“When God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself.” (Hebrews 6:13)
Have you ever heard someone say, “I swear that it’s true!” Maybe your parents have even told you not to say that, because “swear” is used nowadays as another word for “curse,” and we should not curse. Well, your parents are right to forbid you from swearing, too – it really is enough for you just to say, “What I’m saying is true.”
Sometimes it’s important for a person to make a very serious promise. For example, if the bank lends your parents a lot of money to buy a house, your parents sign a contract that promises to pay all the money back to the bank, a little at a time.
In Old Testament times, a lot of agreements weren’t written down; two people would just make spoken promises to each other. So instead of signing a contract, someone who made a promise would say something like, “I swear by the king,” or “I swear by the temple.” When a person did this, he wasn’t using dirty language. Instead, it was strong promise language. The person was saying that he would be as reliable as the thing that he swore by. Kings were expected to be very trustworthy, and the temple was expected to last forever. In the same way, the person making a promise was saying that his promise was trustworthy, and that it would last forever.
There is something else you should notice about these promises. The king and temple are greater than the person making the promise. In fact, Hebrews 6:16 says that when people make these serious promises – when they swear (in the good use of the word) – they always swear by something or someone greater than themselves.
But if God wants to make a solemn promise, by whom or by what would He swear? Would God swear by a human king? Of course not! God is the One Who made the man into a king. Would God swear by the temple? No! God is the One Who designed the temple and gave strength to the builders and supplied all the building materials. Would God swear by the universe? Surely not! God made the universe, and everything in it!
So does God swear by anybody? According to Hebrews 6:13, when God made a promise to Abraham, He did swear by someone. The book of Hebrews says, “When God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware [swore] by himself.”
When God makes promises, He bases His promises on His own greatness and reliability. Because no one and nothing is greater than God, no one and nothing can stop God from keeping His promises. Those of us who are God’s children can look for God’s promises in the Bible, and we can know that God will keep them!
God is greater than everything and everyone else, and He will keep all the promises that He makes.
» Can I name any promises that God has made me in the Bible? Do I believe that God will keep them?
» Can I think of any promises God has made that would make me live differently if I believed them?
(For example, when Jesus told His disciples to go into all the world with the Gospel, He promised that He would be with them.)