Is it realistic to take the promises that God made to individuals as general promises to mankind? I am thinking about promises such as: “I knew you before the foundation of the world” and “I will make you the father of many nations.”
A Christian once said, “All the promises in the Bible are mine!” But that is not true, since God has made promises to specific nations and to specific people throughout the scriptures. When God makes promises to individuals, it is a mistake to automatically assume that they apply to others, including ourselves. Some of the promises are promises that nations will be destroyed. God promised to give King Hezekiah an additional 15 years of life (Is. 38:5), but He does not do that for all of us. Yet there are promises that apply to all believers. Here is an important one.
This is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life. (NASB) 1 John 2:25
Examples of Promises
In the above promise God offers eternal life to everyone. That is a great promise. Another wonderful promise is found in 2 Peter.
But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. (NASB) 2 Peter 3:13
This is the expectation of every Christian. We are all waiting for heaven and righteousness. There will be no more biased news reporting. There will not be any war. Evil will not be called good, and good will not be called evil. God will destroy this old world, eliminate sin, and establish peace and righteousness. There are many promises in the scriptures that God has given to us, and many apply to all of us.
The first of the two examples that you offered is a statement of fact. God knows all of us before we are formed in the womb according to Jeremiah 1:5.
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you . . . (NASB) Jer. 1:5
It is not really a promise. The passage says that the fetus in the mother’s womb is a human being. In the second example, that promise is made to Abraham (Gen. 17:4-5). It is not a promise that other fathers in the world can claim. Some may hope and wish, but God made this one to Abraham.
Some Christians tend to claim promises made to Israel as their own. But we cannot claim every promise in the scriptures. There is a promise that was made to Israel that does apply to every Christian because the principle is also found in the New Testament. The promise I refer to is found in Jer. 29:13-14.
You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. “I will be found by you,” declares the LORD . . . (NASB) Jer. 29:13-14
But this is not normally true of promises made to Israel. The promise that I cherish most is that some day I will be with Him. Some day I will see Him face-to-face.