Promises Made, Promises Kept
We are living in perilous times, as more and more people reject the concept that there is absolute truth to be known, and embraced. It is said that we are living in a Post-Modern society, where Christian values and ideas are deemed more and more irrelevant. The church is seen as being outdated. In Europe, many of the great cathedrals have been turned into museums. God is dead. Nevertheless, God has an elect people who still believe in the Bible, and the great and precious promises made so long ago.
There is the promise that truth can be known. “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32)
There is the promise of personal salvation. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Rom. 10:13)
There is the promise of eternal life. “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” (John 10:28)
There is the promise that Jesus is coming again. “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” (Heb. 9:28)
There is the promise of the resurrection. “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” (John 5:28-29)
There is the promise of a new heaven and a new earth. “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.” (Rev. 21:1)
There is the promise of a Savior, even Jesus Christ. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
The Song of Mary
Two thousand years ago a young Jewish maiden heard the voice of God, believed it, and sang a song of praise called The Magnificant.
“And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, 47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. 48 For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. 49 For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. 50 And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. 51 He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. 52 He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. 53 He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. 54 He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; 55 As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.” (Luke 1:46-55)
Attention is drawn to the words at the end of the song. “He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; 55 As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed forever.” (Luke 1:54-55)
The Song of Zachariah
Shortly after this song is sung by Mary, another song appears in the Bible sung by Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist.
“And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying, 68 Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, 69 And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; 70 As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: 71 That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; 72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; 73 The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, 74 That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, 75 In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life. 76 And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; 77 To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, 78 Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, 79 To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:67-79)
Today, we stand two thousand years distant from the promises made through Mary, and through Zachariah. Today, we stand with Mary and Zechariah, and rejoice that God has remembered His people. The promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have been kept. Mary and Zachariah remembered the promise of God made to Abraham two thousand years before they lived, and declared that God kept it. We can remember the promise of God made two thousand years ago, and rejoice because He has kept His word.
The Old Testament is a biography of God. It reveals His character. The New Testament is a biography of Jesus Christ. It reveals His character. We see that Jesus is faithful and true. (Rev 9:11)The Old Testament is also a history of humanity. It is ultimately the history of one man, Adam, but then through Adam, there is the story of Abraham.
The story of Abraham, and his descendants, dominate the Old Testament narrative and for a good reason. To Abraham a promise was made that he would have a seed. In his seed would be the Savior of the world. God did not lie, and the history of the Old Testament is proven to be true. Abraham was real. He lived. The philosophical speculation of ungodly biblical scholars has been brought to an end, time and again, by the spade of the archeologist.
For example, the story of Abraham has been proven to be true by clay tablets found deep inside the ruins of the city of Mari, in today’s Syria. The significance is that a real God called a real man, out of a real pagan culture, spoke to him, and made him promises which were kept.
Blessed to be a Blessing
The promise made to Abraham changed the course of history. “Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: 2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: 3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” (Gen. 12:1-3)With these words God made a covenant with Abraham, that was ratified in Genesis 15:1-18.
A Conversation with God
THE LORD: Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.
ABRAHAM: Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir.
THE LORD: This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: So shall thy seed be. I am the LORD that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it.
ABRAHAM: Lord GOD, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?
THE LORD: Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon. Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; 14 And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. 15 And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. 16 But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full. Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:” (Gen. 15:1-18)
God swore to Abraham, by His own integrity, that He would keep His promises. It was enough.
There was the promise of land. Abraham was to move from Ur of the Chaldees, in present day Iraq, to Canaan. During his own lifetime, the only piece of promised land Abraham owned was Machpelah, a field containing the cave bought by Abraham for a burial place (Gen 23:9, 17), and where he buried Sarah (v. 19). Abraham himself was buried there (25:8-9), along with Isaac, and Rebekah, his wife, and Leah, the wife of Jacob (49:30-31), and later Jacob also (50:13).
There was the promise of a seed. Abraham was to become the father of a great nation whose people cannot be numbered, like the stars in heaven, or the sands of the seashore. In their old age, Abraham and Sarah had a child, Isaac. But then God told Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac on Mt. Moriah, later called Mt. Calvary. (Gen. 22:1-19) In obedience to the known will of the Lord, Abraham obeyed. The knife was raised. The son was to be offered, when the angel of the Lord stayed the hand of Abraham. God knew that Abraham loved him more than anyone else. Later God would offer His own Son, Jesus, and take His life for all who believed. Through His seed, and sacrifice, the nations of the world could be blessed.
There was the promise of being a blessing to the nations. Christ is the fulfilment of that promise. To Him all power has been given, in heaven and in the earth. “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matt. 28:18-20)
Here is the point that is not to be missed. It took time for God to keep His word fully to Abraham. It took 2000 years. Knowing this, the Christian community should not be discouraged at the promises of God found in the New Testament economy. Faith will be rewarded, if we faint not. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. 11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” (2 Peter 3:9-13),Mary and Zachariah did not despair over the passing of the ages. In the fullness of time they were able to say, “God has remembered.” The whole history of redemption is the working out of the promise of God made four thousand years ago. Christian, do not despair. God will remember. Promises made are promises kept.