Promises, promises, promises. A lot of people make promises. Some actually keep them. But when it comes to God, he always keeps his promises, but not always in the way or the timing you might think. The interesting thing about God’s promises is that sometimes his promises are kept in multiple ways. Sometimes they are kept in the near future and kept in the distant future.
Another way to say it, is that sometimes God’s promises from the Old Testament are fulfilled in physical way to his people Israel, and they are fulfilled in an even more profound and eternal way all of us who have come after them. This is the case with Jesus.
Another fascinating aspect of God’s promises is that sometimes one promise leads to more promises. This is certainly the case with the promise of the Savior that we celebrate at Christmas. His coming leads us to more Christmas promises from God. Some of those promises are found in Micah 5:1-5—a prophecy about the coming Messiah.
(Read Micah 5:1-5)
Israel is under attack and God is promising to restore her. That is the near promise. But the promise to us, thousands of years later, is the promise of the Messiah and this actually leads to even more promises.
The description clues us into the fact that God is speaking of Jesus. Verse two—he comes from one of the smallest towns among the clan, among one of the smallest tribes of Israel. He comes from Bethlehem. He is not raised up in the aristocracy, nor will he enter the scene with much fame. From humble beginnings this ruler will rise. That does not mean he will be unqualified. Because “His coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.”
I want us to focus on the fact that the promise of a Savior, Jesus, means that God gives us three more promises. They are some of the Christmas promises from God for you, and God always delivers on what he promises.
Promise #1: Jesus Will Be Our Shepherd
A shepherd is a leader of sheep. He protects, leads to nourishment, and charts their way. One of the marks of our time is a radical sense of independence and self-reliance. Not everyone wants to be lead. Or so we think. Until we are brought to our limit. Overwhelmed, or we get ourselves in trouble. Eventually this happens to all of us.
Andrew Bonar tells how in the Highlands of Scotland, a sheep would often wander off into the rocks and get into places that they couldn't get out of. The grass on these mountains is very sweet and the sheep like it, and they will jump down ten or twelve feet, and then they can't jump back again, and the shepherd hears them bleating in distress. They may be there for days, until they have eaten all the grass. The shepherd will wait until they are so faint they cannot stand, and then they will put a rope around him, and he will go over and pull that sheep up out of the jaws of death. "Why don't they go down there when the sheep first gets there?" I asked. He said, "They are so very foolish they would dash right over the precipice and be killed if I did!"
And that is the way with us; we often won't go back to God until we have no friends and have lost everything. If you are a wanderer I tell you that the Good Shepherd will bring you back the moment you have given up trying to lead yourself, save yourself, and you are willing to let him lead you and save you his own way.
He will be our Shepherd, in the strength of the Lord and the majesty of his name
Promise #2: We Shall Dwell Secure
Verse four says, “And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the end of the earth.”
The promise of security hits home. It got me thinking about the ways in which we often feel insecure. How our fear often cripples us and how every single person deals with levels of insecurity at one time or another. In fact, it’s hard to imagine a life in which we feel completely secure all the time.
The Huffington Post ran a short article about fear. It featured a series of comics depicting common fears that children have alongside similar fears held by adults. Titled "Childhood Fears vs. Adult Fears," the cartoons illustrate the following pairs:
-Childhood fear: Bad dreams. Adult fear: Unfulfilled dreams.
-Childhood fear: Strangers. Adult fear: Crippling social anxiety.
-Childhood fear: Clowns. Adult fear: Clowns.
The article notes that though the fears of children are often discounted as irrational or silly by us "older" and "wiser" adults, they are not far off from our own fears. "They're proof that no matter how old we get, we're never alone in our fears," it says. In the end, however, it would seem that there is a line of logic that explains why the most common fears among adults are often similar to those of children: everyone has a fear of the unknown. There will always be uncertainty about jobs, relationships, finances, health, and any number of other daily concerns that can bring down even the most spirited people.
Is there a way avoid the downward spiral that anxiety brings? In a world as chaotic as this one, you definitely can't replace uncertainty with certainty. You can, however, fight against it with hope. Hope in the promises of God.
What are the things that threaten your sense of security?
-Our children being hurt
-How do others perceive me?
And not just these things, but it is the fact that we believe that any one of these things can lead to our total demise. But listen to the promise of God at Christmas: “They shall dwell secure.”
Notice the reason why you will be secure: “He shall be great to the ends of the earth.” His reputation and influence will ever expand. In the final analysis, all will recognize him for who he really is. His detractors will be no more. From the beginning we see a glimpse of the end.
To dwell secure. What a promise! No fear of your ultimate demise. This is a promise that has both immediate and eternal application for you. Even though the difficulties of life right now can be hard, painful, and scary, if you are found in Christ, then you don’t put your trust in circumstances around you, you put that trust in a person. If you are found in Christ, then you will never be undone. He will keep you. And you will be secure.
When it comes the scariest unknown of them all, death, if you are found in Christ, then he will keep you and you will be secure.
Promise #3: He Shall Be Our Peace
Verse 5 states this clearly. This points us to political peace and even peace between nations, as hard as it is to believe. Those things will come someday.
But even more than that, it points us to peace with God. To go about your days with an unshakeable inner peace because we know our standing before God himself. This points us to the need for the gospel and the need for Christmas. We cannot have peace with God without the forgiveness of our sins. But God provides a way through this promised Savior, Jesus. The promised Savior ushers in the other promises of God at Christmas.
He offers to take your sins from you, to cleanse you, to lead you, to serve, and to give you peace. All you have to do is ask him to forgive and trust him to keep forgiving.
(Read Micah 7:18-19)
We can have peace with God, we will have peace in life, and we will have peace for eternity through this promise. The promise the Jesus will be our peace.
Three promises of Christmas.
For the insecure he provides security, for the warring he provides peace, for the wandering he provides a shepherd. God meets our needs through Jesus.
And so worship him. Trust him. Follow him.
Merry Christmas everyone!
Nick Gatzke is the Sr. Pastor of Old North Church in Canfield, OH and can be heard on the radio program Opening the Bible.