December 24, 2010

A People Confident in the Promises of God

The best promises ever made to human beings came from our Creator and Redeemer. As people of God, a people of hope, we trust in His promises as they have been revealed to us. Let us examine the reasons for the reliability of His promises.
The life of Abraham is an ?example of how God fulfills His promises. Abraham was called by God to become a great nation (Gen. 12:2, 3). In a second encounter he received the assurance of an heir. He thought this would happen through his servant Eliezer, but the Lord told him, “This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.” Then the Lord “took him outside and said, ‘Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’” This time “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness” (Gen. 15:4-6).
The Lord appeared to him a third time when he was 99 years old, and it seemed impossible for him and Sarah to have a child. The Lord promised: “I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers” (Gen. 17:2). In this encounter God assured him that he would be a great nation, and that his descendants would have an everlasting possession in the land of Canaan (Gen.17:6-8). After 25 years of hope, finally “the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised” (Gen. 21:1).
2010 1532 page8God promised Abraham the land of Canaan as the future possession for his descendants after 400 years of oppression. “Then the Lord said to him, ‘Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years’” (Gen. 15:13). This promise was fulfilled. At the time of the Exodus, Moses recorded: “Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the Lord’s divisions left Egypt” (Ex. 12:40, 41; cf. Acts 7:5-7).
With Israel in the Promised Land, Joshua declared: “You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed” (Josh. 23:14). Interestingly enough, Joshua also mentioned what would happen if they violated the covenant (Josh. 23:15, 16).
Because of disobedience, the Israelites experienced the covenant curses, and Judah was exiled under the Babylonians. According to Jeremiah, Judah was to be in captivity for 70 years. He sent a letter to the exiles in Babylon: “This is what the Lord says: ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jer. 29:10, 11). After 70 years had passed, King Cyrus of Persia issued an edict for the people to return and rebuild the Temple and the walls of Jerusalem “in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah” (2 Chron. 36:22; also see verse 23).
Certainty of the Promises
One of the most outstanding promises in Scripture concerns the coming of the Messiah. The disciples of John the Baptist came to Jesus, asking, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” Jesus showed them His identity by saying, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor” (Matt. 11:3-5). He gave a remarkable interpretation of John’s ministry. “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John” (Matt. 11:12, 13). Jesus pointed out John the Baptist as the forerunner of His mission as the promised Messiah. He asserted, “And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come” (Matt 11:14).
In Jesus’ interpretation John the Baptist is the one mentioned in the book of Malachi who will proclaim the arrival of the Messiah for the final consummation of salvation (Mal. 4:5). There is a continuing line of salvation history that reaches its climax at the coming of Jesus. “‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!’” (Mark 1:15). This was the most extraordinary fulfillment of God’s promises. Jesus Christ arrived according to a divine timetable (Dan. 9:25-27; Gal. 4:4).
Jesus also fulfilled the types and predictions found in the Old Testament. Philip told Nathanael, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John 1:45). Jesus was the “prophet” foretold by Moses (Deut. 18:15). Addressing the Jewish leaders, Jesus said, “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me” (John 5:46; cf. John 7:40). After His resurrection He explained to His disciples, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms” (Luke 24:44). The arrival of Jesus confirms to us the reliability and certainty of God’s promises.
Hope and Promises
The life and ministry of Jesus inaugurated the kingdom of God. He has introduced the kingdom of grace, and soon He will consummate the history of salvation with the kingdom of glory. In His prayer on the way to Gethsemane He said, “Now this is eternal life” (John 17:3), because we are now in the time of the kingdom of God.
He promised His disciples and us, “I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:3). So His message is a message of hope for those who believe. “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live” (John 5:24, 25).
That resurrection was also prophesied: “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan. 12:2). It is the same message of Isaiah when he anticipated, “But your dead will live; their bodies will rise” (Isa. 26:19).
You and I are waiting “for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). We can have confidence and trust in His promises.
God has kept His promises in the past. Therefore, we may be assured that He will keep the promises yet to be fulfilled. 
1. Which promise in the Bible impresses you the most? Why?
2. How does hope relate to God’s promises?
Miguel Luna is ministerial secretary for the Northern Asia-Pacific Division, with offices in the Republic of Korea. This article was published September 23, 2010.