by Phil McMillion
A promise is a pledge or an assurance that someone will do as he has said, or will keep his word.
The concept of promise is a powerful idea in both the Old and New Testaments. The most important promises are those given by God to the people of faith. These promises are meaningful because they show that God’s word is dependable. The promise of God gives assurance that God will do what he says.
Even though promise is an important concept in the Old Testament, there is not one special term that is used to convey this idea. The most common terms are simply “word,” “speech,” and “oath.” The fact there is not one unique word for “promise” is significant. When God speaks, or gives his word, that word is reliable. God’s word is always trustworthy. God does not have to employ some special type of speech to make his word dependable. God is faithful to keep his promises simply because of who God is and because it is his nature to be truthful and honest.
When God speaks to Abraham in Genesis 12 and says, “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you,” God will be true to his word. In Genesis 18:19, God says that he will indeed do what he has promised. Genesis 17:16 states that God will give Sarah a son. Genesis 21:1 shows that God visited Sarah and gave her a son exactly as he had promised. In each case, when God gives his word, that is his promise, and he will keep it.
God’s promise to the patriarchs is also the basis for giving the promised land to Israel as in Exodus 12:25; 32:13. The Book of Deuteronomy refers over and over to the promises that God made to the patriarchs as the basis for guiding the people into the land, defeating their enemies, and making them successful in the land. Deuteronomy 6:3 affirms the promise that it will go well in the land. In Deuteronomy 9:3-5, God confirms that he will defeat their enemies. In Deuteronomy 15:6, God will bless them just as he had promised. God’s promise sustained them through the wilderness and assured them that God would be with them in the new land.
Generations later when David was anointed to lead God’s people, he was also sustained by God’s promise. In 2 Samuel 3:18-19, God promised that he would deliver the people by the hand of David. In 2 Samuel 7:21, David confesses that he has been successful because God has kept his promise.
God also promised to be with Solomon and those who came after David in 1 Kings 2:24. If they would remain faithful to the Lord, then God would honor his promise to them. Psalm 18:2 states that God’s promise has proven true. The people can reply on the Lord as their sheild and protection. Psalm 119 contains many references to the promise of God. In Psalm 119:41, God’s steadfast love and salvation are a part of God’s promise. In verse 50, God’s promise gives life.
The prophets also contain references to God’s promise. In Haggai 2:5, even after the return Exile, God still cares for the people because of the promise he made to the patriarchs. Throughout the Old Testament, the promise of God shows Israel that the Lord cares for them, and that God’s word is sure and certain.
In the New Testament, Paul in Romans 9:4 refers to the promises God made the patriarchs, but in 2 Corinthians 1:20 all those promises find their completion in Jesus Christ. It is the work of Christ that confirms the promises made by God throughout the scriptures. Hebrews 11:39 also shows Christ as the fulfillment of all the promises of God.
The promises in the Old Testament function like signpost that are constantly pointing to the future. God does fulfill his promises, but they also point ahead to the fact that there is still more to come. God is at work, but that work is not complete. In Christ, God’s work reaches a new level of fulfillment, but even that is not the end. Only when Christ returns, will the final promise be fulfilled. When Christ comes again, then the promises will be brought to their final completion. Revelation 21 gives a beautiful picture of the end of evil and suffering, and of the blessings that God has for those who are faithful to the end. This is the fulfillment of all the promises that God makes throughout scripture.
The promises to the patriarchs, to Moses, David, and the prophets, and apostles all come to their conclusion here. God does show that he is faithful and turstworthy. Throughout the Bible, God’s promises point ahead to God’s continuing work, and the fulfillment of those promises show that God is true to his word.