Day 310

The Promises of God

Wisdom Psalm 119:161-168
New Testament Hebrews 6:13-7:10
Old Testament Ezekiel 7:1-9:11

Introduction

Billy Bray, born in 1794, was a miner from Cornwall. He was an alcoholic. He was always getting involved with fights and arguments at home. At the age of twenty-nine he encountered Jesus. He went home and told his wife, ‘You will never see me drunk again, by the help of the Lord.’ She never did.

His words, his tone of voice and his looks all had magnetic power. It was as if he was charged with divine electricity. Crowds of miners would come and hear him preach. Many were converted and there were some remarkable healings. He loved the Bible and said, ‘The promises of God are just as good as ready money any day.’

God is the God of promise. Faith involves trusting the promises of God. God makes a promise; faith believes it, hope anticipates it, patience quietly waits for it.

Wisdom

Psalm 119:161-168

ש Sin and Shin

  161 Rulers persecute me without cause,
   but my heart trembles at your word.
  162 I rejoice in your promise
   like one who finds great spoil.
  163 I hate and detest falsehood
   but I love your law.
  164 Seven times a day I praise you
   for your righteous laws.
  165 Great peace have those who love your law,
   and nothing can make them stumble.
  166 I wait for your salvation, Lord,
   and I follow your commands.
  167 I obey your statutes,
   for I love them greatly.
  168 I obey your precepts and your statutes,
   for all my ways are known to you.

Commentary

Find joy, satisfaction and peace in God’s promises

The psalmist says, ‘Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble’ (v.165). I remember one young atheist who came on Alpha speaking of the feeling of emptiness and a void in her life. What she noticed about Christians was that they had great peace. She recognised that this came from faith.

The last place many people would expect to find peace, satisfaction and joy is through the words of the Bible. Yet the psalmist says, ‘I rejoice in your promise like one who finds great spoil’ (v.162).

The writer describes the words of God using many different expressions. He speaks of ‘your word’ (v.161), ‘your law’ (vv.163,165), ‘your commands’ (v.166), ‘your statutes’ (vv.167,168) and ‘your precepts’ (v.168). But here he describes the word of God as ‘your promise’ (v.162).

The words of God are his promises to you. Discovering them is like discovering a great treasure trove. As you keep digging into it you will find more and more amazing and beautiful treasures. This leads the psalmist on to say, ‘Seven times a day I praise you’ (v.164).

Prayer

Lord, I praise you for the great treasures that are in your words. Please give me peace today as I trust in your promises.

New Testament

Hebrews 6:13-7:10

The Certainty of God’s Promise

13 When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, 14 saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.” 15 And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.

16 People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. 17 Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. 18 God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20 where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.

Melchizedek the Priest

7 This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, 2 and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, the name Melchizedek means “king of righteousness”; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.” 3 Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.

4 Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder! 5 Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people —that is, from their fellow Israelites—even though they also are descended from Abraham. 6 This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. 7 And without doubt the lesser is blessed by the greater. 8 In the one case, the tenth is collected by people who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living. 9 One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, 10 because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.

Commentary

Trust in God’s promises and wait patiently

Abraham waited for 25 years. Joseph waited 13 years. Moses waited 25 years. Jesus waited 30 years. If God makes you wait you are in good company.

I have often found the gap between the promise of God and its fulfilment to be much longer than I had anticipated. I am learning to be more patient. God’s promises to us are the anchor of our souls (6:19). They are solid and secure. He keeps his word, even when it seems impossible, even when the circumstances seem to point to the opposite. Delay does not negate the promises of God.

Abraham is described as, ‘him who had the promises’ (7:6). When Abraham and Sarah were called by God, he promised that from them would come a great nation. He promised them children. But they had to wait many years before the promise was fulfilled. They waited and waited. They went down wrong paths to try to fulfil God’s promise through human means. However, eventually, ‘The Lord did for Sarah what he had promised’ (Genesis 21:1). Abraham was a hundred years old! Finally, God fulfilled his *promise: ‘*After waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised’ (Hebrews 6:15).

God’s promises are absolutely certain: ‘When people make promises, they guarantee them by appeal to some authority above them… When God wanted to guarantee his promises, he gave his word, a rock-solid guarantee’ (vv.16–17, MSG).

Your hope is not based on some vague optimism or wishful thinking. It is trust in the unbreakable promises of God. It centres on Jesus, who is ‘a high priest for ever, in the order of Melchizedek’ (v.20). Melchizedek appears from nowhere in Genesis and we know nothing about what happens to him afterwards. He foreshadowed Jesus: ‘Resembling the Son of God, he continues to be a priest without interruption and without successor’ (7:3, AMP).

The writer demonstrates the superiority of Jesus (Melchizedek’s priesthood) to that of any other priest (of Levi) (vv.1–10).

Jesus, a priest in the order of Melchizedek, is a righteous king of peace. Melchizedek’s name means ‘king of righteousness’ and he was also ‘king of Salem’, which means ‘king of peace’ (v.2).

Jesus’ priesthood is permanent. No ‘end of life’ is recorded for Melchizedek (vv.3,8). Likewise, Jesus is a living priest for ever. Psalm 110 also declares that the Lord is a ‘priest for ever in the order of Melchizedek’ (v.4).

Jesus (Melchizedek) received a tithe from Abraham (Hebrews 7:4). This spontaneous gift from Abraham showed that he realised his own inferiority to Melchizedek. Levi was Abraham’s great-grandson. An ancestor is regarded in biblical thought as containing within himself all his descendants (vv.9–10). Therefore, the priesthood of Jesus (Melchizedek) enjoys a higher status than that of the Levitical priesthood.

Melchizedek gave Abraham a blessing (vv.6–7). God had promised that in Abraham all the nations of the world would be blessed (Genesis 22:18). Therefore, if Melchizedek could bless Abraham, Melchizedek’s status must be superior to the Levitical order (Hebrews 7:7).

Jesus’ priesthood, ‘in the order of Melchizedek’, reminds us that we can trust that the promises of God are totally secure. Jesus guaranteed them for us by going where we could not, ‘on our behalf’. He is your ‘high priest for ever, in the order of Melchizedek’ (6:20).

Prayer

Lord, thank you that even though I sometimes have to wait patiently, you always fulfil your promises – they are firm and secure – an anchor for my soul.

Old Testament

Ezekiel 7:1-9:11

The End Has Come

7 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, this is what the Sovereign Lord says to the land of Israel:

  “‘The end! The end has come
   upon the four corners of the land!
  3 The end is now upon you,
   and I will unleash my anger against you.
  I will judge you according to your conduct
   and repay you for all your detestable practices.
  4 I will not look on you with pity;
   I will not spare you.
  I will surely repay you for your conduct
   and for the detestable practices among you.

“‘Then you will know that I am the Lord.’

5 “This is what the Sovereign Lord says:

  “‘Disaster! Unheard-of disaster!
   See, it comes!
  6 The end has come!
   The end has come!
  It has roused itself against you.
   See, it comes!
  7 Doom has come upon you,
   upon you who dwell in the land.
  The time has come! The day is near!
   There is panic, not joy, on the mountains.
  8 I am about to pour out my wrath on you
   and spend my anger against you.
  I will judge you according to your conduct
   and repay you for all your detestable practices.
  9 I will not look on you with pity;
   I will not spare you.
  I will repay you for your conduct
   and for the detestable practices among you.

“‘Then you will know that it is I the Lord who strikes you.

  10 “‘See, the day!
   See, it comes!
  Doom has burst forth,
   the rod has budded,
   arrogance has blossomed!
  11 Violence has arisen,
   a rod to punish the wicked.
  None of the people will be left,
   none of that crowd—
  none of their wealth,
   nothing of value.
  12 The time has come!
   The day has arrived!
  Let not the buyer rejoice
   nor the seller grieve,
   for my wrath is on the whole crowd.
  13 The seller will not recover
   the property that was sold—
   as long as both buyer and seller live.
  For the vision concerning the whole crowd
   will not be reversed.
  Because of their sins, not one of them
   will preserve their life.

  14 “‘They have blown the trumpet,
   they have made all things ready,
  but no one will go into battle,
   for my wrath is on the whole crowd.
  15 Outside is the sword;
   inside are plague and famine.
  Those in the country
   will die by the sword;
  those in the city
   will be devoured by famine and plague.
  16 The fugitives who escape
   will flee to the mountains.
  Like doves of the valleys,
   they will all moan,
   each for their own sins.
  17 Every hand will go limp;
   every leg will be wet with urine.
  18 They will put on sackcloth
   and be clothed with terror.
  Every face will be covered with shame,
   and every head will be shaved.

  19 “‘They will throw their silver into the streets,
   and their gold will be treated as a thing unclean.
  Their silver and gold
   will not be able to deliver them
   in the day of the Lord’s wrath.
  It will not satisfy their hunger
   or fill their stomachs,
   for it has caused them to stumble into sin.
  20 They took pride in their beautiful jewelry
   and used it to make their detestable idols.
  They made it into vile images;
   therefore I will make it a thing unclean for them.
  21 I will give their wealth as plunder to foreigners
   and as loot to the wicked of the earth,
   who will defile it.
  22 I will turn my face away from the people,
   and robbers will desecrate the place I treasure.
  They will enter it
   and will defile it.

  23 “‘Prepare chains!
   For the land is full of bloodshed,
   and the city is full of violence.
  24 I will bring the most wicked of nations
   to take possession of their houses.
  I will put an end to the pride of the mighty,
   and their sanctuaries will be desecrated.
  25 When terror comes,
   they will seek peace in vain.
  26 Calamity upon calamity will come,
   and rumour upon rumour.
  They will go searching for a vision from the prophet,
   priestly instruction in the law will cease,
   the counsel of the elders will come to an end.
  27 The king will mourn,
   the prince will be clothed with despair,
   and the hands of the people of the land will tremble.
  I will deal with them according to their conduct,
   and by their own standards I will judge them.

“‘Then they will know that I am the Lord. ’”

Idolatry in the Temple

8 In the sixth year, in the sixth month on the fifth day, while I was sitting in my house and the elders of Judah were sitting before me, the hand of the Sovereign Lord came on me there. 2 I looked, and I saw a figure like that of a man. From what appeared to be his waist down he was like fire, and from there up his appearance was as bright as glowing metal. 3 He stretched out what looked like a hand and took me by the hair of my head. The Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and in visions of God he took me to Jerusalem, to the entrance of the north gate of the inner court, where the idol that provokes to jealousy stood. 4 And there before me was the glory of the God of Israel, as in the vision I had seen in the plain.

5 Then he said to me, “Son of man, look toward the north.” So I looked, and in the entrance north of the gate of the altar I saw this idol of jealousy.

6 And he said to me, “Son of man, do you see what they are doing—the utterly detestable things the Israelites are doing here, things that will drive me far from my sanctuary? But you will see things that are even more detestable.”

7 Then he brought me to the entrance to the court. I looked, and I saw a hole in the wall. 8 He said to me, “Son of man, now dig into the wall.” So I dug into the wall and saw a doorway there.

9 And he said to me, “Go in and see the wicked and detestable things they are doing here.” 10 So I went in and looked, and I saw portrayed all over the walls all kinds of crawling things and unclean animals and all the idols of Israel. 11 In front of them stood seventy elders of Israel, and Jaazaniah son of Shaphan was standing among them. Each had a censer in his hand, and a fragrant cloud of incense was rising.

12 He said to me, “Son of man, have you seen what the elders of Israel are doing in the darkness, each at the shrine of his own idol? They say, ‘The Lord does not see us; the Lord has forsaken the land.’” 13 Again, he said, “You will see them doing things that are even more detestable.”

14 Then he brought me to the entrance of the north gate of the house of the Lord, and I saw women sitting there, mourning the god Tammuz. 15 He said to me, “Do you see this, son of man? You will see things that are even more detestable than this.”

16 He then brought me into the inner court of the house of the Lord, and there at the entrance to the temple, between the portico and the altar, were about twenty-five men. With their backs toward the temple of the Lord and their faces toward the east, they were bowing down to the sun in the east.

17 He said to me, “Have you seen this, son of man? Is it a trivial matter for the people of Judah to do the detestable things they are doing here? Must they also fill the land with violence and continually arouse my anger? Look at them putting the branch to their nose! 18 Therefore I will deal with them in anger; I will not look on them with pity or spare them. Although they shout in my ears, I will not listen to them.”

Judgment on the Idolaters

9 Then I heard him call out in a loud voice, “Bring near those who are appointed to execute judgment on the city, each with a weapon in his hand.” 2 And I saw six men coming from the direction of the upper gate, which faces north, each with a deadly weapon in his hand. With them was a man clothed in linen who had a writing kit at his side. They came in and stood beside the bronze altar.

3 Now the glory of the God of Israel went up from above the cherubim, where it had been, and moved to the threshold of the temple. Then the Lord called to the man clothed in linen who had the writing kit at his side 4 and said to him, “Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it. ”

5 As I listened, he said to the others, “Follow him through the city and kill, without showing pity or compassion. 6 Slaughter the old men, the young men and women, the mothers and children, but do not touch anyone who has the mark. Begin at my sanctuary.” So they began with the old men who were in front of the temple.

7 Then he said to them, “Defile the temple and fill the courts with the slain. Go!” So they went out and began killing throughout the city. 8 While they were killing and I was left alone, I fell facedown, crying out, “Alas, Sovereign Lord! Are you going to destroy the entire remnant of Israel in this outpouring of your wrath on Jerusalem? ”

9 He answered me, “The sin of the people of Israel and Judah is exceedingly great; the land is full of bloodshed and the city is full of injustice. They say, ‘The Lord has forsaken the land; the Lord does not see.’ 10 So I will not look on them with pity or spare them, but I will bring down on their own heads what they have done. ”

11 Then the man in linen with the writing kit at his side brought back word, saying, “I have done as you commanded.”

Commentary

Listen to God’s promises and feed on them

Those who feed on God’s promises will never spiritually starve. But many people put their trust in the wrong things. Some put their trust in money for security. However, God says that ‘their silver and gold will not be able to save them’ (7:19a). Their wealth ‘will not satisfy their hunger’ (v.19b).

Aristotle Onassis, one of the richest people in the world, said at the end of his life: ‘Millions do not always add up to what a \[person] needs out of life.’ Many people try to fill the emptiness deep inside of them in ways that ultimately do not satisfy. They are looking for joy in the wrong places.

Wealth, far from bringing satisfaction and joy, can often lead us into pride, sin and idolatry (vv.1–11). Furthermore, wealth will never provide total security. A downturn in the market and rampant inflation can lead to even a whole country becoming bankrupt (vv.12–20).

On the other hand, the promises of God are rock solid. What God says, he promises. Ezekiel declared the promises of God saying: ‘The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, this is what the Sovereign Lord says…”’ (vv.1–2). His message is ‘the end of business as usual’ (v.2, MSG).

Ezekiel promises God’s judgment. It will be absolutely just: ‘I will deal with them according to their conduct, and by their own standards I will judge them’ (v.27; see also Romans 2:1). This will take place ‘on the day when God will judge everyone’s secrets through Jesus Christ’ (Romans 2:16).

Ezekiel caught a glimpse of the one who will judge the world: ‘I looked, and I saw a figure like that of a man. From what appeared to be his waist down he was like fire, and from there up his appearance was as bright as glowing metal’ (Ezekiel 8:2). This description is close to the description of Jesus in Revelation 1:10–16.

The only way to escape the judgment is to have a mark on the forehead (Ezekiel 9:4). The Lord said, ‘Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it… do not touch anyone who has the mark’ (vv.4,6).

The person with a mark on their forehead had a mark of protection as the impending judgment drew near. The word for ‘mark’ is the Hebrew letter tav. This is the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet. At the time, the letter would have been written X – a cross. Is this a coincidence? Or is there some significance in the fact that those who were protected were those who had the sign of the cross on their foreheads?

In Revelation, we read of the angel calling out, ‘Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God’ (Revelation 7:3; see also Revelation 9:4; 14:1).

Prayer

Lord, thank you that you bore my sin and judgment on the cross. Thank you that you put a mark on my forehead. Thank you that I can trust in your promises for the future and have this hope as the anchor for my soul.

Pippa adds

Hebrews 6:15 says, ‘And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.’

Waiting for anything is really hard. Abraham’s example is an encouragement to keep on praying even if it feels as though nothing is happening at all.

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References

John Blanchard, Gathered Gold (Evangelical Press, 2000), p.251.

Peter Evans, Ari: Life and Times of Aristotle Socrates Onassis (Summit Books 1986), p.283.

Nicky Gumbel, Questions of Life (Hodder & Stoughton, 2018), p.125.

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

The Bible with Nicky and Pippa Gumbel

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  • WISDOM COMMENTARY
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