What is it about promises? We make them. We take them. We keep them. We break them. How much do they really mean? What are they really worth?
For instance, God made a promise towards Abraham and Sarah that they would have a son. He fulfilled it, and at the time that He said that He would as well. Sarah finally received the fulfillment of God’s promise with the birth of Isaac. Hagar also had received, and receives again a promise that Ishmael would become a great nation. In this chapter God provides for her and Ishmael, taking a step towards the fulfillment of His promise towards them.
At the same time, other promises are, and are not made. Abimelech, seeing that God blesses everything that Abraham does comes to Abraham seeking a promise. He reminds Abraham of his kindness to him in regards to the incident with Sarah. Abimelech had been righteous in his actions and dealings, so God had prevented him from sinning by sleeping with Sarah and he acted righteously towards Abraham. So, knowing that God blesses all that Abraham does, he comes to Abraham seeking a promise that Abraham and his descendants will never deal falsely with Abimelech and his descendants. Together, Abraham and Abimelech make a covenant with each other that neither would deal falsely with the other. So the promise is made. At the end of the chapter, we see just who Abimelech is. He is a Philistine king.
We know, especially from Judges and Kings, that this promise is not kept. The Philistines are the primary antagonists to the Israelites in Judges and Kings. They attempt to make the Israelite people their slaves. They even steal the Arc of the Covenant. Their promise has no lasting value.
What’s more, is the promise that they didn’t make. They made a promise with Abraham, whom God was blessing, but they never pursued a promise with the God of Abraham. They were more focused on the things of the world that they ignored the very source of Abraham’s blessings. They never pursued the true God. That was a promise lost.
In looking at the promises and fulfillments; I suppose that the value of a promise is very much dependent upon who is making what promise, to whom, and why? What promises have we made, and to whom? Are we fulfilling our promises?