When Promises are Fulfilled in God’s Time (And in God’s Way)

God’s promises are a reflection of His character and you can be sure that they will come to pass. But how are we to believe this when the promises of God work over years instead of days or even go beyond our lifetime? I’d like to explore this topic with two lenses. First, I’d like to use a narrow lens to examine the life of Moses and how this was a reality to him.  Second, I’d like to use a wide lens to see some overarching biblical truths that can impact the way we think about the promises of God. To put it another way, I would like to create an overarching biographical sketch of Moses in an attempt to catch a glimpse of God’s glorious ways and then connect that to our lives.

*I’d like to give credit to Ligon Duncan who inspired this message with a parallel message at T4G 2012.

I. Narrow View (The Life of Moses)

  • In Exodus 2, we see Gods preparing Moses for His covenant keeping plans for the offspring of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
  • In Exodus 3, Moses fears God’s presence in the burning bush, learns God’s name and is commissioned as an agent of covenant keeping grace.
  • In Exodus 7-14, God displays His might through the plagues and delivers the children of Israel from slavery in the crossing of the Red Sea.
  • In Exodus 15, Moses and the people sing a song of praise to God for their deliverance.
  • Exodus 16 begins the grumbling of the Israelites.
  • Exodus 17 shows us the first instance of Moses being used of God to give the people water from the Rock.
  • (Read Exodus 33:12-23)In Exodus 33 Moses intercedes for the people, requests to see the glory of God and catches a glimpse of His backside.
  • What God says matters. God commanded that the rock be spoken to and Moses’ disobedience was a disregard for God’s holiness (Numbers 20)
  • In Deuteronomy 3:23-29, Moses is forbidden to enter the Promised Land.

A. What do we learn about God from these glimpses into Moses’ life?

1. God’s plan is bigger than our minds can grasp. This is clear in Exodus 2 and 3 where God’s hand is seen in preserving and preparing Moses to be an instrument in keeping His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

2. God is powerful and displays His sovereignty in accomplishing His will. God’s might is put on display as the plagues devastate Egypt in Exodus 7-14. His hand is seen as powerful and His promise will be fulfilled for the sake of His own name.

3. God values His name and Holiness. (Read Psalm 106:6-33)

  • In Psalm 106, we have an overview, of sorts, of Israel’s cycle of sin in the wilderness. Verses 6-13 shows us that God moves in power to keep His covenant for the sake of His name and glory. (Verse 8 specifically)
  • In Numbers 20:10-13, we see the reason behind God’s discipline of Moses and Aaron for their disobedience. His Holiness being upheld was of utmost importance and He was shown as holy, which is evident in verse 13.

4. God works in ways we don’t understand. We probably have a hard time understanding why Moses was prohibited from entering the Promised Land after he had faithfully served God all those years through the tantrums and trials of the Israelites. However, the answer lies in what we have already discovered. God values His name and Holiness and therefore must not permit Moses’ disregard for His name to go unanswered.

I’d like for us to consider Romans 9, which fits into our examination of Moses’ life and the nature of God and illustrate each of these four points within that text at work. (Read Romans 9:14-23)

  • Romans 9:14-15 follows Paul’s recalling of God’s faithfulness in keeping covenant with Abraham and his lineage and the seeming injustice of choosing Jacob over Esau.  In Romans 9:14-15 the question of God’s injustice is put to rest and we are reminded of God’s words to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” God’s plan is bigger than our minds can grasp.
  • Romans 9:16-18 shows us God’s dealing with Pharaoh, teaches us that God is powerful and displays His sovereignty in accomplishing His will. We further see His purpose in dealing with Pharaoh as He did. He dealt with Pharaoh in this way so that He could show His power and that His name might be proclaimed in all the Earth.
  • Romans 9:19-23 shows us the objection that Paul knew we, as humans, would have to hearing about this kind of God and teaches us that God works in ways we don’t understand.

B. What do we learn about humanity from these glimpses into Moses’ life?

1. We are limited

2. We are prone to wonder (even though we know the truth)

II. Wide View (Biblical Implications)

A. God’s timing does not undermine His faithfulness

God’s covenant with Abraham was renewed through Isaac and then through Jacob yet approximately four hundred years passes by between God’s speaking to Jacob in Genesis 28:10-22 and Moses’ commission at the burning bush in Exodus 3.

What have you prayed and longed for (perhaps even so in righteous longing) for years and it just seems as if God has turned His face away? God’s timing does not undermine His faithfulness.

B. God’s promises being fulfilled does not always mean our wants are fulfilled

Moses’ great desire was to see God’s glory. We know this from his request in Exodus 33:17-19. Moses desired to see God’s glory take the children into the Promised Land but as we see in Deuteronomy 3:23-27, he was not allowed.

What are your deepest desires? What are your dreams? Have they been left unfulfilled?  What are your discouragements? Have they been left uncomforted? There are so many things we need for God to work into our lives right here. As Ligon Duncan shared in his message, The Underestimated God, “we must remember that whenever a voice comes to tell us that we should have all we desire and that we should have it now…that voice comes with a hiss.” Furthermore, we must trust that God’s working in our lives is always about what will benefit us for eternity not necessarily what will benefit us now. (This connects to the first point)

C. The way God fulfills His promises is often foreign to us

Either through timing or tragedy we all have those areas of our lives in which we just don’t understand what is going on or why. Let your guard down and be willing to confess that there is something in your life that you and God just haven’t come to terms with. Is it a ministry that isn’t successful by your definition? Is it a child who has gone wayward? Is it a marriage that is falling apart? Is it a tragedy you have yet to process? What Promised Land have you been denied?

So where does all of this leave Moses and us?

  • It leaves Moses in Heaven speaking to the Transfigured Jesus about His upcoming departure. (Read Luke 9:28-35) Just think about that for a moment and ask yourself are God’s ways not best.
  • It leaves us in the hands of a good God, with a timeless perspective, plans for our eternal good and all of His omnipotence at work to carry us along with Him.

Kendal Payne ~ Aslan

Don’t stop your crying on my account

A frightening lion, no doubt

He’s not safe, no he’s not safe

Are you tempted now to run away?

The King above all Kings is coming down

But He won’t say the words you wish that he would

Oh, he don’t do the deeds you know that He could

He won’t think the thoughts you think He should

But He is good, He is good

I know you’re thirsty, the water is free

But I should warn you, it costs everything

Well, He’s not fair, no He’s not fair

When He fixes what’s beyond repair

And graces everyone that don’t deserve

Lay down your layers, shed off your skin

But without His incision, you can’t enter in

He cuts deep, yeah He cuts deep

When the risk is great and the talk is cheap

But never leaves a wounded one behind

But He won’t say the words you wish that he would

Oh, he don’t do the deeds you know that He could

He won’t think the thoughts you think He should

But He is good, He is good”


            How can you bring a message like this to a close? It may seem that I have raised more questions than I have given answers. But one thing I’d like to highlight is that we weren’t meant to have all the answers.  So, I’d like to go back to the title of this message.  When promises are fulfilled in God’s time and in God’s way there are several things that can bring us hope and strengthen our faith.

When promises are fulfilled in God’s time and in God’s way:

  • A Man named Moses looks at the transfigured Christ about to fulfill the prophecies that made him a foreshadowing of the Savior and has to have an entirely new view on what “the promised land” is.
  • A man named Jesus comes into the world and is hoped to free the nation of Israel from the tyranny of Roman oppressors as a conquering king. Instead, He arrives in meekness as a baby, dies in obedience on a cross and rescues sinners from the tyranny of sin as a humble servant sacrifice.

Cheer Up Church ~ Charlie Peacock

It’s just like God to make a hero from a sinner

It’s just like God to choose the loser, not the winner

It’s just like God to tell a story through the weak

To let the Gospel speak through the life of a man

Who’ll be the first to say

Cheer up, Church

You’re worse off than you think

Cheer up, Church

You’re standing at the brink

Don’t despair

Do not fear

Grace is near”

There are just a few thoughts I’d like to leave us with as we conclude:

If you feel God has let you down, then examine your heart and see if you are disappointed because He has broken His promises or because your view of His promises is broken. Know that His promises are true, His timing is right and His plan is good.

When we misunderstand the promises of God we misunderstand the character of God. When we make God’s promises all about our wants, we make God a genie in a bottle. When we make God’s promises dependent on our time frame, we ascribe to God limited perspective and power. Let the word of God instruct you on His character and let that shape your life. Let your faith in His faithfulness be strengthened.

The ultimate promise of the Gospel is also the ultimate resolution to all our true needs. Whatever our pain, disappointment or desire, the greatest promise made and fulfilled on our behalf is that which was prophesied in antiquity and fulfilled at Calvary. The gospel is ultimately all the promises of God fulfilled in Christ.

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