The God of promises

19 July 2020

Because God is a God of promises, we have hope.  Many of us have made promises which we haven’t fulfilled – but not God, because otherwise He can no longer be God.  If He promises something, surely it will come to pass.

One of the promises God has given us is His presence among us, although not everyone acknowledges or senses His presence.  In the Old Testament, the Ark of the Covenant assured Israel that God was in their midst.  Wherever they went in their earthly pilgrimage – when they crossed the Jordan river, when they went into battle and conquered Jericho – the Ark went with them.  Physical people like us need physical signs to make our belief concrete and assure us.

  • One of the Bible’s greatest promises is Psalm 23:4.
  • In the first reading today, God says, “I am the first and the last; besides Me there is no god… Do not be afraid.” All the so-called “gods” together cannot equal the God we serve; and this God, who is the beginning and the end, says, “Do not fear”.
  • Jesus’ last words to His disciples were, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” We cannot control things that happen in the world, but one thing is sure: God is always with us.  The Eucharist was left to the Church, among many reasons, to assure us of God’s presence.  If God is with us, who can be against us?

What do you see?

I love the story of the burning bush.  Moses was in the wilderness and saw a tree burning; he was amazed, and it caught his attention, because it was engulfed in fire but not consumed.  Out of the bush, God spoke to Moses: “Take off your sandals, because you are standing on holy ground.”

British poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning commented:

“Earth‘s crammed with heaven,

And every common bush afire with God;

But only he who sees takes off his shoes…”

Even though God’s presence is in our midst, we need to be sensitive: only he who sees will know that He is present.  What do you and I see?  We choose what we see in anything.  Do we see the miracle of life on a day-by-day basis?  Do we see God’s provision every day when we sit around the table and eat and thank Him?  When we come home from work alive, do we thank Him for His protection?  Do we see all the small miracles we experience every day because of God?

This is not the only place where these words were uttered.  The place where God met with Moses was not naturally holy – it was holy because God appeared there to Moses. We might be surprised that God’s presence is really around us. Even where we are right now is a holy place because God is acknowledged there.  Every place or situation where we encounter God becomes holy – particularly in the Holy Eucharist.

There are those who see nothing in history but natural processes.  God is remote and unreal: does He really exist?  History and human affairs are determined and controlled by humans.  Humanists see personal and national lives as determined by our own nature and decisions.  Christians don’t see life and existence that way.  The living God is never remote: He’s closer to us than we ever think, and He’s always with us.

God desires our attention

In Elijah’s day, Israel worshipped the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and also Baal, a pagan god.  Many people are not concerned about their spiritual being or what God is doing in the earth, nor the urgency to live a holy life, but only about how to lead their life.  Elijah confronted King Ahab and the nation of Israel, and then fled: he was discouraged and almost lost hope because of what Israel was doing.  He said: “It is enough now, o LORD. Take my life away.  I’m the only one standing with You and Israel.” Although Elijah was a remarkable prophet chosen by God, he was unpopular because he was crude and unrefined, lacking the sophistication people wanted.  Yet he loved God and Israel.  

The Lord passed by. A strong wind tore the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces, yet the Lord was not in the wind; then there was an earthquake and a fire, but God was in neither of them.  Then there was a whispering voice.  God was trying to get Elijah’s attention, as He’d tried to get Moses’ attention through the burning bush.  He told Elijah, “Go – anoint Hazael as King of Syria, Jehu as King of Israel, and Elisha as a prophet in your place.  Don’t be hopeless and discouraged: there remain 7,000 faithful in Israel.”

We also read the story of Jonah, who didn’t want to obey God when He told him to proclaim repentance to Nineveh.  He was thrown into the belly of a whale to get his attention, and finally he obeyed.

Before the children of Israel passed through the Jordan river on dry land, God told Joshua, “Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.” He said, “Take away the things in your life that are filthy.  Consecrate yourself to Me, give your heart to Me again, for tomorrow I will do wonders.”

With what is happening around us, is God trying to get our attention, as with Moses, Elijah, Jonah and Joshua?  Is He trying to get your attention and the world’s attention?  We pray we’ll come through the pandemic safely, but there’s something more. The pandemic didn’t come from God, but He’s using it to get our attention and that of the world.  

Let us pray with anticipation

This is only the beginning: we have yet to hear what He will say and do.  May our hearts be filled with anticipation.  I believe God is going to do something great.  I echo what Archbishop Craig Bates said, that perhaps a revival is coming.   As God is calling us, we’re in a season of prayer.  Dwight L. Moody said, “Every great movement of God can be traced to a kneeling figure”.  Nothing happens without prayer.  If God is going to do something in the world so remarkable that all eyes will see, the Church must pray.  That’s why I’m so thankful to you for joining me every day, and why I pray every day – because I’m anticipating what God will do in our midst.  May it be so, Lord Jesus.  Amen.

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