“Since [God] could not swear by anyone greater, he swore by himself.”—HEBREWS 6:13.
1. How are the promises Jehovah makes different from the promises humans make?
JEHOVAH is “the God of truth.” (Psalm 31:5) Because humans are imperfect, we cannot always trust what they say. But “it is impossible for God to lie.” (Hebrews 6:18; read Numbers 23:19.) God always does what he promises to do for mankind. For example, God created everything on the earth during six periods of time called creative days. At the beginning of each creative day, he said what he would make. Then he did exactly what he promised to do. At the end of the sixth creative day, “God saw everything he had made and, look! it was very good.”—Genesis 1:6, 7, 30, 31.
2. What is God’s rest day? Why did he make it sacred?
2 After Jehovah God said that all his creations were very good, he announced the beginning of a seventh day. This is God’s rest day. It is, not a 24-hour day, but a long period of time during which he has rested from creating anything else on earth. (Genesis 2:2) God’s rest day has still not ended. (Hebrews 4:9, 10) The Bible does not tell us exactly when it started. But we know that it started sometime after Adam’s wife, Eve, was created about 6,000 years ago. The thousand years of Christ’s reign will soon begin, and during this time God will fulfill his purpose for the earth. God wants the earth to be a paradise where perfect humans can live forever. (Genesis 1:27, 28; Revelation 20:6) You can be sure that you can have that happy future! “God proceeded to bless the seventh day and make it sacred.” This was a promise that no matter what happened, God would make sure that his purpose would come true by the end of his rest day.—Genesis 2:3.
Jehovah’s promises always come true
3. (a) What happened after the start of God’s rest day? (b) How did Jehovah explain how he would solve this problem?
3 But after God’s rest day began, some of God’s creatures rebelled against him. Satan, who was an angel in heaven, tried to make others worship him instead of God. Satan told the first lie and tricked Eve so that she disobeyed Jehovah. (1 Timothy 2:14) After that, Eve got her husband to disobey Jehovah. (Genesis 3:1-6) This rebellion was the worst thing that had ever happened. But even though Satan was accusing Jehovah of being untruthful, Jehovah did not think that it was necessary to make an oath to prove that his purpose for the earth would come true. Instead, he made a promise that would not be understood until later. He simply said how he would solve this problem. He would put “enmity,” or hatred, between Satan and the woman and between Satan’s seed and her seed. The promised Seed would bruise Satan “in the head,” and Satan would “bruise him in the heel.”—Genesis 3:15; Revelation 12:9.
OATHS ARE A LEGAL WAY TO SAY THAT SOMETHING IS TRUE
4, 5. What legal way of making a promise did Abraham use?
4 Up until that time, it had probably never been necessary to swear that something was true. Perfect creatures who love God and imitate him do not need to make an oath. They always tell the truth, and they can trust one another completely. But after the first couple sinned and became imperfect, lying eventually became common for humans. So it later became necessary for people to use oaths as a legal way to promise that an important statement was true.
5 Abraham used oaths at least three different times. (Genesis 21:22-24; 24:2-4, 9) For example, he used an oath when he returned from defeating the king of Elam and all the kings who fought along with him. The kings of Salem and Sodom came out to meet Abraham. Melchizedek, the king of Salem, was also “priest of the Most High God,” and he blessed Abraham and praised God for helping Abraham to defeat his enemies. (Genesis 14:17-20) Then, when the king of Sodom wanted to reward Abraham for saving the king’s people from the armies that were attacking them, Abraham swore: “I do lift up my hand in an oath to Jehovah the Most High God, Producer of heaven and earth, that, from a thread to a sandal lace, no, I shall take nothing from anything that is yours, in order that you may not say, ‘It was I who made Abram rich.’”—Genesis 14:21-23.
JEHOVAH USED AN OATH TO MAKE A SPECIAL PROMISE TO ABRAHAM
6. (a) What example did Abraham set for us? (b) How will we benefit from what Abraham did?
6 Jehovah God too has used oaths so that sinful mankind can be confident in his promises. Jehovah makes oaths by using expressions like “‘As I am alive,’ is the utterance of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah.” (Ezekiel 17:16) The Bible tells us about more than 40 different times when Jehovah made oaths. A very well-known example is what God swore to Abraham. Jehovah made several covenants, or promises, throughout Abraham’s lifetime. From those covenants, Abraham learned that the promised Seed would come from his family through his son Isaac. (Genesis 12:1-3, 7; 13:14-17; 15:5, 18; 21:12) Then Jehovah gave Abraham a very difficult test. He commanded Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son. Abraham immediately began to carry out that command. But just before he sacrificed Isaac, an angel stopped him. Then God made this oath: “‘By myself I do swear,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘that by reason of the fact that you have done this thing and you have not withheld your son, your only one, I shall surely bless you and I shall surely multiply your seed like the stars of the heavens and like the grains of sand that are on the seashore; and your seed will take possession of the gate of his enemies. And by means of your seed all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves due to the fact that you have listened to my voice.’”—Genesis 22:1-3, 9-12, 15-18.
7, 8. (a) Why did God swear to Abraham? (b) How will Christ’s “other sheep” benefit from God’s promise and oath to Abraham?
7 Why did God swear to Abraham that His promises would come true? He made an oath because it would encourage and strengthen the faith of those who would become the secondary part of the promised “seed” and rule with Christ. (Read Hebrews 6:13-18; Galatians 3:29) As the apostle Paul explained, Jehovah “stepped in with an oath.” So there were two unchangeable things that would give the anointed “strong encouragement to lay hold on the hope” set before them. Those things were God’s promise and his oath, things in which it is “impossible for God to lie.”
8 The anointed are not the only ones who benefit from God’s oath to Abraham. Jehovah swore that by means of Abraham’s “seed,” people of “all nations of the earth” would bless themselves. (Genesis 22:18) Those people from “all nations” include Christ’s obedient “other sheep,” who have the hope of everlasting life in Paradise on earth. (John 10:16) Whether you are one of the anointed or one of the other sheep, “lay hold” on your hope. That means you should work hard to receive what you hope for by continuing to obey God in all you do.—Read Hebrews 6:11, 12.
GOD MADE OTHER OATHS ABOUT HIS PROMISE TO ABRAHAM
9. What did God swear when Abraham’s descendants were slaves in Egypt?
9 Hundreds of years after Abraham’s time, Jehovah again swore to fulfill the promises he had made to Abraham. This happened when he sent Moses to speak to Abraham’s descendants, who had become slaves in Egypt. (Exodus 6:6-8) God later explained that he was making an oath at that time. He said: “I lifted up my hand in an oath to them to bring them forth from the land of Egypt to a land that I had spied out for them, one flowing with milk and honey.”—Ezekiel 20:5, 6.
10. What promise did God make to Israel after he brought them out of Egypt?
10 After Jehovah brought the nation of Israel out of Egypt, he made another promise to them: “If you will strictly obey my voice and will indeed keep my covenant, then you will certainly become my special property out of all other peoples, because the whole earth belongs to me. And you yourselves will become to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:5, 6) This was a very special offer to the nation of Israel! It meant that if they obeyed Jehovah, he would one day make people from that nation a kingdom of priests who would bless the rest of mankind. Later, Jehovah explained that he had made an oath, or “a sworn statement,” when he made that promise.—Ezekiel 16:8.
11. What did Israel do when God offered to make them his special nation?
11 Jehovah did not force Israel to swear that they would be obedient. And he did not force them to accept his special offer. But they wanted to swear that they would be obedient. They said: “All that Jehovah has spoken we are willing to do.” (Exodus 19:8) Three days later, Jehovah God told Israel what he wanted them to do as his chosen nation. First he gave them the Ten Commandments and then had Moses tell them other commands that are recorded from Exodus 20:22 to Exodus 23:33. What did Israel say after they heard these commands? “All the people answered with one voice and said: ‘All the words that Jehovah has spoken we are willing to do.’” (Exodus 24:3) Then Moses wrote down the laws in “the book of the covenant” and read them aloud so that the whole nation could hear them again. After that, for the third time, the people promised: “All that Jehovah has spoken we are willing to do and be obedient.”—Exodus 24:4, 7, 8.
12. What did Jehovah do after he made his promise to make Israel his special nation? What did the people do after they made their promise to God?
12 Jehovah immediately began to do what he promised in his covenant with Israel. He selected priests who would serve at a special tent for worship. The priesthood would help imperfect humans have a relationship with him. But even though the Israelites were dedicated to God, they immediately disobeyed him. They did not do what they had promised and “pained even the Holy One of Israel.” (Psalm 78:41) For example, while Moses was on Mount Sinai and Jehovah was giving him more instructions, the Israelites became impatient and began to lose faith in God. They thought that Moses had left them. So they made a golden image of a calf and said to the people: “This is your God, O Israel, who led you up out of the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 32:1, 4) Then they started to bow down and sacrifice to the image they had made, but they said they were worshipping Jehovah. When Jehovah saw that they were worshipping the image, he said to Moses: “They have turned aside in a hurry from the way I have commanded them to go.” (Exodus 32:5, 6, 8) In the years that followed, Israel made many other vows to God, but they repeatedly did not do what they had vowed to do.—Numbers 30:2.
Jehovah swore to fulfill the promises he had made to Abraham
TWO MORE OATHS
13. What oath did Jehovah make to David? How do we know that this oath was about the promised Seed?
13 When David was the king of Israel, Jehovah made two more oaths that would benefit all those who obey Him. First, he swore to David that his descendants would rule on his throne forever. (Psalm 89:35, 36; 132:11, 12) The promised Seed, or the Christ, would be one of David’s descendants and would be called “the Son of David.” (Matthew 1:1; 21:9) David humbly called the promised Seed his “Lord” because the Christ was superior to him.—Matthew 22:42-44.
14. What oath did Jehovah make about the promised Seed? How do we benefit from this oath?
14 Second, Jehovah revealed to David that the promised Seed would be not only a King but also mankind’s High Priest. This was very special. According to the Law God gave to Israel, the priests had to be from the tribe of Levi and the kings had to be from the tribe of Judah. So at that time, no one could be both a king and a priest. But David foretold about the coming King: “The utterance of Jehovah to my Lord is: ‘Sit at my right hand until I place your enemies as a stool for your feet.’ Jehovah has sworn (and he will feel no regret): ‘You are a priest to time indefinite according to the manner of Melchizedek!’” (Psalm 110:1, 4) Just as David foretold, Jesus Christ, who is the promised Seed, now rules as King in heaven. He also serves as mankind’s High Priest, who helps repentant people to have a good relationship with God.—Read Hebrews 7:21, 25, 26.
THE NEW ISRAEL OF GOD
15, 16. (a) What two Israels are mentioned in the Bible? Which Israel has God’s blessing today? (b) What command did Jesus give his followers about swearing, or making oaths?
15 Because the nation of Israel rejected Jesus Christ, Jehovah eventually rejected them, and they lost the opportunity to be “a kingdom of priests.” Jesus told Jewish religious leaders: “The kingdom of God will be taken from you and be given to a nation producing its fruits.” (Matthew 21:43) The new nation that Jesus mentioned was formed at Pentecost of the year 33. At that time, God poured out his spirit on about 120 disciples of Jesus who had gathered in Jerusalem. These became the new “nation,” which was called “the Israel of God.” Soon, several thousand people from other nations had also become part of the Israel of God.—Galatians 6:16.
16 Unlike the original nation of Israel, which was disobedient, the new Israel of God continues to obey God. One of the commands that the Israel of God received was about making oaths. When Jesus was on earth, people made oaths about things that were not true and they made oaths about unimportant things. (Matthew 23:16-22) Jesus taught his followers not to make oaths at all. He said: “Just let your word Yes mean Yes, your No, No; for what is in excess of these is from the wicked one.”—Matthew 5:34, 37.
17. What questions will be answered in the next study article?
17 Does this mean that it is always wrong to make an oath? More important, what does it mean to let our “Yes” mean Yes? We can find the answers in the next study article. As we continue to meditate on God’s Word, we should let this motivate us to obey Jehovah always. Then he will bless us forever, just as he has promised and sworn to do.