When you read through the Bible and look at all the promises God made to His people, one thing is quite striking:
God makes some very specific promises.
To an old and childless Abram, God promises a multitude of descendants, as numerous as the stars in the sky or the sands on the seashore. Not only will Abram father a child; he will father a nation of children. A nation!
To a righteous Noah, God promises safety in the midst of the greatest storm the world has ever seen. It is through this one man and his family that God will salvage all of creation, and He makes that no secret with the man. You, Noah, are the remnant, the Lord says. You're it. Everything that is to come in this world will come from you and your work.
To a courageous Joshua, God promises victory in battle. This one quiet, confident warrior will lead the entire nation of Israel into the Promised Land, taking possession of the land along the way. He will defeat enemy nations and destroy enemy kings and settle the people of God into their rightful inheritance.
To a young David, God promises a permanent succession. Someone from your family will always be on the throne of Israel, God tells the second king.
To the unfaithful kings that follow, God promises not only destruction and disaster, but very specific destruction and disaster. There will be famine. The kings from the north or the east or wherever will come and carry you away. Your women and children will die. Animals will eat your rotting flesh in the abandoned places. The temple will be destroyed.
To a tender virgin, God promises a son. Not just any son, but His one and only Son. Not just any baby boy, but one very special baby boy.
To the faithful, God promises a Savior.
To those left shell-shocked by that Savior's final days, Christ promises the Spirit.
Over and over and over again, God promises His people in very specific terms. Sometimes, of course, there are conditions on these promises. David, for example, must be faithful, and his descendants must be faithful. Sometimes, the promises seem couched in some weird or cryptic language. But that's often just our trouble in reading it. If you ask the unfaithful kings who the threat from the north was, they could tell you without a moment's thought. They all knew exactly what that promise meant: Babylon is coming. Assyria is coming. The Persians are coming. God nailed it.
And that's the point of this little survey: God nailed it. Every time God makes a promise in Scripture, there's no grey area. He tells His people exactly what He's going to do. They may not understand how He's going to do it, but that doesn't change that He's been very clear about what He is going to do. There's no guessing what God's promise is; He's told you. It's a child, a nation, a remnant, a victory, a kingship, a destruction, a son, a Savior, a Spirit.
It's one of the things that makes God who He is. For thousands of generations, men have always been wondering what their gods were really like. We don't have to wonder. Since the beginning of time, men have been trying to guess what their gods are up to. We don't have to guess. God tells us exactly what He's like and exactly what He's up to.
Which makes our current theology all the more troubling.... (More on that tomorrow.)