But You Promised

By Shawn Tomlin

We all take on many different vocations in our lives, and I am no different. I’m a son, a brother, a church member, an employee, and many other things. By far, my most important vocation is that of father. My two kids, Noah and Ellie, who are 6 and 4 respectively, are my biggest blessings and every day I am tasked with leading them by the hand, teaching them, and most importantly teaching them about salvation in Christ and showing them grace. In a sense, fatherhood is a reflection of the grace shown to us by the Father.

Like most kids, they do things they shouldn’t. Just like my son told a lie to me a couple weeks ago, and I told him I wanted the truth. I knew what the truth was already, but I wanted to hear it from his own lips. He was scared to admit that he had lied to me, but I made it clear that what he did was wrong and all I wanted was for him to admit the lie and it would be ok. With tears rolling down his cheeks, he admitted it and said he was sorry. It moved me, and all I did was kneel down and opened my arms and he came up to me and I hugged him. I was mad that he lied but I love my son, both my kids dearly and will always be there to love them, forgive them, and reflect grace to them.

He took His child by the hand, helped them learn to walk out of the bondage of Egypt to the Promised Land, all the while leading them in love and caring for their every need.

Hosea chapter 11 paints a portrait of YHWH beautifully as Father of His chosen people. The passages of this chapter show clearly the love the Father has for His children. Verse 1 says “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” Verse 3 says “It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking him by the hand, but they never knew I healed them.” Verse 4 continues on with “I led them with human cords, with ropes of love. To them I was like one who eases the yoke from their jaws; I bent down to give them food.” The love the Father had for His children is beautifully illustrated here. He took His child by the hand, helped them learn to walk out of the bondage of Egypt to the Promised Land, all the while leading them in love and caring for their every need.

The Father, in His love, wouldn’t tolerate the sins of His children though. They “refused to repent” as verse 5 says, and for that God punished them. Not to completely destroy them as they justly deserved, but to lead them back to Himself through repentance. It was quite bad for Israel and they all suffered horribly, but in the midst of their suffering the Father proclaimed in verses 8 and 9, “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I surrender you, Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? I have had a change of heart; My compassion is stirred! I will not vent the full fury of my anger, I will not turn back to destroy Ephraim. For I am God and not man, the Holy One among you; I will not come in rage.” A couple things here about these verses. When it said that God “had a change of heart” He did not change. God is unchanging, but He was acting on the promises made in the covenant with Abraham and Moses. Israel was chosen, not because they could fulfill the Law, but because God chose them out of His grace and love. Secondly, even though God was compassionate to His children, He did not keep them from suffering. He did, however, keep the “full fury of His anger” from them even though they deserved it. In a very imperfect was, men like me, fathers, reflect that compassion and grace to our children.

As I have taken away certain privileges from my kids on the basis of their behavior, my role as father reflects that of the Father. At other times, in my sinful imperfection, I’ll forget a promise that I had made to my kids and they will cry out, “But You Promised!” We as the Father’s children, chosen in Christ, can cry out to our Father, “But You Promised!” The only difference is that the Father will never forget His covenant promises made to you in the New Covenant made in the shedding of His Son’s blood. We can be sure as we cry out to God, “But You Promised!” that He hears us, remembers His promises, and will never forsake us.

“The LORD bless you, and keep you;

The LORD make His face shine on you,

And be gracious to you;

The LORD lift up His countenance on you,

And give you peace.”

Lee Jones