A vow is a serious obligation that one binds themselves under in God's name. Depending on the contexts, a vow could consist of the following:
1. A promise to do or NOT to do something in God's name. (Deuteronomy 23:21, Numbers 30 )
2. The Nazirite Vow (Numbers 6)
3. Dedication of an offering to the Lord (Leviticus 27:1-13)
Vows consist of those things, the most likely vow to be carried is vow 1, namely making a vow in God's name to either do or not do something.
Vows are a very serious thing and shouldn't be made lightly, since once made, cannot be reversed. Even Solomon in Ecclesiastes highlights this point very forcefully:
"Ecclesiastes 5:1 [a]Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong.
2 Do not be quick with your mouth,
do not be hasty in your heart
to utter anything before God.
God is in heaven
and you are on earth,
so let your words be few.
3 A dream comes when there are many cares,
and many words mark the speech of a fool.
4 When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. 5 It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it. 6 Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, “My vow was a mistake.” Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? 7 Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore fear God."
Before one should EVER consider a vow, They must thing through it carefully and thoughtfully and NOT rush into making one, considering it is something God will hold you to, regardless of your carefulness and carelessness.
Observe the following regarding Jephthah:
"Judges 11:29 Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jephthah. He crossed Gilead and Manasseh, passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from there he advanced against the Ammonites. 30 And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord: “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, 31 whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.”
32 Then Jephthah went over to fight the Ammonites, and the Lord gave them into his hands. 33 He devastated twenty towns from Aroer to the vicinity of Minnith, as far as Abel Keramim. Thus Israel subdued Ammon.
34 When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of timbrels! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter. 35 When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, “Oh no, my daughter! You have brought me down and I am devastated. I have made a vow to the Lord that I cannot break.”
36 “My father,” she replied, “you have given your word to the Lord. Do to me just as you promised, now that the Lord has avenged you of your enemies, the Ammonites. 37 But grant me this one request,” she said. “Give me two months to roam the hills and weep with my friends, because I will never marry.”
38 “You may go,” he said. And he let her go for two months. She and her friends went into the hills and wept because she would never marry. 39 After the two months, she returned to her father, and he did to her as he had vowed. And she was a virgin.
From this comes the Israelite tradition 40 that each year the young women of Israel go out for four days to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite."
Jephthah was careless and it cost him his daughter. A vow once made must be kept, regardless of the cost.
Before you consider making a vow, Be sure it can be carried out and that there are no problems to hinder you. Don't be foolish enough to make one and regret it. You are better off NOT making a vow than making a vow and never fulfilling it.
"Proverbs 20:25 It is a trap to dedicate something rashly and only later to consider one's vows."
Think about what you are doing. Once again as Solomon said: "It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it.".
Now many will point to Jesus' words in the Sermon on the Mount and say that vows cannot be made. Well let's look:
"Matthew 5:33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.[g]"
James also highlights a similiar point in his letter:
"James 5:12 Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned."
Upon a first glance, you may think Jesus and James are forbidding vows period, however, we see an example of some individuals in the New Testament who are believers taking the Nazarite vow, such as Paul in Acts 21. Neither Jesus or James are dismissing all vows, What they are expecting of us is to simply let our words bind us without having to use an oath to keep our words valid and in check.
The only time where Jesus condemned a vow in the NT, was that of the Pharisees and others careless MISUSE of vows, not vows in an of themselves.
"Matthew 23:16 “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ 17 You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ 19 You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22 And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it."
YHWH Is greater than everything and nothing is greater than him, thus regardless of the thing you swear by, Your oath is STILL binding on you, it is STILL incumbent upon you. You can swear by a particular object all you like, God will still hold you to account. Paul and James are both in agreement with Jesus on the subject of vows.
Having said that, it is better to avoid making vows unless you are convinced you are able to carry them out.
Hope this article has been a blessing.