Two children standing beside swings on a playground are in earnest discussion. One seven-year-old is attempting to persuade his buddy of his intention to follow through on a promise. He has failed to convince his friend when he utters words that have convinced children for decades: “I cross my heart and hope to die if I don’t…”
With those words he has appealed to what school children for decades have accepted as final authority for keeping promises — personal authority. Yet there is a presumed sovereignty behind those words that one cannot keep. No matter the boy’s intention, he cannot guarantee that he will maintain his word.
Yet there is one who can appeal to Himself as a guarantee of His word: the Lord. Only God can appeal to Himself as an absolute guarantee of a promise made, as the writer of Hebrews notes:
“For men swear by one greater than themselves, and with them an oath given as confirmation is an end of every dispute. In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.” (Heb 6:16–18)
That is, when God speaks a promise one is assured that there is no higher power that can deny His ability to keep that word and there is no higher power that is needed to keep that word. He is sufficient to guarantee the certainty of every promise.
All around us are weak and broken promises. Promises of love between spouses are broken. Promises of coming activities for children are broken by parents. Promises by political hopefuls are not kept. Promises for the completion of a task are not kept by employees. Promises of the supremacy of a particular product — be it detergent or an automobile — are not kept.
Yet in the midst of all these failures are words that come from the Lord that are sure, as Michael Horton has asserted:
“All things around us are in opposition to the promises of God: He promises immortality; we are surrounded with mortality and corruption: He declares that he counts us as just; we are covered with our sins: He testifies that he is propitious and kind to us; outward judgments threaten his wrath. What then is to be done? We must with closed eyes pass by ourselves and all things connected with us, that nothing may hinder or prevent us from believing that God is true.” [Michael Horton, “The Principal Article of Salvation,” in John Calvin-A Heart for Devotion Doctrine and Doxology.]
He promised. We can trust Him. We can trust Him in everything.