The God of the Bible has chosen to enter into relationship with humanity. He has chosen to work with us to redeem us and give us a hope for the world. Because of this choice, God’s hand is quite active in the redemptive history of humanity. There are threads all throughout the Bible that demonstrate God’s promises and works in human history. We’ll take a look at one of these threads today.
Roughly three thousand years ago, Solomon built a temple in Jerusalem for God. After its creation, Solomon said a prayer of dedication that looks forward into the future for Israel. As the leader of his people, Solomon urged God to hear all of their future prayers directed to his presence at the temple. He prayed about a variety of things, including crops, warfare, the weather, and unbelievers. And then he uttered this prayer about a potential future for Israel as well,
 “If they [Israel] sin against you … and you are angry with them and give them to an enemy, so that they are carried away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near,  yet if they turn their heart in the land to which they have been carried captive, and repent …  then hear in heaven your dwelling place their prayer and their plea, and maintain their cause  and forgive your people who have sinned against you, and all their transgressions that they have committed against you, and grant them compassion in the sight of those who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them.” (1 Kings 8:46-47, 49-50)
In essence, Solomon says, “God, when your people sin against you and get conquered and taken away, remember them even in the land of their enemies. Give them compassion in the sight of their captors.” This is some eerie foreshadowing. Solomon prays his prayer, knowing full-well that God doesn’t play favorites. God has used Israel in the past to conquer other nations for their sins, but he is just as willing to use another nation to bring justice on Israel for their sins. And that is exactly what happens with the Babylonian exile. And so we’ll follow this thread into the book of Daniel. Daniel was among the captive youths chosen to be fed with the Babylonian king’s food and educated in Babylonian learning for a period of three years. And here’s what we see happen with Daniel,
 But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself.  And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs (Daniel 1:8-9)
It’s nearly word-for-word. God enters the story, and takes the prayer of Solomon and brings it out into reality for Daniel. Centuries had passed, but the prayers and promises of God continued to hold. Daniel received compassion from his captors, because God’s hand was at work. God’s promises were at work.
The promises of God are scattered all throughout the Scriptures. And we love to memorize these verses. And sometimes we don’t care about the context behind them or the provisions they include. We love to proclaim favor on ourselves. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Both casual and longtime Christians tend to have their favorite “coffee cup” verses:
- For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
- I can do all things through him who gives me strength.
- So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
We hold on to the promises of God because that’s what God wants us to do. We show our faithfulness by meditating on his words that last through millennia. But there’s a crucial element that must be recognized in the midst of trusting God’s promises. God’s promises are very rarely at work in a vacuum. What this means is that God’s promises aren’t things that you sit around waiting for, hoping they drop out of the sky. God works out his promises through the works of his people. See, what happens in Daniel’s story, is not that God just randomly appeared and answered the prayer of Solomon. There was nothing random about it. We read that before Daniel received any kind of answer, he resolved to be faithful to his God. He resolved not to defile himself. He resolved to go above and beyond what his dietary restrictions were. He resolved to remember his God, and his God’s promises. And this is where God does his work.
God works out his promises through the works of his people.
We love to hang on to God’s promises, and that’s great. But we also must work out his promises in our life. Yes we can do all things through Christ, but are we living in him every day of our lives? Yes, God has great plans to prosper his people, but are you of his people? Are you committed to him? Yes, we should not fear if God his with us. But is he with you? None of these words are meant to condemn or guilt you into anything. But this should be a stern reminder to us that though God’s promises never fail, they work in-and-through people who have resolved to do life with him. God’s promises will get done with or without you. God has committed himself to the redemptive history of humanity, and we have the option of going along for the journey.
In the book of Esther, Esther faced a choice. She had found herself in the Persian palace. Yet her “faith” was secret. Her identity was secret. She did not follow the Jewish dietary restrictions. She married a pagan. The entire Hebrew nation was facing genocide. Yet, God had promised to preserve his people. He had promised to save his people. And revealing herself to be a Jew was potentially life threatening. And having these promises in mind, what was Esther to do in her position? Esther’s cousin Mordechai offered her some advice:
“If you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)
Mordecai understood that God’s promises, that God’s deliverance, will come with or without Esther. His prayers will be answered with or without her. And yet, God has placed her into a position where she had the honor of working out God’s promises for his people.
Dear friends, this is where we find ourselves. We are at a point in history, where God continues to work with humanity through the gospel of Jesus. If we choose not to follow, his works will still be done through someone else in some other place, and we will miss out on becoming a part of the new humanity that he envisions for us. And yet, we have been graced with the Gospel in such a time as this. And God is eager and willing to have his promises be true in your life. Resolve to follow God wherever he leads you, for he has promised:
“Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)