Friday, September 27, 2019

Standing on the Promises

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed recently and saw two posts right next to each other.

The first: "Virtually Wiped Out": 95 Christians Killed in Mali Village

The second: "The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still" (Ex 14:14).

I couldn't help but ask "What happened? Did God forget to fight for them?" What's going on here? Of course God didn't "forget" to fight for them. But he also didn't promise to fight for them.

Christians love to quote the promises of God, and there are lots of books containing such promises. It's common in certain circles to hear that "all the promises of the Bible are for you."

No they're not.

For some reason, I never hear people try to claim this promise:

“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you” (Gen 12:2-3).
Everyone knows that was God's promise to Abram, and no one tries to appropriate it. But for some reason they try to appropriate promises made specifically to other people.

Many, maybe most, promises in the Old Testament are made as part of the old covenant. The beloved Jeremiah 29:11 ("For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD...) was made to people under the Law, in the context of the Law. These promises do not apply to you unless you are under the Law of Moses. (Hint: You don't want to be.)

Many promises were made only to specific people and/or only for specific occasions. Ex 14:14 above ("The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still") was made to Israel as they were leaving Egypt when they found themselves trapped between the Red Sea and the Egyptian army. It wasn't even a blanket promise to Israel. On some occasions God expected Israel to fight. On some occasions he left them to their own devices (eg, Josh 7) — which didn't go well for them. It certainly was not a promise to modern Christians.

Why does this matter? I'll simply point to the example I gave above. If you tell people "God will fight for you" and he doesn't:
A. You have lied about God.
B. You have caused the people to whom you lied to now doubt God.
C. You may destroy the faith of weaker brothers and sisters by doing this.
D. You make Christianity look ridiculous to outsiders.
On a related note, when prosperity preachers use OT "promises" to tell people that God will make them rich and/or healthy and he doesn't, it drives people away from the gospel (while making these preachers rich).

There are lots of promises in the Bible that apply to the NT believer. Most of them are in the NT.

God's word to us today is good. He said, "Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." He said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." He said, "neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." He has given us "his very great and precious promises" in Christ Jesus. We don't need to steal old promises from the old covenant.

If you're going to "stand on the promises," make sure they're promises God actually made to you.

Related: Never Read a Bible Verse