What is Your Word Worth?
Few things anger us more than people not keeping their word when we need them to come through. When that happens, a deep crack sets in in our relationship with them. The next time they make a promise, we have a hard time trusting them no matter how sincere they are. We have seen it before and we see what happened.
Do you keep your word? Do you take your word seriously enough to carry it out? When others have your word, can they trust you to follow through to the end? Is your mouth free of lies and half-truths?
Sadly, we no longer trust others enough to just “shake on it” and expect them to keep their word. Unless we draft a long contract and sign it, we don’t dare enter an agreement. Of course, this is not a modern problem. Ancient people lied and cheated, too. So, in the Ancient Near East, there was a dramatic way of drawing up a contract. Animals were cut in halves and set in parallel lines, making a path between the two. Then, the two parties involved would walk through the cut-up animals. This was a symbolic act of making a self-maledictory oath, declaring, “If I don't fulfill my part of this covenant, may I be cursed as these animals!” This kind of ceremony was referred to as “cutting a covenant” and we can see why.
Why such a ceremony? To warn both parties that, since the penalty was so great, they should not even think about breaking the promise. We can see how these measures may keep one from obvious lies and fraud. But can they make him honest and honorable on the inside—to keep his promise even when it hurts, not to cut corners, and not to keep pushing the envelope of propriety and decency and legality?
In Genesis 15, Abraham was told to prepare a covenant-cutting ritual. When everything was prepared, God renewed His promise to bless him and his descendants (Gen. 15:13-16). Then “a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between the pieces of the animals” (Gen. 15:17). Abraham knew what this meant. God was taking a self-maledictory oath to assure Abraham that He would keep His promise.
But God was communicating much more. Ultimately, God promised to save the whole world through his promised Offspring (Gen. 12:3). But how could He, as a holy God, save sinful people? Their sin couldn't be overlooked: a holy God cannot let sin go unpunished (Exodus 34:7). He knew what it would take to save sinful people and bless them, how costly it would be—He would have to sacrifice His only Son to bear the guilt and punishment of their sin! Usually, the whole point of self-maledictory oaths is the desire to avoid at all costs the severe curses promised. When God took the self-maledictory oath, however, it was to subject Himself to the curses for our salvation!
In due time, the eternal Son of God came into this world, in the frailty of our flesh, to bear the guilt and punishment of our sin: “He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.... He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed” (Isa. 53:4-5). Thus, God kept His word, even when it hurt, much more than we can ever imagine.
In this world of spins, half-truths, and outright lies, how wonderful it is to have a faithful God, who keeps His word even when it hurts! And He is faithful to forgive the sins of those who place their trust in Jesus Christ according to His promise! You can sing, “My sin, not in part but the whole / Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more / Praise the Lord!” He will continue to be faithful to His people until all His wonderful promises are fulfilled far beyond what we can imagine or think, in this life and in the life to come! So, we invite you to put your trust in Jesus Christ and become a person of his/her word, whom others can rely on, in conformity to the God of truth and faithfulness.