People who like to study man by taking his or her words as a serious indicator of different personalities, have been cautioned by Aeschylus the ancient Greek playwright in his famous words: ‘It is not the oath that makes us believe the man, but the man the oath’. This saying teaches us a lot about man and the modern man in a special way.
We should not respect people because they promise heaven on earth, but rather respect the promise because it is made by someone who keeps his or her word.
Making promises is very easy, some may go as far as promising to build bridges even where there are no rivers. But when it comes to reality, half the promises people make are never kept because when it comes to breaking them, they are as easy as eggs.
Despite what is said above about the negative side of man’s promises, we can not do away with them. A number of analysts of the phenomenological perspective of man especially as far as his or her subjective experience and relationship with others is concerned, point at man’s capacity of making and keeping promises as one of the ways which may help us to understand his or her ways as far as the predictability and reliability of his or her character is concerned.
One of such thinkers, Hannah Arendt is widely quoted to have said that ‘Promises are the uniquely human way of ordering the future, making it predictable and reliable to the extent that this is humanly possible.’
The term promise does not limit itself to our human level. The Jewish literature is marked with God’s promises to man, which are elaborated in the Old Testament prophecy.
In the New Testament the word promise is used intimately connected with the promise of the Messiah, who is Christ. When Christ came as the fulfilment of the Father’s promise, he referred to the same promise this time in reference to the coming of the Holy Spirit.
According to Paul, we are the ones to inherit these promises and we must be prepared to receive what God has promised us. Cf. Heb 6:12.
Unlike the doubts that we have cast on man’s capacity to keep his or her promises, God fulfils his promises. In fact as human beings we can rely on God’s promises in our difficult moments as well as in our happy moments.
When it comes to the reliability of the divine promises, it becomes hard to express it more clearly than David Nicholas in his catchy words: ‘God’s promises are like the stars; the darker the night the brighter they shine’.
It is interesting to note from what has been said above, that when Christians are celebrating the feast of the Holy Trinity; God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the church advises them to meditate on God from the point of view of how he wants us to relate to him as it is indicated in Matt.28:16 – 20; which is essentially a promise of how God will stay within us.
We can know God and relate to him helped by his promises. When he was about to leave his disciples, he drew near and said to them: “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Go then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
A number of theologians think that in his conclusion above, of his version of the Good News, Matthew makes three important statements which help us to know God.
First by attributing to Jesus full authority both in heaven and on earth we are helped to know who is speaking. Secondly, before the death and resurrection of Jesus, the ministry of his disciples was focused upon the Jews only, after those events, it must be extended to all the nations.
The universal vision prophesied by Isaiah (ch. 60) of the mighty One of Jacob, becomes a reality through the mission of the church.
Thirdly, Matthew’s account concludes with the assurance of Jesus’ continued presence. He sounds as if there is no departure or ascension. Jesus does not ascend from his church; he comes to it, to remain with it all days: “I am with you always… ”
With these words and as Matthew concludes his account, the gospel comes full circle. Jesus, who was proclaimed as Emmanuel, God-with-us, at his birth (1:23) and who promised his presence to two or three who gathered in his name (18:20) remains forever with the church, with you and me (28:20).
By virtue of the fulfilment of this promise, believers can rest assured that their dialogue and life-giving encounter with God never ends. Through his promise to you today, I AM with you, you know him now by the name he revealed himself to Moses: I AM.
There is no day therefore, no hour and no moment in which God is not with you. If you do not feel his presence in your inner life as he has promised, ask him for more faith and draw near him as he has done already to you.