Jeremiah 31:31-34.


Rev. David Domanski

3/17/20245 min read

“I’ll be back by eleven, Mom. I promise!” “Don’t worry, dear. I’ll remember to stop and get milk on my way home. I promise!” “This is the last night I have to work late. I promise!” “This morning’s sermon will be short. I promise!”

We hear promises all the time. They’re at the very heart of our relationships with one another. Making a promise signifies that something is important to you. You desire to have a strong relationship with the person to whom you’re promising. Our text certainly reflects that. God demonstrated his love to mankind by making promises of forgiveness and salvation. And he fulfilled every one.

Our record on keeping promises isn’t as good as God’s record, however. No doubt, you’ve broken some of your promises.

“Wow! Haven’t seen this in a long time! Amazing what you run across in the attic. I was looking for boxes to wrap some birthday presents and here is my old confirmation certificate. Let’s see. “Do you promise to remain faithful in your worship and use of the Sacraments?” Sure, why not? Okay, I confess I don’t go every Sunday. Hey, things come up. But at Christmas and Easter, my family fills up two pews. “Do you promise to continue steadfast in the Word of God?” Well, what does steadfast mean, anyway? So we don’t have family devotions or read the Bible at home. I taught my kids how to pray, and they have a healthy respect for God. “Do you promise to continue in this faith and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?” That’s getting a little personal, don’t you think? I’m comfortable with my faith. It serves me well when I need it. Yeah, I promise.

Broken promises. We’ve all broken promises to kids, friends, spouses, even God. As Christians, we promise to obey our parents, read the Bible, remain married for life, and share our faith. Many times we forget about these promises. They seem less important with time. Or even worse, we remember our promises but choose to ignore them. Our needs are more important. “People will understand.” “God will understand.”

The reality is that our relationships with other people are hurt and even destroyed when we break promises. It’s no different with God. Joshua 23:15 says every threat of God will come true if you break your covenant with Him. It’s more than just failing to read the Bible or having a wandering eye for a co-worker. When we break these promises, we sin and weaken our relationship with God. If we break promises to God, and we have, there’s literally going to be hell to pay!

But while all of humankind was busy breaking our promises with God, He was making a big promise to us. God said in Jeremiah 31 he would forgive our wickedness and remember our sins no more. That covenant was realized in the work of His Son.

Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises of forgiveness and eternal life. He lived the life we should have lived, died our death, and paid the ultimate price. There was hell to pay for the promises we broke and the relationship we destroyed with God, and Jesus paid it. He suffered hell for us on the cross when he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

And God didn’t stop there. Not only did He earn our forgiveness, but He promised to bring it to us. He fulfilled that promise at our Baptism, when our sins were forgiven and we were given the gift of faith. That baptismal promise is as effective today as when it was first made. I sometimes hear Christians say, “I don’t feel forgiven. My sin is too big.” God’s promises are sure. They are not dependent on us. The Bible constantly reminds us of that. God promised the Israelites a way out of slavery in Egypt and a new home. Even though they doubted God, cursed the hardship of the wilderness, and erected a golden idol, Joshua led them into the Promised Land and proclaimed, “Not one word has failed of all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you” (Josh 23:14). God promised David that the Messiah would be his descendant. Even when David committed adultery with Bathsheba and tried to cover over his sin, God traced the line of Christ through their offspring. Jesus promised Peter that he would fish for men. Even after Peter denied Christ, God spoke through Peter on Pentecost, and three thousand were saved.

Have you come here today feeling guilty because you haven’t talked to your kids about Christ? Do you regret doing something that hurt your marriage? Your broken promises are gone. Forgiveness is yours right now. You’re not forgiven only after you do fourteen good deeds or get a warm fuzzy feeling inside that tells you you’re forgiven. God forgives you right now. He loves you and he will keep His saving relationship with you because He promised He would.

Because God is always faithful in keeping His promises, our promises now take on a new look. When studying the fourth commandment, a pastor instructed his students to take out a piece of paper and design their dream homes. He put one condition on the assignment: that the dream homes would contain a room for the students’ parents. He impressed on us them that honoring mother and father takes place throughout one’s life, even when parents may no longer be able to care for themselves. That same pastor’s mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a few years later. As the disease progressed, the pastor and his wife took his mother into their home. They provided for her every need. After many months of receiving her son’s and daughter-in-law’s care, the mother died, still living in their home. Not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to do this, but the point was that he kept a promise not only to a small confirmation class, but especially to the Lord. His actions taught his confirmation students more than any lecture ever could.

Our promises to God and to one another are significant parts of our Christian witness. We are only able to say, “I promise,” and keep it, because God has done that very thing in our lives. In an age when divorce is increasingly rampant, a happily married couple points to Christ. When it’s easier for everyone to inhale dinner and let the kids go play, a family that sets aside time for devotions shows their neighbors that God is the priority. When society says putting your parents away at the first sign of disease is okay, children who provide for their parents’ need, even at a great personal cost, show they believe something different. Keeping promises isn’t always easy, and you’ll break your promises again. But when you do break your promises, God will lead you to this place, this altar. You’ll kneel under the weight of your broken promises, receive bread and wine and, attached to them, the very words of Christ: “This is my body. I promise. This is my blood. I promise. You are forgiven. I promise.” And God ALWAYS keeps His promises! Amen!