Truth, Understanding, Insight

God's Promises

11th October 2006, hej


1) The meaning of 'Promise'

The Australian Oxford definition is:

Promise: assurance that one will or will not undertake a certain action. Promised Land: Canaan (Gen.12:7 etc).

A promise is an undertaking of one person to carry out an action to another. The promises of Yahweh are like prophecy, where, Yahweh states that a certain event will happen. However there is a difference. The promises are personal undertakings, and can be seen as covenants or contracts. We may say we have given 'our word', or our promise, that we will do something, in Western society verbal contracts are morally binding.

The God of the Bible, Yahweh, cannot lie (Titus 1:2). He will not mislead and will always literally deliver exactly what He says. When He said Tyre would be a place for fishing nets (Ezekiel 26:5,14), it was not a euphemism, the ancient site of Tyre is now a place for casting nets (not poles, reels or lines!). This is prophecy, so when He makes a promise the action will likewise be literal. The Bible says,

God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? Numbers 23:19

The Oxford definition includes reference to the "promised land", a traditional title Christians have used to refer to Palestine, now called Israel, as the Bible says it is the land that Yahweh, the God of Israel promised to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel).

The Importance of the Promises

The early Christians placed great importance of the promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob the fathers of Israel. The apostle Paul speaks of Christians adopting these promises a number of times.

Who are Israelites; to whom pertains the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God and the promises. Romans 9:4
Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: Romans 15:8
Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. Galatians 3:16
That you be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Hebrews 6:12

By faith and patience the followers of Christ inherit the promises, at some future date.

Promises Not Inherited Yet

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob have not yet been given by God that which was promised to them.

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. Hebrews 11:13

In addition many people had faith in these promises and did great things, but still died and have not yet inherited them.

Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,...And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: (Hebrews 11:33-39)

Stephen a Grecian proselyte, a Christian, has this to say before he was stoned.

And he gave him (Abraham) none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child.Acts 7:5

Stephen, and those hearing him, understood Abraham had not inherited and was yet to inherit the land they were living in. (The patch of earth they were standing on). In the Apostles' time they were not in possession of the land either – the Romans were. They, like Abraham, were ‘strangers’ paying tax.

The promises are the good news of the gospel

separated unto the gospel of God,(Which he had promised before by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh. Romans1:1

Jesus, who was made according to the promises, had a mission,

To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; Luke 1:72

In effect, if the promises are to be obtained in the future, they are the promises of the hope of life after death.

In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began; Titus 1:2