Between the Promise and the Fulfillment

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Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Genesis 12:1-3

Abram received an incredible promise from God, one that would affect not just his own family but families for generations to come. His offspring (as yet unseen) would become a people who would one day introduce the Savior to the world. Through Abram, all people would be blessed.

And Abram trusted God. “And he went out,” as the author of Hebrews writes, “not knowing where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8). We remember Abram as a man of great faith, and rightly so. Abram’s faith becomes a key component of Paul’s argument in Romans, showing righteousness to be counted to people on the basis of God’s promise rather than on the basis of human accomplishment (Romans 4). Abram sets a positive example for us in many respects. But we would do well to remember that he remains a human like us.

Just a few verses later, we see him seemingly forget the promises of God. When he and his wife entered Egypt, he feared that the Egyptians would recognize his wife’s beauty and would kill him to have her, so he devised a lie. Though God promised to bless him, to make him a great nation, and to lead him, Abram seemed to forget such promises in the face of danger. Between the promise and the fulfillment stood a period of testing, a time when fear entered the picture and challenged the faith of the servant.

Abram’s story here isn’t unique. He’d be tested again, both in the waiting between the promise of Isaac and Isaac’s birth as well as in the call to sacrifice Isaac, the child of promise, on the mountain in Moriah. And Abram isn’t alone in his experiences. The people of Israel (descendants of Abram) react in terror at the approach of the Egyptian army after being saved by God from slavery through mighty deeds which show Egypt to be powerless before the Almighty. Elijah despairs at Jezebel’s threats almost immediately after watching God prove himself as sovereign over the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18-19). Throughout Scripture, God’s people see him move, hear his promises, and then tremble before temporary challenges.

We aren’t that different from them. We too have promises of God. He promises to provide for our needs as we seek first his kingdom and righteousness, leaving us no reason to worry (Matthew 6:25-34). “I am with you always,” says Jesus, “even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Paul writes, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Further, we know that nothing, “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). We can trust that “he who began a good work in you will bring it completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). We can count our trials as joy because God is using them for our growth, and we can ask God for wisdom in faith that he will give it (James 1:2-8). We know he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). We know he forgives us (1 John 1:9).

We have all these promises and more in the Bible, truths recorded for our faith. And though some promises are for the present moment, many pertain to the future, to the enduring hold of God upon his people. This means that we don’t always see how he’ll fulfill his promises to us, and we can be tempted to forget the unseen God before seen threats. We fear for our safety when we observe the dangers around us. We worry in the face of uncertainties. We fret when we feel our weaknesses. In short, we struggle to live in faith in spite of the ways we’ve seen God move.

I don’t do this well. I doubt far more often than I trust. Trials tend to show my weakness of faith rather than my strength. But I want to get better at this. God is trustworthy, and he deserves more credit than we often give him. So I pray that we would fear and love him more than we fear and love anything else. I pray our certainty of his goodness would remain in every circumstance. And I pray that as we walk between the promise and the fulfillment, we would walk by faith and not by sight. May he be pleased by our faith in him.


Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Thank to Richard for his suggestions for points in today’s post.

The Christian and Social Media: Christ-Like Etiquette

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James encourages Christians to “be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). A brief scroll through the average believer’s social media feed may suggest that we as Christ followers struggle to apply James’s teaching. We can be quick to anger when we read something disagreeable, quick to speak our mind on the matter, and slow to truly hear any alternate or opposing position. Our passions appear to be very much at war within the body (James 4:1), and the casualties of war extend beyond the church to the lost world watching us fight.

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The Psychology of Demons

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I watched The Exorcist in high school. While I watched movies often in those days, especially action/adventure movies and comedies, I hadn’t yet explored much in the realm of horror. The movie left an impression on me that remains to this day, though not because the movie itself scared me. No, I remember The Exorcist because, around the viewing of the film, I was told stories of real life events that inspired parts of the story. The story of The Exorcist forced me to recognize the reality of spiritual warfare, the existence of actual demons. The film reminded me that we face a very real, very evil enemy.

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The Example

Inspired by John 13


Creator of the universe
Inhabiting our little earth
Fulfilling ev’ry holy verse
The highest name of heaven’s worth
His glory he has laid aside
To grant a gaze to sinners’ eyes
The Savior stooped to now abide
To die for justice and to rise
He has the right to claim the throne
He need not face our fallen throes
But still he comes to call his own
To bear the cross his Father chose
His place as Lord is clearly seen
His praises, many men repeat
And yet he comes to make us clean
Our God is washing dirty feet
Humility in sacrifice
Messiah meeting man in plight
Our God has paid the highest price
Salvation springs from dying Light
His victory is now proclaimed
Exalted over ev’ry name
His standard, too, has now been framed
“Go now,” He says, “And do the same.”

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Upon the Sea

My life is not what I had thought ‘twould be
When I thought future thoughts in yesteryear.
I saw as if upon a serene sea,
And set the sail with very little fear.
In hope, I left to follow heaven’s Way,
Believing that the path I saw was set;
But storms of life began to cloud the day
Until the plan I knew I did forget.
So have I learned to let the rudder keep
Within the hand of One who knows the course:
The Savior and the Shepherd of the sheep,
He is the destination and the source.
I need not fear though faced with darkest night.
By grace I sail by faith and not by sight.

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Awestruck

How can eternity be fit into
A heart wrapped up in temporality?
Can lying lips do justice to the True?
The finite comprehend infinity?
We quake before the whispers of his ways.
Who then could stand before his thund’rous might?
This God who is, the all-consuming blaze –
He dwelleth unapproachable in light.
And yet, in Christ, the Maker made a way
For mortal man to know immortal love.
And Beauty – more than words could ever say –
Became the Revelation from above.
Communion takes the place of death in sin
As God makes blinded eyes to see again.