Fulfilling the Promise (12/2/2018)

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How many times have you heard someone say, “God keeps his promises!” when you’re wondering where God is as you go through a difficult time in life? Perhaps you’ve even spoken these words to someone else. While they can be very comforting, they force us to ask a thought-provoking question. What exactly does God promise he’ll do for us?

The Jews of the Old Testament had to wrestle with the same question during the time of Jeremiah. He prophesied in Judah from 626 B.C until around 586 B.C. During this period, the nation of Judah had turned from following God alone and was also worshipping other idols. This included sacrificing their own children to these pagan gods. Jeremiah continually warned the Jews to repent but they wouldn’t listen. They resented his prophesies so much that Jeremiah spend a lot of time in prison. As a result, the Lord sent foreign armies to besiege and eventually destroy Jerusalem.

In Jeremiah 33, Jeremiah offers some encouraging words in the midst of all the death and devastation. He prophesies that although God is bringing destruction upon them because of their sins, he will not abandon them. There will come a time in the future when God will keep every promise he made to Israel.

 Jeremiah 33:14-16 says, ‘The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah.
15 “‘In those days and at that time
I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line;
he will do what is just and right in the land.
16 In those days Judah will be saved
and Jerusalem will live in safety.
This is the name by which it will be called:
The LORD Our Righteous Savior.’

There are three important things in this passage we need to recognize. First, God is going to fulfill the promises he made to the people of Israel and Judah. Second, the fulfillment of those promises will come through a man. Verse 15 says, “he will do what is just and right in the land.” Third, Judah will live in safety and Jerusalem will be called “The LORD Our Righteous Savior.”

Since God said he’s going to fulfill his promises, we have to ask again, “What exactly did God promise he’ll do?” We need to go back to the very beginning – the book of Genesis – to answer this question. Genesis 1 & 2 tells us God created the world and placed the first man, Adam, and first woman, Eve, in the beautiful Garden of Eden. All of this was “very good” because there was no sin in the world. Creation was still pure. Adam and Eve only had one commandment from God which they needed to keep. “Don’t eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil” (Gen. 2:17).

Genesis 3 introduces us to another character, Satan, who came in the form of a serpent. He convinced Adam and Eve they should eat fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil so they could become like God. When they ate, sin entered creation and contaminated it. Death would now be the consequence of their actions. The world was no longer pure.

God knew what happened so he doled out punishments to all three of them. However, in the midst of this, he told Satan in Genesis 3:15 – “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

In this verse, God was saying there would always be hostility between Satan and humans, the offspring of Eve. However, God was going to raise up a God-man to redeem creation from the sin that had just been unleashed in it. Satan would strike this man’s heal (when he nailed him to the cross) but this man would crush his head (by overcoming death and freeing the world from sin.)

God began fulfilling this promise through Abraham and his descendants in Genesis 12. Abraham’s descendants became the Jewish nation, which included Israel, Judah and David. The rest of the Old Testament is God setting the stage for God-man’s arrival. Although it’s much more detailed than what’s been shared here in these few paragraphs, God’s promise is this: He will redeem creation from the consequences of sin.

How’s he going to do this? Through a man. This is the second thing he reminds the besieged Jews about in Jeremiah 33:15. “He will do what is just and right in the land.” Who is this man? We’re introduced to him in Luke. Luke 1:26-33 says, 26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

The one who will crush Satan’s head, the descendant of David who will sit on the throne, is arriving. He will overcome death and redeem people from the curse of sin. All we have to do to receive this is accept Jesus as our Savior, live according to his teachings and be obedient to the Holy Spirit that he places inside of us.

This is the time we now live in. The time of redemption. As we know from studying history, Judah and Jerusalem aren’t yet living in safety. That will happen when Jesus returns, completely destroys sin and rules from his throne in Jerusalem.

If you’re a person who’s accepted the salvation Jesus offers, please make sure you don’t do God the same way Stephanie, my wife, did me at the airport in Singapore. (I have her permission to share this story.)

She joined me on a trip to Vietnam and Cambodia that I had to take as part of my ministry training. We spent days visiting churches and pagan temples, visiting the torture facility as well as an execution site of the Khmer Rouge and talked with people who are working to rescue children out of the sex industry in Cambodia. Needless to say, it was exhausting physically as well as emotionally and mentally.

On the last day of the trip, we arose early and spend the day trying to process the trip. Then we went to the airport. We took off from Cambodia after dark and arrived in Singapore around 10 P.M. Our 22-hour flight back to New York would take off from there at midnight. Since we had a little extra time, several of us decided to go into the restroom, wash up and put on clean clothes for the long journey home. We walked down the hallway to the entrance of the restrooms. Stephanie and one of my classmates, Donna, went into the Ladies Room and I went into the Men’s Room to wash up and change clothes.

After I finished, I went back out into the hallway to wait on Stephanie and Donna. I waited. And waited. And waited. After about 20 minutes, I got concerned. I knew there was no way they could have finished before I did. They still had to be in there. What could be taking them so long? After 10 more minutes, I looked down the hallway and saw another classmate, Joel, headed towards me.

He walked up and said, “Stephanie sent me to look for you. She’s back at our gate.” “OK,” I thought. How in the world did she get past me? I walked back to the gate and saw Stephanie sitting in a chair. She looked at me and said, rather angrily, “Where were you? I’ve been waiting here for you.”

Now, let me stop here and remind all of us that we had already been moving all day, it was after 11 P.M. and we still had over 24 hours of travelling before we were going to see our bed. Neither one of us was in a lovey-dovey mood.

“What do you mean?” I shot back at her. “I was standing outside of the doors waiting for you and Donna to come out. How did you get past me?”

“Oh, she said. We went out the doors on the other side of the Ladies Room. We went into the other hallway and then we came back here.”

“And how in the world was I supposed to know that?” I asked. “When you go in one door, you’re supposed to come back out the same one unless you tell me something different.”

“Oh…..sorry,” she said nonchalantly. And then she turned away from me to talk to Donna, who was sitting on the other side of her.

The next few minutes between us were a little tense.

I was right where I was supposed to be. She went off in another direction and then got frustrated with me because I didn’t follow. How many times do we treat God the same way? He’s right where he says he will be. He keeps the promises he says he’ll keep. But we go off in a direction God never told us to go and then we get mad at him because he didn’t follow us.

God promised to redeem us and then walk with us through this life so we can enter his rest in the next life. He never promised us great wealth, health or an easy life. Neither did he promise to free us from the consequences of our sins. Yes, we’re redeemed from them. But we’re still accountable for our actions.

The Jews living in Jerusalem during the time of Jeremiah forgot this. They thought that because they were God’s chosen people, they could do whatever they wanted and God would look the other way. The opposite is true. As people redeemed by God, they were to live exemplary lives as a witness to the unsaved people around them. God expects the same from us today.

As we enter the Advent Season to celebrate the birth of our Savior, let’s take some time and rejoice that God kept his promise to creation. The curse of death is broken. We have salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.