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Leviticus 22:23
“You may present a bull or a lamb that has a part too long or too short for a freewill offering, but for a vow offering it cannot be accepted.”

A famous British soccer player sparked a bit of controversy a few years ago when he took credit for a goal that helped him secure the ‘golden boot’ award as the English Premiere League’s top scorer. Though the FA awarded him the goal, replays from varying angles seemed to show that he hadn’t actually made contact with the ball, meaning that the goal should’ve been credited to his teammate. That wasn’t the controversial part, however. The controversy came when a reporter questioned him after the match on whether he really deserved the goal, and the player responded by adamantly swearing on his son’s life that he had! Still, had the player sworn on something more trivial like his car or his rose bush or the life of his pet goldfish, the vow wouldn’t have carried much weight, right? A vow is a serious thing, and it needs a serious seal to accompany it.

Consider Leviticus 22 in conjunction with Christ’s Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:33-37a: “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all…Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’” Even without an insurance pledge backing our vows, God wants our word to mean everything to us. That’s the principle I find in this Levitical distinction between the sorts of animals one can offer in freewill offerings and the sort one can offer in vow offerings. God expects us to put our best behind our boasts. To Him, our ‘Yes, Lord’ should be as good as a prized bull on the altar. Our “Thy will be done” should be like the most spotless lamb in our flock that we give up and never take back.

When Christ gave His word to us, He didn’t swear on our lives as insurance. Oh no—He swore on His, placing Himself on the altar in our stead! May our word today bear the same self-sacrificing quality. May our ‘yes’ and ‘no’ carry the same no-turning-back resolve that a life in imitation of Christ demands.