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One of the great joys of serving as a pastor is performing weddings. Over the past few years, I have had the privilege of performing several wedding ceremonies, and on each occasion I have used the traditional wedding vows found in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. Although many creative young couples these days are creating their own wedding vows, such creativity ceases when the young couple steps into my office. Through the months of premarital counseling and extensive discussions on the wedding itself as a covenant-making ceremony, I discuss with the couple the significance of their marriage vows and their covenant union in taking those vows before God, myself, and all the witnesses. Although the traditional wedding vows are not inspired, their contents include many of the promises expected of a biblical, covenant-making ceremony. The minister questions the groom: “Wilt thou have this woman to be thy wedded wife, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honour, and keep her in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, keep thee only unto her, so long as ye both shall live?” To this the groom answers, “I will.” Twice the man is asked, “will you,” and he responds, with loving and dutiful intention, “I will.” These are but two separate, simple words, yet they are words when combined and when uttered before God Almighty become words of covenant promise and covenant faithfulness unto death.

The promises of men are often broken, and the weightiness of a promise made before God is taken lightly by many. Nevertheless, we can rest assured in the truth that when God Almighty makes a promise, He keeps it. Throughout Scripture we witness God making promises. Sometimes those promises are made to a particular people in a particular circumstance, sometimes they are made to His people Israel regarding the future fulfillment of His promises, sometimes they are made to the enemies of His people, and sometimes His promises are made to us. On most of the occasions when we witness God making a promise, He uses the words, “I will.”

When God assures His people of their deliverance from the hand of Pharaoh and the Egyptians, we witness a variation of God’s promises: “But the LORD said to Moses, ‘Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for with a strong hand he will send them out, and with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land.’ … Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel whom the Egyptians hold as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant. Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the LORD’” (Ex. 6:1, 5–8, italics added). Throughout this passage, we can see how the promises of God were made in conjunction with God’s self-attestation that He is “the LORD.” Seven times in verses 6–8 the Lord proclaimed “I will” to His people. Repeatedly He reminded His people of the covenant that He made with Abraham in Genesis 17. He did not forget His covenant, and He graciously reminded His people of His sovereign promises that will not be broken.

With inspired and superintended harmony by the Holy Spirit, Moses recorded in Exodus the vows God made to His people in Genesis 17. At the outset, God testifies that His promises to Abraham are founded on Himself, for there is none greater by whom God can testify: “I am God Almighty” (17:1). Then, five times in verses 6–8 the Lord makes His promise abundantly clear: “I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God” (17:6–8, italics added). First the Lord says, “I am God Almighty.” Next he tells Abraham that He will be God to him, then he asserts that He will be “their God.”

There is no doubting the fact that the God of Abraham is our God. We are in the spiritual line of Abraham, and even those who do not have ancestry in Israel physically possess a greater ancestry in Israel spiritually than those who are in Israel physically. We are Abraham’s heritage by the grace of God Almighty. And such sovereign grace cannot be resisted by any sinner, just as the reality of God’s existence cannot be resisted.

Therein exists the foundation of our existence as naturally-born human beings and our salvation as supernaturally-born beings of God. It is only in the promises of God that we have assurance. For God’s word does not change and His promise does not change because He does not change. Thus we can rest assured that those whom God hath joined together no man can put asunder.

Abraham Took Ishmael

The Oaks of Mamre

Keep Reading Covenant Theology

From the October 2006 Issue
Oct 2006 Issue