Sketching HIStory #18

Gen 15 – The True Promise Keeper

Let us recap what God had verbally promised to Abram so far.

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1. “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you.”
2. “I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.”
3. “I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will curse.”
4. “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
5. “To your offspring I will give this land.”

As to the Promise Coin image, I’m borrowing this symbol of God’s promises from the Youtube channel, The Bible Project. According to their videos, the promise coin is one of those symbols (just like the Crimson Thread) of God’s plan to get mankind back on track to His real intention for us; and that is Eternal Life for us. Focus on the tree symbol above the word ‘Promise’. That tree represent the Tree of Life of the Garden of Eden. So, whenever you see this coin in my blog, take notice it is a promise of God for us.

In Genesis 13, when Lot separated from Abram, we see again God reinforcing Abram’s faith.

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The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring a forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.”

So Abram went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he pitched his tents. There he built an altar to the Lord. [Gen 13:14-18]

Years later, God revisited Abram in Genesis 15 which is considered a significantly important chapter in the book of Genesis and even the Bible.

After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” [Gen 15:1]

God gave Abram two reasons not to fear. The first was that God Himself will be Abram’s shield. God will protect Abram. Maybe Abram was scared that the armies he had just defeated (in Gen 14) would regroup and then return for revenge. With God as his shield, Abram had nothing to fear. God would protect Abram and be his shield. This same idea is found in Psalm 3:3 where the Psalmist sings, “You, Oh Lord, are a shield about me, You’re my glory, You’re the lifter of my head.”

God will also be Abram’s reward.

Not just any reward, but an exceedingly great reward. There is no greater reward than this. There is no greater reward than God. All the gold and diamonds of the world are less valuable than a grain of dust in comparison to having God as a reward.

But what does it mean to have God as a reward? How can God be a reward? We belong to Him; He does not belong to us. God makes a very perplexing statement to Abram. How can the God of heavens and earth, the Creator of the universe, give Himself as a reward to humans, let alone a single individual? Abram could have been a bit confused by this as well.

Maybe in his own mind, Abram tried to tone down this audacious promise by God. “God can’t mean that He will give Himself to me. He must mean He will just work on my behalf. He will work to protect me and provide for me. That must be what God means.”

But that is not what God meant. God meant that He Himself is what Abram is seeking. God Himself is what Abram wants and what Abram needs. God Himself is the missing piece of Abram’s life. God Himself is Abram’s exceedingly great reward.

[from the article: The True Promise Keeper‘ by Jeremy Myers]

In truth, God Himself is the missing piece in all our lives. However, since Jesus Christ had ascended into Heaven there are many that walks this world that had been granted a piece of Him (so, to speak) and are living as He had intended for both this world and eternity. For now, this part of HIStory will have be revealed much later. However, you can contact me contact me by leaving a request in the comment area below.

But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.” [Gen 15:2-3]

In Genesis 15:3, Abram expressed his concern that someone other than his son would be his heir. According to the Hammurabi Code, if a man died without a natural heir, his possessions would go to the chief servant of his house, in this case, Eliezer of Damascus. Though Eliezer was probably a very good man, he was not a son. Abram wanted a son.   [from the article: The True Promise Keeper‘ by Jeremy Myers]

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Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” [Gen 15:4-5]

The stars are a reminder, an altar, telling Abram and us that God keeps His promises.

Verse 5 is a promise that Abram’s descendants will be as numerous as the stars. Previously, God reminded Abram that his descendants would be as numerous as the grains of sand. Scientists estimate that there are 2000 billion-billion grains of sand on the earth, and probably twenty five times as many stars. Obviously, since there haven’t been this many people alive on planet earth since the beginning, God is using a figure of speech to say that Abram’s descendants will be too numerous to count. And of course, according to Galatians 3:29, Abram not only has physical descendants according to blood, who are the Jews, but spiritual descendants according to faith, who are all believers. Together, these descendants are an astronomical number, and God says that the stars will remind us, will be a celestial reminder of this promise. Abram responds to God’s promise in Genesis 15:6.  [from the article: The True Promise Keeper‘ by Jeremy Myers]

Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness. 

He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.” [Gen 15:6-7]

If Genesis 15 is one of the most important chapters in the Bible, Genesis 15:6 is the most important verse in this chapter, which makes it one of the most important verses in the Bible; definitely the most important verse in the Old Testament. Genesis 15:6 teaches that Abram was justified, he was declared righteous by God simply because he believed what God had said. Abram believed God, and God credited Abram with righteousness. Romans 4 makes it clear that this is when Abram was saved. Genesis 15:6 is Abram’s conversion. Prior to this, Abram was unsaved. It is here that he believed God, and God accounted it to him for righteousness.

This means that everything Abram did in Genesis 12, 13 and 14 was done as an unsaved person. What did Abram do? He took a step of faith by leaving Ur. He followed God in great obedience by leaving Haran and coming to Canaan. He worshiped God by building altars. Yes, there was that incident where he went to Egypt and lied about his wife, but even there, God protected and blessed Abram.  [from the article: The True Promise Keeper‘ by Jeremy Myers]

But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?” [Gen 15:8]

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So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.”

Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away. 

As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”

promise-coin-wWhen the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates— the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”

[Gen 15:9-19]

So, let us understand why the animal carcasses were laid out that way.

Abram covIn ancient Near Eastern royal land grant treaties, this type of ritual was done to “seal” the promises made. The parties involved would walk the path between the slaughtered animals so to say, “May this be done to me if I do not keep my oath.” Jeremiah 34:18-19 also speaks about this type of oath-making.   

[From article by Tony Mariot, Doctor of Philosophy Theology, Christ Church, Oxford (2009)]

Abram understood the ritual and expected to partake in the covenant as a participant. But then God put him into a deep sleep. God clearly wanted to be the only participant. How?

The smoking oven and the burning torch symbolize God passing between the pieces. The most important thing to realize is that God walks through alone. Normally, both parties of the covenant would walk through together, showing that they both had responsibilities to keep in order to maintain the covenant. But when God walks through alone, He shows Abram that there is absolutely nothing Abram or his descendants have to do in order for God to keep this covenant.

It is a one sided covenant. God takes all the responsibility for fulfilling it upon Himself. No matter what Abram does or doesn’t do from this point on, God will keep His promise. No matter what Israel has or has not done in history, God will keep His promise. There are many who say that God has abandoned Israel and His promises to her, and have transferred those promises to the church. But if this has happened, Genesis 15:17 is a lie, and God is a covenant breaker. He makes this covenant alone, and no matter how much sin Abram commits, no matter how rebellious Abram’s descendants become, God will not, cannot, break this covenant with them.

God does it all. This chapter is about God doing it all. God does not meet us half way. God doesn’t even meet us most of the way. God does it all. We do nothing. I hear a lot today, and in recent years, about making commitments to God. In men’s groups, we hear a lot about being promise keepers, and promise makers. In evangelistic programs, we are instructed to tell people to commit their lives to Jesus, to give themselves to Him. In discipleship programs, we hear about making commitments and covenants with God.

But this passage reveals something else entirely. We aren’t the promise keepers. God is. He makes the promises to us, and He keeps them all by Himself. We don’t give ourselves to God. He has already given Himself fully and completely to us. We don’t make covenants with Him. He makes covenants with us, and there is only one name to sign on the bottom – His.     [from the article: The True Promise Keeper‘ by Jeremy Myers]

God said other prophetic things (a look unto the future) in Abram’s deep vision. Those words we will study further in future blog posts.

 

Sketching HIStory #17

Gen 12 – Abram, Pharaoh & God

There are times in our lives that we make decisions that are contrary to God’s will which may threaten His plan. In Genesis 12, Abram, whom the Lord God had made an incredible promise with, made a blundering decision that endangered God’s plan. But here we will learn a fundamental biblical truth that God’s plan are not easily derailed.

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Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. [Gen 12:10]

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As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.” [Gen 12:11-13]

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When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that Sarai was a very beautiful woman. [Gen 12:14]

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And when Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace. He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels. [Gen 12:15-16]

 

 

 

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But the Lord inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai.

So Pharaoh summoned Abram. “What have you done to me?” he said. “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!”

Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had. [Gen 12:17-20]

Sketching HIStory #16

Gen 12 – God Prophetic Promise to the Nations

The last person that God spoke to was Noah in Genesis 6, but then He was silent for 470 years until He spoke again to Abram, 11th generation on the family line of Shem.

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Abram grew up in the city of Ur in the lands of the Chaldeans. This very ancient city was located by the Euphrates River in mordern day Iraq. In Genesis 11, Abram’s father, Terah was divinely inspired to leave Ur and head toward Canaan. Instead of trekking west through harsh desert, they followed a well traveled caravan route until they reached Haran which was located in an area in modern day border of Syria and Turkey. But then Terah settled in Haran and eventually died there. Afterwhich God spoke…

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The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” [Gen 12:1-3]

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CRIMSON THREAD

How was Abram being a blessing to ‘all peoples on earth’ a Crimson Thread? crimson-thread-w
Abram, though a nomad all his life, was incredibly rich and highly respected where ever he went. But his world in respect to the entire earth was in reality limited to the lands of Canaan and a small part of ancient Egypt. So, was God’s rhetoric a poetic exaggeration like the way fathers would… well… sometimes highly praise their own sons? God did not and does not exaggerate. For we now know that Abram did become a blessing to ALL the nations thousands of years after he passed away. As to he being part of the Crimson Thread, his later direct descendant is Jesus Christ.

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So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there. [Gen 12:4-5]

Let me talk a little bit about Sarai. Scripture emphasized in Genesis 11 that she was barren but gave no other details. In those days, the barrenness of women were considered a divine punishment for their sins. For women, this was a thing of great shame. In Sarai’s case, her being barren was indeed God’s doing, however He was not doing it to punish her. His plan for her like Abram was also to ultimately bless mankind. But from her point of view at that particular time of her life, she felt the shame not knowing why.

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Now, at the second half of Genesis 12, Sarai was described to be an incredibly beautiful woman and that beauty will be cause for Abram to interfere in God’s plan. We’ll cover this in my next post. Meanwhile, I wanted to draw something of her beauty and took the liberty of using a well known cinematic beauty of Angelina Jolie to be Sarai. Frankly, if a role of Sarai ever come about, I hope she would be cast.

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Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.

From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.

Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev. [Gen 12:6-9]

Sketching HIStory #15

Gen 9 – God took a hand

After releasing the animals back into the wild, Noah and his family (all 8 of them) evacuated the ark on the mount of Ararat believed to be in the ranges of modern day Turkey. The Lord God said to them…

“Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.” [Gen 9:1]

God also told them that, “The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea.” I was asked once, how did Noah manage such vast variety of wild animals especially the predators? Well, by what was implied in verse 2 above, the animals while in the ark was divinely controlled.

The blessing of God is the cause of our doing well. On him we depend, to him we should be thankful. Let us not forget the advantage and pleasure we have from the labour of beasts, and which their flesh affords. Nor ought we to be less thankful for the security we enjoy from the savage and hurtful beasts, through the fear of man which God has fixed deep in them. We see the fulfillment of this promise every day, and on every side. This grant of the animals for food fully warrants the use of them, but not the abuse of them by gluttony, still less by cruelty. We ought not to pain them needlessly whilst they live, nor when we take away their lives. [Matthew Henry Commentary]

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Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you…

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”

So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.” [Gen 9:8-17]

Even as a child, when ever I see a rainbow especially after a rainfall, the Lord’s promise always brought me comfort. Today, people are afraid that as the world’s climate gets hotter, the Arctic ice packs and glaciers will melt and cover the entire earth, like that Kevin Costner movie, Waterworld. My counsel is to look at a rainbow and believe.

After the blessing, the Lord then had set a precedent for them to remember and pass down to generations after.

“But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it. And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being.

“Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind.

As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.” [Gen 9:4-7]

The main reason of forbidding the eating of blood, doubtless was because the shedding of blood in sacrifices was to keep the worshipers in mind of the great atonement; yet it seems intended also to check cruelty, lest men, being used to shed and feed upon the blood of animals, should grow unfeeling to them, and be less shocked at the idea of shedding human blood. Man must not take away his own life. Our lives are God’s, and we must only give them up when he pleases. If we in any way hasten our own death, we are accountable to God for it. When God requires the life of a man from him that took it away unjustly, the murderer cannot render that, and therefore must render his own instead. One time or other, in this world or in the next, God will discover murders, and punish those murders which are beyond man’s power to punish. But there are those who are ministers of God to protect the innocent, by being a terror to evil-doers, and they must not bear the sword in vain, Ro 13:4. Willful murder ought always to be punished with death. To this law there is a reason added. Such remains of God’s image are still upon fallen man, that he who unjustly kills a man, defaces the image of God, and does dishonour to him. [Matthew Henry Commentary]

So, Noah and his family moved east (more or less) and they steadily multiplied. Since, they were the only human beings in the world, they stayed close to each other. Two generations later, humanity’s heart became cold and distant. Enter Nimrod, the grandson of Ham (one of the 3 sons of Noah).

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Nimrod… became a mighty warrior on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; that is why it is said, “Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord.” The first centers of his kingdom were Babylon, Uruk, Akkad and Kalneh, in Shinar. [Gen 10:8-10]

Nimrod was a great man in his day; he began to be mighty in the earth, Those before him were content to be upon the same level with their neighbors, and though every man bare rule in his own house, yet no man pretended any further. Nimrod was resolved to lord it over his neighbors. The spirit of the giants before the flood, who became mighty men, and men of renown, Ge 6:4, revived in him. Nimrod was a great hunter. Hunting then was the method of preventing the hurtful increase of wild beasts. This required great courage and address, and thus gave an opportunity for Nimrod to command others, and gradually attached a number of men to one leader. [Matthew Henry Commentary]

It sounds like the makings of another ‘heroes of old’ or those ‘men of renown’ just like in Genesis 6.

From such a beginning, it is likely, that Nimrod began to rule, and to force others to submit. He invaded his neighbours’ rights and properties, and persecuted innocent men; endeavouring to make all his own by force and violence. He carried on his oppressions and violence in defiance of God himself. Nimrod was a great ruler. Some way or other, by arts or arms, he got into power, and so founded a monarchy, which was the terror of the mighty, and bid fair to rule all the world.

Nimrod was a great builder. Observe in Nimrod the nature of ambition. It is boundless; much would have more, and still cries, Give, give. It is restless; Nimrod, when he had four cities under his command, could not be content till he had four more. It is expensive; Nimrod will rather be at the charge of rearing cities, than not have the honour of ruling them. It is daring, and will stick at nothing. Nimrod’s name signifies rebellion; tyrants to men are rebels to God. The days are coming, when conquerors will no longer be spoken of with praise, as in man’s partial histories, but be branded with infamy, as in the impartial records of the Bible. [Matthew Henry Commentary]

It was Nimrod whom scholars believed was the one to build an ambitious construction of a ‘tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth’ (Gen 11:4).

How soon men forget the most tremendous judgments, and go back to their former crimes! Though the desolations of the deluge were before their eyes, though they sprang from the stock of righteous Noah, yet even during his life-time, wickedness increases exceedingly.

God’s purpose was, that mankind should form many nations, and people all lands. In contempt of the Divine will, and against the counsel of Noah, the bulk of mankind united to build a city and a tower to prevent their separating. Idolatry was thus begun, and Babel became one of its chief seats. They made one another more daring and resolute; as sinners stir up and encourage one another to wicked works. [Matthew Henry Commentary]

But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel —because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth. [Gen 11:5-9]

The tendency of men, as the result of a growing diversity of language, was to separate, each tribe holding intercourse only with those who spake their own dialect; and so the Divine purpose of occupying the world was carried into effect, while the project of this ambitious knot of men to hold mankind together was frustrated, and the building of their tower ceased. [Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers]

With mankind scattered through out the earth, we have to wonder ‘Why’? I believe it was part of God’s overall plan for mankind’s salvation. Of course, if I tried to impart what His plan entailed here now, this article would end up into at least a 20 chapter book. So, let me say in a nutshell, that by the scattering of humanity into different tribes and cultures actually was to benefit the spreading of God’s good news (gospel) by those of us who believe. I will reveal this more in much later blog posts.

Meanwhile, let us look at Genesis 11:10-26. To be honest, when reading Scripture and I come upon a long genealogy, my eyes tend to glaze over a little. As a sketch artist, though, it does help when I chart it out, which I did.

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In this next drawing, I laid it out on a timeline spanning about 470 years. Notice the ‘Crimson Thread’ wounding its way through Shem’s family line; he being the youngest son of Noah. This specific family line can be traced to the future descendent, Jesus Christ himself (Luke 3:34-36).

Timeline Events

Right about the second generation of Shem’s line, Noah’s family settled in the plains of Shinar. Archaeologists and scholars believed Shinar was a level plain with immensely rich soil of ancient Chaldea (Assyria). Today, this plain is not so green and can be found in modern day Iraq.

By the time of Shelah, Shem’s third generation, Nimrod built the great tower of Babel. Some believe it was the tower of Borsippa. This tower was the observatory of the Chaldean astronomers, and its name means “the tower of languages.”

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As humanity spread through out the earth a great catastrophy changed the surface of the earth. At around Shem’s fifth generation, Peleg was born. He was so named because in his time the earth was divided (Gen 10:25). After God cracked the earth causing the floodwaters to overflow and cover the land, those same tectonic fissures eventually pushed the continents to what the earth look like today.

Then 470 years later, God spoke to Shem’s tenth generation descendant, Abram and gave him an incredible promise which we will take up in our next post.