Here in Australia, we have just gone through an election campaign. Billboards, social media, TV and radio ads, and a seemingly never-ending stream of interviews with the combatant candidates documented a litany of promises and enticements to vote for the group offering a better life for the future. But, when we scratch below the headlines, we find some promises were no more than poorly conceived “thought bubbles,” some of which would have been impossible without major changes to law.
Aren’t you glad God doesn’t make promises like that? Aren’t you glad God can be trusted with every promise and declaration in His Word? I am!
Promised Blessings to Israel
One intriguing Old Testament account gives expression to this very thought. The prophet Balaam was commissioned by Balak, king of Moab, to curse the children of Israel as they prepared to enter the Promised Land. After a somewhat humorous moment in which Balaam was saved by his talking donkey (Numbers 22:28–30), the prophet could not curse the Israelites and instead blessed them three times. On the second occasion, he declared these amazing words which are still treasured some 3,400 years later: “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (23:19).
God made promises to Abraham and ultimately to Israel as a nation, not relying on their performance or even a degree of faithfulness, but with a unilateral, unconditional covenant signed by God alone.
God made promises to Abraham and ultimately to Israel as a nation (Genesis 12:2–3; 13:14–15), not relying on their performance or even a degree of faithfulness, but with a unilateral, unconditional covenant signed by God alone (15:17–21). Isn’t that amazing? God gave them His Word!
While there have been consequences for Israel’s sin and unbelief, His promises remain true. Even in a time of judgment and exile to Babylon, God foretold that He was going to do something that would declare His sovereignty to the nations, adding, “I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name’s sake.” (Ezekiel 36:22).
Do you see the significance of these words? God was going to bless Israel because He promised He would. Paul picked up on this sentiment in his letter to the Romans when he stated that “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29). Not only did He say He would keep His word, but He has demonstrated it beyond question by fulfilling what He said: “I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land” (Ezekiel 36:24). As a result, May 14, 1948 became a very significant day for modern Israel, as it declared statehood exactly in accordance with God’s Word. This is a major fulfillment of God’s promise, spoken around 600 BC, in our own lifetime.
This fulfillment has profound significance for us as Christians.
Promised Salvation for Believers
Perhaps the best known and most loved verse in the New Testament is John 3:16: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Wow, what a promise! Then again in chapter 5, Jesus reiterated the promise: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (v. 24). God’s Word tells me I have eternal life right now. It is not a matter of “I can’t be sure,” or “I hope I’ve done enough.” No—Christ has done it all, and, by faith, I have salvation right now! Doesn’t this just fill your heart with praise to God? Don’t you just want to shout it from the rooftops?
God has clearly demonstrated the truth of His Word and promises in their fulfillment in history and through His people, Israel.
But wait a minute—these powerful words claim to determine and settle our eternal destiny. How can we confidently believe Jesus’ words? Can we be sure? Absolutely! It is because God has clearly demonstrated the truth of His Word and promises in their fulfillment in history and through His people, Israel. He made promises to Abraham and his descendants. He told the prophets He was going to send the Messiah, and every prophecy of His First Coming was fulfilled exactly as He said. He has told us of things yet to come, and we confidently await their fulfilment too. Right now, with the reemergence of Israel as a nation after 1,900 years of the Diaspora, we are seeing an incredible example of God’s trustworthiness in our own day.
Politicians come and go, along with their promises, which may or may not be fulfilled. Society lurches to the left and right as humanity tries to determine its own destiny. And yet, we yearn for certainty, for a word of comfort in times of trouble and uncertainty, for truth. Where can we find these things? Only by taking God at His Word!
The prophet Isaiah perfectly sums up this truth: “All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, because the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (40:6–8).