Monthly Article January 2015 – Promises and Purposes

By Philip Robinson

Genesis 3:15 – The Lord God said to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

Genesis 12:2-3 – Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.I will bless those who bless you and him who dishonours you I will curse and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Genesis 37:5-8 – Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more.He said to them, “Hear this dream that I have dreamed:Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field and behold my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.” His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us, or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.

When reading through the book of Genesis it is hard to miss the large number of promises [i] that God makes with people. In our modern world, promises appear to be made quite flippantly and often with various caveats. However, when God makes a promise in the historical book of beginnings, Genesis, or in any of the other books of the Bible, it comes to fruition. What some people find interesting about these promises is the length of time that some of them took to be fulfilled and indeed, some of them are yet to be fulfilled.

Taking the Bible verses above (in reverse order) and starting with Joseph, he was one of twelve brothers. His brothers saw that their father, Jacob, loved Joseph more than the rest of them and honoured him with a robe of many colours, and they hated him for this. As a young man of 17 Joseph then had a dream in which he dreamt that his 11 brothers would end up bowing down to him. For this they hated him even more than they already did. This eventually led to Joseph’s brothers plotting to kill him and cast him into a pit, although they later reversed this initial decision and instead, decided to sell him to a trade caravan that was passing close by. This led to Joseph being sold into the Egyptian, Potiphar’s house, where Potiphar’s wife then accused him of trying to have his way with her, as he would not succumb to her temptation. As a result he was then put into prison. This meant that Joseph ended up spending a combined 13 years, between Potiphar’s house and prison. Joseph was 17 years old when he was sold into slavery in Egypt and he was 30 years old when he was released from prison and made the overseer of Egypt, after interpreting Pharaoh’s dream correctly. It was not for a further 9 years, (when he was 39), after his brothers first came to Egypt in the second year of the famine, that Joseph had correctly informed Pharaoh about his family.  This meant that it took 22 years for his dream to come to fruition.

In regard to God’s promises to Abram, Abram was told that God would make of him a great nation, although at that time he had no children. God told Abram this when he was 70 years old and yet Isaac, who was the promised son, would not be born for a further thirty years, (not until Abram was 100 years old!). A further part of God’s promise to Abram was that through him all the families on the earth would be blessed. Abram never got to see the fruition of this promise, but had faith in the God who made the promise (Romans 4:3). This promise to Abram rested on an earlier promise that is found in Genesis 3:15 above, sometimes referred to as the ‘proto-evangelium’, (the first mention of the Gospel in the Bible). This is the promise of the coming Messiah, who would crush Satan’s head. This promise was part of the response to the curse imposed by God, due to the rebellion of Adam willfully disobeying God in the Garden of Eden, introducing sin into the world, the consequences including both physical and spiritual death. As we think of the fulfilment of this prophecy having just come through Christmas time and also about the miraculous virgin birth (conception) of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, we see that this was a 4000 year long promise in the making.

There were a lot of hardships these people went through while waiting for the fulfilment of the promises that have just been highlighted. Abram and Joseph went through massive periods of strife and stress over a long number of years before God’s promises to them were realised. God enabled them to bear their trials with patience. Countless believers in the promised Messiah suffered at the hands of the unscrupulous, while being faithful to God and waiting for this event. However, the birth of Jesus was not the focal point of why he came, this would ultimately come some 33 years later when he died on the cross, offering up himself as the perfect sacrifice to pay the price for our sins.

As we move beyond the Christmas period and into New Year, why not consider and focus in on a particular promise from Jesus that is yet to be fulfilled. This is his promise He made to return again to this world, something that we as Christians should be eagerly waiting for. As we wait, we must recognise that we too, just as Joseph, Abram and many other believers have done, we will go through strife, stress, even persecution as we wait for this great event to happen.

As we are waiting, we have been given clear instructions as to what we should be doing in the meantime. We should be about our Master’s business. What does this mean practically for you and your purposes this coming year of 2015? In our contemporary society, which is so very hostile to Christianity, every action from every Christian should be with the motive of pushing forward the Christian faith, with this great future event in mind. There are no shortages of practical ways for every Christian to get involved in some way no matter what situation they are in, as we faithfully wait Jesus’ return. For example: giving out tracts, booklets or Bibles, sharing your faith with friends, family or strangers; getting involved in your church; writing an article for a Christian group on a topic that you have expertise in, writing a response letter to a local newspaper, prayerfully or financially supporting a Christian ministry; there are no shortage of things to do.

There are many Christians who have sincere faith but unfortunately, they don’t defend it, promote it, or truly engage with the world and demonstrate it to them. James 2:14 says, “What good is it my brothers, if someone says he has faith, but does not have works?” God expects our faith to be demonstrated by our actions.

So as we think about going into the new year ahead, as we wait for the fulfilment of Jesus promise to return, we need to ask ourselves what actions will we take to ensure that we are using our abilities, resources and opportunities to stand up for, defend, promote and demonstrate our Christian faith?


[i] Or Covenants