A good friend of mine told me about his visit with a dying woman. After some preliminary conversation, Art asked her about the condition of her soul. He mentioned that she would soon see the face of God. What would she say if God were to ask her why he should let her into heaven? Her response was, “Because you promised.” I have thought about the beauty of her answer. She was trusting that God would do what he promised he would do. Not only was it sufficient for her to trust in the promises of God, but that same promise is sufficient for all his children.
The promises of God have sustained his children throughout the years. We can go back all the way to the Garden of Eden and hear the first promise given to Eve, the protoevangelium (first gospel). In Genesis 3:15 we read the first words of comfort given to a grief-stricken couple. Having just experienced their sin for the first time, along with the judgment of death because of it, they now heard good news. God promised a Saviour.
God would continue with this promise to Adam and Eve. He would expand this promise to Abraham, telling him that this news meant that the nations of the world would be blessed.
God would continue his promises to the people of Israel. As they were led through bondage into freedom, not only would he sustain them, but he would forgive them as they looked forward to the promised Messiah. Throughout the Old Testament, the prophets were given further revelations of God’s promise. As his people lived under his promise, their hope was in the faithful God who keeps his Word.
During Christmas time, we hear the voices of the angels praising God and declaring peace on earth, for the Saviour is born. I find I need to read the words of Simeon, when he held the Christ Child in his arms. He had been promised by the Holy Spirit that he would behold the Messiah before he died. Now he was holding the Saviour. Imagine his sense of wonder and awe. He expressed for many the culmination of the hope, as he stated with joy: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32). God is faithful. He did as he promised, and the Saviour was born.
A little boy had attended a Christmas Eve service. He became enamoured with the Christ Child in the manger. That night he dreamed that he was in the presence of the Christ Child. In adoring love, the little boy offered the Christ Child his new ball and glove, but the Christ Child told him that he, Jesus, was the giver of all good gifts. So the little boy promised that he would give his devotion as a present to him, but Jesus said that the boy’s devotion was actually a gift from him. The little boy said he would give Jesus his heart, but Jesus said that even his heart was a gift, as Christ would take his heart of stone and give him a heart of flesh. Finally the little boy asked Jesus, “Is there anything I can bring to you that I didn’t receive from you?” Jesus said, “Bring me your sins. You did not receive them from me. Come and confess your sins, and I promise that I will forgive you.” The little boy said, “My sins? You want my sins?” And the Christ Child said, “Yes, that is why I came.”
If you look just behind the stable, you will see a tree growing that will eventually become a cross. For the Saviour who was born had come to die, that we would be forgiven.
The promise given to Adam and Eve would be fulfilled with the coming of Jesus Christ. The promise would be fulfilled as Jesus died on the cross. Satan’s head would be crushed (see Genesis 3:15). The temple curtain would be torn in two. The barrier of sin that separated us from a holy God would be torn down, just as God’s promise stated. Jesus would be raised from the dead, just as he promised. And we too, as we trust in his promise, will rise with him.
A verse from Hark! The Herald Angels Sing declares:
Come, Desire of Nations, come,
Fix in us Thy humble home.
Rise the woman’s conquering Seed, Bruise in us the serpent’s head.
Adam’s likeness now efface,
Stamp Thine image in its place,
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love,
Hark, the herald angels sing,
Glory to the newborn King.
Christ came and fulfilled his promise to us. With confidence we can state this promise as our hope in Christ. Why should God let us into his kingdom? Christ has paid the price for all our sin, he has redeemed us in his blood, and we are set free. Why should God let us in his kingdom? Because he has promised.
Rev. Jon Overland is President of the Church of the Lutheran Brethren Canada and serves as pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in Okotoks, Alberta.