One of the most foundational concepts of business—and life—is that of keeping promises. We make promises of all shapes and sizes. “I will be there for work today,” or “I will pick up the kids,” or “I will be faithful to you and no other, for my whole life.” Promises and trust are so important. We must depend on one another–be able to trust one another–for society to function. The Old Testament Book of Joshua demonstrates this concept in the most dramatic setting possible, where we see character revealed – the pressure of war.
The first occasion to see the importance of promises is in Joshua 1:12-18. There were 2 ½ of the 12 Israelite tribes who received an early inheritance of land, east of the Jordan (Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh). These tribes had pledged to God and Moses to fight alongside their brothers to gain their inheritance in the land of Canaan. Joshua urges them to come and fulfill that vow as God calls the whole nation to cross the Jordan in Holy War.
What struck me here is, Moses was dead. It would have been easy for these tribes to claim this promise had been made to Moses, and so it no longer applied. However, they did not try to avoid their promise or find a technicality to escape. They affirmed their promise and supported Joshua at a time of key transition and significance – even affirming Joshua with these words, “Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you. Only may the LORD your God be with you as he was with Moses!” (Joshua 1:17).
Later in Joshua, the Israelite spies are hidden and protected by a prostitute named Rahab. (Joshua 2:8-14). She tells the spies that she knows God is with them and that “the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.” She saves their lives and asks them to spare her.
When they escape, these men keep their promise to her. How easy it would be to say that she was a disreputable person, and that she was a foreigner and part of a people destined to destruction. The spies were alone – none of the other Israelites heard them make that promise. They would have plausible deniability to everyone else. Yet the spies keep their word to her.
What is the fruit of this trustworthiness?
Because of the promise keeping of the 2 ½ tribes, Joshua and the people are able to take the land. Near the end of Joshua we find this summary: “So the Lord gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their ancestors, and they took possession of it and settled there. The Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their ancestors. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the Lord gave all their enemies into their hands. Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled “(Joshua 21:43-45). God brought about the fulfillment of His promise to Israel by enabling others to keep theirs.
Because of Rahab’s faith, her whole family is saved from destruction. Not only is Rahab’s family saved, she marries a man from the line of Judah and becomes a part of the lineage of King David and later, Jesus (Matthew 1:5).
You can see that in these two examples there are many excuses that could be made for not keeping promises. However, you can also see that the remarkable good things that happened only happened because of those promises. Our present moment is not different – we have countless reasons we can conjure as to why being a trustworthy person is not as important today, or because extenuating circumstances make it ok for us to fail to keep our promises, while it is not ok for others. Let’s resist the temptations to make excuses. Let us instead consider the wonderful good God might bring if we are faithful in our promises to one another!