Wednesday, 2 October 2013
Now Why Would God Promise That?
Sometimes God’s grace lies hidden under the surface of our lives or between the lines of our Bibles. A promise points to a hidden grace.
The Promise Keeper
I just began a new Bible study with some ladies called “Promises Kept: the Whole Story of the Bible.” One of the themes that runs all the way through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation is that God makes and keeps his promises. Now I know that God is a promise-keeping God. He is utterly faithful, not just occasionally or when he feels like it or if he remembers, but all the time. I’m looking forward to seeing his faithfulness to his promises as this study proceeds.
I also know, by contrast, that I am frequently not faithful. I am more often a promise breaker than a promise keeper. Not all the time, but often enough to exasperate my husband. You see, when I ask him to pick something up from the store for me or fix something on my computer, he does it. He’s amazing. But when he asks me to make a phone call or turn off the air conditioning when I leave the house, I often forget. I tell him I will, but I don’t do it.
The very fact that God’s promise keeping reminds me of my promise breaking is a good thing. It’s an opportunity for grace to break into my life. In Christ God forgives me. By his Spirit he is changing me. The very fact that I’m troubled by my unfaithfulness is proof that his grace is at work under the surface of my life.
But there’s more here. I know that God is a promise keeper, but why did he ever decide to become a promise maker? Why did he make that first promise to Adam, giving him hope after he had eaten from the tree? Why did he go public with Abram, showing him stars and promising him posterity? He wouldn’t have to keep his promises if he didn’t make them in the first place.
I know why I make promises. I make them to reassure my poor husband that this time I’m going to pay attention and remember to do what he asked. I make them to hold myself accountable. Past failures mean I owe a promise. Other times I make promises to delight someone I love, to reward them with a treat. “When you finish your dinner, we’re going out for ice cream.”
God doesn’t need to keep himself accountable. And he certainly doesn’t owe us anything. No, the only thing that constrains him is his own goodness. Sheer grace. God isn’t just faithful, he’s benevolent, so good that he delights to share his goodness with a world he created for that very purpose. And when we ruined his world, he stooped to assure us that his plan was still in place.
The Promise Maker
That’s why the author of Hebrews writes
So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. Hebrews 6:17-18
Who is this lucky bunch, these “heirs of the promise”? Are they the ones who kept their promises and didn’t mess up his original plan? No, they are those who have fled for refuge to the Savior. They are the ones who have become heirs of Abraham by faith.
God wants to assure you and me that we aren’t just promise breakers, we are promise receivers. He wants to give us something to look forward to, a hope set before us.
That’s why. Grace.