When . . . Then
by John D. Morris, Ph.D.
“Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations.” (Deuteronomy 7:9)
Moses knew Israel would tend to succumb to various temptations in the Promised Land and encouraged them not only to obey God’s law but to use temptations as an opportunity for growth in character. Standing on the border, he proposed three “when . . . then” situations and exhorted the people to decide in advance how they would react.
“When the LORD thy God shall have brought thee into the land . . . to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildest not, . . . Then beware lest thou forget the LORD” (6:10, 12). Moses knew that a satisfied people, recipients of easy wealth, would forget the Lord. The remedy: “Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name” (v. 13), and “ye shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God” (v. 17).
Next, “when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, What mean the testimonies . . . which the LORD our God hath commanded you?” (v. 20), the fathers were to instruct them with: “The LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand” (v. 21). “And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive” (v. 24).
God also knows our tendencies to compromise, and “when the LORD thy God . . . hath cast out many nations before thee, . . . thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; . . . Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; . . . For they will turn away thy son from following me” (7:1-4).
In these and other situations, we would do well to follow Moses’ exhortation and decide beforehand how we will react. JDM