Monday, July 06, 2015

A Process by which to Determine if a Specific Promise of God's is Meant for You

Who is the Angel God Sends To Guard the Israelites On Their Way?
Exodus 23:20-21: “Behold, I am going to send an angel before you to guard you along the way, and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. Be on your guard before him and obey his voice; do not be rebellious toward him, for he will not pardon your transgression, since My name is in him.”
I do not know about you, but whenever I read a promise of God’s like this one, the Enemy starts working on me: “This is not for you; it’s only meant for the people of Israel at that time. So don’t count on it.” There are several courses of action one could take with that kind of taunting.
1.     You can disregard the taunting, claim the promise, while merrily singing the old chorus you learned as a child, “Every promise in the book is mine!”
2.     You can believe the taunting, never thinking any more about the promise, and go on doing life as you normally do – wondering whether or not you are forced to fend for yourself.
3.     You can agree with some Bible scholars that believe certain promises were made to certain individuals or groups and are not to be taken as being for us, but this will require an investigation as to whether or not this is one of them.
You can weigh the likelihood of any of the three choices being correct or incorrect against your:
a.     Understanding of God based on the rest of Scripture,
b.     Ability to reason it out,
c.     Knowledge of what believers have traditionally believed, and
d.     Personal experience.
Using these four criteria, you can then examine each of the three options:
1.     Disregarding the taunting and claiming the promise may satisfy criteria a., c., and possibly d. above, but b. may present some problems especially as you may tend to agree with the rationale that certainly God makes promises to specific people at specific times and since He was talking to the Israelites in this passage, that may not include me.
2.     Believing the taunting and not claiming the promise, for the Christian, will likely not satisfy criteria a., c., and perhaps d.
3.     Investigating the promise has the potential of satisfying all four criteria – a., b., c., and d.
To take that course of action, i.e. investigating the promise before we can claim it for ourselves, we need to first examine the context of the promise. Was it made to someone or a group as a particular promise for a specific one-time response to an explicit circumstance?  Or is there enough generality in it that could apply to many of us in most aspects of, and during our entire, life? Secondly, we would ask ourselves as to whether or not this promise is in keeping with other parts of Scripture that repeat similar concepts to other believers? Thirdly, does it make sense that God, assuming Him to be what we believe He is, would make this kind of promise to all His children? Fourth, what do other true believers, for the most part, believe? And finally, what is my personal experience with regard to the content of this assurance?
In this particular case, my personal investigation of this promise, leads me to believe that it is one that I can claim.  Keep in mind that the Israelites were going to spend forty years in the desert and God knew that.  This is clearly not a promise in return for a one-time action required on their part – it is to become a way of life for them. There is enough generality in it so as to be applicable to many. For example, it speaks of “guarding us along our way” until He brings us to a place He has “prepared for us” and it speaks to “obedience”, our “rebellion”, and our “pardon from sin”. All of which are spoken of elsewhere in Scripture.
In addition, the promise is in keeping with our understanding of God as we know and believe Him to be. It is a promise that has been widely accepted by many believers.  And finally, for me at least, it is a promise I have seen fulfilled time and time again in my own life, my own experience.
Having hopefully established that, we can look more closely at the promise God is making here.  To begin with, He is “sending” an “angel”. God is the mastermind here. He has delegated this most important task to someone else in which He has great confidence. But this is no ordinary angel but rather one that has God’s name in Him.  It is an angel that must be obeyed.  It is an angle capable of freeing us from our bondage (Egypt for the Israelites) and delivering us to the Promised Land (Canaan for the Israelites and Heaven for us). And this angel has the power to pardon our sins and those of the Israelites. It is no wonder that the majority of biblical commentators agree that this is the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
Jesus was given this task by God His Father and as the Son, God’s name was in Him. This was a real task, not just a make-work project but at the same time, it was a proto-type of what Jesus would do for all mankind.
Our job is to be on our guard before Him and to obey His voice throughout our journey in the wilderness of life.  The entire New Testament tells us how. But the bottom line is this: we are not to rebel against Him, for He will not pardon our transgression.
I hope you can claim this promise with me.  But I also pray you understand its consequences should we fail to claim it and choose to obey.

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