How good is a promise? “Not as good as it once was,” someone may answer.
Why is it that some question the value of a promise more today than a generation ago? Could it be that the world in which we live is larger? Once our business dealings were with friends; now they are with strangers. I wonder if the promises with those we know are not as good today as they were in the past.
Yet when counseling people who were entering a second marriage, I always suggested a prenuptial agreement. Human nature being what it is, emotions sometimes get out of control in marriage relationships. It is just good business to have a legal document to guarantee the verbal promise. I remember how some would say, “If I cannot trust the person’s promise, how can I marry him or her?” What that person did not believe was that, after one hundred arguments, these promises could wear thin.
However, right now we are thinking about the promises of God. They are always sure. One promise is, “If you become corrupt and make any kind of idol, doing evil in the eyes of the Lord your God provoking him to anger . . . you will quickly perish. . . . The Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and only a few of you will survive among the nations to which the Lord will drive you. There you will worship man-made gods . . . But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and all your soul. When you are in distress and all these things happen to you, then in later days you will return to the Lord your God and obey him. For the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your forefathers, which he confirmed to them by oath” (Deuteronomy 4:25b-31).
This promise from God so inspired Felix Mendelssohn, he included it in his oratorio Elijah, written in 1846. It is the evangelical appeal found in the Old Testament calling God’s people back to their Father. Note the subjective appeal: God invites us back into a relationship with Him by the power of His Spirit. However, we have the power to reject that invitation.
Two thousand years later Jesus said, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). What comfort this brings to the first-time seeker who longs for a personal relationship with God. Here again you have the appeal to come. What hope it brings to the backslider who once lived in a relationship with God but departed for greener pastures. Now, in their emptiness, God invites them back to their spiritual home.
God also has plenty of promises for His children who suffer from an affliction. We know the Christian faith does not free us from hard times. God sent this promise to Israel through the Prophet Isaiah when they were living in exile: “Fear not, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). That promise is good today.
When Lois’ physician told her it would be wise for her to have a mastectomy, she was crushed. Her baby was nine months old; her father was terminally ill. We had dinner together recently, and it was an inspiration to be with her. She was very honest. “I am very angry,” she said. Why shouldn’t she be? Lois wants to see her little boy grow up. She doesn’t want to leave her husband of only six years. They have a great relationship. But then she explained, “The fact that I am angry does not mean I have lost my faith in God. I used to get angry with my earthly father, but that did not mean I had lost my love for him. I know all the theological answers to the question: Why does this happen? I realize that sickness and death is a part of a broken world. No, I trust Jesus more than ever. He has promised to be with me, and this promise is sure. I just wanted things to be different.”
Remember the picture Jesus gives us of the human being’s value? He says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. Even the hairs of your head are numbered. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:29f).
Just what kind of bird the sparrow was in Jesus’ day, I do not know. When we think of the sparrow, it is a very common bird. We have a new bird feeder in our backyard, and it is entertaining to watch the birds come and go. Once in awhile my wife will say, “Come and see the bird at the feeder.” The pretty birds catch our eyes; sparrows are a dime a dozen. Then there are those big black birds that chase all the pretty birds away. We wish the black birds would go and never come back. I was complaining about them one day when my unbelieving neighbor reminded me that God created them too. Jesus’ parable makes a strong point when it clearly teaches that no bird, and certainly no human, is insignificant. He watches over us, and that is a promise.
“Do not be afraid. I have my eyes on you.” What a promise that is!
These are some promises of God. Just remember, He has put them on paper. You can read these promises in your Bible. He will deliver what He has promised to his children. It is a part of his faithfulness.