Saturday, August 10, 2013

Promises. Promises.

I used to have a Bible with a long list of God's promises.  Single words, matched with a Bible verse.
Safety and security of the true believer   John 5:24
God's constant care  1 Peter 5:7
God's great faithfulness  Hebrews 11:11
God's sufficient grace   2 Corinthians 9:8
God's eternal love  Jeremiah 31:3
God's abiding presence Philippians 2:12-13
God's answered prayer  John 14:13-14
God's victory over Satan   James 4:7

The list was very long, but I never paid much attention to it.  Why?  In my experience, I knew.  God can't really be counted on to come through for me.  I didn't blame Him.  I just figured God was disciplining me, teaching me, correcting me, transforming me.  That was more important than blessing.

In my experience, I knew.
God does not always answer prayers.  God does not always come through on His promises.

I had forgotten the story of Abraham.

Here's the story of explicit promises.
Genesis 12:2  I have plans to make a great people from your descendants. And I am going to put a special blessing on you and cause your reputation to grow so that you will become a blessing and example to others.

Genesis 12:7  I am going to give this land to your future generations.

Genesis 15:6  Look up at the stars, and try to count them all if you can.  There are too many of them to count.  Your descendants will be as many as the stars.

Up to this time, and at this point Abraham is in his 80s, he has no children and several years have passed between the first promise and the second.  Yet we know that he "believed God and trusted in His promises, so God counted it to his favor as righteousness" (Genesis 15:6).

Still, Abraham asks God, "How am I supposed to know I really will possess" the land?  (15:8).

Abraham falls into a deep sleep, and a "terrifying darkness" falls over him.  God reveals to him before he possesses the land, his descendants "will first be foreigners in a land that is not theirs. They will be made slaves there and will be oppressed for 400 years." After that God will deliver the people and they will emerge from that land with many possessions."  As for Abraham, he will rest with his fathers in peace and "be buried at a ripe old age."

God promised him the land. God kept His promises, but these promises were fulfilled over many generations. You could say they are in the promise of being fulfilled to this day.

This is somewhat disheartening if our hope is that God's promises will always lead us out of difficult or painful situations, that faithfulness and care mean monetary success, fulfilling and conflict-free relationships, and perpetual health.

That's not what it meant for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

And yet God was--and is--faithful.
He leads us and guides us.
He grace comforts us in difficult times.

Just as he called Abraham into relationship with Him, He calls us into relationship with Him.
He is God.
He is glorious.
He loves us.
He will do whatever it takes to lead us to Him.
And there is enormous joy in this.
We can rejoice in everything. At all times.

God's promises are good.
They are true.

And yet, we can't make them into something they are not.

The problem comes when I try to interpret these promises in a way that offers me what I want instead of what God wants for me--and what he wants for his ultimate glory. God can see beyond what will make me comfortable or safe today.

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