It’s easy to keep your word, or a promise when everything goes smoothly. But there are times when you can give your word, or make a promise, and you start to regret it, because circumstances change and in order for you to keep the promise will require either a lot of effort, or even some cost to you.
According to Psalm 15:4 one of the characteristics of the person who will dwell with the Lord is the one who keeps his word whatever the cost.
I read recently of Thomas Nelson publishing – a large Christian publishing house. It’s CEO wrote a piece saying that a former Executive of the company made a promise, to a client, via email. He had not researched his promise, nor told anyone else about it and it turned out that the promise would cost the company a six figure sum, a sum they could not afford. What should they do?
Their mission statement included Ps 15:4.
They kept the promise.
This is a rarity today.
There is a story of a businessman who, speaking with his son said, `My boy, there are two things that are essential if you are to succeed in business.’
`What are they, Dad? Asked the boy.
`Integrity and sagacity.’
`What is integrity?’
`Always, no matter what, always keep your word.’
`Never give your word!’
The best way to keep one’s word is not to give it. ~Napoleon Bonaparte
Jesus emphasized the seriousness of giving your word – let your yes be yes and your no, no.
Prov 10:9 says He who walks with integrity walks securely, But he who perverts his ways will become known.
And Prov 11:3 says The integrity of the upright will guide them, But the perversity of the unfaithful will destroy them.
One of the signs of integrity is one who will keep his word and as Christians and as a Church we must hold this very highly. The Church and many Christians are not renowned for their integrity.
Rev 13:8 says of Jesus that he was the Lamb slain before the foundation of the earth.
This is hugely significant. Think about the implication of this statement. Before the creation of the earth was begun the God head had agreed that the second person of the Trinity would die for the sins of the creatures God was about to create. This has a number of consequences: 1. When God says he will do something, it is regarded as already done. Therefore Creation was made in the aftermath of the willingness of God to die for his creatures. This is why people in the Old Testament could be saved before the cross. God has purposed to do it before creation and thus everything was done in light of this promise. God said it and God’s word is true 2. God , having made the promise, was going to have to carry out.
This promise required that the second person of the Trinity would leave the glory of heaven, be born as human being, inhabit all the weakness of a human body and to be tempted as a human being. It also required the creator of the universe to stand before Satan as a vulnerable human being to be tempted. This was no psychological Jesus had not eaten or drunk for 40 days. Why 40 days? 40 represents the number of judgment – it rained for 40 days and 40 nights; 40 days and Nineveh will be judged and of course, Israel was in the wilderness for 40 years. Jesus, representing humanity, stood before the accuser of humanity. And he not only stood before Satan in a human body, it was as weak as a human body could possibly be. Notice that so grueling and tough was the temptations that afterwards the angels came and ministered to Jesus.
Knowing that He would face Satan as a human being; knowing he would walk the road to the cross, knowing that he would be rejected by his own people, Jesus still was willing to keep his word – to fulfill what he promised before the foundation of the world. Why? Because he also knew that the Father keeps his promises and that even though the Son will submit to death, He will rise again and be glorified.
God keeps his word – even when it cost Him heavily.
The assurance of God keeping his Word is the reason that God gave various covenants through out scripture. If there is anyone who might have needed some assurance of God’s word is Noah. Imagine what might have gone through Noah’s mind after the flood. God miraculously rescued him from a cataclysmic event and yet surely it must have crossed his mind that maybe God might do this again.
The covenant God makes with Noah, and then Abraham, and then David and so on is meant to bring assurance and comfort and affirm that God will keep his promises. A covenant normally requires two parties to agree to a set of conditions, both positives and penalties if the covenant should be broken. Yet God initiates every covenant he makes – and he upholds the covenants even when we break them. Observe the recurrence of “I,” “Myself,” and “My” in these verses. Thus, this covenant is unconditional (v. 9), universal (v. 11), and everlasting (v. 12)
The sign of the rainbow of genesis 9 reminds us that the world is held in being by God’s promise. I will remember my covenant. It is a divine YES to creation. The world is held in being by God’s commitment that it shall be so. Not even human wickedness can thwart God’s will towards his creation. As one theologian says – The thicker the cloud the brighter the bow in the cloud. Thus, as threatening afflictions abound, encouraging consolations much more abound.
As another theologian writes in answer to the question Why a rainbow?
Shining upon a dark ground… it represents the victory of the light of love over the fiery darkness of wrath. Originating from the effect of the sun upon a dark cloud, it typifies the willingness of the heavenly to penetrate the earthly. Stretched between heaven and earth, it is as a bond of peace between both, and, spanning the horizon, it points to the all-embracing universality of the divine mercy.
Which is exactly a description of what Jesus did. The heavens penetrated the earth, bringing peace. Jesus came to earth to complete what he had promised before the creation and to pay the price of our sins. That is what Peter says – For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God.
God keeps his promises even when it costs Him heavily because he knows he has the victory.
However, we must understand that while the victory has been assured, we are still in a battle. The phrase Spiritual warfare can be an oft abused term in Christian circles. But the fact is we are in a war. Yes, it is a war which has been won. But if that’s the case why does Satan tempt Jesus if the war was won, if Satan knew he could not win? Well, Satan is not all knowing – he does not know the future. Satan had no idea what was going to happen at the Cross. There is a wonderful verse of scripture in 1 Corinthians 2 which says we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, 8 which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
Paul uses rulers to refer to the heavenly beings in Ephesians: For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Satan and his demons had no idea of the devastation that would descend upon them on at the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ. Christ disarmed and tied up the strong man and begun to plunder his house. Peter gives us a glimpse of this when he says Jesus went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient. This is a hugely contentious and difficult verse in Christian theology. But here is my understanding – Jesus during his ascension to heaven proclaimed to the imprisoned fallen Angels his victory over death. The exalted Christ passed through the realm where these fallen angels are kept and proclaimed his triumph over them. Listen to what Colossians 2:15 says: When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.
So now, for Satan, this is not a war for victory – it is a war for destruction. His desire is to hinder you and to rob you of every ounce of peace; to prevent you from knowing and entering into the absolute fullness of God’s promises for you. If the enemy can disable you and prevent you from growing in your faith, from praying, from trusting in God he will be happy. He wants to see you miserable and defeated, even though you have the victory. He wants to try and destroy as many of God’s people and to stop as many people from coming to a living faith in Christ as possible.
In light of all this, let us all, during this Lent, recognize we are in war. Let us recognize the cost of the promise made by God – and let us offer ourselves to God to walk the path of faith, a path which will also cost us as we let go of the things of the world, turning our backs on what is not right or good to take up what is true and right and holy – and we do this knowing that the victory is won – God keeps his word – he keeps his promise. We know the end. We know the resurrection is coming!!