The Bible is peppered with God’s promises. They are the certainties we need to know as we navigate our way through all that happens in this world.
Politicians know they must promise something to have us vote for them. But they can’t ensure that what they promise will happen. Only God can do that!
Here’s some of the first promises God makes (See Genesis 3:15; 8:20—9:17).
The first is announced to Adam and Eve in Eden. They have asserted their independence from God and want to determine what is right and wrong for themselves. Because of this, as God had told them, they will die.
And since then, we all die. And we must deal with many threats and uncertainties along the way. Death, and the fear of it, lingers closely.
But immediately, God makes this promise. Adam and Eve will have a child who will undo the mischief caused by Satan’s deadly temptation (Genesis 3:15). It will come at a cost to the promised child, but shows, immediately, that God’s enemy will never have the last word.
We can think this is just a quaint story, or we can see it he one chance we have to live a full life.
The story that follows in the book of Genesis bears this out (chapters 3—5). The people who believe God’s promise find some poise and certainty, and generosity in life. Those who won’t believe this promise feel threatened, become angry, grasping and even cruel.
The child God has promised will be no less than his own Son—Jesus Christ. And the rest of the Bible is the story of this unfolding—and we shall see. But, already, God’s promise changes how people live.
Then, there’s another great promise.
By the time of Noah, the earth has become so violent that God promises to destroy it. Except for Noah and his family. God will gracious to him (Genesis 6:8). He must build what amounts to a floating zoo to house his family and many animals.
The flood that then comes is so comprehensive that only those floating in the ark survive. God is starting again with a new couple. The story is quite long (Genesis 6—9), but, at the end of it, Noah says thankyou with a sacrificial offering.
And God makes a promise. ‘I will never again strike down every creature as I have done’ (Genesis 8:21-22). And the next line is very important—seasons and harvests will continue as long as the earth remains.
This is a promise to all of us—all of Noah’s descendants. God is establishing a relationship or covenant with the human race. He will never again reduce the world to a single family with a flood like the one they have just had. This is what we are to remember when we see a rainbow in the sky. Seasons and harvests will continue.
Think of the difference it makes if you have a promise that the Creator will see to it that harvests will continue.
But most interesting is the reason why this is so. ‘The intention of men’s hearts is evil from his youth’. This is the same reason God has for flooding the earth (Genesis 6:5). Nothing has really changed. But God’s relationship to what he has made is a relationship of grace. We are not going to get what we deserve. We’ll get what he has promised.
If this is what we believe, it makes a huge difference! Without it, we become threatened, anxious, angry, grasping, and even cruel. But believing God’s promise can make us trusting, settled, and even generous.
As we think about people around us, we can tell them what Paul says. ‘We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. … He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy’ (Acts 14:15-16).
Right now, we are facing a massive food shortage around the world. But, in fact, the world is producing more food than ever before. We don’t do very well distributing it evenly. But think of the difference it will make if we believe that God has promised never to destroy the means of production.
God has promised this, not because we deserve it. We never will. He’s promised it because he is kind. And not for any other reason.But there’s still the promise of a child to come. And this is where the next promises will take us.