Promises, promises

By the time you read this, you may know which bunch holds our national political welfare in its eager hands. Not being in receipt of the gift of prophecy, I will refrain from predicting the outcome. I will stick my neck out a bit and predict that Nick Clegg will not be our next Prime Minister, but that’s as far as I’ll go. Why anyone wants the job anyway is well beyond me.

Now it will be up to one of the parties – and let’s assume there will be one with a majority – to try to govern the nation. If we are feeling cynical, we may be inclined to say that it is time for one of the parties to put away its manifesto and get on with the business of breaking all those pledges made to the electorate which they knew in reality they would never be able to keep. And cynicism about politics is widespread. It was not for nothing that the last Parliament came to be described by some journalists as the Manure Parliament, a title that for graphic descriptiveness is hard to equal. The stories of ridiculous or downright scurrilous expenses claims simply added to the general perception that politicians are out chiefly to look after themselves at the public’s expense. That no doubt is grossly unfair to those MPs who are hardworking and honest, but the perception remains.

Indeed we have reached the point where anyone who actually expected a government to keep its promises – if such a person existed – would be considered a simpleton who should not be let out alone. On the truth scale, a ‘manifesto promise’ rates somewhere below a lie and a statistic. Generous helpings of excuses are no doubt being prepared for early distribution. A government’s word is rarely its bond.

What a relief it is to know that the highest authority is not some Prime Minister, or President, or Monarch, but the God of whom it can be said that he ‘is not man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind’ (Numbers 23:19). When the questions are asked, ‘Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfil?’ the answers are obvious. God is one who uniquely keeps all his promises. In contrast to every earthly ruler, the sovereign Creator is utterly trustworthy and not one of his promises will fail. We can place our complete confidence in everything he says.

God’s words reflect his trustworthiness and reliability: ‘the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times’. Thus Jesus can state in John 17:17, as he addresses his Father, ‘your word is truth’. God’s words are true and provide the standard by which all other claims to truth are to be measured. In a world where lies and deception are so prevalent, we are not set adrift with no moorings. In God’s word we have something solid to hold on to.

What a privilege it is to have God’s words written down for us in a book. When we open the Bible and read, we are not handling merely the words of men, however holy. We are handling truly human words, but words which are at the same time the very Word of God. When Paul says that ‘all Scripture is God-breathed’ (II Timothy 3:16) he is telling us that if we were to hear God’s voice audibly, it would have no more truthfulness and authority than the written Word.

The promises of God are therefore promises we can trust and promises that will be kept. He can no more break a promise than he can cease to be God. He has promised salvation to all who trust in Christ crucified and risen. He has promised grace sufficient for every need of his children, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit to sanctify us and equip us for service. He has promised final glorification in the new creation to all his children. Christ himself is the one through whom the fulfilment of God’s promises comes and he is the guarantor that they will be brought to pass. ‘For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ’. We may despair of the promises of politicians. The promises of the Lord will never fail.