I like it when God says when. It intimates His promise, His this-is-going-to-happen plan.
“When the LORD your God has destroyed the nations . . . when you have driven them out . . .” (19:1).
I imagine the Israelites liked the word too, at least at the beginning of this section of Scripture. I’m guessing it instilled a confidence in them that put them at ease, knowing that God would, in fact, destroy the nations whose land they were about to take.
It was so certain, in fact, that God had specific instructions about what to do once that phase of the nation-building was complete. He had directions for taking care of matters such as involuntary manslaughter and how to conduct criminal trials. The perfectly just, perfectly holy, perfectly loving God had provisions for every detail of the life in which He wanted His children to thrive. So when God said when . . ., He meant be ready, ‘cuz it’s gonna’ happen.
That was awesome, I imagine, until they got to the next part of the instructions. You know, the part that discussed the when of the battles they would face.
“When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours . . .” (20:1).
I imagine the hope from the promises lifting their hearts and their faces that day. This part, though, well, it’s hard to find the hope in this part of the promise.
But here’s the thing: every part of God’s plan, which He laid forth for the Israelites, was as certain as the ground on which they stood. Every “when you move in” and “when I conquer those nations for you” was written as permanently in God’s agenda book as the words He’d recorded in His history books. Just as true was the certainty of every “when you go to war against your enemies” and “you are going into battle.” You see, none of it would surprise the Almighty and Sovereign God whose very hand penned the plan.
The Israelites had a choice to make: would they trust the certainty of God’s hand through the battle or would they “give way to panic” in the middle of the war which they knew they would win?
As followers of Jesus Christ, we have that same choice. We can give way to the natural panic and fall discouraged when spiritual battles ensue, leaving us feeling exhausted and wondering when it will end. Or we can remember the certainty of God’s when and the sure victory He has promised for us of eternal living.