Standing on the promise

If you grew up in church and sang out of a hymnal you may have read the above title as Standing on the Promises (plural). Remember that old gospel song? However, the singular word “promise” is not a typo.

There are many, many promises in the Bible. Not every promise is ours to claim, but some are meant for everybody.

I have chosen the very first promise in the Bible as the focus behind the title of my revised blogsite. (Standing on The Promise was also the working title of another book that I had begun to write a few years ago.)

Bible scholars have attempted to isolate the biblical concept or truth that unites the Bible. Some have suggested the word “covenant”. The Bible contains covenants that God made with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David as well as the New Covenant introduced in Jeremiah 31:31-34 and shared by Jesus with His disciples in the Upper Room. The New Covenant is also referred to by Paul and the author of Hebrews. So, an argument can be made that covenant is the unifying truth in the Bible.

Other scholars have suggested that “redemption” unites the Bible. Redemption by blood, beginning in the Garden of Eden, flows like a scarlet stream throughout the Bible.

“Promise” has also been offered as a theme that unites the Bible. The promise that God made to Abraham in Genesis 12 is repeated and expanded in chapters 15, 17 and 22. God’s promise to Abraham provides the framework for almost every major promise that follows in the Old Testament. In fact, God’s promises to Moses and David are anchored in His promise to make Abraham a great nation and to bless all nations through him.

However, I believe the promise recorded in Genesis 3:15 provides both the foundation and the focus behind every story recorded in the Old and New Testaments. I like to describe this promise as the thread that stitches every book in the Bible into one grand story—one holy book.

Let’s consider “promise” as one side of a coin that contains what is being promised. Flipping the coin over, there is a subjective response to the promise that has been made. If the promise has been made by someone who is trustworthy and also has the ability to keep their promise, the natural response is to experience hope and expectation. Biblical hope is not wishing on a star. Biblical hope is confidence that the God who has made the promise WILL keep His promise. That’s the kind of faith defined in Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Such confidence in God’s promises and His character is illustrated throughout Hebrews 11 by Old Testament people who chose to claim God’s promises.

As support for hope serving as the thread that stitches all the Bible stories into one, consider Romans 15:4. “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

Now, let’s consider the promise God made to Adam and Eve because it is still relevant today. It is one of those universal promises.

The first three chapters in Genesis set the stage for everything that follows. The Bible begins with a simple statement: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” That one sentence refutes atheism, polytheism and naturalism.

Genesis 1 and 2 answer the big questions like “Is there anybody out there? Does God really exist? What is God like? Can we know God? Who am I? Why am I here? Is there anything after this brief experience we call life?” In these chapters in Genesis we also discover that our first parents lived in paradise. Life was good. The most anticipated moment each day was the evening visit with their Creator- the protagonist throughout the biblical narrative.

That sets the stage for meeting the antagonist—Satan, the great serpent and enemy of God. His misquotations of God’s words seduced Eve to doubt God’s goodness and to disobey God’s command to not eat of the forbidden fruit. That decision changed everything and still does. Everything was broken. Ruined. Paradise was no more. New words entered their vocabulary. Words like guilt, shame, mistrust, alienation and death. Life was dark and hopeless. They were escorted out of Eden and forbidden to attempt to return. But God graciously gave them new words like grace, reconciliation and especially the word hope. God pronounced judgment upon the man, his wife and the serpent. Within these curses God also added a promise: The seed of the woman would ultimately crush the serpents head and the serpent would only bruise the seed of the woman.

That seed of the woman is Jesus Christ. His life capsulized by this description, “He went about doing good.” However, His cruel death on the cross and the burial of his lifeless body in a tomb seemed to be a deathblow. All hope seemed lost. Everything would remain forever broken.

But the best was yet to come. Jesus burst out of the tomb. No longer bound by grave clothes. The same Jesus, but in a new kind of body not bound by time or space. Death had been conquered forever! Evidence there truly is life after death.

Jesus’ promise that He would rise again was true after all. Hope bloomed anew.

Prior to returning to heaven, Jesus added another promise: “I will come again!” That is our blessed hope today. We wait with anticipation because He, who has made the promise is trustworthy and has proven Himself to be competent. He is the great promise keeper.

In the meantime, our world is filled with injustice, pain and inevitable death. Throughout history people of faith, who have clung to the promise that the seed of the woman would crush the serpent, have survived hardships, endured persecution and even faced martyrdom because they had hope. Today, the promise of Jesus’ return to rule with justice provides hope to sustain us through life’s hard times.

That is why the title, “Standing on The Promise.”