Blue Flower

Drawing near to the end of another year, we think of past events but, like Janus, the imaginary Roman god of doorposts, we also look forward into the year ahead. We even have a custom of making new year resolutions, which may be worthy in themselves, but are often short lived.

Long term promises are a different matter: marriage, commitment to long term relationships, changing jobs, moving home - life changing issues.
Looking outside our immediate circle, there are promises being made on our behalf in the wider world. How do we deal with these? Have we the knowledge or the interest to understand the wider issues that affect our lives?
Perhaps we need to step back a few paces and define the meaning of promise. The Oxford Dictionary gives us…
       A declaration or assurance that one will do something or that a particular thing will happen.
Or again…
       Give good grounds for expecting a particular occurrence.
So, promises are made to indicate truths and certainties.
As Bible readers and students, we trust the word of God so let’s turn to its pages for further information and advice. The Bible is full of promises – the scholars tell us well over 7000. So where can we start?
I have chosen two that are very important in predicting future events, one from the Old Testament and one from that was made in the Old Testament but fulfilled in the New. Each is highly significant and each concerns a birth that would change the history of God’s people. The first is summarised here in the New Testament…
Hebrews 11:8-19.
By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable. These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city. By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.
Promises were made to Abraham and Sarah - they were told to move from Ur-of-the-Chaldees to Canaan where, under clear conditions, their offspring would inherit the land for ever. Hebrews refers to the original promise in Genesis 12:2-3, which reads…
…I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
Abraham was old, and Sarah was well past childbearing age, so she found it hard to believe that this promise could be kept. Yet, despite her doubts, their son, Isaac, was born to them in their old age and became the founder of the Jewish nation. The promise came from God, and it was fulfilled.

The second great promise of the Old Testament is recorded in Isaiah 7. Reading from verse 14…

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
In Matthew 1:22-23 this promise is echoed and declared fulfilled in the birth of Jesus…

Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
In the second chapter of his gospel, Luke expands the record of the birth of Jesus to include the angels heraldic message - he was born to be a saviour.

Luke 2:1-16
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

The events are celebrated every year at this time, although it’s not really the correct time of year, but we are wise to sit and think on what the angels sang…

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Here was another baby whose life would transform the world.

The promises of God are true and certain – even though they often reach far down the years. We’ve only spoken of two here and still have 7000 to go - a lifetime’s work of discovery. How might they influence our lives? [VS]