A Digital Refresh – April 6, 2020: Chekhov’s Gun and the Nature of Promises

Mini-Yo-We

This post is from Patrick Sutherland. He is the director of Discovery Camp and is the director of Discipleship.

As we begin I encourage you to open your bible and read: Hebrews 6:13-20

Chekhov’s Gun

Chekhov’s Gun is a literary concept that strikes me as humorous. (I’m not exactly sure why I get so much joy from it but I just love how this concept works).

The basic idea is that if you have a gun sitting on the table in an early scene in a book. That good should have shot someone by the end of the story.

In other words, in writing, every element you include must be necessary to the story. Elements, such as Chekhov’s gun, are written promises of things that should unfold. These subtle promises are important to the relationship between the author and the reader. There is an inherit trust between the two that should not be broken. And at every level, the written word makes promises, on behalf of the author, that need to be fulfilled.

Now we, as Christians, believe in similar dynamics between the promises of God and the long telling of humanity’s story. The primary difference being that we exist not external to the story but in fact are swept up in the story as characters.

That said, the principle still remains: there is a necessary trust between the author, in this case God, and the reader/follower: us.

It seems to me that this is the reason why so much of the Bible is made up of reflections on God’s promises. There is a consistent return to the idea that God’s promises will be fulfilled.

Promises are at the heart of Hebrews 6:13-20. Check out what verse 17-19 say:

“So God gave his word when he made his promise. He wanted to make it very clear that his purpose does not change. He wanted those who would receive what was promised to know this. When God made his promise, he gave his word. He did this so we would have good reason not to give up. Instead, we have run to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope is set before us in God’s promise. So God made his promise and gave his word. These two things can’t change. He couldn’t lie about them. Our hope is certain. It is something for the soul to hold on to. It is strong and secure. It goes all the way into the Most Holy Room behind the curtain.”

God’s promises, like Chekov’s gun, have a destiny to be fulfilled. And those who follow after Jesus, and hold fast to the promises of God, can have certain in hope in God to keep his word.

His Purpose Does not Change.

Contextually, a conversation about God’s promises fills me a lot more doubt than previously. It’s not that I don’t have confidence in God but it’s that the circumstances around me are challenging. They stand in a direct confrontation with the ideas of a powerful God bringing good news to the world. But this confrontation is not the whole story and I can, at the very least, appreciate that many times in my life I have found myself confused and unsure about things only to later have greater clarity on them.

And this is why an assurance in God’s promises and his ultimate purposes is so important: it is hard to make sense of many aspects of life but that doesn’t change who God is and what he is doing.

At the cross, in the death and resurrection of Jesus, God made his purposes very clear. And as the author of Hebrews says: his purpose does not change (even when I don’t fully understand).

Our Hope is Certain.

Hope is a fundamental part of faith. The author of Hebrews builds his entire case for faith on the concept of hope. Remember Hebrews 11? The great faith chapter. It starts with these words:

“Faith is being sure of what we hope for. It is being sure of what we do not see.”

The tendency is to focus in on the unseen, that which has yet to come to fruition, and I have often heard this passage as a call to blind faith, belief without reason.

This is not the case. Though the future itself is unseen, the author of Hebrews guarantees that future by looking backwards. The rest of chapter 11 is a retelling of the wondrous and ridiculous people of faith who had hope, held firm to the promises given to them, and saw God’s promises fulfilled.

Now, we don’t know the future but we do know that God is consistent. So, just as in the past God will work wonders again. And we can have faith, not in an unseen future but in a real God made most real at the cross and in the risen Jesus.

The Challenge of Chekov’s Gun.

We have this great advantage being on the other side of the cross and having the accounts of the risen Jesus. The advantage being that the promise of resurrection, of new creation, of a world without death, has been laid out. The risen Jesus is, in a manner of speaking, the Chekov’s Gun of the church.

But here’s the wild and crazy truth: if the resurrection is a sign of good news to come and the story isn’t yet finished then you and I have an obligation to work, with God, to fufill his promises to the world around us.

We know that the promises of hope, of love, of good news and great joy are being fulfilled and as followers of Jesus we have tasted the first fruits of those promises. Now the obligation is to go into the world and share that fruit with those who are hungry.

And today, when things look bleak and it is hard to see clearly how God’s promises are being fulfilled we have a chance to make those promises real for those who do not yet know and have maybe never seen the hope of Jesus alive in their lives.

Your friend and fellow believer,

Pat

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