God Remembers His Promise

God Remembers His Promise

A deeper journey

Take a moment to become still.

 

Let the silence deepen within you and around you. From the silence, hear these words:

 

 

“He remembers his covenant forever, the promise he made, for 1,000 generations.” — psalm 105:8
In the beginning, the earth was formless and empty, and the Spirit was brooding over the deep.

Brooding. Hovering. Just waiting for the word. Then the word came: “Let there be light,” and by the third verse of Genesis we discover two fundamental truths about the Triune God.

 

First, when God speaks, His word becomes something visible and tangible, something you can see, hear, touch, taste or smell. Second, it is the Spirit’s job to make it so. The Spirit broods, hovers and waits for the word. When the word comes, the Spirit brings it into being.

 

The Spirit is always longing for and leaning toward incarnation.

Some 62 generations later, we find the Spirit once again brooding, hovering and waiting. The angel Gabriel was visiting with a young woman in Nazareth. At the end of a surreal and shocking conversation, the betrothed virgin did something surprising. She released her dreams and expectations — you might say she became formless and empty — and she said to the brilliant messenger, “Let it be done to me according to your word.”

 

 

She (Mary) released her dreams and expectations ... and said, "Let it be done to me according to your word."

It was the moment the Spirit had been waiting for, the invitation into creative collaboration. ​

So the Holy Spirit came upon her, and the Word began to grow within her womb. In the conversation between Gabriel and Mary, we discover another fundamental truth about the Triune God. He waits for our permission before He commences incarnation.

 

Imagine if Mary had said,“Thanks, but no thanks. I have other plans.”
When we revisit the exchange between Mary and the angel, we find eight profound words that can easily be overlooked but are the bedrock beneath our faith.

Gabriel explains to Mary that her relative, Elizabeth, is already six-months with child. Then he says something that we should have seen coming since Genesis, chapter one: “For no word from God will ever fail.”

 

That’s right! That’s correct! No word from God will ever fail! Because when God speaks a word, the Spirit makes that word something visible and tangible, something you can see, hear, touch, taste or smell. Just ask the Israelites who waded across the Jordan River into the Land of Canaan. God had said it would be so, and after 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, they could taste the milk and honey flowing in that plot of pledged land. God had given the Israelites His word, and His word had become cool grass beneath their feet, the fragrant aroma of flowers in their nostrils and the sound of rushing water in their ears.

 

When we revisit the exchange between Mary and the angel, we find eight profound words that can easily be overlooked but are the bedrock beneath our faith.

Gabriel explains to Mary that her relative, Elizabeth, is already six-months with child. Then he says something that we should have seen coming since Genesis, chapter one: “For no word from God will ever fail.”

 

That’s right! That’s correct! No word from God will ever fail! Because when God speaks a word, the Spirit makes that word something visible and tangible, something you can see, hear, touch, taste or smell. Just ask the Israelites who waded across the Jordan River into the Land of Canaan. God had said it would be so, and after 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, they could taste the milk and honey flowing in that plot of pledged land. God had given the Israelites His word, and His word had become cool grass beneath their feet, the fragrant aroma of flowers in their nostrils and the sound of rushing water in their ears.

 

God's word was His bond, and He was bound to give His people the promised land.

No word from God will ever fail, but perhaps it can be delayed or diverted.

After all, the Israelites did wander in the wilderness for 40 years, the time needed to loosen their grip on their expectations and demands. The time needed to become formless and empty so that the Spirit could form God’s people and fill them with His love. It took four decades for the Spirit to give birth to this new nation. (That’s a very long labor, by the way. Even elephants give birth after only two years.)

 

Thankfully, Mary did not delay or divert God’s word, but surrendered herself without hesitation to the Spirit’s creative collaboration.

 

Nine months later, the Word became sweet, soft flesh in Mary’s arms, and all of God’s promises became embodied in her baby.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:20).

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:20).

Think of it. ​

What happened when Mary’s baby boy grew into a man who walked among us? A woman who had been bleeding for 12 years reached for Jesus in a crowd with the hope that He would heal her weary body. Immediately she felt a resounding yes coursing through her veins. A paralytic lying on a mat felt that same yes in his legs, as did 10 lepers in their skin and a man born blind in his optic nerves. Prostitutes, tax collectors and every sinner who called upon Jesus felt the yes of forgiveness wash through their souls like cleansing rain. Multitudes of hungry people on a hillside feasted on the yes of Jesus until they were satisfied and full with food to spare.

 

And a dead man in a tomb felt the yes of Jesus shock his silent heart and fill his deflated lungs when the Savior called his name.

After 12 months of a pandemic, we may feel weary, paralyzed and numb.

We may be full of self-condemnation or wondering if God is going to provide for our basic needs. We may feel like our hearts are barely beating and our lungs have been deflated.

 

But with the breath we have left, if we will ask Jesus, “Can you heal me? Can you wash me? Can you give me back my life?”

 

The answer is yes, yes, yes!​ Even and​ especially when it seems all hope is gone. ​
ON GOOD FRIDAY, IT SEEMED THAT GOD’S PROMISE TO US HAD FINALLY BEEN BROKEN. ​ ​

Jesus was crucified and dis-membered and laid in a borrowed tomb. But on Easter Sunday, the Father re-membered His promise to a thousand generations; He put Jesus back together and stood Him on the ground. We should have seen it coming.

 

Perhaps God’s word can be delayed or diverted, but Gabriel had said plainly, No word from God will ever fail.
ON GOOD FRIDAY, IT SEEMED THAT GOD’S PROMISE TO US HAD FINALLY BEEN BROKEN. ​ ​

Jesus was crucified and dis-membered and laid in a borrowed tomb. But on Easter Sunday, the Father re-membered His promise to a thousand generations; He put Jesus back together and stood Him on the ground. We should have seen it coming.

 

Perhaps God’s word can be delayed or diverted, but Gabriel had said plainly, No word from God will ever fail.

Remembering God’s Goodness Together:

Settle into the silence for a moment. Remember how David in Psalm 103 looked with compassion upon his own soul. Take a moment to notice your precious soul again today. What yes do you need to hear most deeply from Jesus?

 

Lord, can you heal me?
Can you wash me?
Can you give me back my life?

Offer yourself as honestly as you can to Jesus in these moments, even if all you can do is reach for the hem of His garment or lie flat on your back in silence like Lazarus in the grave. Trust that the Spirit is brooding over the deep within you and that Jesus is giving Himself to you completely, in ways you may not be able to perceive or understand.

 

The Lord is your shepherd. He is restoring your soul. Rest in His loving care.

 

Remembering God’s Goodness Together: Daily Engagement

Day Two:

One of the gifts of the pandemic has been the (forced) opportunity to slow down and enjoy the gifts we’ve already been given instead of rushing ahead and grasping for more, more, more. Let’s practice slowing down today. Take a moment to become settled and silent. Take a few deep breaths and release whatever is occupying the space within you into God’s care. Now take a moment and reread the reflection from yesterday and enjoy the gifts that have already been given. What new awareness or insight is the Spirit inviting you to contemplate or remember? What nourishment does the Father have for your soul in these words? What encouragement does He stir within you? Take a moment to relish the gifts already given. Journal if it is helpful. Hold the gifts God has given you with gratitude throughout the day. Perhaps share them (in humility) with a friend. Give thanks.

Day Three:

“Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (Genesis 1:2). It’s possible that many of us have been hollowed out by the pandemic and are feeling rather empty. Maybe our lives have lost their shape, and we may feel formless. This is good news. “Empty and formless” are the perfect conditions for the Spirit to do his creative work — the work of forming Christ in us and filling us with His love (Galatians 4:19). This third week of A Deeper Journey, we ​ will pause to remember the posture of Mary as she gave consent to God to form Christ in her. She let go of her plans, her dreams, her rights, her expectations — she chose to become formless and empty and surrender to God’s love. Here is a prayer practice we invite you to remember this week.

 

Take a few more moments to sit in silence. Trust that the Spirit is brooding over the deep within you, even if you are unaware of His activity. As you turn your attention inward and downward, what do you notice about your internal landscape?

 

As best you can, begin to loosen your grip on anything you may be grasping. Release whatever is within you into the Father’s hands. Breathe the prayer of Mary:

 

“Let it be done to me according to your word.”

 

Let it go.

Let it be. ​

Amen.

Day Four:

“For no word from God will ever fail,” (Luke 1:37). Take a moment to become settled and silent. Read Mark 4:26-32 reflectively and slowly. What do you notice about the farmer in the parable? What do you notice about the seed? Think of a time when God has given you the opportunity to help scatter the seed of His word. Maybe through a conversation or a club talk or by giving your resources to those who teach or preach the good news. Maybe you helped scatter seed silently through loving actions. Maybe it was such a small seed, you didn’t even notice you had dropped it into the soil of someone’s life. Reflect on what we read today. What encouragement does God have for you in this moment? What weight would He like to lift from your shoulders? What thanks would you like to offer Him in return? If you are able, write any encouragement God has given you on a card and carry it with you throughout this day.

 

Day Five:

Remember what we read yesterday about the farmer in Mark 4. Notice that the Kingdom of God only ​ comes when the farmer opens up his hands and lets go of what he’s gripping — in this case, the seed. The grain can only grow when the farmer’s hands are empty. In Philippians 2, Paul exhorts us, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, though existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied Himself…” Jesus opened up His hand and let go of His grip on power, position and privilege. Theologians call this kenosis: the self-emptying of Jesus. How is it ​ within your soul today? What do you notice? Take a few moments to become silent and ​ aware of your internal posture in God’s presence. Is there any sense of grasping or gripping within you? Is there anything the Lord is inviting you to release into His hands? Ask for the grace to begin to loosen your grip. What would it look like to walk through this day in a posture of open-handed surrender? Remember: You are not surrendering in defeat; you are surrendering to our Father’s care. You are becoming empty so that He ​ might fill you with His Spirit and His love.

 

Day Six:

You might say, faith is remembering who God is while letting go of our expectations of how God should act. It’s not as easy as it sounds and usually involves deep wrestling. Even Jesus wrestled with this movement on the cross. In the midst of terrible torture and pain, He borrowed words from Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus struggled with how God seemed to be acting in the moment, so He asked the same question we often ask in moments of great suffering: God, why? Yet no answer to that question will ever satisfy the soul, so the Spirit invites us to wrestle our way to a different question: God, who? Who are You?

 

On the cross and in Psalm 22 we witness the dynamic struggle between remembering who God is and letting go of our expectations of what we think God MUST do. As Jesus succumbed to the violence and torture of that day, it appears He did find the strength to remember. With His last breath he prayed, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit,” (words He borrowed from Psalm 31).

 

Into Your hands. Hands that seemed to be inexplicably tied while Jesus suffered. Hands that could have easily reached down and rescued Jesus from His demise. Into those hands ​ Jesus committed the only thing He had left to offer — His spirit. Clearly Jesus remembered the Father’s heart behind His hands.

 

Sit in silence for a moment and ask God to help you become aware of any sense of disappointment within you today. Is there anything within you that wants to ask, “God, why?” Do not hurry, but wait on God to help you see.

 

Like Jesus, speak freely with God about your disappointment. Ask for the grace to remember the Father’s heart behind His hands. How might you complete this prayer today? “Father, into your hands I commit…”

 

Day Seven:

“Out of his fullness we have all received grace upon grace already given,” (John 1:16). Formless and empty are the prerequisite conditions for the Spirit to do His creative work — the work of forming Christ in us and filling us with His love. Yet God waits for our permission and consent before He commences incarnation. That permission and consent takes the shape of loosening our grip and letting go. Letting go like this is the death Jesus talked about when He said, “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39). When we let go of our grip and surrender ourselves to God, the life we find is the very life of Jesus swelling within us. God re- members His promise for a thousand generations. With our consent, He puts Jesus back together and makes Him stand again, this time within our very bodies, hearts and minds. This is a mystery, Paul said in Colossians 1:27, Christ in you, the hope of glory. The good news is, a mystery is not something we cannot know. A mystery is something we never come to the end of knowing. Exploring the depths of Christ in you will take a lifetime and eternity that follows. Take a moment to become aware that Christ Himself is fully and gladly present in you. Fully and gladly, not partly and reluctantly.

 

Hear this encouragement from God:

 

“I am generously giving you everything you need in this moment. I have hidden my glorious riches deep within you in the life of my Son.” — Philippians 4:19

 

Sit and linger in this reality. Out of His fullness we have all received grace upon grace already given. One more time, breathe this prayer of grateful surrender, “Let it be done to me according to your Word.”

 

I am making everything new!’

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