Most of us are accustomed to Wills or Contracts. In these documents, items are spelled out that the signers expect to be fulfilled in the future. These are legal agreements made to connect desire with application.
Many times there are contingencies written in, that unless these contingencies are carried out, the agreement will be changed. Maybe there is a statement included that says if a person mentioned in the will seeks to sue the estate for more than was granted, he or she will be removed completely. Or in a contract, if payments are not made on schedule, the contract becomes null and void. What is stipulated must be carried out.
God used the contingency approach to present many of His promises. If you do this, I will do that. Meaning, the fulfillment of the promise may be attached to the people’s behavior or response. It’s where Free Will enters the equation.
When Solomon had built the new Temple, God placed contingencies on his future and the future of the nation: 1Kings 9:4-5 As for you, if you will walk before Me as your father David walked, in integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you and will keep My statutes and My ordinances, then I will establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel forever, just as I promised to your father David, saying, 'You shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.'
Do you hear the contingency? If you will, then I will. I make you a promise with the outcome based on your choices.
By using the word IF, God was actually preparing His people for the downfall He knew was coming.
Why would He make a contingent promise? So that the people coming down the road would recognize their adversity was the result of rebellion against Him. He was telling them in advance, so when it does happen, they would know why.
1Kings 9:6-9 But if you or your sons indeed turn away from following Me, and do not keep My commandments and My statutes which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land which I have given them, and the house [which house? – the Temple] which I have consecrated for My name, I will cast out of My sight. So Israel will become a proverb and a byword among all peoples. And this house will become a heap of ruins; everyone who passes by will be astonished and hiss and say, 'Why has the LORD done thus to this land and to this house?' And they will say, 'Because they forsook the LORD their God, who brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt, and adopted other gods and worshiped them and served them, therefore the LORD has brought all this adversity on them.'
If you are wondering why the adversity, look at the other side of the promise.
God’s intentions were to bless and sustain His people. But if the conditions for those blessings were not kept, the promise of the blessings would be changed.
Staying with Solomon a few more minutes, we know what happened. 1Kings 11:1-6 Now King Solomon loved many foreign women along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the LORD had said to the sons of Israel, "You shall not associate with them, nor shall they associate with you, for they will surely turn your heart away after their gods." Solomon held fast to these in love. He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines, and his wives turned his heart away. For when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians and after Milcom the detestable idol of the Ammonites. Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and did not follow the LORD fully, as David his father had done.
How did God respond? He divided the kingdom into Southern – Judah and Northern – Israel. Israel He gave to Jeroboam: 1Ki 11:31, 33 He said to Jeroboam, "Take for yourself ten pieces; for thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, 'Behold, I will tear the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon and give you ten tribes…because they have forsaken Me, and have worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of Moab, and Milcom the god of the sons of Ammon; and they have not walked in My ways, doing what is right in My sight and observing My statutes and My ordinances, as his father David did.
And like He did with Solomon, God gave Jeroboam his same contingent promise: 1Kings 11:38 Then it will be, that if you listen to all that I command you and walk in My ways, and do what is right in My sight by observing My statutes and My commandments, as My servant David did, then I will be with you and build you an enduring house as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you.
God had laid out His statutes and commands over 400 years before: Lev 26:1-2 You shall not make for yourselves idols, nor shall you set up for yourselves an image or a sacred pillar, nor shall you place a figured stone in your land to bow down to it; for I am the LORD your God. You shall keep My sabbaths and reverence My sanctuary; I am the LORD.
But here’s what happened. Jeroboam panicked: 1Ki 12:27-33 If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will return to their lord, even to Rehoboam king of Judah; and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah." So the king consulted, and made two golden calves, and he said to them, "It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold your gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt." He set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. Now this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one as far as Dan. And he made houses on high places, and made priests from among all the people who were not of the sons of Levi. Jeroboam instituted a feast in the eighth month on the fifteenth day of the month, like the feast which is in Judah, and he went up to the altar; thus he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves which he had made. And he stationed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made. Then he went up to the altar which he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised in his own heart; and he instituted a feast for the sons of Israel and went up to the altar to burn incense.
To keep the people from going back to Jerusalem to worship, he built the high places for sacrifice and brought offerings, but God wasn’t there.
And for those in the South, though they had the Temple they lost the meaning of all they did in it – empty religious ritual. One lost God, the other the value of God, what was He left to do? Bring on the consequences of their actions – the captivities.
In 722 B.C. the Assyrians came into Israel and took the Northern Kingdom captive. The Southern Kingdom managed to stay afloat until 586 B.C. when the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar came into Jerusalem and destroyed the city, the walls and the Temple.
God had warned both kingdoms of the consequences of idolatry and neglect. He had laid out His contingent promises. His prophets had even gotten in the faces of the Kings and leaders to tell them judgment was coming if they didn’t turn things around. But they rejected the warnings and the people of God were swept away.
Did God see this coming? Of course. Why didn’t He stop it? Context. We’re following a plan that has eternity as its backdrop and, from God’s view, providence requires the ability to manage past, present and future. So what God does today may not make sense until tomorrow.
· Did God know that Adam and Eve would sin? Sure. Then why did He put the tree in the garden they weren’t supposed to touch?
· Did God know He would destroy the earth through a flood? Yes. Then why did He let things get so bad before He had to step in?
· Did God know Israel would end up as slaves in Egypt for 400 years? Of course. Then why did He let them go there in the first place?
· If God knew His people would reject Him, why did He pick them?
It’s all in the plan. Everything works together for good according to God’s design.
You can see it foreshadowed in the prayer Solomon prayed at the dedication of the Temple. You’ll hear some of God’s plans laid out even in that prayer 400 years before.
1Ki 8:46-53 When Your people sin against You (for there is no man who does not sin) and You are angry with them and deliver them to an enemy, so that they take them away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near; if they take thought in the land where they have been taken captive, and repent and make supplication to You in the land of those who have taken them captive, saying, 'We have sinned and have committed iniquity, we have acted wickedly'; if they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their enemies who have taken them captive, and pray to You toward their land which You have given to their fathers, the city which You have chosen, and the house which I have built for Your name; then hear their prayer and their supplication in heaven Your dwelling place, and maintain their cause, and forgive Your people who have sinned against You and all their transgressions which they have transgressed against You, and make them objects of compassion before those who have taken them captive, that they may have compassion on them (for they are Your people and Your inheritance which You have brought forth from Egypt, from the midst of the iron furnace), that Your eyes may be open to the supplication of Your servant and to the supplication of Your people Israel, to listen to them whenever they call to You. For You have separated them from all the peoples of the earth as Your inheritance, as You spoke through Moses Your servant, when You brought our fathers forth from Egypt, O Lord GOD.
Why did Solomon pray that? What did He know? Probably nothing, other than the nature of people to reject god. It could have been God interjecting His words into Solomon’s mind. Remember, He often forewarned folks so when something happened, they’d know it was He who did it. What better way than preserved through the words of a King?
Now here comes an even more interesting part? It was Solomon who wrote: Prov 21:1 The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes. Had he seen that in his own life or was God providing insight?
A king feels he is making wise decisions, what’s in his or his country’s best interest. And yet God is saying He will use those decisions to accomplish His plans. God allowed Free Will and yet by His Sovereignty directed that Free Will. Whether they were with Him or not, either way, He could still turn their hearts as He wished. No king can operate beyond that sovereignty.
So, God really can direct any king’s heart toward whatever He pleases? Of course. Even when that king rejects His authority? Even when that king is a pagan king from a foreign nation. Why should that matter? Often, we forget God is not just God of the spiritual world, but God over all. Lord of lords and King of kings. The whole universe is His. And He has authority to do with it whatever He chooses.
God told Habakkuk what He was going to do but notice how He prefaced His words: Hab 1:5-6 Look among the nations! Observe! Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days—You would not believe if you were told. For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that fierce and impetuous people who march throughout the earth to seize dwelling places which are not theirs.
Habakkuk went ballistic! God, You can’t do that. They don’t even belong to You. They aren’t in the box.
God says, because I am God, I can fulfill My plan in ways you can’t even fit into your limited perspective. I’m reaching outside the box and bringing in people to affect my will that will astound you. Why? Because I can, and it suits my purpose.
How does that apply to us? God can use any and everything He chooses to accomplish His best in our lives. It may be an atheist doctor, a hedonistic airplane pilot, a wretched politician, a wicked spouse, a teenage granddaughter, an accident, an illness, a tragedy, a mistake, a failure, a pastor. Because He can and it suits His purpose, He is able to turn the hearts of kings toward whatever He chooses.
Wait till you see how He did that…next Sunday.
- It is amazing how capable God becomes when we let Him be God and don’t try to limit Him by our desires or opinions.
- Trust requires us to give Him the right to determine what’s best.
- The advantage of remembering the past is to gain confidence from what God did in order to anticipate what He can do today.
- The assurance we demonstrate today will encourage us to expect His goodness to continue into the future.
- If we are struggling with adversity, we may want to check to see if what we’re experiencing might be tied to a contingency we haven’t met.