GOD’S PROMISES – PREAMBLE
“Let us make man in our own image, …let them rule over…all the earth” (Gen. 1:26). “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:22). “Every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (Ja. 1:17). “The great dragon was hurled down – that ancient serpent called the devil or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him” (Rev. 12:9). “But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short” (Rev. 12:12).
We live in a fallen and sinful world. It is made up of matter and matter deteriorates. It is aging and fallen beings and spirits are also managing it. Man is not the only one that fell out of grace, so did the devil and his angels. He and his companions landed on earth and have created havoc ever since. They sow the weeds, shake the mountains, disturbs the seas, destroy the landscapes and blame the Creator for their evil handiwork. They have convinced the creature man that God is punishing man for disobeying God. God is good and merciful and not willing that anyone should perish (II Pe. 3:9). Man without God and without Christ is prone to become a child of the devil and do his kind of destructive work (Jn. 8:31-47). Nature has already become the devil’s tool and so have many human beings. Satan parades as an angel of light (II Cor. 11:14) and prowls like a lion to devour (I Pe. 5:8) a good man like Peter (Lk. 22:31-32). He trapped Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:1-6) but failed with Jesus the Christ (Mt. 4:1-11; Lk. 4:1-12). “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12). Any thought that desires things not rightfully ours is being enticed by the tempter (Mt. 5:27-30).
Centuries before Christ, a shepherd boy gazed at the stars and exclaimed: “What is man that you are mindful of him”(Ps. 8:4)! Several centuries later, a man pounding the pavement of Athens insisted that man must “know himself.” At about the same time, a prophet was sent to depict man’s problem with these words, “My people are destroyed from the lack of knowledge”(Ho. 4:6). Four more centuries passed and a fourth man pro-claimed, “Know the truth and the truth will set you free”(Jn. 8:32). Hence, the age’s oldest question is, “What is truth?”(Jn. 18:38).
The truth was and still is, “What is the problem with man? What has he done with himself, his world and his faith in God? What has happened to his hope or God’s Promises? Is there an answer and where do we find it? What does the Bible tell us about God’s Promises to man and how did history perceive man’s response to the Promises?” In his farewell address to Israel, Moses uttered these words: “I am making this covenant, with its oath, not only with you who are standing here with us today in the presence of the Lord our God but also with those who are not here today,” namely those yet to be born (Deut. 29:14-15). Moses was only passing on what all the other people of the Promises had done before him. In essence God’s Promises were binding on all generations.
Our word “promise” is not found in the Hebrew but comes from the Latin “promissum” and is comprised of “pro” and “mittere.” It means to send forth or to forward an oral or written agreement. The party making the promise swears or vows that a certain gift or grant will be binding based on specific stipulation. It is not an agreement or covenant between equals but the generosity of a powerful benefactor that can reduce and restore one that has failed in his obligations and tasks. This gift or grant has certain qualifying rules, we identify as Conditions. In the Bible, Jehovah Elohim (Gods or Us –plural not singular, pagan gods were singular “El”) were the grantors of a pledge similar to a promise and they set up the conditions that the recipient or man must follow in order to keep the grant or gift alive. Elohim also selected a number of people with the potential to maintain the grant or gift. Elohim spoke or swore that He would extend specific favors to His chosen recipients, provided they abode by the rules that would govern His gifts to mankind. Since the recipients were in no position to reciprocate the grantors allowed them to prove themselves worthy down the road by making the promises work.
In the event that these recipients failed in complying with the Conditions, then they would be replaced with another selection of recipients. Jesus made this quite clear in the parable of the vineyard. When the first group, to whom the vineyard was leased, failed in its obligation, it was replaced with another group of tenants. In no case was the vineyard to remain with the delinquent recipients, but was to be carried on by others until that promise reached its completion. The promise itself was and is final and cannot be altered or amended. God cannot go back on His Word. For that reason, His Conditions or stipulation are such that the unfulfilled recipients must give way to those who are willing to live by the rules set forth by the grantor of the promise (Ho. 2:23).
The promises could not be fulfilled without a piece of real estate. Adam was to practice God’s principles in the whole world and Abraham was to do the same in Canaan. From Abraham to Christ, God’s chosen recipients were given a place where they could live for their Creator. They were instructed to manage their lives and the world about them and not indulge in fatal personal pleasures that would result in their demise. The Creators (The Us) foreknew that man would reach for the forbidden fruit and die because of his disobedience. Man was equipped with choice (in the likeness of The Us) and was commanded with a stern warning, “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” The command to obey Elohim’s direction has never been lifted or set aside as some interpreters assume. Jesus made it very clear that he had not come to abort the Law and the Prophets but to fulfill it to the tiniest dot (Mt. 5:17-20). He did more by reintroducing God back into a personal relationship with a person. God was personal to Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. “He was not a God of the dead but of the living and a personal God whom they could address as a Father in heaven that was aware of a single hair that fell of their heads (Mt. 6:9; Lk. 21:18). God was not a national deity of Israel then nor can He be to any nation today, nor is He a God for those in heaven but for those that are alive on earth. The dead can no longer praise God (Ps. 115:17). We must do our living and praising while we are alive on earth. And we do it not by lip service but by being disciples of the Son of God (Jn. 14:15).
Jesus was the first that separated God’s Promises and Conditions from the land, the Temple and Jerusalem (Jn. 4:21-24). His Kingdom or Promises were not of this world and they were going to be governed by people adhere to God’s Conditions. The land, the Temple or Jerusalem were no longer the issue; the abandoning of the Law or Conditions that the people of God were to live by and be governed by were the issue. The first Christians also had a difficult time of separating the Promises and Conditions from their Jewish heritage (Ac. 10:34-36). God’s Promises or Kingdom were for those that lived by and were governed by His Conditions. History bears evidence that the U.S.A. was started and governed by such individuals, which is no longer the case. Still, there are many Christians that believe we are a Christian land. In that case, these words are for us: “For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either” (Ro. 11:21). Why did He not spare Adam or Israel? For the same reason we shall not be spared, because we too hang on to the Promises without obeying God’s Conditions. The rules of the Promises can be stated thus: “It is not the will of God that man should perish, but that all should repent and be saved”(2 Pe. 3:9). Again, it is a personal and not a national mandate. One cannot save a nation, if one stops saving an individual. Man can save himself and others by leading a redemptive life.
Join me in this study and see how those who were chosen did. How did these founding people cope with the Conditions that determined their place in the Promises, and how do they affect us today? What in reality was and is the truth about God’s Promises and Conditions? And when or where do we find the truth that will set us free? The old Greek philosopher was not at all far off when he stressed that one must know himself.