God Is Faithful

The Scriptures major on the point that God is faithful. It is the pivotal point around which all else revolves. Destroy it, weaken it, fracture it, and the whole framework of who God is and what He has done falls in a heap. The first assault of the serpent in Eden recorded in Genesis was on the faithfulness of God to His Word: "Has God indeed said . . . ?" (3:1).

When we say that we believe God is faithful, and that He is faithful to His Word, on what do we base such statements, especially when we are confronted with unanswerable challenges about unjust events in the world, or God's silence as portrayed in the life of Job? How do we know God is faithful when prayers are seemingly unanswered, and when evil seems to triumph?

We simply cannot know, unless we take the Scriptures seriously. "All your commandments are faithful . . . Your testimonies, which you have commanded, are righteous and very faithful (or trustworthy NIV)" (Psalm 119:86,138).

Rabbi Paul put it this way: "For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope" (Letter to the Romans 15:4).

The faithfulness of God is interwoven with His promises, therefore to understand God we need to know what He has promised, and to see how it has measured up with fulfilment, and if there is still Scripture unfulfilled.

The Faithfulness of God as Shown to Israel

We read God's promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:2-3: "I will make of you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing . . . and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." These promises were to be through the son of promise, Isaac.

At the end of their wilderness wanderings Moses gave the people a very strong sermon as recorded in Deuteronomy. They were reminded that what they were about to enter was not because they were worthy, or numerous.

"The LORD did not set his love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the LORD loves you, and because he would keep the oath which he swore to your fathers . . . " (7:7-8).

"It is not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart that you go in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God drives them out from before you, and that he may fulfil the word which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" (9:5).

The Blessings and the Curses

In Deuteronomy chapters 28 to 30 is the amazing account of the blessings and the curses promised by the holy and faithful God upon the people He had redeemed as His peculiar treasure, and it is not possible to understand the ministry of the prophets and the history of Israel without a grasp of these Scriptures. Leviticus chapter 26 has a shorter version.

The faithfulness of God is expressed according to how His people walked. If they walked in obedience the blessings flowed; if they rebelled and refused to repent the curses increased in their severity.

Solomon based his prayer at the dedication of the Temple on recalling for the people what God would do in accordance with the blessings and the curses; that they could claim the promise of God for their waywardness through repentance and obedience to His Word.

Isaiah and Jeremiah among other prophets pointed the ruthless rulers, the wayward priests and the perverted citizens back to the Mosaic covenant and called for repentance. Failure they said would incur the wrath of God who had spelt out His intentions. But the nation counted on God NOT being faithful. They didn't count properly!

The northern and then the southern kingdoms discovered God does keep His Word, even in judgement. Being overthrown and scattered among the nations is the ultimate disgrace for defiling God's Name through despising the covenant and spurning His faithfulness to His Word.

The Sickness of the Nation

There is another often overlooked feature of God's faithfulness as promised to the nation of Israel: "And the LORD will take away from you all sickness, and will afflict you with none of the terrible diseases of Egypt which you have known, but will lay them on all those who hate you" (Deuteronomy 7:15), which also finds an echo in the curses when the nation didn't qualify for blessing.

Jeremiah speaks much about the sickness of his nation–in 6:7; 8:15,22; 10:19; 14:19–especially 30:12-15 where is a most graphic account of the national epidemic. It flows from the heart and infects everything in the life of the people.

Then the Lord reveals He is going to do something about their sickness: "For I will restore health to you, and heal you of your wounds . . . " (30:17), an answer to the prophet's plea: "Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me and I shall be saved, for you are my praise" (17:14).

That generation were so corrupt they did not grasp the One who was their Healer, but a day is coming when a future generation will understand.

In Jeremiah 33:1-13 is the promise of Jerusalem and Judah being restored, and once again it is in the context of healing and health. "Behold, I will bring it (Jerusalem) health and healing; I will heal them and reveal to them the abundance of peace and truth . . .

"Then it shall be to me a name of joy, a praise, and an honour before all nations of the earth, who shall hear all the good that I do to them; they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and prosperity that I provide for it" (33:6,9).

The Prophets Steadfast in Faith

When the southern kingdom was overthrown it seemed that the end had come. The promise to Abraham had collapsed unfulfilled. Where was the Messiah? Where the promise to David for someone to sit on the throne in Jerusalem? Where the kingdom of God on earth?

Yet in the midst of the horror of the overthrow the prophet did not abuse God for His judgement. How could he do that when he had spent years telling the nation that if they did not repent God would pour out what He had said in the curses? No, the covenant was not cancelled, because God is faithful. His people might fail but He doesn't.

"I remember my affliction and roaming, the wormwood and the gall. My soul still remembers and sinks within me. This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope.

"Through the LORD's mercies we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 'The LORD is my portion,' says my soul, 'therefore I have hope in him'" (Lamentations 3:19-24).

The prophet Ezekiel in the land of Babylon takes up this theme and looks down the years, even centuries, to see the fulfilment of what God has promised, stirring the reader especially in chapters 33 to 39.

In these present days of conflict in the Middle East we dare not ask are God's people no longer the peculiar treasure of God. To deny them their special place in God's purposes is to undermine our confidence in the faithfulness of God. If he cannot keep His promises to Israel for the future, what guarantee have we that He will fulfil His promises to any of us today?

Rabbi Paul said: "For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable" (Letter to the Romans 11:29), which reiterates what the Psalmist said: "My covenant I will not break, nor alter the word that has gone out of my lips" (89:34).

Never! Never Again! No longer! No More!

It is the revelation: "Never again!" that permeates both the Old and the New Testaments. For example, Joel 2:18-19, 25-27, and 3:20-21 read: "Then the LORD will be zealous for his land, and pity his people. The LORD will answer and say to the people, 'Behold, I will send you grain and new wine, and you will be satisfied by them I will no longer make you a reproach among the nations . . . '

"So I will restore to you the years the locust has eaten . . . you shall eat plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you; and my people shall never be put to shame.

"Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God and there is no other. My people shall never be put to shame . . .

"But Judah shall abide for ever, and Jerusalem from generation to generation. For I will acquit them of blood-guilt, whom I had not acquitted; for the LORD dwells in Zion."

Amos too stresses the 'never again!' aspect in 9:11-15: "'I will plant them in their own land, and no longer shall they be pulled up from the land which I have given them,' says the LORD your God" (9:15).

This is trusting in the faithfulness of the God who has revealed Himself through His Word. Habakkuk wrestles with the problem of God's seemingly unfulfilled promises, but he realizes his personal responsibility is to live faithful to God and allow Him to fulfil His promises in the right time:

"For the vision is yet for an appointed time; but at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come; it will not tarry" (2:3).

The prophet Zephaniah writes of another Scripture waiting its day: "Sing, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O Israel! be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! The LORD has taken away your judgements, he has cast out your enemy. The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall see disaster no more (never again!) " (3:14-15).

We who believe that God is faithful can only work on the premise that this is so because He keeps His Word. It must not depend on our experiences of God or on our expectations. It must flow from an unshakeable conviction that His Word is true, and what he has promised will come to pass.