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Bible Commentaries

The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
Psalms 76



Verse 11

"Handfuls of Purpose"

For All Gleaners

"Vow, and pay unto the Lord your God."Psalm 76:11

"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. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow than that thou shouldest vow, and not pay" ( Ecclesiastes 5:4-5). The undisciplined mind may hereupon say, "Then I will not vow, and so I shall escape all responsibility." It is a fool"s logic. See how contradictory it is. A man vows that he will not vow! He does the very thing which he declares he will never do. But the logic is no worse than the morality. Think of a man so arranging his life as to escape all responsibility! That is to destroy life,—to take out of it all symmetry, all strength, all meaning. Life itself is a responsibility. The man who proceeded upon the do-nothing principle was, in Christ"s parable, condemned as a wicked and slothful servant, and cast into outer darkness. Let us make up our minds that there is no escape from responsibility, and that it must be met in a way that is wise, or in a way that is foolish. Let us inquire somewhat into the nature and scope of vows; then look at the purely religious aspect of vowing; and finally consider it in its practical bearing as upon God, ourselves, and society.—I. A vow is a resolution, and something more. You may resolve to be in France next week, but the resolution may amount merely to an expression of a conclusion which may be reversed by unforeseen occurrences. In this case the resolution is simply an affair of intention. You say you have made up your mind to a certain course, but something may happen to change your mind. A vow affects not only the judgment, but the heart. A vow should not be based upon expediency, but upon rectitude,—upon foundations which cannot change. It may be right to resolve to go home by a certain train, but it may be absurd to vow it. The question does not touch the region of conscience, obligation, or honour. It is a mere matter of arrangement, and may be changed at the dictation of circumstances. A resolution may be an effort of mere judgment,—a vow must be the expression of the heart. You resolve that your child shall wear a certain style of clothing, but were you to vow it you would be guilty of exaggeration,—you would thrust a mere trifle into association with the deepest solemnities of life; you would make too much of it,—you would not exalt your taste, you would degrade your religion.—II. Vows are to be made to God, or in the name of God: they are deeply religious acts. "And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father"s house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God." Life is made sublime by the fact that it can in all its highest acts be in league and bond with God. Life is thus redeemed from lowness, littleness, poverty, commonplace, and vulgarity. Behaviour becomes an expression of deep conviction. Words are more than breath, they are the pulses of the soul. Vows are made in secret between the heart and God. They are made at the Cross. When spoken openly, they are spoken with fear. A vow is best made when the only auditor is God. What subjects, then, are fit for the solemnity of vows? (1) The religious consecration of periods of time. (2) The godly training of children. (3) The religious devotion of sums of money. (4) A fuller dedication of energy to divine service. Then there is an inner region known only to the individual himself,—besetting sins, mortifications of passions, duties to those who have special claims upon us, care for others, and many points secret to each heart.—III. We are not only to vow, we are also to pay our vows. "If 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 proceedeth out of his mouth." It is profane to treat a vow lightly. "When thou shalt vow a vow unto the Lord thy God, thou shalt not slack to pay it: for the Lord thy God will surely require it of thee; and it would be sin in thee." So a man"s religion may actually be turned into aggravated impiety! To vow, and not to pay, destroys the finest qualities and powers of manhood. Nonpayment means diminution of soul-power,—exhaustion of spiritual force. In not paying a vow, man loses faith in himself: he is a liar to his own soul! The spiritual and practical lesson is this: The great questions of life lie first between man and God,—not between man and Prayer of Manasseh , but between man and God. A man must settle with God what ought to be done and how it ought to be done, then he will be lifted above all social fear. Does he give money? He must give it first to God. Does he give time? Let him first give it to Jesus Christ, (1) Let us remember broken vows,—vows made in sickness, in high spiritual excitement, in extremity of fear, etc. (2) Let us make new vows. "It is high time to awake out of sleep," "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do," etc. he only vow which can be fulfilled is the vow which is made in the name and strength of God.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 76:4". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. 1885-95.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, September 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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