By porthkerryandrhoose, May 22 2018 06:27PM
There's been a lot of talk of promises over the last few days. We've had the royal wedding, of course, with those big marriage promises of lifelong love and faithfulness in sickness and in health. There's also been the announcement of the England squad for the World Cup. With only 2 players over 30 they've been described as "A young squad with plenty of promise". Love them or hate them, we'll be hearing little else between now and whenever they get knocked out of the competition. Perhaps you've had promises made in your family life. Here's one from mine: "I promise I'll tidy my room"! Will the promises be kept? It's one thing to make a promise, quite another to keep it. What do you reckon with the 3 promises I've mentioned? Let's have a show of hands: Harry and Meghan's marriage promises . . . . England football team fulfilling their promise . . . . a teenager tidying their room . . .
No show of hands now, but what about God? Does God keep his promises?
Jesus had made a big promise to his disciples. It's there in Acts chapter 1, if you'd like to turn to it. Jesus' death and resurrection had all taken place, and 40 days later Jesus made an important promise v4 "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit." and v8 "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." A big promise made at a confusing time. But the disciples did as Jesus said - they went back to Jerusalem and stayed there. Obedience is important if we want to see God at work. He told them to stay, and rather than going back to Galilee and picking back up their fishing trade, they stayed. And they prayed. They kept in touch with God. That's so important when we're waiting for God to keep a promise. Waiting is hard and the time can pass by so slowly. The temptation can be there to find a solution ourselves or to listen to other people's opinions, rather than keeping in touch with God, who already knows what he's going to do. The disciples obeyed, and waited and prayed.
And then the day of Pentecost came. Pentecost, the great Jewish Harvest Festival, 50 days after Passover. The believers were still together in Jerusalem, all 120 of them, waiting and praying when suddenly a sound like a mighty wind came down from heaven and filled the whole house. They looked at one another and saw what looked like tongues of fire resting on each of them. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak. But they weren't talking about the strange noise or the unusual flames. They were speaking about the wonders of God in different languages! It was amazing! Mostly unschooled men and women speaking about God. Jesus' promise had been kept. The Holy Spirit had come and the believers were God's witnesses to people from all over the world.
The disciples spoke and the people heard. Did you spot the repetition in 2:5-11? They heard this sound, each one heard their own language, each of us hears them in our native language, we hear them. The disciples spoke in the power of the Spirit and the people heard them. But not all of them took it in. In fact, the first reactions were bewilderment, amazement, perplexity . . . even ridicule. These are all responses we might find to God at work today. Don't assume that when someone speaks God's word powerfully everyone will automatically listen and fall down on their knees. Human beings are far too independent and complex and sinful for that. Hearing God's word brings a variety of responses.
Peter wasn't phased. He stood up, with the other apostles beside him and addressed the crowd (v14). But he didn't take them back to Jesus' promise on Ascension Day. Instead he took them back into the Scripture they had then to see the bigger promise. Going back to scripture is vital if we want to see what God has actually promised to do. Many people assume that they can guess what God has promised. "If I were God I would do x, y and z" and then when God doesn't do those things, they are disappointed and may even give up on God altogether. Perhaps you've seen that happen. Maybe you've experienced your own disappointment in God. We need to look and see what God has actually promised to do. Peter went back to Joel chapter 2:28-32. He could have chosen Ezekiel 36 or Jeremiah 31, but the Lord led him to Joel chapter 2. And what does God promise? Acts 2:17 "I will pour out my Spirit". Who's his Spirit for? "I will pour out my Spirit on all people". This is a promise for us too. And in case we're in any doubt, the type of people are listed: sons and daughters, young men, old men, men and women. Young and old, male and female. And what's the purpose of sending the Holy Spirit? Is it to make everyone feel warm and nice? To show people that you are really a Christian? No. It's to prophesy. See visions, dream dreams and prophesy. In Biblical terms prophesy is speaking the word of God. It can include things about the future, but is more commonly putting what God has said about himself, people and the world, out there. This was happening before everyone's eyes on the day of Pentecost. The wider group of disciples numbered about 120 and included specifically men and women (1:14) and we can assume a mix of ages too. The words of Joel were fulfilled, and keep on being fulfilled today in the life of every believer.
But there's another promise too. Did you see it in v21? "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." Isn't that a beautiful promise? Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. No exceptions, no exclusions, no ' . . . and if you also do this'. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Saved from what? The answer is in v20 "The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord." The Day of the Lord, when Jesus returns to judge the earth. As we call on his name, we are saved and safe to enjoy the wonders of his new world.
So the account of Pentecost shows us that God keeps his promises. As he was faithful then, he is still faithful today. We can trust him. Oh, we must make sure that we know what his promises are, and not mistake our hopes and desires for the promises of God, for that way lies disappointment and disillusionment. But when we've discovered his promises in his word, we find such riches and delight. No more fear, because everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. And no more wondering if God is truly there, because his Holy Spirit fills his people, helping us to know his word and speak it. These are promises of God. If you're a Christian here today let these promises encourage you. You have the Holy Spirit, listen to him in your life. Let him enable you to speak God's word to others. Trust him to keep hold of you for eternity. If you've not yet really put your trust in God, let me remind you of the wonderful promise 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.' It is a promise for you.