As Israel was hauled off into captivity by the iron-grip of Nebuchadnezzar in 606 BC, they wondered what had happened to God’s promises of protection. They settled into this foreign land where people spoke a language they didn’t understand, and worshiped gods Israel knew nothing about. What happened to all God had said over the years about His faithfulness to them?
Before the first wave of people had even left for Babylon, God revealed through Jeremiah that their stay would last 70 years (see Jer.25:11). Sometime close to the end of the captivity, Daniel reminded them of Jeremiah’s record of God’s promise about the 70 years. Somehow, in all their grumbling, the people had forgotten what the Lord had clearly said.
But the Lord hadn’t forgotten. Ezra recorded that when the 70th year came, the new king Cyrus was providentially motivated by God to write an official decree releasing all Israelites who wanted to return to Jerusalem. It’s all laid out in Ezra 1:1-4. Once that 70th year arrived, it was like an alarm clock going off – it was time to go home! What’s even more interesting is that 250 years before, Isaiah predicted that the liberator’s name would be “Cyrus” (see Isaiah 44:28). Can you imagine that? Two centuries before he lived, God clearly recorded what his actual name would be!
The entire saga of Israel’s trials and release from Babylon demonstrates the iron-clad promises of God. He always fulfils what He says He’s going to do. We live in a world that constantly breaks its promises, but that should never weaken our trust in a God who never breaks His.
We are saved by God’s promise (Gal.3:29), and protected by a promise (1 Peter 1:5). If God fulfilled His promises in such a dramatic way to Israel, you can count on Him doing the same for you.
– Tim Johnson
Promises don’t impress us these days. Politicians all over North America seem to be promising all sorts of things. One says they’ll get the deficit under control in a few years, another says they’ll have the economy booming in a few more, and yet another says he will build an impossibly long wall between countries. We’ve witnessed so many failed promises, we are skeptical of new ones.
People getting married promise to love and care for each other for the rest of their lives, yet almost 50% of all marriages fail. What happened to their promises? Sadly, people make them about as often as they break them.
God tells us in Galatians 3:22 that all men are saved through a promise of God. “But the Scripture has shut up all men under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” In verse 29 he said, “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” While salvation is by faith, it is described as a “promise” in this chapter because we must have faith when a promise is given. In this case our faith is well founded, for who is more reliable than God? Abraham trusted God to fulfil his promise, and that is what we must do as well.
What does this teach us about our own promises? If we trust God to fulfil His, shouldn’t we have the character to also do what we say we will? In this same book, faithfulness is listed as one of the fruits of the Spirit (5:22). We are to be faithful to fulfil promises. People should feel they can trust us. “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbour, for we are members one of another.” (Eph.4:25)
Promises, promises. Are you making good on yours?
– Tim Johnson
Ten years ago on Labour Day weekend, the South Edmonton, Alberta, Church of Christ had its first Sunday assembly. After months of planning, and an encouraging send-off by the north-side congregation, all went smoothly. I was their preacher and it was a privilege to give the first sermon there. We carried many supplies into the rented hall, sat on borrowed chairs, used a troublesome PA system, and had Sunday school classes in hallways and corners. But everyone was grateful for what we had. It was a day of great joy and thankfulness.
Christians are to be known as a people full of thankfulness. We’re told in Ephesians 5:20 to be “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.” We are to express it to God through Jesus, for it was Jesus who died and rose for us and gave us lives of hope.
There are days when things seem very dark and life has little joy. Stresses can multiply and make us feel like we are carrying an impossible load. Some days seem to be full of things broken, appliances that refuse to work, and unexpected bills that make us throw up our hands in frustration. How can we be grateful “for all things” on days like that?! We can if we remember all the things that aren’t broken and continue to work well. We can be thankful when we think of the promises of God, that He will “never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Heb.13:5).
Nobody has life perfect. Every single human being alive today (7.4 billion of us) has some troubles. When we see the good things God does for us, we can forego grumbling and “give thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God.”
– Tim Johnson