus shows up with a whip and drives the entire lot of them out of the temple. And the temple is just the tip of the iceberg. They're whole religious system of righteousness was built on this kind of nonsense.
And so Jesus words here on the mountain are easy to understand when we've re-created and understand their phony system of no credibility. What Jesus says in the next couple of verses are just some random samples.
34“But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is THE CITY OF THE GREAT KING.
Notice here, that in the examples Jesus picks, the jews are very careful, or so they thought, to leave God out of these oaths. Leave God out and it's Kings X. Same as fingers crossed behind your back. It's OK.
So we swear by heaven and we swear by earth and we swear by Jerusalem, and it's all kings X. Didn't mention God.
And Jesus blows that up. Kablooey. Because God is everywhere! God Is Not Mocked! Heaven is the throne of God, and when you swear an oath by heaven, you may as well have said, I swear by God on his throne.
And earth is the footstool of God. So when you swear by the earth, you may as well have said, I swear by God's footstool.
And Jerusalem. They were swearing by Jerusalem, thinking Kings X on Jerusalem, we didn't mention God, and Jesus says you're more wrong than ever. Jerusalem is the City of the Great King.
Oh! the terrible irony! It's the Great King who is speaking these words to them, and because of the hardness of their hearts, as he is saying these very words to them, they are plotting His death.
Vs. 36“Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.
This final example brings the very Sovereignty of God into the discussion. They were making an oath on their heads. I swear by my very life, in other words. Still Kings X. Didn't mention God. But Jesus says, God owns your head. He owns the very hairs on your head. He owns the number of breaths you'll take on this short sojourn. He is sovereign over ALL OF IT!
37“But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.
Say "Yes" and then do it.
Say "No" and then don't do it.
Put away this bogus system of oaths and swearings. Why? Because it is part of the kingdom of Satan. Satan was a liar from the beginning, and his system is built on lies. Jesus says, anything besides a yes that gets done or a no that doesn't get done, is evil. OF evil. Part of satan's system. Leave it.
What do we take away from this in our modern lives as God's chosen people.
First, we're not going to make the mistake of anabaptists and quakers, and refuse to take oaths on important matters. God's system of taking an oath in His name and then fearing due punishment if we fail in that oath, stands. It is from God, and it is intact.
Jesus here was forbidding their abuse of that which God allowed, not the proper use. Fear God. Complete your oaths made before God and witnesses with integrity.
If you get called on to testify in court and you swear an oath of truthfulness, tell the truth, even if it hurts you, like David said. Integrity, even at great cost. God is watching and judges those who are fakes and phony's.
If you swore an oath before God and witnesses to uphold your promises made to a spouse, keep those promises, in the very fear of the judgement of God, if you don't.
Beyond that, we don't have a whole bogus network going on like the jews did of swearing out oath's on our great great grandfathers six toes.
But we DO still have Jesus command. Say 'yes' and then do the thing. With integrity. Even if it hurts. Like Teddy Roosevelt did. It nearly killed him not to run for that third term. It hurt the nation too. But he honored his 'no' with integrity.
We've slipped here. And the example of our leadership in this nation is, well, beyond rediculous. More often than not, "No" means yes, or maybe, or whatever the next poll seems to say, and "Yes" means however the wind blows in the next 10 minutes.
We, as christians, in this nation, are held to a higher standard set forth here on these pages this morning, by none other than the Great King, to have His integrity in us. We are to be examples to the world around us of people who live by a standard above what is accepted in our world around us now.
Ex. 20:7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.
Do you think when God says He will not leave him unpunished here that His yes means yes, and His no means no?
This is weighty stuff. Every fallen human fails here, and has failed. Jesus purpose is the same as it has been throughout this Sermon on the Mount.
Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are the bankrupt mourners over their own failings and sin before a God who has promised to judge.
Call out to Him for mercy. The blood of Jesus was shed to cleanse this and all other sins.
More in The Gospel of Matthew
March 26, 2017The Authority and Commission of Jesus Mt. 28:16 - 20
March 19, 2017Jesus IS Alive! The Tomb is Empty Mt. 28: 1 - 15
March 12, 2017The Burial of Jesus Mt. 27:55 - 66 pt. 2