GOD'S OTHER ANGELS (PART TWO)
Ecc.5:4-6 "When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. (5) Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay. (6) Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands?" In a previous meditation we saw that the word "angel" can refer to ministering spirits, God Himself, and also human ministers who serve as God's messengers to His people. Our featured text today explores this a little further and demonstrates the importance of contextual study while increasing our understanding of and appreciation for the beautifully interwoven coherency of the Holy Scriptures. Solomon here underscores the solemn nature of vows and how grievous it is to recant what one has already promised unto God. God takes the swearing of oaths (vows) very seriously and specifically to go back on what was dedicated to Him is to do what Solomon here warns against, "Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin..." (Ecc.5:6), and so provoke God to "destroy the work of thine hands." Whereas a vow unto God has a certain nobility, it has also a great solemnity and accountability. "Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, then that thou shouldest vow and not pay" (Ecc.5:5). If we would have God to have pleasure in us, Solomon makes clear that such does not come by defaulting on vows to Him (Ecc.5:4). By the time of the Lord Jesus Christ's first advent, the swearing of oaths (largely because of the excesses of the Pharisees' teachings) had become a commonplace thing with an air of casualness and so the Savior spoke frankly against such (Mat.5:33-37). The seriousness of vows of commitment to God is the basis of the Savior's later precautions to discipleship (Luk.14:26-33). "No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luk.9:62). The promise of blessing has always been to "he that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not" (Psa.15:4). In his admonitory warning against delinquent swearing, Solomon adds, "neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error..." (Ecc.5:6). First, the possibility that Solomon is here referring to a ministering spirit should be granted, inasmuch as those angels are virtually everywhere. The Psalmist noted that the "angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him..." (Psa.34:7). Solomon in context is looking to the house of God (Ecc.5:1) and the angel Gabriel was in the house of God when he revealed himself to Zacharias the priest in Luk.1:11-19. When the New Testament church comes before God, its service comes unto (among other things) "an innumerable company of angels" (Heb.12:22). However, it also may be observed that, inasmuch as the context is dealing with vowing unto God, and that "angel" can refer to God (Gen.48:15-16), the phrase may simply be an iteration saying, "neither say thou before God..." But there is another possibility that warrants consideration. As an antidote to the vanity of life about which he has been writing, Solomon opens this fifth chapter by turning us unto the house of God (Ecc.5:1), the place where God's people bring their offerings and come under the preaching of His word. The Hebrew word underlying "angel" in v.6 is "malak" and is the very same word that is used when speaking of the priest of God's house who is the "messenger ("malak") of the LORD of hosts" (Mal.2:7). Under the Levitical Law, Israel was to bring their offerings unto the Lord at His house (Lev.17:1-7, for example) which were for sacrifice to God and also the support of His minister. Offerings relative to a vow were to be there estimated by the priest according to circumstances (Lev.27:1-13). The offerer is described as presenting himself or his beast "before the priest" (Lev.27:8; Lev.27:11), which parallels Solomon's words about vowing "before the angel." Of vows, Moses would write, "If a man vow a vow unto the LORD, or swear an oath to his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth" (Num.30:2). Besides vows, there were freewill offerings, burnt offerings, meat offerings, drink offerings and peace offerings (Num.29:40). The solemnity of a vow is reinforced by Moses' later words: Deu.23:21-23 "When thou shalt vow a vow unto the LORD thy God, thou shalt not slack to pay it: for the LORD thy God will surely require it of thee; and it would be sin in thee. (22) But if thou shalt forbear to vow, it shall be no sin in thee. (23) That which is gone out of thy lips thou shalt keep and perform; even a freewill offering, according as thou hast vowed unto the LORD thy God, which thou hast promised with thy mouth." Considering that Solomon in context is speaking about going into the house of God, where Israel's vowed offerings to God were to be kept without "fudging" lest it be sin unto them, and that such was to be "before the priest," (the "malak" angel/messenger of God to the people) it is reasonable to conclude that Solomon's phrase may be understood as "neither say thou before the priest that it was an error..." (Ecc.5:6). It should be noted that there is a New Testament carryover of this principle. According to Paul, the pastor or minister of Jesus Christ, like the teaching priest of the Old Testament (Deu.33:8-11; Mal.2:7), is to be supported by the offerings of God's people. The elder (another term for a pastor) whose life's labor is the word and doctrine is to be counted worthy of double honour (1 Ti.5:17-18). Paul even makes the New Testament minister of Christ the counterpart of the Old Testament priest when expounding upon this support of the ministry (1 Co.9:13-14). To vow before the minister of Christ to the New Testament house of God (the church, 1 Ti.3:15) is very similar to vowing "before the priest/angel" of the Old Testament house of God. To "fudge" in this regard is to invite great trouble upon oneself. For example, the Holy Spirit records in Acts 5:1-11 that Ananias and Sapphira "fudged" on an offering they laid at the apostles' feet. They were charged with lying unto God (Acts 5:4). The Lord killed them. He not only destroyed the work of their hands (Ecc.5:6), He destroyed them. Remembering from the previous meditation that the "angels" of the seven churches in Revelation are human ministers of Christ, it stands that offerings dedicated unto the Lord made before the angel/pastor are still a serious matter. Here then, we see seven great things: 1) God's word is utterly beautiful in its perfection and consistency 2) That God's word is its own interpreter, 3) That comparing spiritual things with spiritual (1 Co.2:13) and heeding context are critical to good understanding, 4) That God is very consistent in principles of righteousness, 5) Broken vows are serious sins, 6) "The Lord shall judge His people" (Heb.10:30), and 7) "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb.10:31).