One of the great lessons we can learn from the Old Testament is the fact that God will keep his promises. As Christians, we are the recipients of “exceeding great in precious promises” from God. (2 Peter 1:4). While Peter assures us that “the Lord is not slack concerning his promises, as some men count slackness” (2 Peter 3:9), and the writer of Hebrews declared “he is faithful that promised” (Heb. 10:23), we can learn through Gods dealings with men in ages past that his promises are sure.
When God called Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees he made two great promises unto him: (1) I will make of thee a great nation, and (2) in you shall all families of the earth be blessed. (Genesis 12: 1 -3) Though Abraham was seventy-five years old, his wife was barren, so he had no sons, yet he was “fully persuaded that what he had promised he was able also to perform.” (Rom. 4:21) Over twenty years had passed and Abraham did not have that promised son, the beginning of a great nation. Would God keep his promise? At the age of one hundred years Abraham and Sarah had a son, Isaac. Isaac had twin sons, Esau and Jacob. Jacob became the father of twelve sons, who later were the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel (Jacobs name had been changed unto Israel, Gen. 32:28), and the Israelite nation became the great nation of God in Old Testament times. Truly, God kept his promise unto Abraham. However, you may read the Old Testament from Genesis through Malachi and not one time will you read of God blessing all families of the earth through Abraham, or through his seed. Two thousand years had passed since the promise was made. Would God keep that promise? Then, Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, a descendant of Abraham. Jesus died for the sins of mankind, and through him all families of the earth are blessed. Remember: it is through Jesus, this promised seed (Gal. 3: 16), that all shall be raised from the dead. When we read of Gods dealings with Abraham and his family after this, we should be impressed with the fact that God keeps his promises.
Abraham had a son by the bondwoman, Hagar (Gen. 16). He thought this was the son God had promised. But God said, “Sarah thy wife shall have a son.” (Gen. 18: 10). Could God keep this promise? Sarah was now old, and it ceased to be with her after the manner of women. Even she thought, “After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also.” (Gen. 18: 12) But at the appointed time she conceived and brought forth a son, Isaac. Indeed, God had kept his promise.
When God had called Abraham he promised to give unto him a land as an inheritance. By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.” (Heb. 11:8). Why did Abraham think he could inherit the land of Canaan? It did not belong to his fathers. Other peoples now possessed it. Yet, he believed it would be his because God had promised it unto him. Some years later when he was in that land God commanded him to “Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.” (Gen. 13: 14-17). On a later date God said, “Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates.” (Gen. 15:18) On the day God changed Abrams name unto Abraham (which means “Father of a great multitude”), he said, “And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan.” (Gen. 17:8) Abraham dwelt in that land. Thereafter his seed became bondmen in Egypt, but God heard their cry and remembered the promise he had made unto Abraham, and sent forth Moses to bring them from Egyptian bondage to inherit the promised land. (Exodus 3:7-10) While some, of our generation, deny that this promise has ever been fulfilled, and thus talk about the land promise being fulfilled at some future time, Joshua declared that “the Lord gave unto Israel all the land which he swore to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein.” (Joshua 2 1:43) Truly, God kept his promise.
Upon the death of Moses, when Joshua became the leader of Israel, and under Gods instruction led them through the river Jordan on dry ground, the city of Jericho was the first to be conquered by the Israelites. God promised unto Joshua, “See I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valor.” (Josh. 6:2) Then he instructed Joshua regarding the taking of the city. They followed Gods orders and the city was taken. But before it was taken God has said, “I have given unto thine hand Jericho.” Gods promise was sure.
When Joshua had sent the two spies to spy out the city of Jericho, the officials of the city were after them, and Rahad hid them. Later she asked for her life to be spared when the Israelites came to take Jericho. The promise was made, “When we come into the land, thou shalt bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which thou didst let us down by,” and when the city is taken this house shall be spared. (Josh. 2: 18) God saw to it that this promise was kept. In the destruction of Jericho the two spies went into Rahabs house and brought forth Rahab and her fathers household and all that she had. (Josh. 6:25) Indeed, Gods promises are sure.
God promised to Noah to save him from the flood. God’s promise to King Hezekiah to add fifteen years to his life (Isa. 38:1-8). Sometimes the promise of God was not good for man, but still God kept his promise. Unto the first man God said, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat: but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die.” (Gen. 2:16-17) When Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of that tree they began to die, for they were cast out of the garden, separated from the tree of life, and from the presence of God. That day they began to die physically, and that day they died spiritually. Gods promise was sure.
There are hundreds of other examples in the Old Testament, which show that the promises of God are sure. Remember: “Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” (Rom. 15:4)
God’s Promises Today
1. To be a Father to us. If Christians will separate themselves from the sins of the world, he will be their Father, and they will be his children. Paul said “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 6:17-7:1).
2. Life in Christ. Paul said he was an apostle “by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 1:1).
3. A Crown of Life. A man is blessed who endures temptation “for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him” (Jas. 1:12 f; Rev 2:10).
4. Rest for the Soul. The Hebrew writer said, “Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it” (Heb. 4:1). 5. Eternal inheritance. Christ is the mediator of the New Testament so that “they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance” (Heb. 9:15).
6. Eternal life. John wrote, “And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life” (1 John 2:25). “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began” (Tit 1:2)
Is it any wonder that Peter would refer to these promises as “exceeding great and precious” (2 Pet. 1:4)? They are great because they offer us so much. They are precious because they mean so much to the soul.
Promised to Christians
The promises of God that are precious to the soul are made to his children (2 Cor. 6:18). “They which are called” receive the promise of eternal inheritance (Heb. 9:15). Christians are the people who have responded to the call of God issued through the gospel (2 Thess. 2:14). The promises of God are also said to be “to them that love him” (Jas. 1:12).
Gentile Christians were said to be “partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel” (Eph. 3:6). Christians are the ones who have obeyed the gospel. The promise of life is said to be “in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 1:1). The only conclusion that can be drawn is that the promise of heaven is made for God’s people, Christians who compose the Church.
We Can Depend Upon God’s Promises
Three things are said about God that make his promises sure: (1) “He is faithful that promised” (Heb. 10:23; 11:11). (2) God cannot lie. Paul said he was “in hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began” (Tit. 1:2). (3) Peter said, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise . . .” (2 Pet. 3:9). Because God does not lie, when he makes a faithful promise, he will not ignore it — he will fulfill it!
He Is Able
The things which were listed before, which God has promised to his children, would be meaningless to us if the promises had been made by a mere man. Man simply is not able to give us a crown of life, eternal life, eternal inheritance, or eternal rest. We would not expect to receive such things from men. However, these promises came from God, and they are our hope for eternity. We are depending upon these things which God said he will do for his people. Paul said Abraham “staggered not . . . through unbelief” because he was “fully persuaded that, what he (God) had promised, he was able also to perform” (Rom. 4:20-21). God is able to do what he has said he will do. Like Abraham, we also can depend on it!
Conclusion: The promises are in Christ, and realized by our obedience to the gospel (Eph. 3:6). We must make absolutely certain that we have obeyed the gospel! Thereafter, we must be determined in our efforts to live the Christian life. We must meet the requirements of faithful living (1 Cor. 4:2), worshiping and serving God in all things (Matt. 4:10). God and the Kingdom must be the focus of our affection and our work (Col. 3:1-2; Matt. 6:33). Then, we must never become careless or impatient as we await the fulfillment of God’s promises. The Hebrew writer instructed Christians, “That you be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb. 6:12). We must have enough faith to persevere to the end (Rev. 2:10); we must be careful to maintain good works (Tit. 3:8, 14); we must not lay down our sword before the battle is won (Eph. 6:17). If we do so, this is the promise of Jesus Christ: “He that endures to the end shall be saved” (Matt. 10:22). We can rest assured God will keep his promises, but the question we all need to answer is, will we be obedient to His Will (Mt 7:21-23)?