Faithful is He Who Promised: Thinking about God’s Promises
No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. Romans 4:20-21
I heard many years ago that there are about 7,000 promises in the Bible. Even more impressive to me is that the structure of biblical revelation is promise and fulfillment. The very fabric of the Bible is promissory. Old Testament scholar Walk Kaiser has pointed this out in many of his books that the Bible is the promise plan of God. New Testament scholar Scott Hafemann says the message of the Bible is, “The God of promise and the life of faith.”
The promises that are structural are Gospel-Christ-centered and often covenantal (that is, they come in the context of a covenant). Most of the other promises flow from that general structure in one way or another. Many of God’s promises are for His elect, those in the covenant (believers). These cover a vast array of present situations and our future. Some of the promises are warnings, which are conditional. Some of the promises are for blessing, but also are conditional. Others are simply unilateral, unconditional promises of grace. Some promises are for those outside the covenant (unbelievers) and are frequently called “threats.”
Some of God’s promises are embedded in less obvious ways. For instance, God’s names and titles are embedded promises. The revelation of His name or attribute or characteristic is an embedded promise that He will be all of that to His people. God’s commands are often promises in disguise.
When we come across a promise (on virtually every page), we need to look at the context. Sometimes those promises will clearly apply to God’s people at all times, like Romans 8:28. However, some promises are time, situation and person specific. Don’t automatically conclude that the promise doesn’t apply, but rather look for the principle which should be clearly supported by other Scripture. One of my favorite examples of this is in Jeremiah 38:20. It is a specific word to King Zedekiah from Jeremiah, “But Jeremiah said, ‘They will not give you over. Please obey the LORD in what I am saying to you, that it may go well with you and you may live.” Zedekiah was facing the Babylonians, they were “at the gates.” Jeremiah’s message had been that Zedekiah needed to submit to God’s discipline and surrender to the Babylonians. Zedekiah was afraid of the Jews and what they would do to him if he surrendered. He feared them more than God. The promise comes in that context, obey God and it go well, disobey God and it will not go well. In applying the promise, we have no Babylonians to submit to, but there may be a situation where we know clearly what God requires of us and there will be a definite negative reaction by those around us. God’s promise to us in Jer. 38:20 is to obey Him and know that obedience to God is the only way things will turn out well for us. We draw the lines of situational application, we reset the promise in our situation, we respond to the promise by faith and have confidence that God will keep His Word.
There is much more we can say about God’s promises and how they apply and don’t apply, how to use them and not use them, but until later, here are some texts to nourish your soul.
Deuteronomy 7:9 Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,
Deuteronomy 32:4 "The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.
Psalm 36:5 Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.
Psalm 40:10 I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation.
Psalm 91:4 He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
Psalm 100:5 For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.
1 Corinthians 1:9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
1 Thessalonians 5:24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
2 Thessalonians 3:3 But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.
Hebrews By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.
1 Peter 4:19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.