In John Piper’s Look at the Book on 2 Timothy 2:13, he explains his claim that Christians misunderstand God’s faithfulness in that verse. Usually, what they take away from the verse is, “God is faithful to me, even when I’m not faithful to God.” Piper disproves such an interpretation.
Similarly, Christians see God’s faithfulness as constantly beneficial and positive towards themselves; however, God is faithful, first and foremost, to Himself, and Christians should find comfort in this. Christians should see God’s faithfulness in both positive and negative ways, as it relates to them. A holistic view of God’s faithfulness will bring the Christian comfort.
God’s Faithfulness Understood Negatively
The second verse from the book of Daniel shows a negative example of God’s faithfulness towards his people. Daniel’s story begins with God’s judgment on Israel, which is Babylon conquering Israel and forcing them into exile.
Daniel 1:2 stated, “And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god.”
The Babylonians did not defeat Jehoiakim merely because of military superiority, but because God “gave” the people of Israel to Nebuchadnezzar. Saint Jerome writes, “The fact that Jehoiakim is recorded to have been given over shows that it was not a victory for the might of his enemies but rather it was of the will of the Lord.”
God remained faithful to his promises to Israel, and as a result, He handed Israel over to the Babylonians.
Deuteronomy 28 (cf. Lev. 26:33, 39) outlined the Old Covenant and the promises God made if Israel disobeyed him: “The Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You shall go out one way against them and flee seven ways before them. And you shall be a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth.”
Israel transgressed God’s Covenant from Mount Sinai, and because God is faithful to His word he used the Babylonians to judge Israel harshly, still Christians should take comfort in this.
Presbyterian minister Dale Ralph Davis, noted, “We tend to think of God’s faithfulness in more positive terms. But sometimes it may be a negative faithfulness. Here we meet with a severe faithfulness . . . And if the Lord is so diligent over his threats of judgment, surely he will treat his assurances of grace with the same exacting care.”
Christians often think of God’s faithfulness as always positive for them, but here God remains faithful to His promise of tumultuous punishment. God is radically faithful to his Word and His covenants, and Israel’s defeat at Carchemish serves as a testimony of it. If God is invariably and radically faithful to his Word and covenants, what promises can Christian’s look forward to today?
God’s Faithfulness Understood Positively
An understanding of the New Covenant will yield the promises Christians should look to. Deuteronomy 28 outlines the conditional Old Covenant promises which God fulfilled; meanwhile, Ezekiel 36 outlines the New Covenant promises. The New Covenant promises involve vast riches and blessings to God’s people.
“I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.” (vv.24-28)
Ultimately, God’s radical faithfulness will prevail against the hardness of the hearts of His elect. Christian’s should take comfort in God’s radical faithfulness, especially in the New Covenant, as it excludes any conditionally phrasing. He will—unconditionally—fulfill His New Covenant promises to His people.
In conclusion, God actively worked in the defeat of Israel at the battle of Carchemish because of His faithful character. If we neglect the faithfulness of God when it results negatively for his people, then we will fail to grasp fully the glorious faithfulness of God when it relates positively for His people. However, a holistic view of God’s faithfulness displays His faithfulness to Himself, which Christians should take comfort in.
Finally, Numbers 23:19 states, “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” God does not lie or change his mind; (1 Samuel 15:29, 2 Samuel 22:31, Proverbs 30:5, Psalms 12:6) instead, God radically keeps His covenants.
Nathan Ecarma studies Bible, culture, and language. He serves on the Worldview Initiative and as a managing Editor for the school newspaper, the Bryan Triangle. In between theological conversations, he enjoys binge watching Netflix and attempting to sing his favorite songs.
Follow his Twitter: ecarmanathan
For comments or questions email him: necarma4773@Bryan.edu