How important it is that a promise should be kept! If someone breaks a promise to us, we feel disappointed and hurt. We are less trusting when more promises are made. We remember the past, and we wonder. When promises are kept we trust that future promises will also be kept.
Has God, the Creator and Sustainer of all things, made promises to mankind? Why would He do such a thing? What would He promise? “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfil?” (Numbers 23:9) Yes, God has made promises to us. He wants us to feel joy and love, to feel special, and to trust Him.
An amazing chain of God’s promises to mankind runs from the beginning of time to our day, and can include us! God’s purpose from the beginning was that He would offer us salvation through Jesus. Since God’s intention of giving us eternal life was from the beginning of time, it is unlikely that He would be silent about it during His dealings with people recorded in the Old Testament. The Old Testament is full of prophecies and promises which give details of this plan. The writer of the book of Acts wrote, “All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10:43)
The apostle Paul refers to promises
He wrote that he was a servant and an apostle (student as well as inspired teacher) of “a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time.” (Titus 1:2-3) Paul, a zealous Jew, knew his Old Testament very well, and so he was aware of the promises made by God to his ancestors. In self-defence before Caesar’s court he says, “It is because of my hope in what God has promised our (Jewish) fathers that I am on trial today.” To the believers in Ephesus, Paul wrote that prior to belief and baptism into Christ they were “separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God.”(Acts 26:6)
What are the promises to which Paul refers?
Adam and Eve died because they broke God’s command. But a promise of hope was also given. God would provide a “seed” – a son (Jesus) – who would suffer because of sin but deal a death blow to sin and death.(Genesis 3:15) A righteous man named Abraham was promised a land and a son, and many descendants, even though, at the time of the promise, Abraham and his wife were nomads, childless, and old. God told him that all the nations would be blessed because of his seed (Jesus). (Genesis 12:13 and 22) God repeated the promises to Abraham’s son Isaac and grandson Jacob and to the nation of Israel (Psalm 105:8-10) We can be involved! In the New Testament Paul wrote to the Christians in Galatia, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus…If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”(Galatians 3:26-29)He told them it didn’t matter if they were Greek or Jew, man or woman, slave or free. If they had been baptised into Christ, they had become part of Christ’s family and could inherit the promise as the sons of Abraham and of God.
Promise to David
About 1,000 years after Abraham lived, Israel had a king named David. God loved David, and David loved God. God made a promise to David that one of his line, a son, would sit on David’s throne and rule from Jerusalem forever.(2 Samuel 7) Over the centuries, the Jews had remembered this promise and looked for a “Messiah” or “anointed one” (a king) who would provide this leadership. That is why the New Testament often refers to Jesus as the “Son of David.”(Matthew 21:9)
Jesus at first rejected
Jesus knew that his teachings, his miracles, even his resurrection would not convince some people of his identity. He said, “If they don’t listen to Moses or the prophets (which refers to the Old Testament), they will not be convinced even if someone rise from the dead.”(Luke16:21) After his resurrection, Jesus talked to two men on a road outside Jerusalem about all the events of the past week — his entry into Jerusalem, his trial, crucifixion and resurrection. “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory? And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”(Luke 24:25-27) Jesus emphasised that the entire Old Testament spoke of him. The disciples knew the Old Testament. They just had not understood the real message about Jesus.
It can be the same for people today. We can know about the stories and teachings of the Old Testament, but if we don’t see the message of Christ and the Kingdom of God in it we are missing its point. We should be very grateful to have the New Testament because it helps us to understand the importance of the Old Testament. Luke, who wrote the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles recorded the preaching of Paul, “The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath…We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus…Therefore, my brothers, (sons and daughters) I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you…Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you: Look, you scoffers, wonder and perish, for I am going to do something in your days that you would never believe, even if someone told you.”(Acts 13:27-41)
The promises are being fulfilled
The promise of a son has been fulfilled in Jesus. The promise of a land has been partially fulfilled. Israel became a nation again in 1948 after almost 2,000 years, and Jerusalem is now Israel’s capital. The promise of a righteous King and Priest ruling and leading worship forever from Jerusalem is still to be fulfilled.(Isaiah 9:6-7) The New Testament, especially the Book of Hebrews, teaches that these promises will be fulfilled forever in Jesus, who will be both Priest and King, ruling over His Father’s Kingdom on this earth. These promises are what make up the true Christian hope. Christians and the Covenants The Old Covenant, made between God and the Jews, helps us to understand the New Covenant made between Jesus and his followers. Now we can be “…a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God” the way God wanted the original Jewish nation to be, setting an example for the rest of the world and glorifying God.(1Peter 2:9) We can become true heirs of God by our desire and willingness to be “adopted” into His family. All God asks of His people is belief and trust that He will deliver His Promises We are told that “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.”(Isaiah 9:6-7) The prophet Isaiah was reminding himself and Israel that God upholds those who believe Him and obey His laws. We need to know the promises He has made, find out what our part of the bargain must be, and lay hold of Him, joyfully. Again, Luke talks to us. “When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honoured the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.”(Acts13:48)
*To find out more about our hope and how you can become a part of it, visit our website: www.ammanfordchristadelphians.co.uk.