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Q. Does Psalm 50 allow for the “paying of a vow” to get a healing?


Dear ******,

There are a number of things to say, in response to your questions regarding this woman and her desire to be healed.

The first is that one needs to be very careful to understand the context of a particular verse or verses, rather than to make application to a very different situation. For example, I might use John 13:27 and the words, “What you do, do quickly” to encourage employees to speed up their work. But the context of these words is Jesus telling Judas to get on with his horrible mission of betrayal. In other words, Jesus is instructing Judas to leave the room, rather than linger, so that He may now speak only to His disciples. The context of Psalm 50 is not physical healing, and in fact physical healing is not even mentioned. To better understand this psalm one would do well to consider a message like this one by Steve Cole on Psalm 50:

Second, it is interesting to note that a number of biblical texts speak of paying your vows:

Deuteronomy 23:21

1 Samuel 1:21

2 Samuel 15:7

Job 22:27

Psalm 22:25; 50:14; 61:8; 66:13; 116:14, 18

Ecclesiastes 5:4-5

Jonah 2:9

Nahum 1:15

The “payment” of a vow in many, perhaps most, of these texts was the offering of a sacrifice to God. Notice that in Jonah (as well as other places) the promise (vow) to pay a sacrifice was when God answered a prayer or request, namely (here) to save him from death. The vow was paid after God had answered the prayer. The gift offered is in response to what God has done. This woman is seeking to do something first, so that God will answer her prayer, and thus she seems to think that her healing will be the result of her offering a gift.

While Psalm 50 does not speak of paying a vow to receive physical healing, the New Testament does speak very clearly to the matter of being healed:

Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. (Jas. 5:13-16 NAU)

The obvious biblical response to a serious sickness is that one call for the elders (leaders) of the church, explore whether there is sin involved, and their prayer for healing (as well as your own).

The reason for several of your questions is that using Psalm 50 as one’s primary text requires that you obey in an Old Testament way that was clearly indicated: you go to the temple and you offer a sacrifice. New Testament sacrifices are not the same:

Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. (Heb. 13:15 NAU)

you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Pet. 2:5 NAU)

I fear that the use of Psalm 50 to support making a vow is a desperate attempt to obtain a healing from God, but not one that really conforms to Scripture.

One final word of caution here. I do believe that God can, and sometimes does, heal people today. I don’t believe that He heals everyone who is sick (Jesus did not do that when He was on the earth – see Mark 1:32-38). The problem with those who attempt to “claim” a healing is that they require God to heal them, based upon their faith. But in the Old Testament you see Daniel’s three friends leaving the final judgment to God as to whether or not He would deliver them from death in the burning furnace (Daniel 3:16-18). And in the New, we see Paul ambivalent about dying or living (Philippians 1; 2 Corinthians 5).

Faith is an important factor in one’s receiving an answer to our prayers, but one must leave room for God’s sovereign will (as Paul did in Philippians 1:19-26). The problem is that when one makes their healing solely dependent on their faith, they begin to doubt their faith if God chooses not to heal them, and rather to take them home (which, as Paul says, is far better). They could reason, “If my faith was not sufficient to bring about my healing, then is my faith sufficient for salvation?”

I think it would be far better to do as Paul did, and that is to pray that God would be glorified in your life, and that the gospel would be proclaimed, whether that be by life, or by death (Philippians 1, etc.).

Here are a couple of texts to consider regarding death:

It is better to go to a house of mourning Than to go to a house of feasting, Because that is the end of every man, And the living takes it to heart. 3 Sorrow is better than laughter, For when a face is sad a heart may be happy. 4 The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning, While the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure. (Eccl. 7:2-4 NAU)

Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. (Heb. 2:14-15 NAU)


Bob Deffinbaugh

Related Topics: Character of God, Christian Life, Faith, Scripture Twisting

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