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