9 But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner.
10 For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end,
12 that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
It’s not like God not to keep a promise. We mere mortals may sign contracts, swear oaths, and make casual promises, but we’re not anywhere near as faithful as God. We forget things–birthdays, children’s appointments, picking up groceries–and we generally don’t place as high a priority on staying true to our word as God does. Be honest: does your promise to someone often and unspokenly become contingent upon their kindness to you? If such were the case with God, then NONE of us would ever know the things God has promised us. We can therefore thank God that His promise and His oath to keep that promise stand fast even when we do not. (Hebrews 6:17-18)
This morning I was quite accidentally led to Genesis chapter 22, wherein God takes that oath before Abraham.
15 Then the Angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time out of heaven,
16 and said: “By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son–
17 “blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies.
18 “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”
We are a fickle race, and we swear by God’s name and upon His Holy Bible quite often–even though we have been told not to. (Matthew 5:33-37) We even swear upon others’ lives (or graves), or we swear by “all that’s holy,” as if those things will keep us true to our word. But we slip, we slide, we change our minds, we forget, we put conditions on our oaths, and before too long we have gone back on our word and profaned the thing by which we had sworn. But God keeps His word and He keeps His promise, because God cannot lie, and God has sworn by Himself–the great and immovable “I AM”–that He will bless us.
But salvation is just the beginning of the blessing. If we look back to Genesis again, we see that Abraham had approached Mount Moriah with full confidence that God would provide whatever it might take to save Isaac from the sacrifice God Himself had commanded. And because Abraham acted in such faith, because Abraham was obedient and did not turn back, God swore by Himself to bless the whole world through Abraham’s seed–that seed being those who follow in the old patriarch’s footsteps of obedience and faith. (Romans 4)
God didn’t simply reward Abraham’s faith with a ram for the sacrifice. That alone would probably have made Abraham happy. To be honest, I think a lot of us would be happy if God managed to just pull our sorry selves out of the fire. (Jude 22-23) But for the Almighty and Everlasting God, that is not enough. The Lord not only saved Isaac from certain death–and thus saved the line of Abraham and Sarah’s family–but He also promised Abraham that there was more to come. And the same is true for you and me.
For God is not satisfied merely to save us from the death due to us because of our sin. He also has chosen to bless us with His grace, to bestow upon us a portion of His glory, to give us the eternal life that only He truly knows. Saved from death and raised to life: that is the promise we have through Christ Jesus.
Look again at Genesis 22:18:
“In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”
The blessing comes from obedience to God’s Word. God knows our faith and obedience, and He knows how we bless His name and perform acts of lovingkindness. He knows when we persevere–and He also sees when we get lazy in our faith. The reward is for those to cling to the hope of Christ and continue to live a life of love–love for God and love for our fellow man.
The writer of Hebrews exhorts us to “imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (v.12) Through persistent faith, through hanging onto the anchor of hope we have in heaven, we can rest assured that the promise is ours, that God will not forget us.
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
We must believe in the promise, believe that there is something beyond salvation itself. Peter tells us, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) God’s promise is salvation and eternal life, and we can realize that promise through repentance and obedience, through faith and love. Like the ram in the thicket, Christ has been provided as the sacrifice for our sins, and so we now can know the blessing of Abraham–not only that we have been saved from death but that we have been granted eternal life and glory.
As I listen to the rain falling outside this morning, I am reminded of how patient and longsuffering God truly is. Although He knew that the world would one day once again slide into immorality and wickedness, God made a covenant with Noah never to destroy the earth by flood again. (Genesis 9:12-15) And although some of Noah’s descendants often rebelled against God, although some of Abraham’s descendants did not love God, although the Israelites often persecuted God’s prophets, although the people of Jerusalem cried “Crucify Him,” God has still kept that covenant promise. And through Jesus, God is keeping the promise He made to Abraham.
Today, let us not reflect merely upon the promise of salvation, but upon the “things that accompany salvation”: the hope of eternal life and glory with God. Let us keep these things in mind as fuel for our faith, as energy and purpose for continued lives of obedience to God. It is through obeying the voice of God that Abraham obtained that promise from God. Our duty now is to also obey the Word of God. We may never keep any oath we have ever sworn, and we may forget promises we have made, but God will not forget the promise and the oath that He has made through Jesus His Son. That is the gospel to which we now cling, the hope that draws us ever closer to our Father in heaven, and it is the one oath we know that will never be broken.
Holy Father, blessed be Your name. It still amazes me, Lord God, that You are so faithful to me even when I fail, even when my flesh shows how truly weak I am. Each time I fall, I find You there–find You waiting not only to put me back on my feet but also to give me strength not to fall again. You are my strength and my song, my salvation and my shield, my Rock and my Redeemer. And because Your love is so great and unchanging, I cling to the hope of Your continued blessing. Amen.