God is Faithful – Deuteronomy Ch7v7to9

God is Faithful – Deuteronomy Ch7v7to9

(0:00 – 0:23)     Transcript

As we begin this message on the faithfulness of God, I’d like you to consider that in 2024, the word faithful is in decline. It’s in decline. Now, this might surprise you if you come around church regularly, because we use the word faithful all the time.

(0:24 – 1:27)

But outside the church, beyond the bubble of the church, faithful is becoming an increasingly antiquated word. So, people may speak of loyal friends or loyal employees, but you seldom hear people speaking of Mr. So-and-so being faithful or she is faithful. Yet there is a word like it that is much more commonly used.

It’s splattered over the newspapers. You hear it constantly on television. It has only two extra letters.

It’s the word unfaithful, unfaithful. And it’s much more in vogue. We see it and we hear it everywhere.

(1:28 – 4:18)

And that tells us a lot about our society, and none of it’s very good. It tells us that we, as human beings, all too often are capable of unfaithfulness, whether some kind of unfaithfulness to each other or unfaithfulness to the God who gave us life and breath. Unfaithfulness can be tragically true of us, but it is never, never, ever true of God.

Nowhere in the Bible is God ever called unfaithful. God is and always will be a faithful God. Now, here’s the problem.

We tend to take this attribute of God for granted, I think. At least I’m guilty of that. And we don’t always see how spectacular it is that day after day and year after year and century after century, God is faithful.

My life and my salvation depends on the faithfulness of God. And in the end, it’s the very reason why I can trust God, because He is faithful. This is spectacular.

And anything but mundane, as we’ve said, it’s sort of step with an unfaithful world, so that actually God’s faithfulness can become one of the great magnets that can pull an unbeliever to the gospel, this perfect faithfulness of God in Christ. So, let’s explore this theme in a little more depth. And we’re going to look at this under three headings this evening.

The first is God’s faithfulness in Himself. God’s faithfulness in Himself. And what I’d like you to see, first of all, is that faithfulness is integral to God.

It’s part of His nature. When we think of the triune God, Father, Son, and Spirit, this is who God is. He is faithful.

(4:19 – 5:03)

Now, let’s see this together in Deuteronomy chapter 7. If you’d like to turn to Deuteronomy 7, one of the most foundational passages in the Bible, one of the early passages on God’s faithfulness. There are others like Exodus 34, but we’re opting for Deuteronomy 7. At this point, Israel have been rescued out of Egypt. They’re standing on the brink of the promised land with all of the fears and the worries that that could conjure up in their minds.

(5:03 – 5:45)

And how does God instill faith in His people? By reminding them of His faithfulness. Let’s read from verse 7. The Lord did not set His affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath He swore to your ancestors, that He brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh, king of Egypt.

(5:46 – 7:12)

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God. He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commands. Now, there’s a few things I want you to spot here.

The first thing is the plain, straightforward statement that God is faithful. Look again at verse 9. The Lord your God is God. He is the faithful God.

So, faithfulness isn’t just the way God is sometimes. It’s not something God acts like on occasion. Like when we say, or when somebody says, sometimes he’s sweet, sometimes she’s nice.

No. This is the permanent, inherent, and abundant characteristic of God’s character. Faithful defines God’s very being.

(7:15 – 7:29)

When I was a little boy, I was made to read lots of different books, but one of the series of books I had to read was the Mr. Men books. Very profound. I think they’re still on the go today.

(7:30 – 8:08)

And the idea was that the characters in the Mr. Men books, they were all called the attribute that defined them most. So, Mr. Happy was always happy, and Mr. Greedy was always greedy. That was the core of who they were.

Well, Deuteronomy is saying that at the core of God, he is faithful. This is who he is. He is, another way of saying it would be, he is unchanging.

(8:09 – 8:42)

He’s faithful. Now, the question then arises, how would we know that? How can we know that this is true beyond the bare assertion of Scripture, that God is faithful? We’ll notice the second thing here, that this inherent faithfulness, this faithfulness inside of God can be seen by his world. And we see it in a variety of ways, of course.

(8:43 – 9:02)

But supremely, we see God’s faithfulness in the promises God keeps. God’s promises are where God’s faithfulness is seen. Check out verse 9 again.

(9:03 – 9:17)

And notice the reason God gives for rescuing Israel out of Egypt. It wasn’t simply a random act of grace. Now, it was all of grace, it was all of love, but it wasn’t a random act of grace and love.

(9:17 – 9:38)

It wasn’t on the spur of a moment. The verse says, he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations. A covenant is a promise.

(9:39 – 10:08)

It’s a solemn pledge. It’s what you do when you get married. It’s a solemn pledge to live in a loyal relationship with someone.

And God had made such a pledge or oath, if you look back at verse 8, it’s talking about the same thing there. God had made such an oath. He had sworn it to Israel’s ancestors, people like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

(10:09 – 10:38)

And so, what it’s saying is, it wasn’t that one day God said to himself, he just decided, I think I might save the Israelites. I’ll deliver the Israelites from slavery. No, God had promised their ancestors that He would make their descendants into a nation, and that God would bless them, and that God would bless the world through them.

(10:39 – 12:53)

The exodus was God coming good on His promise. And so, what this verse is showing us is that God’s faithfulness is seen and proven by His promises, as they are made and then as they are kept. And notice that these promises, they hold fast not just for a few years or a few decades, but forever.

Well, as the end of the verse puts it, for a thousand generations, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations. Now, the Bible itself tells us that between the time when God made the promise, first of all, to Abraham to bless him and make him into a nation, between that time and the day that the Israelites walked out of Egypt, the Bible tells us there was a gap of 430 years. We learn that in Exodus chapter 12, 430 years.

Now, if we, there’s different ideas of maybe what a generation is, but if we count one generation as 40 years of time, then they were roughly, roughly 11 generations between the promise to Abraham and the exodus fulfillment, when this rabble of slaves came out and became a nation at Sinai. Eleven generations between the promise made and the promise kept. Now, that might seem quite a long time, right? Four hundred, 430 years, right? For us, that’s back to the 1600s.

Eleven generations seems like a long time. But God said, says here, that is nothing. I keep my covenant promises to the thousandth generation.

(12:55 – 13:12)

For as long as you can imagine, I remain faithful. Because that’s the sense, I think, of the phrase. A thousand generations for these Jews, it’s as long as their brains can compute.

(13:13 – 16:55)

It’s an endless amount of time. It’s not as if on the thousand and first generation, God stops being faithful. Psalm 100 verse 5 says, God’s faithfulness continues throughout all generations.

But putting a number on it, I think sometimes this is why the Bible does put numbers and things, putting a number on it helps us glimpse the greatness of the scale of it. You think eleven generations is a long time to be faithful? I’m a one thousand generation sort of God. Psalm 117, the shortest Psalm in the Psalter, has only two verses.

And one of them says this, for great is His love towards us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Forever. When we sing, as we sometimes do, forever God is faithful, forever God is strong, forever God is with us, forever we are not singing fantasy, we are affirming reality.

In a world where 50 years of faithfulness is seen as extraordinary, you know, you see people interviewing folk, you know, how did you do it to 60 years of marriage? What was the secret? Here is the God whose faithfulness goes on and on. And I think this first point, actually, this is the thing that’s really spoken to me most this week, this first point. This first point is actually life-changing for us, I think, because it prevents us from basing our belief on God’s faithfulness on whether we see it in the precise moment, something just to be a little careful of.

You know that thing where God answers one of your prayers, something you’ve been praying for for a while, and when He does, you say to Him and you tell your Christian friends, you say to Him and you say to them, God has been faithful. Ever said that? Ever done that? He has, and you should. It’s a good thing to say.

But just be a little careful, just a little careful, because would God have been any less faithful had He not answered that prayer at that time and in that way? Do you see what I’m saying? Is He only faithful when He comes through in the manner that I hope for or in the time frame that I expect? Oh, we need to be just a little bit careful. In times when things don’t seem to be going well, when my expectations are dashed, God is just as faithful as He always was. Now, that may not seem obvious to me in the moment, but I know it’s true of God, and I see it in the bigger picture, and I know that that is who He is, and so I trust it.

(16:58 – 19:32)

And above all, I always see His faithfulness, of course, in the Lord Jesus Christ, which is our second point this evening. So God’s faithfulness in Himself, and then secondly, God’s faithfulness in Christ. God’s faithfulness seen in the Old Testament, of course, reaches its pinnacle.

You get to the summit of His faithfulness in Christ. And to see how that’s the case, let’s briefly return to Deuteronomy 7 verse 9. Did you notice that there is an uncomfortable and even perhaps an alarming phrase in verse 9? In this verse that is a soft blanket of comfort, there is a jaggy bit that might make us feel uncomfortable. It’s the end of verse 9. After all that reassuring stuff about God’s faithfulness to a thousand generations, it adds, of those who love Him and keep His commands.

Am I the only one who winced at the end of that verse? I’m promised never-ending faithfulness, but there is a condition I need to fulfill. To receive the thousand generations of faithfulness, I need to keep loving God and to keep keeping His commands. In other words, I need to be faithful back.

Now, what do we do with that bit? Do you do what I sometimes do with passages? You kind of selectively ignore like half of the verse and just skip on, just take the bit that would seem comforting. You can’t do that with the Bible. It does seem to be saying that for me to have a relationship with God, there must be faithfulness on my side.

It’s kind of, it is like a healthy marriage. God’s faithfulness needs to be married to our faithfulness. But here’s the problem.

(19:34 – 21:19)

According to the whole Bible, none of us are faithful. Israel, who God was speaking to, would be later described by God as spiritual adulterers, because they didn’t love God as they should. They loved other gods.

They loved other things. They loved their sin more than Him. And God famously, in an illustration of this, told one of His prophets, Hosea, you remember that story? He told Hosea to marry a promiscuous woman.

Now, that is usually not a good plan for marriage, just speaking to the young guys here or the girls. This is not usually going to work well. But this is what He’s told to do, to marry a promiscuous woman.

Why? To demonstrate and illustrate to Israel that this is the kind of bride that God has married, a people who do not love Him back with faithfulness, a people who are spiritually promiscuous. And so, as we come through the rest of the Old Testament, we’re asking the question, how is this relationship going to work? How is it going to last when there is such unfaithfulness, not on God’s side, but on our side? Oh, we might say, well, what you’ve got to understand about God is that God is forgiving, and God is gracious, and He is. But He is also a God of noble character.

(21:21 – 28:42)

Right? I mean, any noble person, any noble husband expects the one he faithfully loves to faithfully love him. This great and desperate conundrum is only resolved through Christ. This is where Jesus, and only Jesus fits the bill.

Have you ever spotted that in the New Testament, Jesus is constantly described? Like, now that we’re focusing on this, you’re going to be just seeing it everywhere, as I am seeing it. But He is constantly described in terms of His faithfulness. One of my favorite places is Revelation chapter 19.

Revelation 19, Jesus in that chapter is depicted as a warrior on horseback, and He’s coming. He’s this warrior who’s coming to bring God’s justice on God’s enemies. And we read in Revelation 19 verse 11, we read this, this is John writing, I saw heaven standing open, and there before me was a white horse whose rider is called Faithful and True.

Now, it is clear from the context that the rider here is Christ, but He’s not called Jesus here. He is called Faithful and True. In a world filled with the shattered glass of broken promises, Jesus’ name is Faithful and True.

And many other passages echo this fact. Hebrews 2 describes Jesus as the merciful and faithful High Priest. In Hebrews 3, He’s called the Faithful Son.

In Hebrews 13, Jesus Christ is the same. Yesterday, today, and forever. In the Gospels, we don’t just go straight to the cross in the Gospels, even though it takes up much of the gospel accounts, but actually there’s a lot of the life of Jesus that is given to us.

Why is that there? It is portraying Jesus’ faithfulness to the Father. John describes Jesus at the beginning of his gospel as full of grace and truth. Truth is an idea closely associated with faithfulness.

And in John 14, Jesus almost echoes exactly Deuteronomy 7 when He says, I love the Father and do exactly what the Father has commanded. And when Jesus, of course, hangs on the cross, as He comes to breathe His last breath, He can say, it is finished. The entire plan that the Father had laid down for Him, He finished at the final line.

Faithful and True are well-earned titles of our faithful and true Savior. He is the only Mr. Faithful who has ever lived. Jesus fulfills on the human side what a noble God would, of course, require.

And in doing that, He didn’t just pay the penalty for the guilt of our sin, but He lived with a righteous consistency that was just as much required. And I need this, and you need this more than I need anything else thinking about this morning. What do we really need? We need a great high priest whose name is love, who ever lives and intercedes for me.

That’s what we really need. You know, going back to that earlier discussion of our prayers and God’s faithfulness, you know, it struck me this week, actually, that sometimes we confuse our expectations with what God has promised. Our expectations with what God has promised.

Sometimes the things that we expect of God are not actually things that He has promised us and guaranteed to us. God never fails to give us what He has promised, but that is not always the same thing as the things that we want. But He gives us what we need the most.

He gives us what we will need when we’re just a few hours from meeting our Maker. When perhaps, I mean, I can’t imagine what that’s going to be like, but perhaps if we’re composementives enough, we’ll be thinking, how is this going to go? How will I, you know, even though I’ve been a person of faith in Christ all the years, but maybe we’ll have doubts in that moment, how will I be ever able to face God in my own unfaithfulness and all of its facets? It can only be in Christ. Paul Tripp writes, he can be trusted even when you cannot.

He will be faithful in goods even when you’re not. He will do what is right and best even when you don’t. That’s what we’ll be clinging onto, is it not? And that’s what He’s promised to give us, to give us His own faithfulness in Christ.

Now, does that mean then that we just lean back, rest ourselves on grace, and give up all of our efforts in being faithful? Well, of course not. It’s actually from, like so many of these other graces and practices of our faith, it’s actually from a position of grace and security that we are then enabled by the Spirit to increasingly, though not perfectly to glory, but we are able to increasingly mirror God’s faithfulness as those who are in His image. And so thirdly, we finish on this, God’s faithfulness in us, God’s faithfulness in us, because His faithfulness to us becomes His faithfulness through us.

(28:43 – 29:53)

It’s simply impossible to read the New Testament and not see that faithfulness is to characterize the people of the faithful God. One of the fruit of the Spirit is faithfulness, Galatians 5. Jesus calls us to be good and faithful servants, Matthew 25. In Revelation 2, Jesus calls the church in the face of suffering to be faithful unto death.

And even in passages that don’t explicitly use the word faithful, it’s the idea of faithful. The book of James is all about faithfulness, isn’t it? James is discouraging double-mindedness and warns us not to be an adulterous people who are friends with the world and also pretending to be friends with God, compromising with sin. And then there’s a pile of texts in the New Testament that are all about our integrity and our honesty in speech, which is very closely connected to faithfulness.

(29:55 – 30:13)

We see faithfulness in marriage is expected. We see that our lives as a whole are meant to have a blameless consistency to them. We will not always be this, but we are called to be this.

(30:14 – 35:58)

Think of the immense opportunity we have in a world where promises are cheap and commitment is so shallow. I mean, commitment has probably never been shallower than it is today. I mean, it’s not always good to make these sweeping statements, but it seems true, doesn’t it, in lots of ways.

And in that context, we can stand out from the crowd through the simple fact that we actually do the things that we say we will do. We keep the commitments we make and we stick to the vows that we’ve committed to. We will not always be this, but we are called to be this.

It’s the sort of faithfulness that we see in the life of B.B. Warfield. Now, I’m conscious that this, if we’re finished with this illustration, this is a marriage illustration, and I’m very conscious these days of the kind of illustrations we use. I know some of you are not married, but there’s something in this that surely sets an example to all of us.

Think of whatever relationships you have in your life that demand commitment, faithfulness from you. It might be your friendships. It might be within your workplace.

It might be with your family. It might be with your spouse. B.B. Warfield, if you know of him at all, is someone who’s known as a writer.

He’s an American theologian. He wrote all sorts of quite intellectual books, you know, defending the inspiration and authority of Scripture, among other things. So, if you’ve read a bit of church history, you’ve probably heard of him.

He was the president of Princeton in the United States. Now, what you may not know and what I did not know was that he had a wife, and his wife, Annie Warfield, was a seriously ill woman. Now, he wasn’t ill when they got married, and this is one of the reasons why you make those vows, you know.

When people ask me, they come with their own vows, and I say, well, you can say whatever you want, but you need to say these bits. These bits do need to be in there, and part of it’s the sickness and unhealthy for this reason. So, they went away to Europe on their honeymoon, and while they were there, just weeks into the marriage, she suddenly started becoming seriously ill, and her health took a plunge, and she ended up bedridden through most of their married life.

And this had, as you can imagine, a transformative effect on Benjamin, as well as his wife, Annie. It’s said that he could never leave the house for more than a few hours at a time. So, this is a guy, he’s running a Bible call, he’s running a seminary, and he would nip to the seminary, do two hours of lectures, and then he would come straight back home.

And essentially, in days before working from home was cool, he had to work from home for decades in order to be there for his wife. It’s said that for a 10-year stretch, he never left Princeton College, where they lived, except on one occasion. And the reason he left was not to go on a holiday, it was to try and secure a treatment for his wife, which ended up failing.

He would read to her for a couple of hours every day. And none of this was done with any fanfare, but it was inevitably observed by, can you imagine, the thousands of students coming through Princeton, who would have seen this in the life of this Christian man. Not what you expect from a heavyweight theologian, is it? And yet surely, this shows us the kind of real theologian he was, as he put on display something of God’s own faithfulness to him and to his church.

And of course, God always uses these things in ways that we don’t expect, because as Warfield was confined so much to home, he devoted more of his life to a writing ministry that has blessed the church down the decades and the years ever since. Now, I hear stories like that, and I pray that I would even just have a few ounces of that kind of faithfulness in the responsibilities that I’ve been given. And I hope as you listen to that, that you’re praying for that too, even as we rest in the fact that when we don’t get it right, and we won’t always get it right, his faithfulness is enough.

(36:00 – 36:28)

Paul, another beautiful thing he says to Timothy, I’m going to just leave you with this. He says, and this is the bottom line for the Christian, that if we are faithless, he remains faithful because he cannot disown himself. Faithfulness is who he is.

(36:30 – 36:36)

Let’s thank God for that this evening as we go into this week and serve.