May 30, 2021
THE RESULTS OF PENTECOST XXXV, THE VOW OF PAUL, ACTS 18: 18-23
Paul had spent a long period of time in Corinth. We know exactly how long he was there because Luke, the writer of the Book Acts, tells us. He was there 18 months. This for Paul was a long time to stay in one place. Most of the time Paul was run out of town or often he would have to escape just to save his life, or sometimes the Holy Spirit would move him on to the next town. It seems that because of his zeal for the Gospel he needed to constantly be on the move telling people about Jesus. For him to stay 18 months in one place was a bit unusual, but his stay in Corinth was very fruitful. He established a strong Church where many Jews and Gentiles had come to know Jesus as their Savior. He had also made some close friends. Two of these friends were especially close Pricilla and Aquilla who left with him to his new destination. But it was now time leave his other friends and the area of Corinth and go to the next venture that God had for him. I am sure that he left with a good feeling that the Church here in Corinth was in good hands. So, Paul along with Pricilla and Aquila set sail for Syria. But before he left, he did something that may seem a little strange. He got a haircut.
Paul went down to Cenchraea and had his hair cut off. Essentially, he had his head shaved. I will never forget one time when we allowed Steve to go home with some people that we knew in Church. If I remember right, they had 3 boys about the same age as Steve. I think he was about 12 years of age at the time. These folks were very conservative church people. They did not have a TV in their home. They dressed very conservatively, and they led a remarkably simple lifestyle. They were good people, but they did something that made Steve’s momma upset. When Steve got home that evening our church friends had given Steve a haircut. This was not just a haircut it was a head shave. He sure looked different. I am sure that Paul looked quite different with this new shaved head as he set sail for Ephesus.
When Paul shaved his head there was a reason behind it. It was because of a vow that he had made. Now, I will tell you that Steve made a vow to his momma after he shaved his head. He vowed he would never do it again, at least not without telling her first. This brings us to this strange thing that Paul did. What kind of vow did Paul make? The Bible does not tell us. We are left to assume that this was a Nazirite Vow. This is an Old Testament tradition found in the Book of Numbers (6: 1-21). The word “nazarite” comes from the word meaning “consecrated” or “separated”. This vow required the person to:
Abstain from all wine and anything else made from the grape vine plant, such as cream of tartar, grape seed oil, etc.
Refrain from cutting the hair on one's head; but to allow the locks of the head's hair to grow.
After a period of time the one who had made the vow would offer three offerings at the Temple, a burnt offering, a sin offering, and a peace offering. The person would shave his hair and place it on the peace offering.
“The man or woman who took the Nazirite vow took an oath to separate himself or herself from the world and even from close kinship affiliation to serve only Yahweh (Numbers 6:2), making the Nazirite totally "holy unto Yahweh" (Numbers 6:8). In terms of separation from one's family in service to Yahweh”.
The Jews took their vows very serious. If they made a promise especially to God, they knew that they must follow through with it. Is it not a shame that we do not do the same thing today? There once was a saying that we do not hear very often anymore, “a man’s word is his bond”. What is a vow? A vow is “a solemn promise to do a specified thing”. I suppose the best-known vow is a vow of marriage: "I, _____, take thee, _____, to be my wedded wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I pledge thee my faith."
We can make vows to ourselves. We can make a vow to do better at work. We can make a vow to do better at school. We can make a vow to lose weight. We can make a vow to get more exercise. We can make a vow to treat people kindlier. We can make a vow to stop being prejudice. It seems to me that when we make a vow to ourselves it always involves making ourselves better people. These are not vows that we are required to make but we may feel it is necessary if there is some part of our life that we feel needs to be improved upon.
We can make vows to other people. Such is the case when we get married. We can make a vow to our children to always be there for them. We can make a vow to our friends to never lose touch no matter where life make take us. We can make a vow to our boss to never be late for work again. Many times, if you join a club or a civic organization you must make a vow. Often if you join a church you are required to make a vow to be faithful to that church. A college sorority require that you make a vow to be faithful to that group. These vows are most often required for us to make if we want to be a part of the group or the organization that we are joining.
I have learned over time to be careful about the vows that I make, because they can be broken and broken vows come with consequences. We can break our vows but when we do there are always consequences. I think maybe the biggest consequence to a broken vow is disappointment. If we break a vow that we made to ourselves we can become disappointed in ourselves. If we break a vow that we made to others they will become disappointed in us. They may become mad at us but mostly they are disappointed that we did not follow through with what we had promised we would do.
There is a vow that we make that carries a lot more weight than the vows that we make to ourselves or to others. These vows are the vows that we make to God. We all know that salvation is a gift given to us by our Heavenly Father. It is free. You cannot earn it, you cannot buy it, you cannot even make vows to get it. Yet when we accept the gift of salvation, we make vows to Jesus that we will be faithful to Him and that we will follow Him all the days of our life. Salvation makes such a wonderful change in us that we willingly make promises to our Savior that we will do whatever He asks us to do. We become Sunday School teachers, we become bus drivers, we become custodians, we become givers, we become prayer warriors, we become song leaders, we become missionaries, we become pastors, we become evangelist.
Unfortunately, we often break these vows that we have made to God. Do not be fooled by Satan. When we break a vow that we have made to God it comes with deadly consequences. We may break a vow of marriage and it will end in divorce; we make break a vow to our organization and be thrown out, we break a vow to a friend, and he may become an enemy. Yes, there is always a consequence to a broken vow, but none like the consequence in a broken vow to God.
We do not know what the vow was that Paul made, but it was in the form of a “Nazarite Vow”. In so it was a vow to God. Paul ended the requirements of the vow when he cut his hair, but he kept the vow his entire life. I am sure it was a vow of dedication to God. The Holy Spirit had brought him through many trials and deadly circumstances. I am sure that this vow included thanksgiving for all that Jesus had done for him. Paul was seeing all his hard work pay off. The churches that he and the Holy Spirit has established were beginning to flourish. All the Roman Empire was hearing about the resurrection of Jesus. Both Jew and Gentile and especially the Gentiles were accepting Jesus as their Savior. I am sure that the vow that Paul made had a lot to do with what Jesus had done for him.
The question for us today is where are we at in the vows that we have made to Jesus?
You may have never noticed it but in Psalm 23 King David made a vow to the Lord. Let us look at this beautiful Psalm.
"1The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.
3He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.
4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil;
For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever."
David begins by thanking the Lord for all He has done for Him throughout his life, then he ends with this vow, “and I will dwell in house of the Lord forever”.
The question for us today is are we following through on the promises we have made to Jesus?