LOOKOUT 3.1.20
By Alan Dowd

Our days, our lives, our world are full of broken promises: the parent who keeps promising to make it to the next recital, the next ballgame, the next birthday party; the spouse who keeps making the same mistake after promising to change; the boss who promises a raise next quarter or next year; the employee who promises to do better on the next project; the volunteer who promises to pitch in at the soup kitchen but instead goes to the big game; the politician who promises a better tomorrow in exchange for your vote; the commercials that promise to make you feel better and look better; the mechanic who promises to have your car fixed by tomorrow; the person in the mirror who promises to stop gossiping or lusting or lying or exploding in anger or eating too much or caring too little.

It stands to reason that a broken world made up of broken people would be full of broken promises. But the good news is that God is not like us. “As the heavens are higher than the earth,” God explains, “so are my ways higher than your ways.”[i]God—unlike us—keeps His promises. That should give us hope.

From beginning to end, the Bible is a book of promises. One study concludes that there are 7,487 promises made by God to mankind in the Bible.[ii]

God the Father promised eternal consequences if Adam and Eve ate from the tree—and there were. He promised Abraham and Sarah a miracle child—and He gave them Isaac. He promised Pharaoh there would be a terrible penalty for his hard-heartedness—and there was. He promised deliverance to His people—and it came through Moses.

God promised His people “a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey”—and Joshua led them into “the Promised Land.”

Isaiah’s prophecy about the Messiah’s miraculous birth and the mystery of “God with us” was a promise.[iii]Put another way, Jesus Himself is a promise kept—the very confirmation of “promises made to the patriarchs,” according to Paul.[iv]

Indeed, the “promise and fulfillment in the birth narrative of Luke's Gospel,” argues author-theologian Victor Knowles, “should make believers of us all.” He cites God’s promises—as conveyed by Gabriel and other angels—to Elizabeth and Zechariah about John; to Mary and Joseph about the miraculous conception and life of Jesus; and to the shepherds about the Messiah’s birthplace and mission.[v]

God the Son made promises to Jairus about a lifeless daughter, Martha about her buried brother, a Roman centurion about his ailing servant—and He made good on those promises with miracle healings. That’s just a partial list of promises kept. The Gospels record at least 80 instances when Jesus begins a statement with the promise, “I tell you the truth…” Paul would describe the Gospel itself as promise kept: “The Gospel of God” was “promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy scriptures.”[vi]

Jesus promised His followers that they would “be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” This must have sounded impossibly fantastic to that ragtag collection of Judean fishermen. Yet that’s exactly what came to pass. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, they shared the Good News in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, and across the Roman world. The generations that followed carried the Good News even further—just as Jesus had promised.

We are witnessing the fulfillment of this promise in our own day and age. Billy Graham, as just one example, witnessed to 100 million souls on six continents—in person. Thanks to satellite television, his ministry reached two billion people globally.[vii]And his is just one of many ministries with a passion for global evangelism. Consider the Jesus Film Project (JFP), which has distributed the Gospel of Luke in video form to every country on earth. The video has been translated into hundreds of languages. JFP estimates more than six billion viewings worldwide since 1979. “As a result,” according to JFP, “more than 200 million people have indicated decisions to accept Christ as their personal Savior and Lord.”

This global sharing of the Gospel—and acceptance of the Gospel by people of every tribe and tongue—is just another reminder that God keeps His promises. “The remnant of Jacob will be in the midst of many peoples,” as God promised through the prophet Micah. And today, the remnant is indeed sprinkled around the world.

Even so, the time it has taken God to fulfill this promise reminds us His promises aren’t made good according to our schedules. Some 1,500 years would pass between when Moses wrote about the Passover lamb and when Jesus revealed Himself as the Lamb of God. [viii]Israel waited 700 years between the time Isaiah shared God’s promises about the Messiah and that moment He was born in a Bethlehem barn.

Moreover, Jesus promised that He would return, but we are still waiting. He promised to wipe away every tear, but that day has yet not arrived. As Philip Yancey writes in The Jesus I Never Knew, “What the disciples experienced in small scale—three days in grief over one man who died on a cross—we now live through on cosmic scale. Human history grinds on, between the time of promise and fulfillment.”[ix]

In the interim, as we wait for God to keep that promise, we should celebrate and marvel at His greatest promise fulfilled to date.

That promise is captured in the final words of Jesus on the cross: “It is finished.” The Gospel writers used the Greek word tetelestai here to convey the notion that a debt had been paid in full—the sin debt piled up by the patriarchs and prostitutes and priests, King David and Queen Esther, tax collectors and teachers of the Law, the rich young ruler and the woman at the well, the thieves and soldiers at Golgotha, Peter the proud, Thomas the doubter, Judas the betrayer, Caiaphas and Pilate, you and me. That’s right: God has made promises to you and me.

If you’re reading this, you have heard the Good News about Jesus. And the Good News, according to Paul, is “what God promised our ancestors” and “fulfilled for us.” That’s Jesus.

Perhaps you have accepted Him into your heart. If so, you know He is a God of His word—the God of Promises Kept. And if not, hold on to the promises He offers all seekers, doubters and believers:

·        In Deuteronomy 4, “You will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

·        In Jeremiah 29, “You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.”

·        In John 5, “Whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not be condemned.”

·        In Galatians, we are called “children of promise”—a promise made some 4,000 years ago.

God has proven again and again that He keeps His word. He has given us every reason to believe—and every reason to trust that He will do precisely what He has promised to do.

[i] Isaiah 55



[iv] Romans 15:7-8.


[vi] Romans 1

[vii] Barry M. Horstman, “Man with a mission,” Cincinnati Post, www.cincinnati.com/billygraham/p_man.html.


[ix] Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew, p.275.