Claiming the Promises of GodStudy No. 166
Every time there is a large lottery, a frenzy of excitement ensues. Thousands of people are thrilled at the prospect of winning millions of dollars, of becoming instantly rich. Wouldnít it be foolish to buy a lottery ticket, to discover you are the big winner, and never claim your prize?
The Creator has made many promises. Yet many of His prized blessings are unclaimed, unwanted, and ignored. Let us look at some of the prized promises of the Almighty, avoid what would keep us from obtaining the promises, and find out how to claim these promises.
I will be covering four major promises of the Bible. If you want to discover many other promises of God, I recommend you obtain the 351-page book, All the Promises of the Bible, by Herbert Lockyer ($19.99 retail, $16.00 postpaid from Giving & Sharing, PO Box 100, Neck City, MO 64849).
The Creator promised Eve that in spite of her sin, he would raise up a seed from her that would destroy the Serpent and bring redemption to sinful mankind, Genesis 3:15.
When the wickedness of man became so great that the Eternal had to destroy all flesh in a great flood, He promised Noah and his family protection in the ark, and that He would make a covenant with Noah, Genesis 6:5-18. Why did Noah find grace (favor) in the eyes of the Lord? Because he was upright and walked with God, verses 8-9.
God promised Abraham that He would make His covenant with him, that he would have a son in his old age, and that he would be a father to many nations, Genesis 17:1-8. In spite of sins and weaknesses, Abraham passed his supreme test. He obeyed God even though it seemed foolish and against Godís promises, when God told him to sacrifice his only legitimate son, Isaac. Does God keep His promises? Abraham had to face that issue squarely. He knew that Isaac represented the fulfillment of Godís promise to him, yet God told him to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham did not know why he was being put through this severe test and trial. But he decided to obey God, not understanding what God was doing. Abraham knew that it was impossible for God to lie, Hebrews 6:13-18. In one of the most emotional passages of Scripture, God stopped Abraham short from killing his only son, and instead pronounced the promised blessing to Abraham and his seed, Genesis 22:12, 16-18. And, this promise has been fulfilled in the material and spiritual blessings of the Anglo-Saxon and kindred peoples of Northwestern Europe, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel). Even more, the seed of Abraham (as distinguished from the many seeds), the Messiah, has come, and will come again, to bring the promised blessings to all mankind. Why did this promised blessing come through Abraham? Because he obeyed Godís voice, Genesis 22:18, 26:4-5. His faith led to action, and the grace (favor) of God is on those who reverence (fear) Him.
When God established His covenant with the nation of Israel, descendants of Abraham, He promised to make them a peculiar (special) treasure to Him, and they would be a nation of priests, a holy nation, Exodus 19:5-6. They, the promised seed or people, would inherit the promised land, which at that time was known as Canaan.
Now there are two types of promises of God: blessings and cursings. Both are sure to be kept, because our Heavenly Father keeps His promises. If you keep the Lordís Sabbaths, reverence His place of worship, walk in His statutes, and keep His commandments, then tremendous blessings are promised, sure to follow in due time, Leviticus 26:2-13, Deuteronomy 28:1-13. Let us summarize the promised blessings of God for His people: (1) we will have plenty of food, natural resources, and good physical health, (2) we will enjoy blessed children and families, (3) our oppressive enemies will be defeated, and we will have lasting peace, (4) we will be a holy, spiritual covenant people, who walk with God, and are an example to the world, a people who extend Godís blessings to others. This last promise encompasses the ultimate promise, "the promise of eternal inheritance," Hebrews 9:15. This is the promised of eternal life, I John 2:25. Now Abraham was a "friend of God," James 2:23. God keeps His friends for ever. Those who are friends of God like Abraham was, can also look forward to the promise of eternal inheritance.
Because the Creator has love and mercy, He will not give the promise of eternal inheritance to those who would be miserable forever, or those who would spread misery and unhappiness to others for all eternity. Therefore because He is good, and He is God, He must also promise cursings on the disobedient, those who rebel against His commandments and break His covenant, Leviticus 26:14-39, Deuteronomy 28:15-68. But even in this, He holds out hope to the recipients of His cursings, urging them to repent, even to the very end, Leviticus 26:40-45.
The cursings are the opposite of the four types of promised blessings: (1) famine, starvation, and disease, (2) cursed children and cursed families, (3) defeat in war and captivity in slavery to oneís enemies, (4) being forced to serve idols in a strange land, forsaken by God. The language used in Scripture graphically describes the lamentable condition of those who reject God and are subjected to His promised cursings.
(1) Cursed shalt thou be in the city, field, basket, store, fruit of the land, cattle, sheep; "cursed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and cursed shalt thou be when thou goeth out." God will break the staff of your bread. The heaven shall be like brass (no rain), and the earth like iron (dried out, unworkable), dust storms, blasting and mildew, all thy trees and fruit of thy land shall the locust consume. The disobedient will be cursed with pestilence, consumption, fever, extreme burning, like the botch of Egypt (venereal disease?), emerods, scab, itch, "whereof thou canst not be healed," madness, blindness, astonishment of heart (heart attacks), a "sore botch that cannot be healed," great plagues of long continuance, sore sicknesses.
(2) Cursed shall be the fruit of thy body, thou shalt betroth a wife, and another man shall lie with her, thy sons and thy daughters shall be given unto another people, thou shalt beget sons and daughters, but thou shalt not enjoy them; for they shall go into captivity. Thou shalt eat the fruit of thine own body, in the siege of your enemies.
(3) Godís face will be against you, and you shall be slain before your enemies. They that hate you shall reign over you. (Think of this in the spiritual scene of the Church.) You will flee when none pursues you. You will be taken into captivity into a nation which thou hast not known.
(4) Since you did not worship and serve Him with zeal, you shall serve other gods, wood and stone. God will destroy your high places, cut down your images, bring your sanctuaries (churches) unto desolation, and His soul shall abhor you. He will scatter you among the heathen. Because didnít serve the Lord thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things, you shall serve your enemies which the Lord shall send against you, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things: and he shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck.
The promises of God are sure: which type of promise will you claim?
Letís look at the four promised blessings: good health, a blessed family, deliverance from our enemies, being Godís covenant people, and see how we can claim the promised blessings of God.
Claiming the Promise of Good Health
The Bible is full of promises for good health, and the laws which tend to health and happiness. Our Savior said that He came that we might have live in good health, and have life more abundantly, John 10:10. God wants us to prosper in good health, III John 2. Some folks do not believe that Bible statutes regarding abstaining from unclean meats (Leviticus 11, Deuteronomy 14) are still valid laws of God. How can we believe Godís promised blessings and cursings we just read are for us, if we believe His statutes regarding clean and unclean meats are only for a certain class of people, Israelites?
The Bible, however, has much, much more in it regarding health. For example, bread strengthens manís heart, Psalm 104:15. This is speaking of wholesome bread, not todayís white bread robbed of nutrients. I have before me six vials. The first contains whole grain wheat, unrefined, and pure. Grind this into flour, and bake the flour into nutritious bread, and you have good bread, which sticks to your ribs. The next vial is the bran part of the wheat, which some millers take out and feed it to pigs or other livestock. Bran is "roughage," which helps us properly eliminate bodily wastes through the colon. Next, I have a vial of "middlings," also removed during wheat processing, and wheat germ, which is rich in protein. Then here is a vial of wheat germ oil, rich in vitamin E, which fights cancer. All these are taken out by manís artificial refining process. After manís wicked milling process is complete, the wholesome, God-given grain of wheat is reduced to the last vial, white flour, which is further bleached and robbed of most remaining elements. This end product is manufactured into white glutinous bread. But that is not enough for man. He adds hard to pronounce chemicals to protect and preserve his new product which he calls bread. How can we claim the promise of good health, if we ourselves, rob our God-given food of its nutrients, and pollute ourselves with chemicals?
Now, God has given herbs for the service of man, Psalm 104:14, just like He has made the Sabbath for man, Mark 2:27. It is up to us to discover and use these gifts, these promises, from the Creator. There can be no occupation more noble than to raise herbs and help others benefit from them.
In spite of our best efforts, we sometimes get sick, and need the Saviorís healing power in our lives. Do we believe Godís promise to forgive all our sins? If we do, then we must also believe His promise to heal all of our diseases, Psalm 103:3. Letís claim the promise of good health, and claim Godís promise to heal us when we are sick. Leave the white bread alone. Claim the real thing.
Do you suppose that God will fulfill His promised blessings to those who break their promises? Of course not! When Israel entered into a marriage covenant with God at Sinai, they said, "I do," Exodus 19:5, 6, 8. But they had their fingers crossed behind their backs; most of them really didnít mean it, because shortly afterwards, they were committing fornication before the golden calf. But the Eternal, abundant in mercy, never gave up on them. He sent prophet after prophet, crying out to Israel to repent. At last straw, He gave them over to captivity, figuratively gave them a bill of divorcement, yet still said He was married to them, and urged them to repent, Jeremiah 3:8-14. Jesus condemned divorce and remarriage, and stated that whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and marry another, commits adultery.
Today we have very few true "promise-keepers." Most people, even those in the "promise-keeper" movement, believe that God permits divorce and remarriage for any and all reasons. They believe, contrary to Godís inviolate Word, that adultery may be continued in, that "repentance" (so-called) whitewashes the sin of adultery. The Makerís awesome Truth about marriage and family is unknown to them. How can we believe God will keep His promise to give us an eternal inheritance, everlasting life, if we think nothing of breaking our wedding vows, freely divorcing and remarrying?
IF modern teaching is correct, that even Church members can divorce and remarry freely, time after time, as is being done in the ministry and membership of most Churches of God, then you can forget about God. He is not a God who keeps His promises. You cannot trust Him to be reliable. However, the Eternal is a promise-keeper, and He expects us to do the same.
The Spiritual Perspective
The health promises and the family promises are important. However, we must not get the impression that claiming these wonderful promises is solely the result of our own efforts, our own will and resolve. Understanding the promises of God, and fulfilling the conditions for claiming these great promises, comes by a spiritual revelation, which is a gift of God, I Corinthians 2: 9-10, 12. We may only know "the things that are freely given to us of God," by His Spirit. Otherwise, eating wholesome food, marrying for life, would seem nonsensical, incomprehensible, to the carnal mind, Romans 8:7.
The spiritual aspect is essential to grasping the modern day significance of the third area of Godís promises that we may claim today. Without the Holy Spirit, one could not recognize oneís enemies, and be a sitting duck, easy prey for the evil one.
Recognizing and Defeating the Enemies of God
What a wonderful promise, "The LORD shall cause thine enemies that rise up against thee to be smitten before thy face: they shall come out against thee one way, and flee before thee seven ways," Deuteronomy 28:7. It was easy for Israel to understand this, for they conquered the Promised Land, which was loaded with formidable enemies. When they obeyed the Eternal, He delivered them from oppressive enemies, but when they disobeyed, captivity was the result.
How can we apply this promise today? The Church is not a state; it does not engage in physical warfare. No, the Church is a spiritual organism. Its warfare is spiritual, and its enemies are those of the wrong spirit. The enemies of believers today cannot be recognized except by those who have the Spirit of the Eternal. Like dumb sheep, some in the Church of God today fail to recognize their enemies.
In my opinion, it took a long time, too long, for many to leave the Worldwide Church of God after its leadership passed from Herbert W. Armstrong to Joseph W. Tkach and later his son, Joe, Jr. I knew well Joseph W. Tkach, senior. His immoral character and lack of love for the Truth of God was well known, obvious, when I worked in Pasadena, California in Church Administration in 1973. Many knew, but closed their eyes. Others did not have the spiritual discernment, and for too long worshipped an organization and its hierarchy, instead of the unchanging God who always keeps His promises. The willingly blind often quoted Hebrews 13:5, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." This verse does not justify staying in a corrupt organization, for verse 4 says, "whoremongers and adulterers God will judge." God promises to never leave us destitute, physically (first part of verse 5) or spiritually. However, if we join the crowd and leave Him, we are headed for spiritual captivity. He will turn us over to punishment if we leave Him.
Those who have Godís Spirit can recognize the wolves in sheepís clothing that are certain to appear in the group of Godís people, Acts 20:29-30. But today, the wolves are so brazen, and sheep so spiritually dumb, that wolves often do not bother to appear in sheepís clothing; they can overpower many naive people without disguise.
Has the Church of God (Seventh Day) experienced internal enemies? Ask those in Marion, Iowa, who were infiltrated by outsiders, and then kicked out of their own Church.
In spite of a long history of contra-trinitarianism from the very beginning of the Church of God (Seventh Day), Whaid Rose, its current President, said in an interview in The Journal of February 26, 1998, that trinitarianism could be a valid expression of belief in understanding the nature of God, that trinitarianism is ok because we cannot understand God. Gilbert Cranmer and Joseph Bates would turn over in their graves if they knew this heresy would come to the top echelons of Sabbatarians today.
Whaid Rose says that his friend Joseph Tkach does not have a motive to get the Church of God (Seventh Day) to give up the Sabbath, when Tkach has publicly stated his mission is to the Sabbath-keeping community, implying he wants them to give up the sanctity of the seventh day Sabbath, as he has done in the Worldwide Church of God. I believe Tkach means what he says. Is Rose a polyanna, or willfully ignorant?
Are we going to face the fact that enemies of the Sabbath and related Truths are in our midst? Ignoring the problem will not provide the solution. We have a promise from the Almighty that He will deliver us from our enemies. Is the Almighty faithful? Then why donít we claim His promise to recognize, and defeat, our enemies? Is it because we have departed from the living God, and are in effect, right now, in spiritual captivity? There are, praise the Almighty, a few good men and women who are standing up to todayís enemies of Godís people. Are you one of the few holding fast?
A Holy, Covenant, People
Now why does it seem that it is the natural tendency for men like Tkach and Rose to "rise to the top" of their respective organizations? These men have little appreciation for their respective groupís history and doctrinal teaching, but at once go about to dismantle the established teaching, under the guise of "new truth." Why donít those who do love and appreciate their churchís heritage become the trustees of Godís Truth?
Elementary, my dear Watson! Because there are actually very few holy, covenant people today. Claiming this promise requires discipleship, hard work, and being an example for others to follow. This, the richest promise, is largely unclaimed. It is much easier to stay carnal, yet have the appearance of godliness.
If you keep the Makerís Sabbaths, statutes, and commandments, and reverence His sanctuary, He promises to establish His covenant with you, Leviticus 26:9. Our Creator will literally walk among us, and we shall be His people as we walk upright under His guidance, verses 12-13. From the Old Testament to New Testament, this promise of the New Covenant rings clear, Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 11:19, 36:26-28; Hebrews 8:10-12, 10:16-17. What a tremendous promise! Let us claim it!
Deuteronomy 28:9-10 promises that we shall be a holy people unto God, an example for others to follow. That is, IF we keep His commandments. We cannot claim this supreme promise if we stomp on Godís laws, refusing to let Him write them on our hearts.
IF there are any covenant people today among you, you would certainly be in leadership positions in your respective churches. You would stake claim of Godís promises, and He would cast out the claim jumpers, the enemies of His Truth.
It is almost too late. Like the last days of Rome, our nations are in deep moral decay. And many Sabbatarians are divided and confused, being led by men who, at best, are not lovers of the Truth.
You can claim the promises of good health, a strong family, and recognition of your enemies, but unless you get off your duff to claim the fourth promise, you are defeated.
There are two groups of people in the Church whose labor is sorely needed: youth recently graduated from high school or college, and newly retired persons. Of course, others are not excluded, but these categories of people especially have the new ideas, and experience, that can benefit the work of the Church today. If the Spirit of the Almighty is leading and guiding you, God will convict you to respond to the call I am making.
I am asking recently graduated youth and recently retired people to volunteer for a two-year "Spirit Corps" mission, either at home or abroad. Similar to those in the Peace Corps, and the Mormon "mission," these volunteers can serve in a multitude of roles in the work of the Church. You donít know what to do or where to begin? Just contact your local pastor, or if you want to live in wild, wonderful Wyoming, contact me. I could put someone to work right now. Others are waiting to benefit from the fruits of your labor in the Lord. Write for our free article, "What Should You Be Doing?"
The fourth promise is not for the spiritually lazy. By beginning oneís adult life in the work of the Lord, or returning to it after a finishing a career in business, farming, or whatever, oneís priorities and zeal will be set in the right path. By responding to the promise of being Godís Holy Covenant People, you will, by necessity, be led to share His Truth and promises to others. It is too good to keep it to yourself. You simply must pass it on to others!
Donít put down this article until you have decided to claim the promises of God. Promises of good health, strong families, defeat of oneís enemies, and victory in proclaiming His Truth to others is all there, waiting to be claimed.
Young people, please donít jump from education to a secular profession. Start your career working for God. Then, carry this zeal for Him to the rest of your life as a continual part time job. Every young person is needed in the Lordís work. Everyone has talents and abilities that the Eternal can use, I Corinthians 12:1-7. You have Godís promise in His word. Now, go for it! Claim the big promised prize!
If you start using your talents, you will be surprised that God gives you more ability,
more gifts of the Spirit, than you thought you could ever have. You will be moving to fulfillment of your lifeís purpose, the day when you hear the words, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Lord" (see Matthew 25:14-46).
ó written by Richard C. Nickels.
Based on a message given on July 4, 1998, at the Church of God Campmeeting in Meridian, Idaho. An audio tape of is available for a donation of $2.00 (or, a video tape on loan for $5.00) from Giving & Sharing. W