Promises, Promises

How often do you make a promise? If you are raising children, you may find yourself making promises every day. Some promises are small and take the form of bribes, such as “If you get in your car seat without whining, I promise we’ll stop and get ice cream.” Some are life-long, such as sending a child off to college with the promise of your financial support and your availability by phone at any hour of the day if they need you. We make promises at the wedding altar, when we sign a job contract, at a confirmation service, in court, and in most of our significant relationships. Promises give us hope for the future.

In contrast, broken promises can be devastating. Anyone who has gone through a divorce know this deeply. The fracturing of trust, the death of a future, and the finality of a promise that will never be fulfilled can be crippling. When we make promises that we know we cannot keep, we risk stealing another person’s joy and stability.

Do you know who has never broken a promise? God.

This amazing passage from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah is a beautifully articulated promise of God that New Testament readers will instantly identify as a prophesy about the reign of Jesus when he returns to earth. Hints of both the millennial earth and the eternal heaven are found in this passage, and you may recognize similar themes in 2 Peter 3:13 and Revelation 21:1. As the nation of Israel heard this, they received a promise of a restored Jerusalem and a future with hope:

Isaiah 65 (Common English Bible)


Look! I’m creating a new heaven and a new earth:
    past events won’t be remembered;
    they won’t come to mind.
18 Be glad and rejoice forever
    in what I’m creating,
    because I’m creating Jerusalem as a joy
    and her people as a source of gladness.

I think that the phrase “past events won’t be remembered” and “I’m creating a joy” are inextricably linked. Think about it: real joy may only be attainable in a state where past events aren’t remembered. What can close that gap for us in many situations is forgiveness. Even in the worst moments of broken promises, when both parties learn to forgive, move on, and put the past in the past, we can enter into a new place of gladness. I have a friend who was going to be alone on Christmas Day, as her adult daughter was committed to go to her father’s family for Christmas. My friend’s Ex realized this and invited my friend to come along, and they had a lovely dinner with their daughter. It can happen!

19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad about my people.
    No one will ever hear the sound of weeping or crying in it again.
20 No more will babies live only a few days,
    or the old fail to live out their days.
The one who dies at a hundred will be like a young person,
    and the one falling short of a hundred will seem cursed.
21 They will build houses and live in them;
    they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
22 They won’t build for others to live in,
    nor plant for others to eat.
Like the days of a tree will be the days of my people;
    my chosen will make full use of their handiwork.

God’s future promise here is a guarantee of social justice. Each person will work and keep their harvest for their own families, and nobody will be enslaved or beholden to anyone anymore.

23 They won’t labor in vain,
    nor bear children to a world of horrors,
    because they will be people blessed by the Lord,
    they along with their descendants.
24 Before they call, I will answer;
    while they are still speaking, I will hear.
25 Wolf and lamb will graze together,
    and the lion will eat straw like the ox,
    but the snake—its food will be dust.
They won’t hurt or destroy at any place on my holy mountain,
    says the Lord.

The take-away for today is found in verse 24: “Before they call, I will answer; while they are still speaking, I will hear.” That is a promise that God makes to you that will never be broken. When Christ comes back to reign, even the wolf and the lamb will get along and peace and harmony will rule the earth.

Are you making promises you can’t keep? Do you need to be reminded today that God never breaks a promise? Can forgiveness heal your heart over a broken promise? What is God calling you to do in response to this Scripture?

Whatever it is, know that God has the answer ready before you even ask. That’s a promise.

Promises in the Sand by Michelle Robertson

Bull!

Have you ever been in charge of watching a group of kids only to have them completely blow up the minute your attention was diverted? Any school teacher will tell you that kids have a sixth sense about when they can get away with something and when they can not. Children are inherently devious that way.

We have been following the story of the miraculous deliverance of the Hebrews as they fled from slavery in Egypt and escaped from Pharaoh’s army. Their arrival in the Promised Land was marked with bitter complaining as they grew hungry and thirsty, but God provided for them. At that point you would think they would be settled down. But no!

Moses had ascended to Mt. Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments from God and the MINUTE his back was turned, this happened:

Exodus 32 Common English Bible

The people saw that Moses was taking a long time to come down from the mountain. They gathered around Aaron and said to him, “Come on! Make us gods who can lead us. As for this man Moses who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we don’t have a clue what has happened to him.”

Aaron said to them, “All right, take out the gold rings from the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people took out the gold rings from their ears and brought them to Aaron. He collected them and tied them up in a cloth. Then he made a metal image of a bull calf, and the people declared, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!”

When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf. Then Aaron announced, “Tomorrow will be a festival to the Lord!” They got up early the next day and offered up entirely burned offerings and brought well-being sacrifices. The people sat down to eat and drink and then got up to celebrate.

It is almost hard to believe that the second they were left alone they created an idol to worship. How could they forget the incredible miracle God had performed as he divided the water and allowed them to walk across the sea on dry land? How could they forget water flowing in the desert from a rock so they wouldn’t die of thirst? How did they overlook the consistent delivery of manna from heaven so they wouldn’t go hungry?

The Lord spoke to Moses: “Hurry up and go down! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, are ruining everything! They’ve already abandoned the path that I commanded. They have made a metal bull calf for themselves. They’ve bowed down to it and offered sacrifices to it and declared, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” The Lord said to Moses, “I’ve been watching these people, and I’ve seen how stubborn they are. 10 Now leave me alone! Let my fury burn and devour them. Then I’ll make a great nation out of you.”

God was over it. He called “Bull.” We tend to forget that his mercy is balanced by his anger when we deliberately walk away from his will for our lives and commit blasphemy.

11 But Moses pleaded with the Lord his God, “Lord, why does your fury burn against your own people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and amazing force? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘He had an evil plan to take the people out and kill them in the mountains and so wipe them off the earth’? Calm down your fierce anger. Change your mind about doing terrible things to your own people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, whom you yourself promised, ‘I’ll make your descendants as many as the stars in the sky. And I’ve promised to give your descendants this whole land to possess for all time.’” 

Moses boldly asks God to remember his promise when the people flagrantly refused to remember theirs.

I think everything we need to know about God happens in the next sentence:

14 Then the Lord changed his mind about the terrible things he said he would do to his people.

The people said to Aaron, “Come on! Make us gods who can lead us.” How about you? Have you walked away from your Lord and begun to worship other things? Are material things, status, position, political entrenchment, or privilege the things you worship now? What kind of flags are you flying from your boat? Whose name is on the sign in your front yard?

Have you erected your own golden bull in place of serving God and being the reflection of Christ to the world?

Take heed. God won’t tolerate that bull for long. Remember, return, and repent.

God Never Forgets by Michelle Robertson