Summary: Throughout life our only true hope is found in the promises of God - especially in times of uncertainty.
In his epic work Paradise Lost author John Milton embraces a difficult undertaking as he attempts to explain why the Almighty, all-knowing God would create people whom he knew would ruin his perfect creation by disobeying his command. As he begins this complicated endeavor Milton gives us insight into the motivation for his meditation when he writes, “What in me is dark illumine, what is low raise and support that to the height of this great argument I may assert Eternal Providence and justify the ways of God to men” (Book 1, lines 22-26).
Justifying the ways of God to man. Such a proposition can be quite dangerous. Take the recent events in America for example. It is one thing to humbly seek to understand God’s role in the course of recent events by delving into God’s biography with the desire that he would raise our hearts and minds to see things from his point of view. But it is quite another to presumptuously think that God should be compelled to vindicate himself and his actions by a standard set by the court of human opinion. Such an arrogant expectation forgets that we are his creation and therefore he is not required to answer to us. Instead we are the ones who will be held accountable by him.
In fact if there is anything justly unsettling about life it is that very fact, that when our lives are over each one of us will have to give him an accounting for the way we’ve conducted ourselves in our thinking, with our words, and with our deeds here upon this earth. As the recent events in America have vividly shown – none of us knows precisely when that moment will come. That is why this is truly the question that urgently requires a satisfactory answer: When that moment does come will you be able to justify your ways to him? Will any of us be able to say that we’ve perfectly fulfilled his command to love him with our whole heart, our whole soul, and our whole mind all of the time? Will any of us be able to say that we always loved other people in the same way that we loved ourselves? Realize that God is expecting to hear more than, “Well, I never killed anybody.” He won’t be impressed by the flimsy response that at least we’re not as
bad as somebody else. Nor will he be satisfied with evidence of some sort of self-imposed process of moral improvement. He has already made it clear that to have done more good than bad still isn’t good enough. He’s looking for real perfection – the kind that’s never slipped even once.
Why does God set the standard so high? Because when it comes to the basis for our hope both for life here and for hereafter God doesn’t want us to depend on the power of the human spirit. He wants us to depend on something far more powerful and far more effective than that. He wants us to find the basis for our hope in his promises. With a few simple strokes of the pen that reveal profound insight the writer of Psalm 119 tells us why we can find hope in God’s promises. We find hope first of all because God says he will not forget his promises. We also find hope in God’s promises because they preserve our lives.
The pictures of fire trucks rolling down the streets of New York City with the words “We will never forget” scrolled across them is forever emblazoned on my mind. In reality there may come a time that our memories of recent events will fade. But when it comes to God and the promises that he’s made to us he assures us of this reality: He will never forget. God gave his word beginning in the Garden of Eden to Adam and Eve. He reminded his people throughout the Old Testament of his promise. It was a promise that the psalmist longed to see fulfilled, the promise of a Savior. We know that God did not forget that word of promise. That’s why our hope is renewed each time we hear the angel proclaiming God’s promise fulfilled, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that shall be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10,11).
Because God did not forget his promise to send a Savior we have certain hope that he will not forget any of his promises to his people. As the Apostle Paul remarks in his letter to the Romans, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all-- how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). Since God came through on his toughest promise we have the certain hope that God is also holding true to this promise “…that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Even when we don’t know why things are happening the way they are, and even when we can’t see how God is controlling all things for our good – we are confident that he is – because that’s what he’s promised. Those are promises that he will not forget.