Christianity is a religion based on God’s promises. God promised a Savior, and through him God has promised forgiveness, he has promised his peace and his presence, and he has promised us eternal life.
But God has left us many more promises in the Bible, the question is whether all of them are for us, literally, or if they have another purpose.
Because there are Christians who appropriate all the promises, regardless of context or conditions, and start demanding their fulfillment from God.
And it makes me very sad.
Because they pretend to go through life wanting to succeed in everything they undertake, not to have the slightest incident and have all their adversaries disappear in the blink of an eye.
Para ello toman la Palabra de Dios y buscan versículos con promesas como las siguientes:
- I have delivered to you, as I said to Moses, every place whereon the sole of your foot shall tread (Joshua 1:3).
- No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not leave you, nor forsake you (Joshua 1:5).
- Theangel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, And defends them (Psalm 34:7).
- No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and you shall condemn every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the inheritance of the servants of the LORD, and their salvation shall come from me, says the LORD (Isaiah 54:17).
- Noneof the diseases that I sent upon the Egyptians will I send upon you; for I am the LORD your healer (Exodus 15:26).
We could go on listing God’s promises in the Bible that speak to us about all these issues. Now, are all promises always binding on every believer? Well, yes and no.
All of God’s promises are within a context
The first thing to keep in mind is that all promises are in context. This means that some of these promises were specific to a particular time or person, while other promises may be general.
And we must not confuse them.
There are general promises, such as “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28), which are applicable to all human beings at all times. It is an open-ended and unlimited promise.
But when God told Joshua that “I have delivered to you, as I said to Moses, every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon”, we are dealing with a promise for a specific time and place. It is inapplicable to any other time and place.
For this reason, it is useless to walk the streets and mountains demanding the fulfillment of this promise. And I have seen a lot of this, of course to no avail.
For if God does not reveal His express desire for these specific promises to come true for you, it simply will not be.
But if God promises something specific for you, or expresses the relevance of such a promise for our time and place, then it will happen.
Another much misused promise is also in this passage from Joshua:
- Only be strong and of good courage, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law which Moses my servant commanded thee; turn not aside from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper in all that thou doest. This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth, but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success (Joshua 1:7-8).
According to the Jews themselves, if you were doing well in life, it was because you were fulfilling God’s law, and if you were doing badly, it was because you were a scoundrel. The same applies today to the misnamed prosperity theology.
According to this, as long as you are a “holy man” or a “holy woman” you can undertake any business or activity and you will be a successful businessman or businesswoman, even if you do not have the slightest idea of what you have in your hands.
But if economic success were proof of the spirituality of the believers, then Jesus was the most unworthy sinner, because he had nowhere to lay his head; when he organized an evangelistic campaign he did not even have enough to pay for the catering, and that he used a given perfume, instead of selling it to get cash, was seen by the treasurer as a waste.
This promise, like others such as “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4), are promises with a context.
In Joshua’s case the promise referred to his calling to be Moses’ successor in the task of conquering the Promised Land. It had no other scope. In fact, some of the peace agreements he signed on his own were ruinous.
In the case of the Psalm, David is speaking for someone who is anxious to achieve economic prosperity, and admonishes him by telling him to be patient, to seek God’s will for his life, to walk within that will, to spend time in God’s presence.
And what happens when you live in God’s will? For your desires will not have a selfish or material content.
Can you imagine Peter, John and James on the mount of transfiguration, looking at Jesus, Moses and Elijah and thinking: “What a glorious moment! By the way Jesus, let’s see if you can help me negotiate with a supplier to get a better price”?
When you are delighting in God the material passes to second place and, in its place, you will seek the spiritual, what is good and necessary for the Gospel or for the brethren, you will seek to fulfill the will of God and, if you are faithful, God will make those desires be fulfilled.
To be continued… (see the second part)
Cover image by Eran Menashri