A promise made is a promise kept.
God assures the first generation of Israelites His blessing for their obedience after liberating them from Egyptian captivity,
“If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments, and perform them . . . I will set My tabernacle among you, and My soul shall not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God and you shall be My people” (Leviticus 26:3,11).
God keeps His promise as He tabernacles (mobile Tent of Meeting) among the Israelite for forty years in the wilderness and afterwards during the military Canaanite conquest led by Joshua. He was present, but mostly unacknowledged, during the 350 years of the Judges era apostasy. Nearly a hundred years later He assumes a permanent tabernacle when He inaugurates Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem with His presence. He remains there after Solomon’s death when ten tribes under the leadership of Jeroboam defect and become the nation known as Israel. He constructs two, new and idolatrous, places of worship. Only a few of Judah’s 20 kings reigning in Jerusalem, however, acknowledge God’s presence over the following 345 years before Jerusalem and her temple are destroyed and her occupants taken captives to Babylon.
Which prompts us to recall another promise made to that first generation of Israelites,
“But if you do not obey Me, and do not observe all the commandments, and if you despise My statutes, or if your soul abhors My judgments, so that you may not perform all my commandments, but break My covenant, I also will do this to you: . . . I will set My face against you, and you shall be defeated by your enemies . . . I will bring the land to desolation, and your enemies who dwell in it will be astonished at it. I will scatter you among the nations and draw out a sword after you . . . the land also shall be left empty by them, and will enjoy its sabbaths while it lies desolated without them” (26:14-15, 17,32,43).
Deuteronomy chapter twenty-eight records similar promises (blessings for obedience, cursing for disobedience) to the second generation of Israelites as they prepare to enter Canaan. Israel has been warned.
Back to 586 BC . . .
After a prolonged siege Babylon breaks through the walls of Jerusalem, removes her people, destroys her temple, and leaves her desolate. Nearly 1000 years have passed between the promise made by God and the promise fulfilled by God. During the years of obedience (which were few and far between), God blesses Israel. During the years of disobedience (which were frequent and lengthy), God send prophets and raises up adversaries to urge Israel to return to Him. They rarely respond positively, and now, here they are surrendering themselves and Jerusalem to captivity.
In Lamentations Jeremiah describes the destruction Jerusalem and her temple,
“He has done violence to His tabernacle, as if it were a garden; He has destroyed His place of assembly . . . the Lord has spurned His altar; He has abandoned His sanctuary; He has given up the walls of her palaces in the hand of the enemy” (2:6,7).
Jeremiah also refers to the promise that God made nearly a thousand years earlier, “The LORD has done what He purposed; He has fulfilled His word which He commanded in days of old” (2:17).
God keeps the promises that He makes. Always.
The distance between the promise made and the promise kept reveals a number of truths about God:
- God desires, first and foremost, to bless His people and to reside among them.
- God wants to be wanted and cherished by His people, but He will not endure continued rejection by them.
- God warns His people in advance to prepare them for judgment if they persist in disobedience.
- God acts instantly in blessing, but rarely so with judgment. The Apostle Peter captures this truth about God, “But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:8-9)