The Promises of God

“[God said] I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.’ 11But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’ 12He said, ‘I will be with you;…”               (Exodus 3:11-12)
“[The Lord said to Joshua] 5No one shall be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. 6Be strong and courageous; for you shall put this people in possession of the land that I swore to their ancestors to give them.” (Joshua 1:5-6)
“… do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”  (Isaiah 41:9-10)
“Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, just as you have said.” (Amos 5:14)
“And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:20)
“16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate,* to be with you for ever. 17This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in* you.” (john 14:16-17)
When I was in college I began a quest to know God. I was encouraged by a classmate who was involved with an evangelical group which was very bible based. My NIV bible has a section at the back called “Promises from the bible”. It lists promises of love, forgiveness, salvation, the Holy Spirit, everlasting life, peace, and many more. I even memorized a few of those promises of scripture in my early years (For God so loved the world…)
However, life seemed to offer a different story than those biblical promises offered to me. Things often went wrong or I failed to follow God’s will or I got sick or sad or hurt. It seemed that following God did not protect me from being subject to life’s indignities and disappointments. So what’s the point of following God if God is not going to protect me from harm and pain and loss?
Seminary offered a broader picture of the biblical tradition which we have inherited. The stories of scripture come from so many different voices and places and times. Where are the ongoing themes of the God revealed in scripture?
One theme is the promise of presence. Again and again we hear God promise to be with us. The Israelites were different in their worship because they worshipped a God who went with them. While other cultures worshipped gods who were connected to a particular region or human need, the God of the Israelites went with them wherever they traveled. For a time the ark of the covenant was the symbol of God’s presence for them, and then later the temple in Jerusalem, but the ark was lost and the temple destroyed. Yet, God still went with the people of Israel, and Jesus showed us just how much this God wants to be with us – so much so that one of the names of our savior is “Immanuel” which means “God with us.”
This promise of presence is manifested most decidedly in the Incarnation. Jesus, in Matthew’s gospel, ends with the words, “I will be with you always…”
That is a promise of God that is worth remembering. God is with us. In those times of confusion and chaos, pain and loss, God is with us. In those times of great joy and celebration, God is with us. When we are lost and searching, God is with us. When we are traveling the road of faith and growing in grace, God is with us. And knowing that we are never alone gives us hope and strength to go on – living, loving and serving in Jesus’ name.

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