Best of Daily Reflections: Empty Promises
Recently you repented and did what was right, following my command. You freed your slaves and made a solemn covenant with me in the Temple that bears my name. But now you have shrugged off your oath and defiled my name by taking back the men and women you had freed, forcing them to be slaves once again.
As the Babylonians besieged Jerusalem, Zedekiah, the king of Judah, made a bold agreement with his people. They would free all of their Hebrew slaves. We don’t know exactly why Zedekiah and company did this. Perhaps they wanted more people available to fight against Babylon. Perhaps this was a last ditch effort to obey God’s law (Exod. 21:2), in the hope of divine mercy (34:15). Whatever the reason, the people promised to release their Hebrew slaves, even making a “solemn covenant” with the Lord.
But their promises were empty. Yes, at first they did set their Hebrew slaves free (34:10). But, soon thereafter they “changed their minds” (34:11) and forced the former slaves to be slaves once again. Thus the slave owners broke their covenant with the Lord and, once again, disobeyed his law. The result for them would be a most unhappy one, as they experienced God’s judgment for their wickedness.
I wonder how many times I have made promises to God that I have ended up breaking. Sometimes these promises have come in a moment of spiritual inspiration. As a child at church camp, I must have promised every year to be faithful in my devotions. Sometimes my promises to God have come in times of desperation. Like the residents of Judah, I’ve hoped that my vows to the Lord might somehow encourage him to be especially merciful to me. And, like the residents of Judah, I have broken my promises to the Lord.
How glad I am that my relationship with God does not depend on my faithfulness, but on his! God’s promises, unlike mine, are not empty, but absolutely full. He always keeps his word. Thus, we live our lives on the basis, not of our vows and our efforts, but on the solid foundation of God’s trustworthiness and grace.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Have you ever made promises to the Lord? What happened? Which of God’s promises are most important to you?
PRAYER: O Lord, I see myself in this story. I see myself making promises to you, only to break those promises. Forgive me, Lord, for my unfaithfulness.
How grateful I am, Lord, that you show mercy to me even when my promises are empty. Thank you for forgiving me when I break my word. Thank you for giving me the opportunity of a fresh start.
Thank you for the fullness of your promises. Thank you for being so utterly trustworthy and faithful. My life rests on you, your Word, and your promises. Amen.