Joshua 6:2 “Then the Lord said to Joshua, ‘See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.’”
Nothing builds the faith of God’s people faster or stronger than his promises. And when God gives his promises, he makes them as assertions. Look again at his promise to Joshua. Is there any trace of uncertainty in the Lord’s words? He talks to him as though the battle were already over, and Jericho was already defeated. “I have delivered Jericho,” past tense, mission accomplished, even though all the work is still to come. In the mouth of anyone else that would seem presumptuous, almost arrogant. “Don’t count your chickens before they are hatched,” we say. That’s exactly what the Lord seems to do.
He can get away with it because he is the Lord, after all. He is the only being in the universe with absolute control over the future and absolute power to accomplish whatever he wants. Whenever I start a project, it seems that there are always little surprises for which I wasn’t prepared. I’ll be working on the car, and I find that there’s a tool I don’t have, or there’s a bolt I can’t reach, or I’ll get the part on and off and find that it didn’t actually solve the problem. Those little unplanned contingencies never happen to the all seeing, all knowing, all powerful God. “Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” the prophet Balaam once asked. And the answer is, of course, “No. What he says, what he promises, he never fails to do.”
Although it is something of an acquired taste, faith loves it when the Lord talks to us this way, when he talks in certainties, not possibilities. Possibilities can inspire our curiosity, our interest, even a deep sense of longing and desire. But certainties inspire our confidence, our trust, our peace and relief. In short, these assertions inspire our faith.
And that’s how you want God’s word preached to you. You want assertions, certainties. You don’t want me to tell you that there’s a chance God loves you, like I’m the weatherman, and God’s love is some unstable air mass. You want, “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future nor any powers, neither height nor depth nor anything in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” You don’t want potential or conditional forgiveness. You want, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not counting men’s sins against them.” You don’t want a pretty good possibility that you could be considered God’s child. You want, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God. And that is what we are.” The Lord didn’t tell Joshua that the odds were in favor of him taking the city. “I have delivered Jericho into your hands.” The Lord makes assertions, certainties, iron-clad guarantees, because they raise our faith, and he is building an army of believers.