Saturday, October 22, 2005

God's Promises

Bad news or good news, which would you rather receive? Most prefer good news. Because of a government clerical error, my friend Paula received a notice from the Internal Revenue Service saying their business owed $36,000 in back taxes. The misunderstanding was resolved, but Paula’s initial reaction was over-the-top hyperventilation. She did feel faint.

Unlike Paula, the Israelites sometimes got unwelcome news because of their disobedience. Often, news about the future came from one of God’s prophets. God made promises to the obedient and disobedient, but the promises varied in degrees of blessing and meted-out justice.

God’s prophecies often arrived amid similes.

On more than one occasion God sent messages through Jeremiah. For several generations, some clans in Israel worshiped idols, and did detestable things such as sacrificing their morals and children. God described them as having traveling feet that walked away from God. They trusted in their own strength.

God characterized these strays as “stunted shrubs in the desert with no hope for the future” (Jeremiah 17:5 NLT). That’s the dry, crusty land where reptiles grow thick skin to survive.

However, God compared a faithful follower to a tree “planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream” (17:8). This tree is portrayed as green and fruit-bearing even in droughts. The tree is personified as not having fears or worries (17:8 NIV). What a portrait.

For me, crop plenty and crop failure is easy to picture. Years ago, I had a fine garden—organic fertilizer, plenty of rainfall, and the perfect amount of sunny days—that produced hefty tomatoes. So many fruits ripened, we set up saw horses and put a sheet of plywood on top to hold the bounty. A good crop from healthy plants.

But this spring my three spindly tomato plants got a late start due to cold mornings. After too much shade and lack of moisture, nibbling worms also bit into the harvest. In July, we picked half a dozen pitiable runts. A bad crop from shriveled vines.

Throughout Jeremiah’s life he delivered prophecies of horror and hope. Although he delivered plenty of bad news, he was privileged to broadcast the very best news: a Savior for all. God pledged: “I will fulfill the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah . . . I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line” (33: 14. 15).

Most of us, if we’re honest, are a mixture of good and bad, in need of divine nourishment from above. Writer Mary Connealy pens that concept in the words beneath her signature: “Standing on his promises, falling on his grace.”

In her slogan, Mary captures the human drama of deliverance. Brokenness can be healed. Good News has arrived in Jesus. By relying on him, we are “standing on his promises, falling on his grace.”

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