God’s Promises Tested (#25)

O Saviour Christ, Thou too art man;
Thou hast been troubled, tempted, tried;
Thy kind but searching glance can scan
The very wounds that shame would hide.
Henry Twells

“He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and
“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” (Luke 4:10-11, ESV)

The devil, if he cannot get us to disregard God’s promises, would have us abuse them. We are in no danger of thinking too much of these promises; we are only in danger of making them say what they have never said—as if the faithful man will never so much as stub his toe.

I said previously that anything can be justified in the name of religion—of course, what I mean is false religion, or religion without the cross. I recently read a story of a tribe who sacrificed all of their cattle during wartime because a seer had received an apocalyptic prophecy of redemption. They sold the skins of hundreds of cows, wasted the meat as a sacrifice, and awaited their redemption. Low estimates say that twenty-five thousand of them died. Rather than strengthening them in their weakness, their faith weakened them in their strength.

Notice the difference between how Satan quotes Scripture and how Jesus quotes it. Jesus takes God’s commands as marching orders; Satan takes God’s promises, and turns them upside down. There is a difference between promises and commands. Not every promise can be turned into guidance.

God’s promises are hammered out on the anvil of life. As we trust and obey, we find them to be true. The proof is something that happens in the course of following God’s precepts. Testing is the opposite of trusting.

We must ask: What is the purpose of God’s promises? His commands give us a frame within which to live; his promises give us the mindset. We can continue living by God’s commands, because of his promises. Faith in his promises empowers us to live in his commands.

The promises were not made to protect us from all harm, as if they were a magic charm that we could wield in danger. They were made to ensure us of God’s care and love even when we face harm.

Daniel’s three friends gave Nebuchadnezzar a few short words that showed that they were not testing God: “But if not.”

“Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us … and he will deliver us …  But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Dan. 3:17-18, ESV)

By these three little words, they expressed their heart of obedience. They knew that God’s promises did not keep believers from all pain. In fact, God’s commands often send us into persecution and spiritual battle.

When we obey, we find all that we know about God’s promises and character to be true and worthy of leaning our full weight on.

Father, we want to know your promises in all their power, not by testing them, but by living in obedience.

Amen.

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