When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.Luke 2:15-21, ESV
And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
Imagine the joy of these lowly shepherds as they leave the plains of Bethlehem in search of the baby who is Christ the Lord. The angelic message was about the good news that brings great joy and these shepherds felt as if their hearts would burst if they didn’t “go tell it on the mountain over the hill and everywhere that Jesus Christ is born.” They made known the word of the Lord. This child is Christ the Lord, He is the Messiah of God, He is the promised son of David, and through Him, all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.
The announcement of the shepherds was impactful, not simply because the story was incredible, but because each descriptive title was representative of a promise of God. “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen (1 Cor 1:20).” The promise of God given to Abraham finds it’s fulfillment in Christ. The promise of God given to David finds its fulfillment in Christ. The promise of God given through the prophets finds its fulfillment in Christ.
Handling the Promises of God…
Have you ever been let down? Someone promised you something and you were excited but in the end, they never really delivered on their word? Sure you have. But let’s not be too hasty because we are all culprits as well as victims. When promises are broken they leave a mark. I can remember being a small child and wanting a Batman action figure so very badly. My mother promised to take me to a magical place called Toys R Us to get that Batman toy I wanted. I can still recall that feeling of excitement when arriving at the toy store as a child. Mother and I found the aisle where the Batman action figures should have been but they were sold out and I began to cry. My mother promised me a Batman action figure and I left the story with a Joker action figure and I was not a happy camper. I know this story is ridiculous but I was six and the impact of a perceived broken promise left a lasting impression upon me. I think this silly illustration of an insignificant event in my young life shows the power of promises. When promises are clung to but left unfulfilled we can feel devastated.
The promises were given to Israel through Abraham, David, and the prophets were promises made by God. The promise of God to bless all the nations of the earth through Abraham’s seed had yet to be truly fulfilled before the birth of the Saviour. A few thousand years had come and gone while God’s people hoped to see the fulfillment in their lifetime. The promise of God for a son of David to reign forever and usher in a renewed earth full of peace and prosperity had yet to be fulfilled after a thousand years of waiting. But God’s promises are sure.
So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.Hebrews 6:17-18, ESV
All of God’s people long to see the promises to be fulfilled in their lifetime, but God is not bound by our desires and His plan of fulfillment is perfect and worth the wait. This truth is not always well received. There have always been some who are numbered among the children of God who will not receive the help they need from the promises of God because they will not properly handle the promises. Notice that upon the announcement of the shepherds there were two recorded responses.
First, all who heard about the Saviour born in Bethlehem wondered. What does “wondered” mean? It seems that the announcement caused people to be amazed at the story, but this wondering did not seem to produce followers of God. The promises of God are wonderful and sound amazing, but unless the hearers become doers they find no help in God’s wonderful promises. We must order our lives according to the wonderful promises of God if we will be helped.
Second, when Mary heard the wonderful story of the shepherds concerning the announcement of her baby’s birth she treasured up all these things in her heart. What is the difference between wondering and treasuring? Treasuring has something to do with stockpiling. When you treasure something you take great pains to collect each piece and place them all in a safe place in order to keep your prize for yourself. While the general response of people to the promises of God may be amazement, let our response be like Mary’s and stockpile the promises of God within our hearts. Treasuring God’s promises will naturally lead to pious living. When we truly believe God has forgiven our sins we live grateful lives. When we truly believe God has promised eternal life to all who believe we evangelize boldly. When we truly believe God is present we worship sincerely. When we truly believe that God will end all evil and suffering we endure patiently. The promises of God are sure and we must do more than wonder. We must treasure God’s promises.
What will you do?…
Every day we have a choice to make. What will we do with the promises of God today? Each promise of God that you have treasured in your heart at one point must be carefully preserved each day. Treasuring isn’t collecting only. Treasuring is collecting, keeping safe, and enjoying the thing loved. If you treasure something you’ll want to spend some time each day experiencing it. Let’s talk more specifically by using one of God’s promises as our example for how we should be daily interacting with each promise.
God has promised forgiveness of my sins and that is something I do treasure. When I first learned this truth it took a few years before I actually treasured it. I believed that Jesus was God’s Son, sinless, crucified, risen, ascended, and coming again. If you had asked me as a sixteen-year-old, “do you believe the Jesus in the Bible?”, I would have answered yes. However, my living was not interacting with God’s promise of forgiveness of sins daily. I was not treasuring God’s promise and therefore living gratefully to Him. I was living the kind of life that James called double-minded (James 1). I was the kind of hypocrite that knew the vocabulary of a Christian without treasuring Christ. Years later I did finally treasure Christ and over the last two decades, I have continued to do so imperfectly. I have had days and seasons in my life among these last twenty years of Christian living that I had failed to properly treasure God’s promise in my daily life. The result of those times is regret. I am still wonderfully forgiven, but sinful lapses are truly regrettable. How do we avoid these sinful lapses? Paul told the Galatians to walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Gal 5). Treasuring God’s promise of forgiveness is to actively engage that promise every day the way that Ebenezer Scrooge is often depicted as counting and recounting his gold coins. Each day we must choose to actively treasure God’s promise or we will begin to lose our grip and act contrary to His promise.