I have almost finished marking all the promises in my Bible. I have discovered a few things, and here are some highlights:
There are more ‘negative’ promises in the Bible than ‘positive.’ I use the word ‘negative’ carefully, since God’s promises are all good, though they may spell disaster for those that stand in His way. These ‘negative’ promises can come across as threats or warnings. What I find is that we tend to focus on the positive promises, ignore the negative, and it negatively affects our carefulness and devotion.
- beware of selective reading of Scripture
- wrestle with Scripture, with God - what are you telling me?
Related to this, most promises are conditional. Yes, God will do what He will do. But He tailors His actions according to what we will do. We must not, then, presume upon the promises of God, as though they were all, or even mostly, unconditional.
- beware an attitude of 'all benefit; no responsibility' - 'cheap grace'
- grace changes a person
Third, there are more promises in the Old Testament than the New. Of course, the Old Testament is much longer, so that might make sense. But one of my discoveries was that even in the New Testament, most of the promises are rehearsals of what was promised in the Old. The New Testament writings are built on God’s Old Testament revelation.
- then you (the world) will know that I am the LORD
- I will be your God; you will be my people
Fourth, the promises in Scripture point to Christ, more than I knew. Yes, the hints are often cryptic, or slender. But all the way through, God is paving the way for the revelation of His Son. How dark it must be to read the Old Testament without the knowledge or anticipation of the coming Christ! And yet how hopeful it is to see Him on page after page!
- whereas the Old Covenant exposed our deepest rebellions and wounds, the New Covenant heals and forgives that which we could not do ourselves
- there is cause for hope; reason to be joyful
Finally, for the purposes of this little column, I have found that we are to be people of the promise. Yes, the promises are plural, and yet their fulfillment is singular. The promises of God are fulfilled in Christ. In Him we find and know and practice the wisdom of God. In Him we receive and live out the righteousness of God. Our holiness is dependent directly on Him. Our whole redemption, our identity, is bound up with Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30).
- Christ is not an add-on, an extra topping on our ice cream. He is not an accessory to our outfit. He is the heart-beat; the life-spring. (Colossians 3:1-4)