Matthew 5.33-37 cont.
33 Again you have heard that the people of long ago said: “You shall not give false testimony, but keep the oaths that you have made to the Lord.”
34 However, I tell you not to swear at all, neither by heaven, because that is God’s throne;
35 neither by the earth, because it is the footstool for His feet; neither by Jerusalem, because it is the city of the great king.
36 neither should you swear by your head, since you are not able to make one hair white or black.
37 but let your word be ‘Yes, yes; no, no’; anything more than this is from the evil one.
We have seen how the Jews held that when God’s name was involved in an oath or promise, then it was binding and must not be broken.
The binding nature of this is seen in the time when Isaac gave a blessing and promise to Jacob. We may recall that Jacob had a twin brother called Esau, and Esau was the eldest of the two sons. Therefore, he should have received the promise and blessing of the eldest son. However, Isaac was old, and his sight was failing. Jacob and his mother, Rebekah, decided to take advantage of this and so steal the blessing from Esau by deceiving Isaac.
Having giving the blessing of the first born to Jacob under oath, Isaac becomes aware of the deception, but realizes that he is unable to do anything about it. This was because he had involved the Lord God in the blessing:
“May God always give you plenty of dew for healthy crops and good harvests of grain and wine” – Genesis 27.28 (NLT).
In God’s name the blessing was binding.
We can see the same thing in the wedding service where the promises that man and woman make are in the Name of the Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is a promise that should never be broken, and to do so is to use the name of the Lord in vain, or falsely.
W Barclay makes the point that there were many oaths and promises that the Jews made, which did not involve the name of God. They believed that this did not make the oath binding. Therefore, they could break their promise.
This attitude still exists today. Some believe that if they make a promise, but have their fingers crossed behind their back, then they can break the promise. This kind of attitude makes a person’s word useless, because they cannot be trusted to keep their promise.
It is also quite common for people to make a promise about something which they have no control over and can’t possibly bring the outcome they have promised.
We must be careful not to sacrifice truth for convenience, or anything else.