All the promises of God find their Yes in him. (2 Corinthians 1:20)
When we take our stand on the promises of God, we are resting on words sturdy as the mountains, sure as the seasons, faithful as the sunrise. God himself tells us so. After giving one of the greatest promises in the Old Testament — the promise of a new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31–34) — God tells his people,
Thus says the Lord,
who gives the sun for light by day
and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night,
who stirs up the seas so that its waves roar —
the Lord of hosts is his name:
“If this fixed order departs
from before me, declares the Lord,
then shall the offspring of Israel cease
from being a nation before me forever.” (Jeremiah 31:35–36)
God’s promises to his people will fail as soon as the sun no longer shines, or the moon fails to rise, or the tides refuse to ebb. God’s promises will fail as soon as God himself stops upholding the universe.
Sure as the Seasons
From the beginning, God has not been content merely to speak his promises. He has regularly, in one way or another, sought to strengthen our little faith by attaching his promises to symbols that we can see, taste, and touch. “He knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14), and so he condescends to give us signs.
In Noah’s day, for example, God pledged his covenant grace to the eight survivors of the flood by placing his rainbow in the clouds (Genesis 9:12–17). As long as they were able to spot a rainbow after rain, God would not bring another flood upon the earth.
When Job’s faith in God’s goodness and wisdom staggered to the point of breaking, God paraded before him his wonders in creation, from the snow and the hail to the horse and the mountain goat (Job 38–41). Whenever Job began to doubt, he need only reflect on the “wondrous works of God” strewn so bountifully through the earth (Job 37:14).
Consider the Lilies
Our Lord Jesus, too, taught us to bolster our faith by opening our eyes outside. Instead of simply saying, “Do not be anxious,” he tells us to “look at the birds of the air” and “consider the lilies of the field” (Matthew 6:26, 28). As long as the birds are fed, and the lilies clothed, God’s children need not worry about their daily bread.
No wonder Thomas Chisholm, when writing his great hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” gained assurance from the seasons:
Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above;
Join with all nature in manifold witness,
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.
Wherever we look, “the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord” (Psalm 33:5; 119:64). For those who are in Christ, however, God has given us a sign of his faithfulness that surpasses everything else in all creation.
Bread and Wine
After Jeremiah’s promise of a new covenant, God’s people waited over five hundred years for the covenant to appear. Centuries of seasons and sunrises came and went. Another summer, another winter, another morning, another evening passed without the promise’s fulfillment.
But then, in an upper room in Jerusalem, Jesus took a loaf of bread and broke it, saying, “Take, eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:26–28).
In the death and resurrection of Jesus, the new covenant has dawned — and with it, all the promises prophesied by Jeremiah: “I will put my law within them.” “I will be their God.” “They shall all know me.” “I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:33–34).
What signs did Jesus give to assure us of his covenant love? Bread and wine, his body and his blood. Whenever we take the bread and wine in our hands, God bids us to remember by faith, “As surely as Jesus’s body was broken, so sure is his steadfast love to me. And as surely as his blood was spilled, so sure is my forgiveness in him.”
Yes and Amen
For those with faith, these simple signs of bread and wine are far greater than the signs that God gave through Jeremiah. For one day, the cycle of the seasons will stop, and the sun, moon, and stars will fall from the sky. But even though “heaven and earth will pass away,” Jesus tells us, “my words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).
The new-covenant promises of forgiveness will not pass away, even though all the earth does. Indeed, they cannot pass away. For they rest on something sturdier than the mountains, surer than the seasons, more faithful than the sunrise: the conquering love of Christ, in whom every promise is yes and amen.