The Corona Virus is killing thousands as the global economy sinks into the abyss. Drowning in this ocean of anxiety, you may be tempted to make a promise or swear an oath.
In the 1990’s, “Promise Keepers” was the rage; we would gather in stadiums and hear motivational speakers who would encourage us to make the 7 Promises: Honor, Brotherhood, Virtue, Commitment, Changemaking, Unity, and Obedience.
It’s difficult to define what it is exactly that constitutes an oath, but an oath is at least a statement to which we try to add some weight, like when we say, “I promise.” There are “assertive oaths,” asserting what’s true now, and “promissory oaths,” asserting what will be true in the future. Swearing has nothing to do with vocabulary lists, and everything to do with oaths.
If you testify in a court of law, they’ll ask you to swear an oath saying, “I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.” When I was a boy, I took the Scout Oath. When I was ordained, I took vows. When I got married, I took vows and made promises. Some churches require oaths, promises, and vows before you can approach the communion table.
“…I say to you, Do not take an oath at all,” says Jesus in Matthew 5:34. “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil [the evil one].”
That’s in the Bible. So, when you place your hand on a Bible and swear, are you swearing that you haven’t read it lately?
When I took the Scout Oath, I swore to do my duty to God and country. So, I swore to swear (my country requests it in a court of law). I swore to swear, even as I swore not to swear—we thought that meant you couldn’t say certain words.
A little boy named Andy was riding by our church in the back seat of a car with his friend.
He asked his friend, “How come you don’t go to church?”
“I don’t know if we should go there. They use swear words there,” said his little friend.
“What do you mean?” asked Andy.
“They say ‘God’ and ‘Jesus’ all the time there.”
Is “Jesus” a swear word?
And why can’t we take oaths?
It’s confusing, because God swears oaths.
In fact, the Bible is pretty much the record of God taking oaths.
A “testament” includes oaths, or, basically is an oath. It’s a covenant.
There are some obvious reasons to avoid oaths.
If you swear to tell the truth, it means you don’t normally tell the truth.
If you swear something will be true in the future, it means you’re lying right now, because you don’t know the future.
If you want to hear a lot of oaths, hang around politicians, addicts, and religious people trying to justify themselves.
And does anybody know the whole truth? Maybe some facts…but truth?
The devil knows all sorts of facts, but there is “no truth in him.”
You can’t define Truth; Truth must define you and give meaning to all the facts.
Truth must tell you before you could ever tell the Truth.
When I marry people, I tell them, “You can’t fulfill a vow of love; you can’t make love. Love makes you and fulfills you. Let’s take this vow and turn it into a prayer.”
There are no wedding vows in Scripture—at least not that we are told to take.
God is Love, and His Word is Truth, and He Swears an oath.
Does it come from evil? And is it his evil? Or is it on account of our evil?
With most of our questions about oaths, we’re probably “straining at gnats,” but this is where we’ve swallowed the proverbial “camel”—we’ve swallowed the Truth.
We’ve rejected the Truth, crucified the Truth, and swallowed the Truth… but perhaps the Truth can still set us free?
“…When God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath.” (Hebrews 6:17)
“’The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever.”’ This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.” (Hebrews 7:21-22) “… the eternal covenant,” (Hebrews 13:20).
Jesus is God’s Word; Jesus is God’s Swear Word. “Jesus, (yeshua)” means, “Yahweh is Salvation.”
“I AM salvation. I swear,” says God.
The Old Covenant of Law is contained within the New and Eternal Covenant of Grace, like the stone tablets were contained in the Ark under the Mercy Seat, sprinkled with blood.
The Old Covenant had two sides; in the Eternal Covenant, God is keeping all sides.
“I make you, and you are good.”
That’s the Eternal Covenant in Genesis chapter one.
“But you don’t believe me, which is not good. So, I will allow you to try and make yourself good. I will allow you to take knowledge from the tree and try to justify yourself.”
That’s the Old Covenant, the Covenant of Law, in Genesis chapter two.
“I will allow you to try and make yourself good, which will reveal that you can only make yourself ‘not good,’ for I Am the Good that will now reveal that I make you with myself—my body broken and blood shed.”
That’s the Revelation of Jesus (“I AM Salvation. I swear.”)
The One that tells you not to make any oaths is literally the Oath that God has made, and is now swearing, in order to make you… and all creation.
When you make an oath, you tell a lie, renounce the Truth, and make space for evil.
“Jesus” is my favorite swear word, for when I say it in faith, it pierces the evil one like a knife.
The Truth is not a dead law; The Truth is my Lord, risen from the dead, and riding out on my tongue to do battle with hell. Perhaps “faith” in me is Truth, risen from the dead in me?
Jesus took bread and broke it saying, “This is my body. Take and eat.”
And he took the cup, saying, “This is the covenant in my blood.”
To eat it in an “unfit manner” is to eat while making promises and taking oaths in the presence of the Eternal Oath.
Peter took the bread and wine, but he didn’t fully believe.
That night, he made a promise, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you.”
But before the cock crowed, Peter denied him three times—the second time with an oath, the third time invoking a curse and swearing an oath once again.
Peter was not “The Promise Keeper.”
When you make a pledge, you create for yourself a law.
You promise to fulfill that law in an effort to save yourself.
In so doing, you condemn yourself and deny your savior.
But even as Peter denied The Promise, the body of the Promise Keeper—body broken and blood shed—lay like a seed, a promised seed, in the tomb that was Peter’s soul.
The cock crowed, and Peter wept as all of his promises died.
But on the third day, the Promise appeared to Peter.
At breakfast he asked, “Do you love me?”
Not, “Will you promise to do better?” Just, “Do you love me… now?”
Then, “Feed my sheep.”
As far as we know, Peter never made another promise, but he went on to be the rock.
Not because he promised to be, but because Jesus was the Rock in Peter.
Don’t make promises.
Believe the Promise that God has made… NOW.
Then Love, because you want to.
“His Oath, His Covenant, His Blood support me in the whelming flood. When all around, my soul gives way, he then is all my hope and stay. On Christ the Solid Rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand. All other ground is sinking sand.”