“If you eat your vegetables, you can have dessert.” How many of us heard words like those while growing up? The word “if” was not difficult to understand. We knew that a reward would follow the unpleasant task of eating those green beans. Failure to eat those veggies meant no sweets later.
The promises of God found in the Bible are often predicated on conditions. The fact that God would offer rewards to mankind is a manifestation of his grace. But do we understand that the delivery of those promises depend on our fulfillment of his conditions (if any are stated)?
Solomon received generous blessings from God. Would that rich grace continue in the future? God addressed that concern in 1 Kings 9:4,5: “Now if you walk before me as your father David walked, in integrity of heart and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded you, and if you keep my statutes and my judgments, then I will establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel forever, as I promised David your father …” To ensure that Solomon understood the conditions, God again used “if” from a negative perspective in verses 6,7. Turning from the commands of God would result in forfeiture of the kingdom.
One does not have to read far in 1 Kings to see that Solomon didn’t abide by the terms of God’s covenant. His obsession with wealth and power led him to enter into forbidden marriages (1 Kings 11:1,2) and eventually into idolatry (1 Kings 11:4-8). God therefore determined to give ten of the twelve tribes to Jeroboam, one of Solomon’s servants.
Jeroboam could have been richly blessed by God. Again note how God’s promises are stated: “Then it shall be, if you heed all that I command you, walk in my ways, and do what is right in my sight, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as my servant David did, then I will be with you and build for you an enduring house, as I built for David, and will give Israel to you” (1 Kings 11:38). Jeroboam, however, was less faithful to the Lord than Solomon, and the enduring house God promised him did not become a reality.
Has God changed the way in which he dispenses blessings? Or must we still pay attention to conditions he imposes? Consider 1 John 1:7 as an example of a promise available to any of us: “But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his son cleanses us from all sin.” Cleansing in the blood of Jesus is what we all desire. But will we receive it? Only if we heed the “if” at the beginning of the promise.
Praise God that he has made his power and love available to us! His promises give great comfort in times of distress and need. But God is under no obligation to do what he has said if we don’t bother to meet his conditions.
God’s promises are often conditional.