God appears to Solomon a second time and He gives him an “if” statement. This “if” applies equally to Solomon and the whole of Israel.
When I think of the word “if” I’m reminded of a scene from Disney’s Cinderella. Cinderella wants to go to the ball and it appears as if her step mother is going to let her. She flies from the room, excited for what she believes lies ahead. The evil step sisters can’t believe their mother is going to let her and they come unglued. The step mother, with a wicked gleam in her eye, says, “I said IF.” The step sisters know exactly what that word means. “Oh, she said IF” they reply with nasty smiles.
The step mother’s IF is exactly opposite of God’s IF. The step mother was going to make certain that the IF conditions would NOT be met. God does everything He can, within the bounds of His law of free will, to ensure the IF condition is me. Jesus was and is the biggest IF neutralizer ever, but we will get into that discussion a little later.
God was telling Solomon, and all Israel through Solomon, that He was pleased with where their hearts were right then. Solomon had been focusing on his building projects for 20 years. Seven of those years were spent on building the Temple and 13 on his own palace. Some have commented on the difference in time spent on building the two different places. One commentary I was reading accused Solomon of being self-absorbed. I have a feeling that if we added the time that David prepared materials for the Temple the two building times would be a lot closer. David also provided the blueprints for the Temple whereas Solomon’s had to be made as he went along.
Anyway, getting back to the issue of God’s heart, Solomon and Israel were both focused on Him at this time. And God was pleased with it and told Solomon so. He wanted to give them every opportunity to keep that focus too. He spelled out how He would respond to them favorably WHEN they came to Him in the place that held His name. He made certain to mention the unpleasant things He would rescue them from and what that rescue would cost. And He made certain to impress upon Solomon the price Israel would pay if they didn’t choose Him.
God KNEW Israel would sin. Solomon knew this too and even said so in his prayer. Solomon went so far as to mention some of the ways God would punish His people to get their attention; the same ways God lists back to Solomon.
Enter one of God’s biggest “if” statement. This was an “if” that God wanted His people to take full advantage of; to follow THIS path. “If my people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (verse 14).
At the time God made this statement, His people had access to Him through the Temple and the priests. They had to turn back to the place where His name rested and seek Him through the tenants of His Law. He waited on the other side of repentance to bless His people again. He was doing EVERYTHING He could, within the confines of creation, to draw His people to the side of the “if” equation that blessed them. I have no doubt He longed to pick them up and place them in the ‘safety zone’ Himself. As God, He probably could but He wouldn’t. He rooted them on from the finish line instead, for a time. Calling those who started well, those who were struggling, and those who were doing well at the time to choose the right branch of the “if” equation.
He was NOT hiding a trick to rip victory away at the last minute. His desire is to bless His children. When they choose of their own accord to follow Him, He provides the reward.
God still holds out that promise. It isn’t just to Israel any longer. It is to ANY who would do as He directs. ANY who would seek Him and His Son, Jesus Christ. Any who are willing to humble themselves and recognize they have need of His salvation.
Jesus also turned that “if” statement into a “when” statement. Jesus did the hard work of getting the steps needed for repentance down to a single line item; a heart change. Jesus did the rest to complete the requirements of the Law. His presence in your life will transform you and changes your heart into a child of the King.
Solomon would fall victim to the bad side of the “if” statement during his life. He would be pulled away from following God by his wives. I don’t know for certain his eternal destination because of this issue. But I know where God wanted him to be; on His side of the “if”.
Which side of the “if” have you chosen? Have you chosen to follow Jesus and make it a “when” choice instead? When you truly give your heart to Jesus, He takes care of the “if” choice once and for all. We still have the ability to sin but we go back to the “when” He came into our life and accept His forgiveness for the current sin and “go and sin no more.”
Father God, thank You for giving me a choice. Thank You for Jesus’ work on the cross that carries be beyond the frailty of my own will and choices. Jesus took my bad side of the “if” statement and gave me true access to You. HE gave me a new heart that can stand in Your presence. And He NEVER takes it back. Help me nourish that new heart with Your word, prayer, praise, and time spent with You every day.