Monday, January 09, 2006

Promises to a father and son

A couple of years ago I prepared for a trip to Africa by interviewing a local pastor. One thing he told me was to not make promises. I am sure he was convinced in his mind of his reasons for saying this, but I could not (and still don't) understand the logic behind it. All I know is that I could not see future ministry without making promises. I could not find reason for any effective ministry without promises. In my mind a person should not go into missions or ministry if he makes no promises. Everything God does and did is based on promises. To make no promises is to have no intention to do anything in the future. To make no promises is to be selfish. To make no promises is to act unlike God.

Certainly the reason to avoid promises is to protect oneself from failure. Failure is embarrasing and at is at its base deceptive. John Piper in his book The Godward Life writes, "Human promises are broken because people do not trust God. In fact they don't even think of God. He is not in the equation. Money is in the equation. Shrewdness is in the equation. Human probabilities are in the equation. But God is forgotten. He is just not as real as the money we might loose."[i] Or the time or the reputation. We like our promises protected, guaranteed.

How can promises be stood upon when there seems to be no firm footing?

Reading the lives of the Abrahamsons and Isaacsons is like reading the same thing all over again. Like his father Isaac was the recipient of a promise God made to Adam, to Noah, and to his own father. Like his father, Isaac's wife could bear no children. Like his father Isaac has two boys, the second born recieving the blessing of the first born. Both go to Gerar. Both have wife/sister issues with Abimelech (a title not a personal name).

In one sense we should wonder how God was going to keep His promises--but the key is in the fact that Isaac was so much like his father, perhaps we should not be surprised. What is God going to do? What He has done already--keep His promises.

What are God's promises about which we shout and sing? They all center on the fact that He would take care of our sin problem.

How has He failed? He has not, the testimony of scripture and history show this.

We just have a hard time accepting His Lordship and the promises connected to it.

"Surely the Lord was in this place and I knew it not." My soul, this is also thine experience! How often has thou said in thy sorrow, "Verily thou art a God that hidest Thyself!" How often hast thou slept for very heaviness of heart, and desired not to wake again! And when thou didst wake again, lo, the darkness was all a dream! Thy vision of yesterday was a delusion. God had been with thee all the night with that radiance which has no need of the sun. O my soul, it is not only after the future thou must aspire; thou must aspire to see the glory of thy past. Thou must find the glory of that way which thy God has led thee, and be able even of thy sorrow to say, "This was the gate of heaven!" (George Matheson, 1842-1906)

"For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us." (2 Cor. 1:20)

[i] Piper, John. “Swearing to Your Own Hurt.” A Godward Life. Sisters: Multnomah, 1997.

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