Handbook to God's Promises

Promises about God’s Principles

The passages and meditations in this section will help you grow in confidence about God’s faithfulness and reliability. You will encounter promises about the existence of God; the integrity, eternality, and purpose of His words; the reliability of the Bible; and Jesus’ identity as the Living Word.

God Exists

1 Kings 8:22: Nobody Like Him

In a culture that worships many gods, Solomon extols Yahweh, the one true God. There is no other god like Him, the God who lives, creates miracles, dialogues with, and blesses His children. Gods of wood and stone mutely receive their offerings; they can’t respond with lovingkindness and a personal relationship. These lifeless idols can do nothing; the living God can do anything. And best of all, the one true God keeps His many promises (1 Kings 8:24).

Daniel 2:47: Our God of Gods

God exposes the hoaxes of spiritism and astrology when no one is able to interpret the king’s troubling dream. Through a vision, the Lord then instills within Daniel the insight and wisdom to explain the dream. Just as God had earlier displayed His power by raining down fire from heaven for Elijah (1 Kings 18), so He now demonstrates that power through Daniel’s dream interpretation. When God is at work, we dare not question His capabilities or His superiority over the earth.

God Has Spoken

Exodus 21:1: God’s Laws

Imagine what Moses might be thinking as he carries God’s laws back to the Israelites. After all, they have demonstrated their stubbornness throughout this journey, and may not respond well to being “reigned in” by a set of commandments. Yet these commands serve two redemptive purposes: first, to keep Israel holy so the nation can have fellowship with God; second, to shield the people from sin’s terrible consequences. Though unredeemed humanity views the commandments as limiting, God’s people embrace them as the gateway to freedom.

Deuteronomy 18:15: God’s Prophet

Stephen quotes this verse to the Jewish Sanhedrin to prove that Jesus Christ is the Messiah (Acts 7:37). Centuries before Jesus arrives, God instructs the Jews to listen to His appointed prophet so they will “hear the voice of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 18:16). But still, most of the Jews reject Jesus, not believing that He is God in the flesh. Like the prophets before Him, Jesus suffers for speaking God’s words.

Those who speak for God today receive criticism and rejection, too. But if we endure in expressing His words (and not our own), like Jesus, we will glory in the outcome, even if we wait until heaven to receive our reward.

1 Samuel 23:4: Ask the Right Source

Here David circumvents asking his advisers what to do and goes directly to the Lord, his only reliable source. “Shall we go to Keilah?” he asks. The Lord faithfully answers, and the news is good. David will win the battle there.

Sometimes when we need advice, we run from friends to colleagues to therapists to family members, placing the Lord last on our list of counselors. Then when we’re overwhelmed and confused about the conflicting opinions, we confer with God. The Bible does say that there is wisdom in consulting counselors (Proverbs 15:22), but their advice isn’t meant to replace the Lord’s words to us. Advisers can confirm and offer insights regarding the Lord’s guidance, but they are not to supersede it.

Ezekiel 30:13: False Images

The Egyptians worship several gods, including Ptah and the Apis bull. God pledges to destroy these idols that sit in Memphis, the original capital of Egypt and one of its largest cities. The first of the Ten Commandments forbids us from worshiping any god other than the Lord (Deuteronomy 5:7), and God will not tolerate graven images that usurp His honor and authority. He will destroy whatever tries to supplant His reign as the true God.

What things do we worship today, allowing them to displace God on the throne of our hearts? The Lord speaks without equivocation about these false images—“gods” that lead us into sin and denial and devastation. God wants to tear down these idols and replace the vacuum in our lives with His own presence. When we allow Him first place in our lives, we can walk in righteousness and truth and blessing.

Matthew 3:17: Voice from Above

The Father speaks from heaven at three critical points in Jesus’ ministry: the Son’s baptism, His transfiguration (Matthew 17:5), and His triumphal ride into Jerusalem (John 12:28). In all three instances, those present experience both astonishment and fear. What they hear can be nothing other than the voice of God!

While we may not hear God’s voice audibly through the clouds, we need to be attuned to Him, ready to listen as He speaks to us daily through His Word, His Spirit, and those around us. Our God, who once conveyed His instructions to a prophet through the braying voice of a donkey (Numbers 22:28–30), never limits the means by which He communicates with us. Are we listening?

God Is Trustworthy

Genesis 8:22: The Enduring Faith

After the flood God promises never to curse the earth and its inhabitants this way again. Instead, He offers Noah signs of His faithfulness. Through the consistency of the changing days and seasons, we’re reminded of God’s trustworthiness. Just as we depend on day to follow night and spring to replace winter, so we can also rely on God’s longsuffering toward humanity, despite its penchant for sin. He is good and His love endures forever (Psalm 136:1).

Genesis 13:14: Looking Around

God tells Abram to lift up his eyes, to see the blessings around and ahead of him. To build our faith, we also need to look up and around at God’s blessings to us. Sometimes we’re so focused on what we don’t have, what we constantly ask God to give us, that we don’t enjoy what He’s already given to us. At other times we lose sight of what He’s promised. In either case, we miss out on the grand perspective of His blessing on our lives.

Imagine yourself in Abram’s position. What do you see around you as you train your eyes to see God’s blessings?

Genesis 48:15: Lifetime Shepherd

Jacob experiences much pain and disappointment, but he still acknowledges the Lord as his lifetime Shepherd. Sheep don’t know where the shepherd leads them, but they trust their guide and follow. As the sheep of God’s pasture, we understand the Shepherd’s ways by looking back on the path we’ve traveled with Him. Through hindsight, we discover how God has led us to quiet streams and green pastures (Psalm 23:2).

Numbers 10:29–32: Good Things

The Lord promises good things to His people. Moses knows that the “myriad thousands of Israel” (Numbers 10:36) and anyone else associated with this nation will be blessed. Thus, he confidently asks Hobab to travel with them.

We may not be Jewish, but through salvation in Christ we become God’s people, entitled to the same blessing from Him that ancient Israel receives. “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow” (James 1:17). Get ready to open the gifts!

Numbers 11:23: Not Too Short

Doesn’t Moses know by now that God can do anything? Can’t he remember and trust that the Lord always does what He says He will do? We may want to shake our heads at this spiritual leader, but before we do, we’d better check whether his doubts resemble ours.

Though like the Israelites we’ve witnessed past heavenly interventions, we can still harbor doubts about God’s future faithfulness. We decide that miracles are for “back then” and not now. Either way, we defame God’s trustworthiness. How much better to say, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save; nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear” (Isaiah 59:1).

Joshua 4:7: Memorial Stones

When Joshua leads the Israelites across the Jordan River into the Promised Land, God wants His people to remember they crossed on dry ground. The memorial that they build is to serve as a reminder for future generations of God’s great work on their behalf. The stones symbolize the passage from an old life into a new one.

We too can build a memorial to the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness toward us. It can remind us that we’ve passed from guilt to absolution, from doubt to confidence in God’s grace. A memorial can be as simple as a phone call noted in a journal, as elaborate as a litany for reconciliation. It can be private or public, planned or spontaneous, physical or imaginary. But always a memorial symbolizes the sin of which we have repented, the forgiveness we have been granted, the guilt we have cast off, and the goodness of our powerful and loving God.

Joshua 18:3: The Big Stall

Israel’s army wins its battles and claims Canaan, a land God promises to them. Yet seven out of ten tribes still camp by the Jordan River, seemingly reluctant to possess their inheritance.

Sound familiar? If God promises us something, we needn’t be afraid of taking it on. It’s a sure win. So why do we keep stalling?

1 Kings 1:29–30: Many Troubles

As David makes his oath to Bathsheba, he recalls the Lord’s past faithfulness, His constancy in extricating David from his troubles. This gives the king confidence that the Lord will help him again.

As we face new and burgeoning difficulties, we are encouraged, and our faith is reinforced, when we pause and remember the Lord’s former goodness to us. “The Lord will also be a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble” (Psalm 9:9).

2 Chronicles 6:4: Mouth to Hand

Promises begin with words from the mouth, but they are completed with work from the hands. The Lord models this connection in His relationship with Israel. He does not utter promises that He does not intend to keep. Before we make a promise with our mouth, we can ask, “Are my hands and heart willing to or capable of following through?” If not, it might be wise to reconsider that promise.

Ezra 3:11: Step-by-Step Goodness

The priests and Levites don’t wait to celebrate until builders have finished the temple. They sing to the Lord at the completion of the foundation, praising and thanking Him for His goodness. Their gratefulness echoes the repetitions of Psalm 136, which extols the Lord and His deeds and repeatedly attributes these acts to His everlasting faithfulness.

We can learn from this step-by-step appreciation of God’s goodness. The Lord is benevolent not only at a project’s completion, but moment by moment as He responds to petitions great and small. He is merciful, gracious, and giving each step of the way. Our spiritual lives deepen with joy and meaning when we recognize this fact. Listing God’s acts and our blessings, as the Jewish people did, can enliven our spiritual outlook.

Psalm 42:5, 11: A Place for Hope

What is hope? It is the joyful anticipation of things to come. But it is also an agonizing longing, an aching and unfulfilled desire. Contradictory feelings of joy and agony reside in the believer’s hopeful experience. Sometimes, like the bride awaiting her wedding day, we anticipate the life to come with tingling pleasure. At other times, however, like the barren woman who yearns for a child, we hope with tears.

Regardless of how we feel, Scripture instructs us ultimately to place our hope in Jesus (Hebrews 6:19–20), who will return one day to release us from earthly uncertainties. Whether we look forward to Him with joy or tears, “let’s hold firmly to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23).

Psalm 44:8: Bragging Rights

If we “blow our own horn,” we annoy other people. If we brag about others too much, people question our judgment. But if we boast in the Lord, we exalt the One who rightly deserves all praise and adoration. We can never praise God too highly, because He pours out on us unlimited goodness, kindness, and faithfulness. “This is what the Lord says: ‘Let no wise man boast of his wisdom, nor let the mighty man boast of his might, nor a rich man boast of his riches; but let the one who boasts boast of this: that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises mercy, justice, and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,’ declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 9:23–24).

Isaiah 64:4: All of His Promises

Waiting on the Lord requires trust—faith that even if God chooses not to act right away, He has neither forgotten nor forsaken us. This chapter is a prayer, celebrating God’s past trustworthiness and petitioning Him to display it anew. Whenever we pray, we can wait in quiet expectation and faith that God will fulfill all of His promises.

Lamentations 1:18: Reaping the Consequences

Jeremiah, the author of Lamentations, believes that the destruction of the Holy City in 586 BC is a direct result of Israel’s rebellion against God. Because the Lord is righteous, He acts according to His holy covenants. Israel breaks her part of the agreement, so the inevitable consequences take over.

We might be tempted to assume that just because God offers His grace, we will avoid reaping sin’s consequences. Yet we may suffer, despite God’s promised forgiveness, for our rebellion. God has designed human laws and natural consequences to mete out justice. However, God will walk through those experiences with us, restoring our lives (Psalm 71:20), creating “new things” (Isaiah 42:9), and reshaping our lives to work for His purposes (Romans 8:28). Even while undergoing discipline, we can trust in His undying love.

Zechariah 1:17: Definite Plans

Our plans frequently consist of wishes, hopes, and dreams. God’s plans, on the other hand, comprise definite action. We say we would like to do something, or we hope a particular event will come to pass. But God says that He will do it, that it will happen. Only God can speak with such confidence about the future. Proverbs 16:9 reminds us that, although we can plan our course, God alone determines our steps. He is able to do whatever He says; His desires always come to fruition.

Luke 1:46–55: The Mighty One

Mary’s exuberant song of praise to the Lord is known as the “Magnificat,” from the first word in its Latin translation. Instead of lamenting about her own seemingly impossible dilemma and uncertain future (Who will believe she is a virgin? Where will she live? What will become of her?), Mary extols God for who He is and what He has done. Her words express an unshakable confidence in the God who will take care of it all.

When the contrary winds of life swirl us in an about-face direction, the Mighty One hovers near and continues to work for our good. We, like Mary, can call upon the One whose name is holy (Luke 1:49), for He remembers to be merciful to us (v. 54).

Acts 26:22: Everyday Helper

We might think of “spiritual giants” as the strong, independent types. But Paul, one of the Bible’s “greats,” confesses his daily dependence on God. Whether strong or weak, Paul is the first to admit that he draws strength and courage from his Maker (2 Corinthians 12:9–10). In fact, the apostle considers this dependency a privilege. With God as our helper, whom should we fear (Hebrews 13:6)?

Acts 27:25: True Words

In reading Paul’s letters, we may wonder whether his confidence derives from hindsight. But in the book of Acts, we observe his trust in God in the midst of life-and-death circumstances.

We, too, can believe God’s promise to complete all that He has begun in our lives (Philippians 1:6). Our fleeting difficulties pale compared to the rock-solid security of God’s eternal Word.

2 Corinthians 1:20: The “Yes” Lord

God faithfully keeps all of His promises. When He says yes, He means precisely that, and we can trust that His word will not change. His every promise either has been or will be fulfilled through Jesus Christ. God is consistent, steadfast, and enduring in all that He says and does. Although people may fail us, we can depend on God as the Lord who says—and means—yes!

Galatians 3:22: A Promise Kept

The Russian author Leo Tolstoy wrote, “A Christian cannot promise to do or not to do a given thing at a given moment, for he cannot know what the law of love, of which is the rule of his life, may require of him at that moment” (The Kingdom of God Is Within You, 1893).

As well intentioned as we might be, we cannot foresee the unpredictable future or truly affirm in advance that we can keep a promise. But God can. He knew before all time that His promise of redemption would be fulfilled through His Son. He always carries out His promises to us.

2 Thessalonians 3:3: Utterly Faithful

Humans aren’t capable of always, without exception, being faithful. Only God can boast of that quality. His way is perfect (Psalm 18:30). He never lies (Hebrews 6:18). His precepts are trustworthy (Psalm 111:7). He does what He says He will do (1 Thessalonians 5:24). His word stands forever (Psalm 119:152). He is faithful to us when we’re unfaithful (2 Timothy 2:13).

“The Lord is faithful in all His words, and holy in all His works” (Psalm 145:13). Aren’t you glad you belong to Him?

Titus 3:8: Profitable Trust

This verse refers to doctrinal issues (in Titus 3:4–7) related to God’s kindness and mercy in saving us. Paul adds that it’s a trustworthy statement to encourage the church with what God has said and accomplished. If believers trust that God saves sinners, they can trust that He will care for them as His children. By trusting, believers can devote themselves to doing good, rather than worrying about meeting their own needs. This attitude and action prove “good and beneficial for people.”

The Promises of God’s Written Word

Numbers 12:8: Face-to-Face

God speaks to prophets through visions and dreams (Numbers 12:6), but He talks face-to-face with Moses. He communicates directly with us, too—particularly through the Bible. As we read Scripture, the Holy Spirit might quicken a verse or passage to us to specifically guide, correct, or encourage us. Aside from the literal meaning and broad interpretation of the verse(s), we can glean a particular (that is, uncanny or “coincidental”) application to our circumstances. This could be God speaking, and we can ask Him to confirm this direct word to us through other means. But the first step to hearing from God involves consistently reading and listening.

Numbers 15:37–41: Memory Aids

Throughout Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, God says to remember, remember, remember His instructions. Perhaps the constant reminders are intended to keep Israel from disobedience. Here God also instructs the male Jews to wear tassels as memory aids, reminding them to obey Him.

Perhaps written repetition and physical mementos would help us, too. Conveniently, this very Bible can serve both functions. We can repeatedly read and handle God’s Word to recall His ways. And though such habits may be repetitive, mining the riches of God’s Word never has to be dull. Remember, preventive measures aren’t painful, but curative actions can be agonizing. How much better it is to be reminded rather than reprimanded!

Deuteronomy 30:14: The Nearby Word

God’s Word isn’t beyond our reach or difficult to obtain (Deuteronomy 30:11). Rather it is nearby, already in our minds and hearts and mouths. If we regularly read and meditate on God’s Word, it lingers nearby so we can obey it. If we don’t know what to do, it guides us. When we embark on the wrong path, it corrects us. In whatever ways we sin, it convicts us. If we’re downhearted, it comforts us. Like the God we love, the Word is our trustworthy friend.

Psalm 12:6: Flawless Words

From Genesis through Revelation, not a single flaw infiltrates God’s Word. All Scripture is “inspired by God” (2 Timothy 3:16), and our God is perfect, incapable of speaking lies or making mistakes. Consequently, we can depend on Scripture to be truthful and fulfilled. We can also count on the Bible’s relevance to our lives because it is “beneficial for teaching, for rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man or woman of God may be fully capable, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17). Scripture is the perfect roadmap for God’s followers.

1 John 5:3: A Light Load

John’s belief that the Lord’s commands are not burdensome can seem puzzling. If the Bible says, “There is no righteous person, not even one” (Romans 3:10), then how can we follow God’s commands? How can we as imperfect people even begin to obey perfect laws?

First John 5:4 provides the answer. When we are born of God, we can overcome the world, and with the Holy Spirit’s indwelling we desire to please our Savior. The Spirit lightens our load so that God’s commands turn from burdens into blessings. Even if we cannot keep the requirements of the law perfectly, we delight in them (Psalm 119:16, 24, 47) because they offer us guidance, forgiveness, and freedom.

The Promises of God’s Living Word

Numbers 27:15–17: The People’s Shepherd

Sheep without a shepherd wander, get lost, encounter predators, and even die. Moses, a former shepherd, knows this and doesn’t want the susceptible and wayward Israelites to die spiritually. He asks God to give the people a shepherd who will lead them away from danger.

The Bible says we are like sheep who have gone astray (Isaiah 53:6). Because of our wanderlust, we need Jesus, the Good Shepherd (John 10:14), to intervene in our lives. Without His loving guidance, we will continue our aimless wandering. How comforting to know that He cares for His sheep, searching for those who stray from the flock and even laying down His life for them (John 10:11). God wants every sheep to know the love of the Shepherd.

Isaiah 53:5: Abundant Healing

This chapter predicts the agony Jesus will endure on our behalf. His suffering brings physical and emotional healing to us, and we can ask Him for His ministrations whenever we are wounded. Jesus alone is God’s living Word, the source of well-being and abundance for our souls.

Micah 5:4–5: Our Peace

The people in Micah’s time wanted to hear prophets tell them that peace on earth was possible. But this was not the case in their day any more than it is in our own. We pursue peace in all kinds of ways—through the security of our retirement plan, the tranquil setting of our lakefront cottage, or our interest or involvement in government social projects. What we really need, however, is internal peace, and Jesus promises all believers that He Himself will be their peace. Jesus never changes, fails, or disappoints. In Christ we find all we need to live lives free from anxiety and fear.

Mark 8:29: Who Am I?

As thousands observe Him performing miracles and listen to Him speak of heaven, some question whether Jesus is John the Baptist, Elijah, or some other noble prophet. Aware of the speculation, Jesus asks His disciples this poignant question: “Who do you say that I am?” He wants to hear them articulate what they believe.

Peter characteristically speaks for the group, but ultimately each of us has to decide who Jesus is. Is He simply a miracle-working teacher, or could He be the long-awaited Messiah (Psalm 2:2)? In reality, we do not have to struggle for an answer, because God’s Word clearly articulates the truth. Jesus is—and always will be—our only Lord and Savior.

Luke 18:39–43: Contagious Praise

By referring to Jesus as “Son of David,” this blind man declares that Jesus Christ is the Messiah. While the religious leaders rely on their physical sight as they observe Jesus performing miracles, the beggar uses spiritual sight to recognize Him as the Promised One. After the healing, the beggar’s insight bubbles up into praise for God—and people all around him catch his exuberance.

God gives us spiritual eyes (eyes of the heart) to see Him for who He really is (Ephesians 1:18). Now that’s cause for contagious praise!

Luke 19:37–40: Celebrate!

On this first Palm Sunday the people shout the words of Psalm 118:26: “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” By entering the Holy City on a colt, Jesus is fulfilling the specific prophecy of Zechariah: “Behold, your king is coming to you; He is righteous and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9).

Jesus, the King of kings, still deserves our acclamation and celebration. Let us take the words of Luke 19:38 (referencing Psalm 118:26) on our lips for now and the future, for Jesus does not set up an earthly kingdom but endures the cross to forever sit “at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (Hebrews 8:1). We can shout His praises both now and in the afterlife.

John 1:40: Tell Everybody

When John the Baptist sets up his revival camp in the wilderness, proclaiming, “Make the way of the Lord straight” (John 1:23), the Pharisees question him about his identity. Is he a prophet, or does he claim to be the Messiah? But John quickly points them to Jesus. And the day Andrew meets and recognizes the Messiah, he dashes off to tell his brother, Simon Peter. Together the transformed brothers mature into faithful disciples.

In the same way, when we truly find the Messiah, when the reality of His identity sinks deeply into our souls, we will not be able to keep Him to ourselves. The gospel is so life-changing that our passion will naturally draw others to the Savior.

Acts 19:17: Everyday Respect

“At the name of Jesus every knee will bow . . . and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:10–11). The name of Jesus is the most powerful in the universe. That very name can heal the sick (Acts 3:16) and cast out demons (Acts 16:18), and we are called to respect, honor, and glorify this name.

At the same time, we carry Christ’s wonderful name (Christian) with us every day, and we call upon it for comfort, guidance, healing, companionship, and help. Jesus affords His name to us for everyday living, but this in no way diminishes its eternal power and magnificence. Praise His name!

1 Timothy 3:16: Great Godliness

God loves to reveal Himself to all people, and Jesus was the full revelation of God. In turn, Jesus calls His followers “friends” (John 15:15) and reveals His Father’s plan and character to us. Though we’ll never fully understand the omnipotent God while we’re on earth, He desires that we walk in His revealed light rather than in our own darkness.

Hebrews 7:25: The Perfect Priest

Here the writer proclaims that Jesus Christ becomes the high priest for us all, abolishing forever the need for a human priesthood. Priestly rituals under the law are of only temporary benefit, whereas the work of Jesus Christ reigns complete and eternal. The sacrificial lambs of Leviticus die permanently, while Jesus rises gloriously from the dead and reigns for all eternity at the right hand of God. Thus, we serve a living Savior who, as our perfect and eternal high priest, continually intercedes for us with the Father.

God Speaks Only the Truth

1 Samuel 9:27: God’s Messenger

When someone claims to have a message from God, how can we verify this as true? Perhaps these questions can help: Is the person somebody we already know and trust, or do we at least have confidence in his or her reputation? Do the person’s words line up with Scripture? Have his or her prophetic words proved true in the past? Does the message resonate with the Holy Spirit within? Is the individual pushing us into something or encouraging us toward it? (God does the latter.)

Saul trusts Samuel because the prophet functions as the nation’s spiritual leader, and his messages have been consistently accurate in the past. If we are not sure about someone’s “words from God” for us, we can do the obvious: Wait to see whether they come true. That’s not necessarily procrastination; it’s applying wisdom to the words we hear. “The mind of the discerning acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge” (Proverbs 18:15).

1 Chronicles 10:13: Unfaithful Death

Saul loses both his kingship and his life because he is unfaithful to the Lord. Israel’s first king fails to keep God’s word or seek His guidance. When Saul does ask for help, it is after he has willfully disobeyed, and the Lord refuses to answer (1 Samuel 28). God seeks a king who will seek Him first, so Saul dies early and tragically.

This is a sobering thought: If we are not faithful to God in whatever role He has assigned to us, we could lose everything. On the other hand, if we are faithful in little things, God promises to entrust us with larger tasks (Luke 16:10).

2 Chronicles 18:5: First Counsel

King Jehoshaphat appears wise in asking for God’s counsel before going to war, but he fails to heed the Lord’s advice. Although God’s prophet predicts a leaderless Israel (2 Chronicles 18:16), Jehoshaphat aligns with King Ahab and rides off to battle (v. 28)—and the counsel proves true. Ahab dies from a “stray” arrow (vv. 33–34).

If we ask God for advice, He expects us to follow it. He always speaks the truth, and we deny His counsel to our own peril.

Proverbs 12:22: Truth Telling

Telling the truth is hard work, especially in a culture that tends to invent its own reality and refuses to believe in moral absolutes. But especially in places where truth is devalued, God delights in our willingness to be forthright and honest. When we tell the truth, we grow more Christlike because God speaks only truth. The first phrase of this verse tells us that “lying lips are an abomination to the Lord.” God is not just vaguely displeased or annoyed by our bending of the truth—He detests the practice. Lying is contrary to His nature and should never be the practice of His image-bearers.

Jeremiah 40:3: Finally Set Free

The Babylonian commander frees Jeremiah and notes that God’s judgment has indeed arrived. Even the Babylonians realize that God fulfills His word. Jeremiah, who suffers for telling God’s truth, suddenly finds himself in the enviable position of freedom. He can go to Babylon with the king’s favor or stay with Gedaliah, who will rule over the towns of Judah. Jeremiah chooses the second option, exercising the freedom that ultimately results from speaking the truth. God speaks with the intention of freeing us.

Ezekiel 6:10: Not in Vain

God says nothing in vain and never makes threats only to turn a deaf ear when sin abounds. He is thoroughly righteous and by His very nature cannot lie. If God were to fail to keep His word about judging the wicked, how could we trust Him to save the righteous? But God practices equality in fulfilling His promises.

Ezekiel 12:23–25: True Vision

In Ezekiel’s day many false prophets describe their visions, all claiming to speak the truth. But how can the people know whether or not a particular vision originates from God? The answer is simply that the Lord’s visions come to pass. Watching for their fulfillment may require patience on our part, but God does execute both His written and spoken word. Other visionaries fall by the wayside, exposed and humiliated by the acid test of time.

Ezekiel 33:7: A Watchman’s Warning

Before God disciplines, He warns, providing us with an opportunity to forsake our waywardness and arrest the downward spiral of our lives. So when a spiritual watchman approaches, we can welcome his or her message. It will help us to turn from sin and to live in freedom (Ezekiel 33:11).

Zechariah 3:7: Dependable Words

“If-then” statements bring clarity to our behavior. Our actions reap either positive or negative natural consequences. If we eat too much, we will gain weight. If we live within our means, our finances will be in order. If we remain faithful to God’s commands, we will live as victorious rulers over His courts. We must trust and believe God’s “if-then” statements, even if at times obedience is difficult. The joy of obedience will outweigh the immediate pain.

John 8:32: True Freedom

Many of the Jewish people listening to Jesus’ declaration of freedom grow indignant at His message. As descendants of Abraham, they pride themselves in not being enslaved to anyone (John 8:33). But little do they realize that sin holds them captive in a vice grip of self-deception and arrogance.

The Son, who identifies Himself as the Truth (John 14:6), breaks the bondage of sin for everyone—Jews and Gentiles alike. He offers us freedom from captivity to our own lawless ways, and His truth sets us free from eternal damnation. Because “the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7), we are liberated to live in the freedom for which God created us.

John 20:29: Doubtless Faith

Frequently we refer to Thomas as “Doubting Thomas.” He is absent the first time Jesus appears in resurrected form to His disciples, and the testimony of ten friends cannot persuade this hesitant disciple. He wants proof for himself.

At times we, like Thomas, want proof of God’s work in our lives. We desire to live by sight, not by faith (Hebrews 11:1). Yet when our doubts overwhelm us, we can cling to the truth of God’s Word. He calls us blessed when we believe in Him—sight unseen.

2 Corinthians 11:14: The Deceiver

Our culture depicts Satan as a creature with horns, a tail, and a fiendish laugh. Actually, the devil rarely arrives on the scene in an ugly form—that would be too obvious. Much like C.S. Lewis’s Uncle Screwtape in his Screwtape Letters, Satan approaches us as one offering exactly the thing we most desire—something that in and of itself doesn’t seem so “bad,” and yet invariably something that will deflect our focus from Christ.

Christian, beware! Satan is not our friend. Whatever he offers will push us further than we want to go and cost us much more than we would ever expect to pay.

Titus 1:2: No Lie

Paul reminds Titus that faith rests securely on the hope of eternal life—a specific promise of God. Paul looks toward heaven with confidence because of the Lord’s inability to lie. Our minds can’t comprehend God’s ways, so we often battle with unbelief. But our hope resides in the eternal life our Maker promised long ago. Security and trust exist when we believe all that God says (also see Hebrews 6:18).

God’s Words Have Purpose

Genesis 21:5: Lots of Laughter

Both Abraham and Sarah laugh at the idea of conceiving a baby in old age, but Isaac arrives despite their disbelief. Now Sarah laughs again, rejoicing in God’s miracle. She also assumes others will giggle too, amazed at the loving absurdity of it all. God turns the impossible into a festival of joy!

Leviticus 26:3–5: What He Will Do

If God’s people follow His laws, He will bless them. He promises them prosperity, peace, and favor among the nations. However, if Israel doesn’t obey God, the nation will live under a curse (Leviticus 26:14–16).

The commands and consequences are clear: If we will, He will. We can choose whether we will live under God’s blessing or under His curse. Corporately and individually, which will we choose?

Deuteronomy 28:15: All These Curses

Just as God promises to bless His people if they obey His commands, so also is the opposite true. The Israelites experience this firsthand throughout the rest of the biblical account of their history.

And doesn’t this idea hold true for us still today? True, difficulties emerge from the grip of sin on the world and from Satan’s attacks against us. But sometimes the hardship can originate from our own self-generated disobedience to God. When we’re continually hitting roadblocks on our daily walk, we may want to ask God if there is any part of our lives that needs to be given over to His will and His way. This is how those who are in bondage to besetting sins can repent, be forgiven, and be released into abundant living.

1 Samuel 3:10: Willing to Listen

In order to hear the Lord’s message, Samuel gives up his assumption about who’s speaking, stops running to and from Eli, and opens his heart to what the Lord might have to say. It’s a mature approach for a young boy, and a good three-step pattern to follow if we want to hear God’s voice. That is, we’re to disregard our preconceived notions about how God speaks, pull away from our busyness, and abandon our reluctance to heed God’s instructions. When we listen for the Lord with a servant’s attitude, willing to obey whatever He says, it’s amazing what we’ll hear.

Psalm 75:2: His Choice

We prefer making our own choices, but in reality, many of life’s major decisions elude our grasp. God determines the moments of our birth and death, our parents and heritage, our talents and appearance, and the circumstances of events that are beyond our control. He also knows when life on earth will end and when He will judge humanity. Are these the edicts of a heartless dictator? No! God is the sovereign King, but He is motivated in all of His decisions by love, kindness, and faithfulness.

If God’s choices don’t seem fair to us, it is because our sin competes with His purposes, marring our ability to see His faithful intentions. That’s when we can decide for ourselves, by determining to believe that God’s choices are good. In the perfect hindsight of eternity, we will know this to have been the case.

Ezekiel 2:9–10: Personal Communicator

God is a personal communicator. In this passage of Ezekiel, He holds a scroll with writing on both sides, thoroughly saturated with words pronouncing divine judgment upon His people. God hands the scroll to Ezekiel and asks the prophet to eat (internalize) the message and deliver it to Israel. Likewise, through His Word and presence, God wants to communicate personally with us, to saturate our hearts with words of life and love.

Hosea 6:6: Love and Mercy

In Hebrew the word for “mercy” is hesed, which refers to right conduct toward others, loyalty to the Lord, or both. This word is also translated as “love.” God requires that we love Him first and then go on to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:37–39). Just as we desire mercy from God, so others need it from us. When mercy operates according to God’s intent, love flows from Him to us to others and back again to Him, creating a circle of right relationships.

Malachi 2:17: Sin and Justice

The temptation is great for us to rationalize away our sin, to assure ourselves that we are not as bad as the next person. We even deem some sins to be socially acceptable—we are human, after all! But God requires justice. With Him there is no room for rationalization or relativity when it comes to sin.

We may be tempted to give up on God’s justice when we see the wicked prosper. But if we remain obedient, He is certain to reward our faithfulness. The wicked will be destroyed in God’s time. There is no such thing as bending justice.

Mark 4:23: Listen Up!

Ever since the Garden of Eden humanity has suffered from a spiritual hearing problem. God warns Adam and Eve to avoid the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but His words enter one ear and exit the other (Genesis 2:15–17). Ezekiel describes a rebellious people who have “ears to hear but do not hear” (Ezekiel 12:2). And James admonishes readers, “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not just hearers who deceive themselves” (James 1:22). Because of our sinful natures, we have difficulty not only hearing God, but also acting upon what He says.

However, when we hear the Lord’s words and obey them, our souls thrive (Isaiah 55:3). So when we hear Jesus say, “If anyone has ears to hear,” the time has come to perk up and listen.

God’s Words Are Eternal and Unchanging

Genesis 17:2: God’s Confirmation

God describes His covenant to Abraham, though He’s made this promise twice before (Genesis 12; 15). However, many years have passed since the Lord first promised a son through Sarah, who has been barren, and now this ninety-nine-year-old man wavers in his confidence that God will actually do it (17:17). But God confirms His promise again, this time because—as we know from the story—He’s about to fulfill it, and the old man needs to prepare his mind and heart to accept it.

Waiting on the Lord builds our faith, but so do His reassurances about His promises while He tarries. Are you waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promises to you? If so, be alert to evidence that God is confirming those promises.

1 Samuel 12:22: For the Lord’s Sake

The Israelites worship idols and participate in evil. They don’t deserve God’s goodness and intervention when difficulty pursues them. However, God keeps covenants and doesn’t reject His people, not because of their behavior, but for the sake of His name. The Lord will not tarnish His name or reputation as a promise keeper, even if He is treated poorly. Sometimes the very reason He acts is that His words are eternal and unchanging.

We can model God’s actions by paying attention to our own. The Bible cautions us to keep our oaths, even when it hurts (Psalm 15:4). An honorable person remembers promises and follows through on them.

2 Samuel 12:10: No Departures

Because of David’s adultery, God’s sword will linger over the king’s descendants. Even though God forgives David when he repents (see Psalm 51), the sin’s aftereffects erupt in his later family troubles. Although God forgives any transgression, the consequences of sin may filter down to future generations (Exodus 34:7). This is good motivation for us not to indulge in willful sin.

Nehemiah 5:13: Keeping Their Promises

We depend on God keeping His promises to us, but what about our pledges to Him? Moses warns His people, “If a man makes a vow to the Lord, or takes an oath to put himself under a binding obligation, he shall not break his word; he shall act in accordance with everything that comes out of his mouth” (Numbers 30:2). In the New Testament, Ananias and Sapphira experience the awful consequence of lying to the Holy Spirit and failing to follow through on their word to the Lord (Acts 5:1–8).

Yet our promise keeping doesn’t need to be motivated by fear or obligation. Just as God’s promises emerge from His love, so we can be reliable promise keepers because we love and desire to please Him. We love Him and keep our promises because He first loved us and kept His promises to us (1 John 4:19).

Nehemiah 8:18: Daily Reading

Every day Ezra the scribe saturates the people’s minds with the Book of the Law so that their faith and joy will increase. In the same way, if we read or listen to the Bible, we can discover and trust in God’s promises. As Ezra demonstrates, faith comes from hearing the messages in God’s Word (Romans 10:17). His readers hear only the Old Testament law, but still “there [is] very great rejoicing” (Nehemiah 8:17). We’re privileged to possess all of God’s written revelation, the Old and New Testaments, both of which prophesy and reveal the fulfillment of many of His promises. To what greater extent can we rejoice and grow in faith!

Isaiah 51:6: Long-Term Perspective

Even though heaven and earth will pass away, God’s salvation and righteousness will last forever. God does more than simply promise to rescue us from today’s troubles; He pledges that He will provide our security on a permanent basis. God is not merely the supreme leader for a generation, but for all generations throughout eternity. When troubles descend, practicing a long-term perspective—adopting God’s viewpoint—can help us to trust Him for the future.

Jeremiah 32:40: God’s Deepest Desire

God’s desire for community with His people is unchanging throughout the pages of Scripture. In Jeremiah and other parts of the Old Testament, He repeatedly declares, “They shall be My people, and I will be their God” (Jeremiah 32:38). The Almighty longs for intimacy with His own. Even when His people rebel against Him and He banishes them, because of His everlasting covenant He pledges to restore them. God’s grace abounds, as reflected in the promise, “I will never stop doing good to them” (v. 40 NIV).

Even today God’s promise stands firm. He yearns to be close to us, desiring above all else that we be His people and that we open our hearts to receive Him as our God.

Amos 1:2: Fruit and Faithfulness

Like the prophet Joel (see Joel 3:16), Amos refers to God as a roaring lion. But unlike Joel, Amos does not conclude this metaphor by portraying the Lord as a refuge. Rather, he speaks of the judgment accompanying the roar and thunder of God. Mount Carmel symbolizes a beautiful and fruitful place that withers under God’s wrath. We will also find ourselves accountable to the righteous judgment of God if we refuse to obey His word.

Matthew 24:35: Lasting Words

Throughout Scripture God admonishes His people to heed His words, because what He says will invariably come to pass—and because ignoring His words will bear inevitable consequences (Numbers 12:6; Jeremiah 6:19). God’s Word is rock-solid for all eternity, unlike human promises that can change like shifting sands. In Jeremiah 1:12 God declares, “I am watching over My word to perform it.” When God says He will do something, we can count on it.

Acts 20:32: Last Words

When we speak to a loved one for the last time, what do we say? Most of us focus on the most important aspects of life—the eternal rather than the transient or material. Paul does too.

Although Paul revisits Ephesus, at this point he doubts that he will see these brothers and sisters in Christ again. Paul exhorts them to care for each other and to live under grace, and this bolsters their faith, helps to keep them firm in the Spirit, and ensures their eternal inheritance. The key words, God’s grace, are excellent “last words” for us all.

Romans 16:25: The Establisher

Paul’s letters are personal in their salutations and closings. He wants readers to know how much he cares about them and how much God loves them. At the end of this letter to the Romans, Paul’s most systematic treatise, the apostle circles back to the mystery of Christ. The Lord is the One who both establishes us in the faith and keeps us firm in it until the end of our lives, and even to the end of time. Just as Paul did, we can find our eternal security in this immutable truth.

Hebrews 13:8: Consistency of Christ

In Jesus Christ we find the epitome of consistency. Scripture describes God as a rock, a fortress, a high tower, a shelter, a hiding place. We can depend on the promise of the constancy of the One who is forever the same.

God’s Words Bring Life

Leviticus 25:10–12: Proclaim Jubilee

The Old Covenant requires that every fifty years a Year of Jubilee be observed in which Israelites forgive one another their debt and receive a fresh start. They’re also to “proclaim a release through the land to all its inhabitants” and return property to its original owners.

Under the New Covenant we can proclaim liberty every day by bringing people to Jesus, who began His ministry by quoting these words from Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18–19). Whatever the bondage, He frees the captives.

1 Samuel 15:22: Obedience Is Better

Although God establishes the sacrificial rituals of the Israelites, He declares that obedience is better than sacrifice. What matters most to God is heart commitment, the desire to obey His voice. Failure to obey constitutes rebellion, which God considers to be as horrible as the practice of witchcraft or idolatry (1 Samuel 15:23). On the other hand, God blesses obedience, and it produces spiritual life and fruit.

1 Kings 2:4: Watch Out

Before his death David promises Solomon that his descendants will always reign over Israel, but there is one stipulation. The next generations must follow the Lord “with all their heart and all their soul.” If they obey, they will prosper and rule, but if not, the kingdom will be taken from them.

This isn’t a special requirement for royalty, but rather it echoes God’s words to all of Israel (Deuteronomy 30:15–19). This passage in Deuteronomy begins with the Lord’s invitation, “See, I have placed before you today life and happiness, death and adversity” (v. 15). Those who walk with God will receive life, while those who worship other gods will reap death. “So choose life,” the instruction concludes, “in order that you may live, you and your descendants” (v. 19).

1 Kings 22:14: What the Lord Says

Micaiah doesn’t add to or subtract from the Lord’s message but speaks only what the Lord has told him. Micaiah didn’t win any popularity contests by doing so—and neither will we. But “just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not intending to please people, but to please God, who examines our hearts” (1 Thessalonians 2:4).

Proverbs 9:12: Wisdom’s Reward

This promise comes from the mouth of Wisdom herself, a personification that Solomon uses to warn and exhort his readers. Wisdom promises that those who follow her ways will be rewarded with blessings, such as a long life (Proverbs 9:11), while fools who ignore her will suffer. But beyond prosperity or long life, wisdom is its own reward. A few verses earlier Wisdom states: “Give instruction to a wise person and he will become still wiser; teach a righteous person and he will increase his insight” (Proverbs 9:9).

As we seek understanding, we find God, the ultimate source of all wisdom.

Proverbs 22:4: Knowing Our Place

This advice was countercultural in Solomon’s day, and it remains unpopular today. We are conditioned to believe that wealth and honor belong to powerful people who need fear no one. While we may admire humility in others, we do not consider it an efficient or effective strategy for getting ahead in life. But the reality is that an abundant life, indeed life itself, is fortified and made more fulfilling not by powering up, but through humility and respecting the Lord—that is, considering God, and even those around us, to be better than ourselves. Realistically acknowledging our place in the universe and refusing to stomp on others to attain a higher foothold promotes wealth, honor, and a highly improved quality of life. Doesn’t that take the pressure off?

Ecclesiastes 9:18: Wisdom Is Better

In all of life, whether or not a person follows God, wisdom is desirable. Wisdom may be defined as the ability to judge accurately and choose the best course of action. This decision-making capacity works to our advantage in the home and in the workplace, in relationships and in personal actions. Wisdom enables us to live in peace and with a clear conscience. It supplies us with honorable opportunities and unexpected blessings. Of course, all wisdom is rooted in God’s ways, and true spiritual discernment abides only in Him. Wisdom fully blossoms when we know God, “For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6).

Isaiah 2:3: Finding the Way

God never plays guessing games with us, baiting us with clues about His will for our lives and then punishing us for wrong inferences. Instead, He gives us His Word of truth and then teaches it to us. If we listen, obey, and walk in that truth, we will live abundantly. The verses that follow Isaiah 2:3 reveal that justice and peace will result from walking “in the light of the Lord” (v. 5).

Isaiah 29:23–24: Patient Reconciliation

Again God expresses His strong desire for reconciliation, for the redemption of His people. God promises new life for His children if only they will repent, turn from evil, and “sanctify the Holy One of Jacob” (Isaiah 29:23). This promise reminds us of the New Testament assurance that God “is patient toward [us], not willing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). When we repent and accept instruction, we find life.

Isaiah 60:1: Drawn by His Glory

The life we enjoy in God emanates from the glory He sheds upon us. His life shines in sharp contrast to the world’s darkness. The “you” in Isaiah 60:1 refers to Zion, and just as the exiled Israelites return to Jerusalem, so people of all nations will someday return to God, drawn by the radiance of His glory.

Jeremiah 21:8: Face the Choice

God’s people face a choice: Stay in the city and die, or surrender to the Babylonians and live. Although the latter may in many ways not seem to be the best choice, God assures His people that He is in control and He alone dictates what will happen.

The way of life is obedience to God, not choosing the course that seems most sensible or efficacious according to human logic. This verse echoes Deuteronomy 30, where God offers the same choice: life and prosperity by electing to follow His way, or death and destruction by forging ahead on their own. “So choose life,” He urges His people (v. 19). When we follow God’s Word, we do indeed make a choice for life.

Ezekiel 47:9: The River of Life

The Israelites understand the difference between “living water” and “dead water,” being familiar with the Dead Sea that stretches some fifty miles. Its waters settle at the earth’s lowest point and contain a high concentration of salt and minerals that prevent the existence of organic life. Ezekiel prophesies that this sea will come to life as the river of God flows into it. Once again God promises to bring life from death.

As we allow God’s river to flow though us, He regenerates the dead places within us. God’s words foster life and blessing.

Joel 1:14: A Right Attitude

Israelite law requires fasting on the Day of Atonement or during times of calamity. A plague of locusts qualifies as a disaster, so at the Lord’s command, Joel calls the people to a holy fast in order to drive back the destruction in their land (see Isaiah 58:1–12).

God is primarily interested in the condition of our hearts. Through proper fasting we can temporarily forgo worldly comforts and distractions, freeing our spirits to commune with God.

Amos 7:8: The Measuring Stick

God uses the image of the plumb line to demonstrate the imbalance in the Israelites’ spiritual lives. He offers plumb lines to us as well through Scripture and the counsel of other believers. We can remain true to God’s standards by paying attention to the spiritual tools He provides. When we are in sync with the Spirit, He is able to flow unimpeded through us.

Nahum 2:2: Restoring the Splendor

God is in the restoration business. While this was true in this promise to His people Israel, His most critical act of restoration focuses on His relationship with all of humanity. All of history—especially the death and resurrection of Jesus—points to this fact. Our Father desires above all else to reinstate our souls into a right relationship with Himself.

Matthew 13:23: Abundant Harvest

Only those hearers who allow God’s words to take root and mature in them can produce true spiritual fruit (John 15:1–6). Sometimes God prunes dead branches from our lives—unhealthy relationships, habitual sins, or selfish attitudes—in order that we may continue flourishing in Him.

The Master Gardener knows precisely how to cultivate the soil of our hearts so that we will produce an abundant crop. But first, we must allow the seed of the Word to sprout in that soil.

Mark 5:39–40: No Laughing Matter

Jesus can breathe spirit into any lifeless situation. Even when mockers taunt, we can depend on Christ’s power to usher in hope and transformation. His words are no laughing matter.

Luke 6:46–49: Sure Foundation

Jesus talks about building a house on a solid foundation because His listeners understand this illustration. The hills in the Holy Land yield sparse vegetation, and heavy rains can quickly erode hillsides, sweeping away homes and other buildings.

Jesus reassures us that, if we hear and obey His words, we will not be shaken from our spiritual footing either, even when the proverbial storms come crashing in against us. Jesus, the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20), remains our sure and solid foundation, come rain or shine.

John 6:31–35: Bread of Life

During the Israelites’ term of wandering in the wilderness, the Lord promises Moses, “I will rain bread from heaven for you” (Exodus 16:4). Every day for forty years God sends manna, a white miracle bread that tastes like “wafers with honey” (v. 31) to satisfy the people’s physical hunger and nutritional needs.

In John 6:31–35 Jesus offers Himself as the “bread of life,” available to permanently satisfy our spiritual hunger. Each day, by engaging in prayer and the reading of God’s Word, we can be confident of receiving spiritual sustenance from our Life Giver.

Acts 6:10: Wise Words

Peter encourages Christians to answer anyone who asks about their reason for hope (1 Peter 3:15). Likewise, Stephen will respond even if the truth invites His death. When the message emanates from God, it fills the messenger with undeniable truth, power, and courage. We can and must speak God’s words of truth and light in a dark world, infusing it with wisdom and wonder.

James 1:25: Blessed by Doing

A certain popular advertising slogan invites us to “just do it.” Although this particular slogan challenges us to exercise our physical bodies, it could carry spiritual implications, too. We are not merely to hear and talk about God’s laws but to act on them as well. In fact, no amount of listening or reading or talking about spiritual matters can substitute for obeying God with our actions.

We obey God because we love Him, but also to avoid sin and its consequences. These reasons alone should be more than enough to motivate us to “do” what God asks of us. But when we remember what we hear and then act on it, we will also be blessed by our doing.