Summary: "But You Promised!" 1) A cry that chastises 2) A cry that consoles
“But you promised!” cries the eight-year old. “You promised to take me to the game. You said nothing would get in the way this time...” What kind of promises have your parents or your friends broken, Michael and Shannon? Some of those promises mattered more than others. A promised trip to the mall that never materialized, for example, was really no big deal compared to that promised trip to Disneyland that fell through. When someone makes a promise we expect them to keep it. If they don’t, we’ll remind them: “But you promised!” Today you two are making several promises. You are promising to obey God and not walk the ways of this world. You are promising to be faithful in coming to church, promising to use your talents for God’s glory, and promising to die rather than ever deny Jesus as your Lord and Savior. If you break any of these promises, God’s people need to remind you with a cry of chastisement: “But you promised, Michael and Shannon!”
On the other hand we’ve also gathered today to remember the many promises God has made to you. He’s promised forgiveness and eternal life. He’s promised to give you daily bread. He’s promised that everything in this life will work out for your eternal good. What happens when it seems as if God isn’t keeping his promises? Our text urges you to turn to God with this cry of consolation: “But you promised, Lord!” God doesn’t need to be reminded of the promises he’s made. Nevertheless he loves it when we hold him to his Word for it demonstrates trust. With those thoughts in mind let’s turn to our text, Psalm 89.
Psalm 89 celebrates how God elevated David from being a lowly shepherd boy to being the best king Israel ever knew. Even though he became the most powerful man in Israel, David wasn’t allowed to do anything he wanted. He still had to answer to God for his actions. In fact when anyone became king in Israel he was to copy for himself the laws given to Moses (Deuteronomy 17:18-20). We don’t know whether this meant the entire text of the first five books of the Old Testament or just the laws Moses recorded in the book of Deuteronomy. Even if it was just the book of Deuteronomy, David and every king after him would have had quite a bit of copying to do. Deuteronomy is seventy pages long in my Hebrew Bible! Not only was the king to copy these pages for himself he was to read and study them daily so that he would live and govern according to God’s laws, not his own inclinations.
Although you haven’t had to hand copy the Bible, you’ve done your fair share of studying and memorizing God’s Word as part of your two-year long confirmation instruction. You’re to be commended for that. But now by being confirmed you are promising, as did the Israelite kings of old, to follow God’s laws. Psalm 89 uses several Hebrews words to describe that law. One of those words is translated as “statutes” (Psalm 89:30). It comes from the word “to inscribe.” God’s laws, Michael and Shannon, are not the latest top ten list in Men’s Health magazine on how to live a healthy and prosperous life. That list changes every year. The laws you have studied are the never changing will of a holy and just God. They might as well be inscribed, or carved in rock because they don’t change even though the world’s attitude towards them might. For example you learned that God’s will for marriage is that it be a lifelong relationship between one man and one woman. Society may want to redefine marriage but as a Bible believing Christian you will not.
Psalm 89 not only speaks about the importance of knowing God’s statutes but “walking” in them (Psalm 89:30). In other words don’t just tell me you know what God’s will is for marriage, show me. Show me in the way that you treat the opposite sex: not as objects of desire but people God created for you to serve with respect. Show me by the living arrangements you make with your fiancé before marriage – by not sharing a bed or even an apartment with her until you’re married.
So what happens should you break the promise you are making today to live according to God’s unchanging law? Listen to what God said to David and his descendants: “If his sons forsake my law and do not follow my statutes, 31 if they violate my decrees and fail to keep my commands, 32 I will punish their sin with the rod, their iniquity with flogging” (Psalm 89:31, 32). Make no mistake, God will not stand idly by as you show contempt for his decrees by living according to your standards and not his. When God says that he will “punish…with the rod,” however, we shouldn’t think that he’s going to beat the living daylight out of us for our sins. The “rod” referenced was used by shepherds to corral sheep, not butcher them. God’s intent when he allows hardship in our life due to our own sins is to guide us back to the fold - to his Word and to his people so that we can fight off Satan who only wants to destroy our faith and drag us down to hell with him.