For the week of March 4, 2006 / 4 Adar 5766
Torah: Shemot / Exodus 25:1 - 27:19
Haftarah: 1 Melachim / 1 Kings 5:26 - 6:13


The Big If

The word of the LORD came to Solomon: "As for this temple you are building, if you follow my decrees, carry out my regulations and keep all my commands and obey them, I will fulfill through you the promise I gave to David your father. And I will live among the Israelites and will not abandon my people Israel." (1 Melachim / 1 Kings 6:11-13)

The God of Israel is a God of promise. The Scriptures are full of promises that God gave to individuals and to nations. We can divide God's promises into two categories: unconditional promises and conditional promises. Unconditional ones are those that are not dependent on anything but God's own word, such as those given to Abraham. Conditional promises are those that partly depend on the actions of the one to whom the promises are given.

The promise God gave to Solomon that I just quoted is an example of a conditional promise. God's presence with the people of Israel was dependant on whether or not King Solomon truly obeyed God.

This type of promise is similar to much of what was given to the people through Moses. In the Torah God's promises included such things as blessing, healing, protection, and provision, if the people kept his commandments. Failure to do so would result in curses, sickness, enemy attack, and poverty. As we read the unfolding of Israel's history in the Hebrew Bible, we see that the people failed to fulfill the required conditions, and as a result they suffered the consequences.

It is essential to note the relationship between God's unconditional and conditional promises. God had promised the people unconditionally through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that they would become a great nation, that they would be given the land of Canaan, and that they would be a blessing to the other nations of the world. As this promise was worked out, the people received further promises, which appeared to be the outcome of the earlier promises. But these promises were conditional. Not only were they conditional, they were also impossible. There was no way that the people could ever fulfill their God-given obligations. God's standards, while beneficial, were beyond their moral and spiritual abilities. We might wonder why God would set such a high standard, especially since he would have known that the people would never be able to attain it and thus fail to receive what he promised.

The answer to this is found in other promises in the Scriptures. These would fall into the unconditional category. As the people failed to keep their part of the covenant, God promised that he would provide the spiritual transformation that they needed in order to be the kind of people he intended them to be.

The reason why God did it this way is because it was necessary for us to realize for ourselves that we could not fulfill the conditions. As he held out the wonderful prospects of blessings, he attached a big "if" to prove to us our desperate condition.

It is tragic that many among us have failed to accept the reality of our inability to fulfill God's conditions. Instead we have concocted a scheme of human activity that redefines these conditions, and thus have fooled ourselves into thinking that we will receive the blessings apart from fulfilling God's actual conditions.

Instead of accepting our spiritual and moral failure and then receiving God's provision of forgiveness and restoration through the Messiah Yeshua, most of us prefer to continue to rely on ourselves as we adjust God's standards to our personal preferences.

This perspective might be new to you. If it is, I encourage you to compare what the Scriptures actually say about your approach to religion. It might be intimidating to allow your traditions to be challenged by the Truth. But you may be happily surprised by the results.

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