The motto of the London Stock Exchange is: "My word is my bond", and its use, both there and anywhere else, communicates to the recipient that the deliverer’s verbal promise is a binding agreement. Unfortunately, it would be very difficult to find a legal professional who would advise that this method of agreeing a business deal is an appropriate course of action today. Nowadays written and signed contracts are the accepted norm.
However, verbal promises will always be a fundamental part of human communication that should be treated seriously by those who give them and also by those who receive them.
Sadly, we live in a world where promises are given and not honoured. Sometimes this can be due to the unwillingness of those who gave them: the husband who on his wedding day promised to be faithful to his wife changes his mind when he thinks his marriage is somewhat dull; the friend who promises to go with you to a certain place discovers a better proposition; the friend with whom you shared a confidence cannot resist telling someone else. Unfortunately, we all have the potential to make vows that we could keep but choose not to.
Promises can also be broken due to the inability of the guarantor. The mother who promised to collect her child at 5pm discovers that her car will not start. The husband who promises to cut the grass tomorrow, finds the day washed out with a torrential downpour. The friend who promised to meet for coffee is given an extra shift at work. Sometimes, unforeseen circumstances mean that we cannot keep our word.
In summary we cannot be absolutely relied upon. The very best that we can say is that we will strive to keep our word to those to whom we have given it. Conversely God can be completely trusted to keep His word, exactly as He gave it. There will be no changing of mind, limitation of power or unforeseen circumstance with Him. Yet, every believer has a struggle in appropriating the promises of God that are for them.
Consider the case of Abraham:
- At the age of seventy-five, God told Abraham to go to Canaan, and promised him many descendants (Genesis 12:1-9). At this stage Abraham and Sarah had no children.
- After ten years the promised son had not arrived and Abraham, acting upon his wife’s proposal, goes into her maid and fathers a child, trying to fulfill God's supernatural promise by fleshly means (Genesis 16:1-3).
- When Abraham is ninety-nine years old (Genesis 17:1) God promises Abraham a son and tells him to name him Isaac.
- Finally, twenty-five years after the promise was given, Isaac is born (Genesis 21:1-7).
Yet, Paul gives a glowing tribute to Abraham’s faith:
“And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah's womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform” (Romans 4:19-21).
A key phrase, that has application for every believer, is “fully convinced (assured or persuaded)”. Abraham heard the promise that came from God. His faith was not a “leap in the dark”. He considered all that he knew about God and concluded that He is reliable, trustworthy, and dependable.
- God is true; He cannot lie.
- God is omnipotent; He has the power to do what he wants whenever He wants.
- God is immutable; His unchangeableness means that we can have utmost confidence in His character and His word.
- God is omniscient; He knows everything and no event or circumstance surprises Him or thwarts His plans.
These truths meant that Abraham could trust God’s word even though circumstances seemed to indicate that it could not be fulfilled.
Faith in God is believing that He will keep His promises, despite circumstances that seem to be to the contrary.
Every believer has difficulty in truly believing all of God’s promises for them. Abaraham’s wife, Sarah, was no different. When she heard God make the promise to Abraham, she laughed to herself and did not believe (Genesis 18:12).
God countered her doubt with the question, “Is anything too difficult for the LORD?" In grace God spoke truth to turn Sarah's doubting into faith. Think about that for a moment – here is a most encouraging example of faith. When Sarah first heard the promise, she doubted it and laughed. But God, by His word, overcame her doubts.
In faith Abraham and Sarah looked away from themselves and all the circumstances they could see, and banked on their faithful God for the fulfilment of His promise that they would have a Son and, through him, many descendants.
Rather than focusing on our weakness, faith focuses on God’s power and faithfulness (Hebrews 11:11).
Rather than focusing on our desired timing, faith trusts God to keep His word in His time(Hebrews 11:12).
The Bible has thousands of promises. Although the promises to Abraham and Sarah were uniquely for them, and many others are not for the believer today, hundreds of them are. Space does not permit listing them here, but the call for us is to read God’s Word and seek, by God’s grace, to truly believe them not merely with intellectual understanding but so that our life is impacted by them.
R. C. H Lenski wrote these words: “God’s promise is better than any bond or note on any bank, financial institution or most stable government, for all of these may have to repudiate their bond; God never does so.”
His word is His bond.