God Promises the Impossible

The Glory of the Coming Lord
Edmund P. Clowney

Not only is the condition of God’s people so hopeless that only God can remedy it; the promises of God are so great that only God can fulfill them. No one ever disbelieved God because he promised too little. God promises the impossible.

If God were to make reasonable promises: a spiritual high, a technique for relaxation, a tax break, then a secular age might credit the word of the Almighty. But God promises a new nature, physical resurrection, a new heaven and earth, and eternal life. Superlatives burst open as Old Testament prophets describe what God will do in the glorious future. Zechariah foresees a time when every pot in Jerusalem will be like a holy temple vessel, and when “Holiness to the Lord,” once inscribed in gold in the High Priest’s tiara, will be on the bridles of the horses-the ancient equivalent of bumper stickers. In that day the feeblest man in Jerusalem will be like King David, “and the house of David will be like God, like the Angel of the Lord going before them” (Zec 12:8).


To Believe Him or Not

John 10:17-21

[19] There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. [20] Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” [21] Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

Whenever anyone makes a statement, we have two choices.  Either we believe them or we do not.  Whether it’s me telling you I can fly or Jesus saying He is the Good Shepherd, our options are that simple.

The Jews in John 10 are sharply divided.  After Jesus claims to be the Good Shepherd some do not believe Him.  His claims are so incredible they call Him demon-possessed and crazy.  Others are not so sure.

We may be tempted to scoff at their unbelief but are we so different?  God consistently declares things that are difficult to understand, hard to believe, or outright outrageous.

Is Matthew 6:33 “reasonable” advice in the midst of financial crisis?

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Is Luke 9:24 true when we face physical, not only metaphorical danger?

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.

Is the life Jesus offers us in John 10:10 actually possible or just a pipe dream?

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Is Romans 8:28 true all the time?

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Jesus’s opponents were proud, selfish, and greedy, but they understood that Jesus meant what He said.  At times, we find ourselves rationalizing or spiritualizing to make it seem like Jesus did not mean what He said.  Fear, doubt, and selfishness can drive us to this.  Of course there are extenuating circumstances and gray areas, but often we are given two simple options – to believe Him or not.

May He give us the grace of faith that we might believe Him, the grace of forgiveness when we do not, and the grace of perseverance to continue to fight despite our stumbling.

“I Will Never Leave You”

J.C. Ryle

Hebrews 13:5b

for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Let every believer grasp these words and store them up in his heart. Keep them ready, and have them fresh in your memory; you will want them one day. The Philistines will be upon you, the hand of sickness will lay you low, the king of terrors will draw near, the valley of the shadow of death will open up before your eyes. Then comes the hour when you will find nothing so comforting as a text like this, nothing so cheering as a real sense of God’s companionship.

Stick to that word, “never”. It is worth its weight in gold. Cling to it as a drowning man clings to a rope. Grasp it firmly, as a soldier attacked on all sides grasps his sword. God has said, and He will stand to it, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.”

NEVER! Though your heart be often faint, and you are sick of self, and your many failures and infirmities overwhelm you – even then the promise will not fall.

NEVER! Though the devil whispers, “I shall have you at last; yet a little time and your faith will fail, and you will be mine.” Even then the Word of God will stand.

NEVER! When the cold chill of death is creeping over you, and friends can do no more, and you are starting on that journey from which there is no return – even then Christ will not forsake you.

NEVER! When the day of judgment comes, and the books are opened, and the dead are rising from their graves, and eternity is beginning – even then the promise will bear all your weight; Christ will not leave His hold on your soul.

Oh believing reader, trust in the Lord for ever, for He says, “I will never leave you.” Lean back all your weight upon Him, do not be afraid. Glory in His promise. Rejoice in the strength of your consolation. You may say boldly, “The Lord is my Helper, I will not fear.”

Jesus Did Not Say

John 21:20-23

[20] Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” [21] When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” [22] Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” [23] So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”

Peter has just found out that he’s going to be a martyr.  When he sees his close friend, John, he asks Jesus, “What about him?”  Jesus replies,  “Why does that matter? You follow Me!”

This is absurd.  Peter is going to be crucified and John might never die?!  How does that make any sense?

People try to explain the confusion and suffering of life in different ways.  “God is testing us and making us stronger.”  “It’s punishment for sins.”  “There’s a lesson God is teaching us.”  Even if these things are true, these answers are not very satisfying.

Close friends of mine were pregnant with their first child.  At the doctor’s appointment in which they were supposed to find out the gender of their baby, they were told that their son had a terminal disease and he would likely not survive the pregnancy.  At most, he would live a few weeks after birth.

What could any of us say to them?

Well, here’s what we could not say to them.  We could not say why this was happening.  We could not say why this was happening to their child.  We could not say what exactly God was doing.  We could not talk about any of these things because we did not know.  We could only talk about what we do know.

Because of the word of God, we knew this was not happening because God does not love them or He had forgotten them.  We knew God was not punishing them and also that He was not indifferent.  We knew He was grieving for their son and for their pain.  We knew that God hates death and He sent His only Son to conquer death.  We knew that God would walk with them.  We knew that He would somehow work all things for their good.

Deuteronomy 29:29 reads, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

Praise God, the baby did survive and is a wonderful little boy.  But in this life, things do not always work out the way we hope.  In the midst, all we can hold onto are the things that are certain.

We have all experienced things in the past that have made us ask, “Why?”  The honest answer is we don’t know why.  Many things in the future remain uncertain.  We have many questions.  The honest answer is we don’t know what will happen.  But what we do know is sufficient.  The God we do know is sufficient.  The promises He has revealed in His Word belong to us forever.

Genesis 16

In an attempt to provide Abram with a child, Sarai, his wife, gives Abram her servant, Hagar.  Hagar becomes pregnant and begins to view Sarai with contempt.  Sarai then mistreats her servant, who flees.

Genesis 16:7-13

[7] The angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. [8] And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.” [9] The angel of the LORD said to her, “Return to your mistress and submit to her.” [10] The angel of the LORD also said to her, “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.” [11] And the angel of the LORD said to her,

HagarAlone“Behold, you are pregnant
and shall bear a son.
You shall call his name Ishmael,
because the LORD has listened to your affliction.
[12] He shall be a wild donkey of a man,
his hand against everyone
and everyone’s hand against him,
and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.”

[13] So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.”

– Genesis 16:7-13

Hagar is a servant.  In the Ancient Near East, this means she has no rights.  Sarai can abuse her however she pleases.  This is tragic, yet she is not a kind of Cinderella, noble and mistreated.  Hagar has been been sinfully arrogant toward her mistress, Sarai.

Yet to Hagar, the angel of the Lord appears.  When he speaks to her, he addresses her by name.  He promises prosperity for her descendants.  He tells her that the Lord hears her suffering.

Aptly, Hagar calls the name of the Lord who spoke to her, the God of seeing.  She may not be valued or known in her society or even by the family that she serves.  But Hagar knows that the God of heaven and earth knows her and looks after her.

Genesis 15

[7] And he said to him, “I am the LORD who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” [8] But he said, “O Lord GOD, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” [9] He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” [10] And he brought Abrahamic-Covenant-890x713him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other. But he did not cut the birds in half. [11] And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

[12] As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. [13] Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. [14] But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. [15] As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. [16] And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”

[17] When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces.

– Genesis 15:7-17

Abram trusts God and is following him by faith, but still he wonders how he can be certain that God will fulfill His promises.  If God’s promises were things that Abram could control or accomplish on his own, he might not have so many questions, but God promises things beyond Abram’s wildest dreams.

In response to Abram’s question, God instructs him to cut animals in half and lay them out on the ground.  To us this a strange response, but Abram would have readily recognized this to be a covenant ceremony, a common custom in the Ancient Near East.  In a covenant ceremony, two participants agree to stipulations (what they must do), rewards, and punishments.  They then walk between the pieces of animals torn in two, essentially saying, “If I am not faithful to the covenant, may I be torn in two just as these animals.”

After God reiterates His promises, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch pass between the pieces.  Abram does not walk through, only God.  God is saying, “May I be torn in two if these things do not pass.”  God does not make idle promises.  He has never spoken an empty word.  He will not be thwarted by human incompetence or rebellion.  God is certain to fulfill His promises because they depend not on Abram but on God.

Genesis 13

[14] The LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and www-St-Takla-org--Bible-Slides-genesis-082westward, [15] for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. [16] I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. [17] Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.” [18] So Abram moved his tent and came and settled by the oaks of Mamre, which are at Hebron, and there he built an altar to the LORD.

Genesis 13:14-18

God promises Abram a land and countless descendants.  Abram will not see these things come to pass in his lifetime, but God invites him to see and even walk in the land that would belong to his offspring.  There is a length, breadth and depth to the promises of God.

To His people today, God promises a better country, a new heavens and a new earth.  He also promises a family consisting of every tribe, tongue, and nation.  We may or may not see these things come to pass in our lifetimes, but God invites us to see glimpses and walk in the realities that are certain to come.  There is a length, breadth, and depth to the promises of God that we have yet to explore.

Genesis 12

[1] Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. [2] And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. [3] I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

– Genesis 12:1-3


The call of Abram is one of the most significant moments in all of Scripture.  It sets the precedent for how God relates to man.

God speaks to Abram. Abram does not approach God first. God commands. Abram does not come with a list of demands.  God sets the terms of the relationship (and the terms are very good).  Abram does not negotiate.  God makes promises.  Abram does not barter his obedience for God’s blessing.

Not only does God indicate how He relates to man, He foreshadows how it will be possible for sinful man to relate to God at all.

In the first eleven chapters of the Bible, the awful, destructive power of sin has been made clear.  With the flood, the inevitable judgment of wickedness is also clear.  The most righteous man on earth, the head of the only family who escaped the flood, is found to still be a sinner even after the earth has been classed.  Mankind is helpless.

As God approaches Abram, we see the first glimpse into God’s mission to handle sin and redeem a people for Himself.  The details are not clear, but somehow, through the lineage of Abram, one would come who would defeat sin and death.  He would take away the curse of sin and bring blessing to every family of the earth.