God starts making promises after we become sinners. He gives us an opportunity to start trusting him again—to discover that he is worthy of our love. So, it’s not surprising that every promise he makes (in the Old Testament) is based on what Jesus will do, or (in the New Testament), has done among us.
The Bible has many promises that God will be with us or help us (Psalm 37 and 91:14-16 are some well-known examples). We may be comforted by them. But then, if we imagine that these promises will be fulfilled because we are nice people or because we feel good when we read them, we are deceived. We need what Christ does to receive what is promised.
Jesus says ‘Yes’ on our behalf to everything God promises (2 Corinthians 1:20). We are slow to believe and reticent to trust. Not Jesus! He wants God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
For example, he has power to lay his life down and take it up again because his Father has commanded it—or we could say, promised it (John 10:18). That’s amazing certainty to have in a world that’s full of danger.
It’s Christ’s ‘Yes!’ that enables us to say ‘Amen!’ We learn from him that God means what he says, wants do us good and can bring about what he has promised.
Notice how confident Paul is when he says this. Because God’s promises are being fulfilled in Christ, he can be definite in making promises to other people. The reliability we need to make a good future comes from what Christ does.
This is why, when Jesus is born, that there is so much joy (Luke 2:8-14). A promise made to King David—that he would have a great Son—has come. All the things God will do to save our broken world and damaged lives are now going to happen (Luke 1:67-79).
What God promises David is central to all the promises God makes. A descendant of his will reign forever (2 Samuel 7:12-19).
Finally, someone will come who can deal with this world, and with us—given our capacity for deceit and distrust. He will be greater than David—his ‘lord’ in fact (Psalm 110:1; Matthew 22:44-46). He will sit beside God until all opposition is overcome.
He will be a priest as well as a king. That’s because we need more than a leader to solve problems. We need someone to bring us to God.
As Israel’s history becomes worse and worse, God’s promises about his King get better and better. This son will be God’s Son. And the idea that any power could frustrate his purpose is laughable (Psalm 2).
Later generations are told that he will be called ‘Wonderful Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace’ (Isaiah 9:6). Through him, the whole earth will be given peace, and will know God (Isaiah 11:1-9).
When Jesus comes, promises made about David’s Son are quoted to show that he is the one promised. Everyone needs to decide if Jesus is this Christ or Messiah—like Peter (Matthew 16:15-16), or Jewish leaders (Matthew 26:63-64) or the people at Pentecost.
This is what Peter talks about after Jesus ascends and sends his Holy Spirit. God’s people have killed their anointed Leader and King. But God has raised him up. They need his forgiveness—urgently (Acts 2:36-38).
This is why it’s so important to hear God’s promises brought to us in Jesus’ name. He’s taken account of our preference to trust ourselves, our ungratefulness and resentment. And, he comes to us, raised from the dead, with the offer of new life.
This promise is not only being made to Peter’s audience. It’s being made to us—as many as God calls (Acts 2:39; Romans 15:8). Our sins too can be forgiven. We too can be reconciled to the God we have offended. And we can hear all the promises Christ came to fulfil and be persuaded that God really means to do us good.
We can read Psalm 37:4: ‘Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart’. We can hear the same thing from Jesus: ‘If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you’ (John 15:7).
Preaching about Jesus as God’s promised Saviour starts with forgiveness through Christ’s death, and with the renewal of hope through his resurrection (Acts 13:23, 32, 38; 26:6). By raising Jesus from the dead, the promise made to us is not, ‘You will die’, but ‘You will live!’
Our life is now full of hope. We can be what we really are because of ‘the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus’ (2 Timothy 1:1). Instead of being subject to the fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15), we are liberated by the expectation of life and resurrection.
No wonder the promises of God needs this coming King. No-one can guarantee anything unless they are in charge. And here, Jesus has taken charge of everything—our self-sufficiency and troubles and fears on the one hand, but also, all the wonderful purpose of God for us on the other. He has led us into the meekness of trusting in him.
This changes our expectations, our habits, our relationships, our conversations—everything!