This is God’s word. This is God’s promise. So when a brother is killed by thieves with a weapon – what does it mean? Does it mean the man was not a brother after all? Or does it mean that God’s promise has failed?
God makes many promises in the Bible.
• Some he has already kept. He promised Abraham a son. Abraham’s wife gave birth to a son.
• Some promises He is keeping now. He promised Abraham to bless people of all nations. Today, people of all nations are being blessed through Jesus.
• Some promises God will keep in the future. He promises a future with no more death or mourning or crying or pain. We live in hope for that future.
How can we tell which kind a promise is? How can we tell if it is a promise for us now? Other parts of the Bible tell us. We read God’s promise of a son to Abraham in Genesis 17. We read the promise kept in Genesis 21. We read the promise of blessing to all nations in Genesis 12. Galatians 3 tells us that the promise is coming true for all who trust Jesus. The Bible interprets the Bible. That is why we need to read our Bibles and be taught by teachers who are careful to read it well.
Which kind of promise is Isaiah 54:17? Already kept, being kept now or to be kept in the future?
In Isaiah 54:11-17, God is speaking to the Old Testament people about the future for Jerusalem. It is described in beautiful, lavish terms. This is the situation when God’s people will enjoy safety and peace and no weapon will prevail against them. God repeats this promise about Jerusalem when he talks of the new creation at the end of Revelation 21. It is still in the future for us. In this life, we are not safe from weapons. In Acts, we read that Stephen is killed by stoning (chapter 7) and James executed with a sword (chapter 12). God’s promise about safety from weapons will only be kept in the new creation, with the New Jerusalem.
What do we do when God makes promises?
Promises ask us to trust the person making the promise and act on our trust. If you say you will meet me at church at 10 a.m., I show that I trust you by turning up at 10 a.m. If I say I trust you but just sit at home saying to myself, they said they would be there, do I really trust you? It is the same with God’s promises. God promises to forgive those who confess they are sinners. I show I trust him if I confess I am a sinner and ask for forgiveness. If I say I trust him but just say to myself, ‘he forgives’ but never confess and never ask forgiveness, do I really trust him?
God has not promised protection from physical enemies in this life. We should take sensible precautions, we lock our doors at night, as far as possible, we seek to live at peace with all people, but he does not promise we will always be safe.
But God has promised protection from spiritual enemies, from Satan. ‘Resist the devil and he will flee from you’ (James 4:7). This is a promise of God. But how do we resist? How do show we trust God’s way of protection? The Bible explains the Bible: ‘Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes’ (Ephesians 6:10). How do show we trust God? By using God’s defences. The devil’s language is lies. We stay safe by hearing and speaking the truth from God. The devil accuses. We stay safe by trusting that Jesus has dealt with our guilt. The devil sows discord and division. We stay safe by welcoming other sinners who are forgiven like us.