We know that our God is a God of promises. And we know - or at least, we have heard - that God keeps His promises. Every single one of them.
Then why does it feel like we're never going to see those promises come to fruition?
This is one of the things that we struggle with quite a bit. We are a people who have seen how long it sometimes takes God to fulfill His promises, so we have become a people who don't hold as tightly to them.
God promised His people Canaan, the Promised Land. But it took them 40 years of wandering and many more years of fighting to ever take possession of that land. Moses, who made the promise to the people for the Lord, never got to see it. Joshua led the people valiantly across the Jordan and into the first part of the land, but he didn't get to see it all, either. In fact, when Joshua was preparing to die, he reminded the people that God keeps all of His promises and that they just have to keep pushing into them.
Fast forward a little bit, and we have an Israel who has waited for hundreds of years for the promised Messiah. Hundreds of years. There are something even like 400 years or so between the end of Malachi and the beginning of Matthew, 400 years or so during which there was no act of God worthy to become part of our Scripture. No act of judgment. No act of mercy. No measure of grace. Nothing. There is just silence, then the fulfillment of the promise they had been waiting on for so long.
We, too, are a people waiting on a promise. Well, we have the promise; we're waiting on its fulfillment. We have been promised that Christ is coming back. But we are a people who don't wait quite like Israel waited - we just assume, it seems, that we're never going to see this promise. Oh, we still believe God is going to do it. We just don't believe He's going to do it in our lifetime. And so, we believe that God does keep His promises, but that He is slow to do it and that His promises may not be for us.
So let's go back, then, to what Joshua said to the people as he prepared to die. He told them, "Remember, God has kept His promises. Every single one of them."
This is important. Remember, Israel had been wandering for 40 years. The people to whom Joshua spoke were not the people who received the promise from God in the first place; they were the next generation. (Not going back, of course, to Abraham, who was the first to actually receive this promise.) They had spent their entire lives wandering. Wondering. Living in tents. Eating manna and quail. Seeing shadows of the Promised Land.
They had spent many years fighting. It probably seemed to them like every time they won a battle, there was another one waiting for them. They probably felt like they were moving from one war zone to another to another without any time to even really relish their victories...or even process them. It was one thing after another after another, and now, here's Joshua, about to die, and he has to refocus their vision for them.
They are well into the Promised Land now. They don't have all of it, but they have a good portion of it, and Joshua, in his wisdom, pauses near his last breath and reminds them, "Look around. You're here. God has done it. He has kept this promise."
Sometimes, we miss the way God has kept His promise because we get so caught up in the fighting for it. We get so caught up in our battles and in our own existence that we lose sight of the big picture and forget to look up and look around every once in awhile. But if we do...here it is. We're here. This is God's promise.
And He has been faithful to bring us this far.
It's a reminder we all need.