What promises does God have for you?
A few questions in my Bible study this week–on chapters 15 and 16 in Genesis–asked me about the promises God has given me. One question asked, “What questions about His promises to you would you like to ask?”
You know my answer? “What are God’s promises specifically for me? What verses in the Bible are meant specifically for my life?”
I know there are so many promises in the Bible that are corporate–for the whole body of believers–and I know that many of them will apply in the next life. But what–if anything–has God promised specifically for me? Is it even reasonable to expect, hope for, desire, or want a promise specific to my life from God?
Chapter 15 opens with a rather distraught Abram (not yet renamed Abraham). God has promised him a “great reward,” to which the already wealthy Abram basically responds, “What’s the use, when a servant of my household is going to be my heir?” You see, Abram is convinced that he will not have any children. This is despite the fact that God told him in the beginning of chapter 12 that he would give the land to which he guides Abram to Abram’s descendants.
Can we really blame Abram in his doubts? The man is 86, after all, and his wife is still barren. But God has promised. And God, in his great mercy, repeats the promise to Abram several more times and with increasing specificity. He speaks to him here, in chapter 15, saying, “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir” (15:4). “And he [God] brought him [Abram] outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be'” (15:5).
What a promise. And now we see that Abram does believe God, “and He [God] counted it to him [Abram] as righteousness” (15:6).
The commentary for this week’s lesson talks about this, saying:
Romans tells us, ‘He [Abram] did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God’ (4:19-20). Abram recognized that, humanly speaking, what he was believing God for was impossible. It would take a miracle. The Scripture says, ‘He did not weaken in faith,’ but it does not say there was no tension, no battle going on as he struggled to hold on to his faith. He was open and honest with God. He asked Him how He was going to solve this. Then ‘the word of the LORD’ came to Abram in a vision.”
At the end of chapter 15, God adds to Abram’s confidence in the promise that his descendants will inherit the land currently occupied by the Canaanites by making a covenant with Abram. Traditionally a covenant is between two parties, both of whom have responsibilities to uphold in keeping their end of the bargain. But the funny thing about this covenant is that God is both parties. God makes and God keeps the covenant. Abram has no responsibility. The promise will be fulfilled on Abram’s behalf with no strings attached. I find this so freeing. You see, the promises God makes to Abram do not depend at all upon Abram’s behavior.
I think that is true of the promises God makes to any of us. He knows we are sinful people, that we falter, and that we are incapable of guaranteeing anything in our own power. So he doesn’t ask us to do that. God’s promises to us–God’s promises to me, whatever they may be–depend on God alone, not on my behavior, not on my actions, not on the amount of trust I have, or how fervently I believe.
If you know you have a promise from God, but it has not yet been fulfilled and you are waiting and wondering if you misheard or missed out, I want to encourage you that you won’t be the first to have doubts. You won’t be the first to try to help God along or take matters into your own hands, either, as we see Abram does in chapter 16, though doing so would be unwise. And I think it’s okay to ask God to clarify and ask God to bolster your faith. Because you know what faith is? It’s a gift from God.
And if you’re like me, wondering whether there are promises in his word for just you, wondering if you can claim as a promise an heir from your (and your spouse’s) very own body, as God promised Abram, or if that’s just too convenient–join me in asking God. He gives Abram clarification when he asks for it. He comforts Abram when he is in doubt and when he is distressed.
Our God is a great God. A God who loves all the people he has made and wants none to perish. A God who does not play tricks on us or deceive us in any way at any time. And a God with a plan and a path for each one of us. Sometimes the path takes us through difficult and dark and confusing places. And maybe we don’t get to know why. But I know where the path ends up and I’m going to follow it to my ultimate reward, with God’s gracious help.
And I’m going to be asking God to reveal to me the promises he has in mind specifically for me. And I pray that I will be content–even joyful–with whatever he reveals, even if it is not what I might have chosen for myself.