Written by Dr. Sam Logan
Monday, 23 January 2012 00:00
Promises, promises, promises!
It seems that the Lord is constantly making promises to His people.
Back in the Dark Ages, when I was a young Christian, one of our most frequently-sung hymns was “Standing on the Promises.” I loved it and I still love it, even though I occasionally wondered if the better title might have been “Standing on the Promiser!”
A little over two years ago, I heard a superb presentation on the promises God made to His people in the prophecy of Ezekiel. The presenter was Dr. Erika Moore, Associate Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Trinity School for Ministry. She was speaking at the annual conference “Women in the Word: A Workshop,” sponsored by the World Reformed Fellowship ( http://www.wrfnet.org).
Erika went slowly through much of Ezekiel, focusing attention on the promises God made throughout that book and asking this fascinating question – “How many of Ezekiel’s original hearers or readers would ever have imagined exactly how God was going to KEEP this promise?” Over and over again, my own thought was – not one!
Take, for example, the marvelous prophetic promise in Ezekiel 47. This promise begins with these words: “Then, he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east . . .” And the promise ends with these words, “And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing.”
Who, in Ezekiel’s day, would possibly have guessed that God would keep that promise through the life and death and resurrection of His son Jesus? “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb, through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22: 1, 2).
[If you are interested, you may listen to Erika’s full presentation here – http://womenintheword.calvary-wg.org/2009/recordings2009.htm .]
Again I say (as Erika said) - not one of Ezekiel’s original hearers or readers would have imagined the full extent to which God would go in keeping that promise. If anything, it seems that God UNDERpromises and OVERdelivers!
It is somewhat easy for us, living more than 2500 years after Ezekiel, to get a sense of the scope of God’s fulfillment of His promises that even Ezekiel himself couldn’t imagine. After all, we have perspectives on the history of redemption that Ezekiel did not have.
But sometimes I wonder if we don’t “think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think.” I know that I am inclined to think that I now have a full and complete understanding of how God is going to keep His promises. But do I? Or am I going to be as surprised as I suspect Ezekiel will be when we both finally see what the Lord does?
The principle seems clear – God always does even more marvelously wonderful things than His people can even imagine! He never does less. He always does more!
If that is the principle, how then should we read the other promises in the New Testament (including those in Revelation 22)?
Sam Logan is Special Counsel to the President and Professor of Church History at Biblical Seminary and International Director of the World Reformed Fellowship. He is an ordained minister of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He is married to Susan and they have two sons and two grandsons. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/samuel-logan