Tuesday: The Taking of Oaths

Sermon: To Tell the Truth

Scripture: Matthew 5:33-37

In this week’s lessons, we see the importance of telling the truth, and of the need to cultivate a godly heart and mind.

Theme: The Taking of Oaths

We see this distinction between an oath and the abuse of an oath most clearly when we look in the broadest way at the teaching about oaths throughout Scripture. For instance, as far back as in the book of Deuteronomy we hear Moses commanding the people, "You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve him and cleave to him, and by his name you shall swear" (Deut. 10:20). Jeremiah speaks on behalf of the Lord in commanding not only the nation of Israel but also the Gentile nations to swear by Jehovah: "It shall come to pass, if they will diligently learn the ways of my people, to swear by my name, 'As the LORD lives,' even as they taught my people to swear by Baal, then they shall be built up in the midst of my people. But if any nation will not listen, then I will utterly pluck it up and destroy it, says the LORD" (Jer. 12:16-17). In the New Testament Paul frequently swears by the Lord crying, "As God is my witness" (Rom. 1:9; 2 Cor. 1:23; Phil. 1:8; 1 Thess. 2:5, 10). 

It is even more remarkable to notice that at many places in the Bible God takes an oath also. This does not mean that God appeals, as men do, to a higher authority. But it does mean that God takes the most solemn steps to assure men of the truth of His statements. 

One of the earliest examples of the taking of an oath by God is in the remarkable story of the execution of His covenant with Abraham. When God had called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees into Palestine He promised that the land would be his and would belong to his seed forever. Abraham had believed God implicitly, for God is the only being in the universe who cannot lie and who has never made a mistake. He had gone to Palestine and there had grown old. Nevertheless, he had a great problem: he had no children. In response to his concern God took Abraham out of his tent into the clear Near East night and pointed him to the innumerable stars of heaven. "So shall thy seed be," the Lord said. 

At this point Abraham asked God for a sign in order that he might learn more about this great and solemn promise. God responded by calling for a heifer, asking Abraham to kill it, and then acting out an oath for Abraham, in a ceremony similar to that used by the men of his day. As Abraham waited that evening, waving off the scavenger birds that tried to feed on the sacrifice, God appeared under the symbol of a lamp and of a burning furnace and passed through the pieces of the heifer. He reaffirmed his promise. 

Study Questions:

  1. What evidence do we have from Scripture that indicates that oaths themselves are not what Jesus was condemning, but, rather, the abuse of them?
  2. What does it mean when God Himself makes an oath?

Application: What are the implications in your own life when you see how seriously God treats truth and the telling of it?

Think and Act Biblically from James Boice is a devotional of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Think and Act Biblically and the mission of the Alliance.