And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the LORD thy God, and walk after other gods; and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish. As the nations which the LORD destroyeth before your face, so shall ye perish; because ye would not be obedient unto the voice of the LORD your God (Deut. 8:19-20).
The theocentric principle undergirding this warning is the doctrine of God as the sanctions-bringer in history. The language of negative sanctions here was absolute. These sanctions were historical. This law was not a seed law. It did not apply exclusively to tribal relationships. It was a land law because it applied to Israel’s survival inside Canaan’s boundaries. But was it exclusively a land law? That is, does the same negative sanction of national removal from the land threaten every covenanted nation? This seems unlikely. Invasion, perhaps, but not actual removal. Mass conversion to a rival faith, as in North Africa, 632-732, and Constantinople, 1453, but not actual removal. What Israel did to Canaan was a one-time event: genocide. Similarly, what Assyria did to the Northern Kingdom and Babylon did to Judah were unique events, analogous to what Israel had done to Canaan.
We can also ask: Do nations lawfully covenant with God in New Testament times? This text does not say, but the context of this text was a universal aspect of the covenant: covenantal forgetfulness and God’s desire that all nations obey Him. “Therefore thou shalt keep the commandments of the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to fear him” (v. 6). Thus, if forgetfulness is a permanent covenantal problem, it must still apply to nations, for the nation is the context of the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20).
It is with this in mind that we should consider the threat of the Millennium Bug to the institutions of the modern world. Should this programmed disaster produce social disruptions that are sufficiently comprehensive to call into question the covenantal framework of modern humanist society, a great evangelism opportunity will emerge. We live in a pragmatic society. When things seem to work, most people do not question the system. Computerized systems seem to work today. If they no longer work in 2000, hundreds of millions of people will be ready to hear alternative views of the way things ought to work, and not just in the area of computer technology. This civilizations incumbents — politicians, educators, media gurus. etc. — will have a lot of explaining to do. Voters may not be ready to listen to them. This will present a unique opportunity to those with alternative views.
The Year 2000 should not be thought of as heralding the end of the world. It threatens to be the end of the incumbents’ world.
The Hebrew word translated as “perish” is elsewhere translated as “destroy.” In this context, the word seems to mean total destruction: the same degree of destruction that God was asking them to bring against the Canaanites. God had used Israel to destroy Arad completely, whose newly ownerless land Israel had then inherited, as promised. “And Israel vowed a vow unto the Lord, and said, It thou will indeed deliver this people into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities. And the LORD hearkened to the voice of Israel, and delivered up the Canaanites; and they utterly destroyed them and their cities: and he called the name of the place Hormah” (Num. 21 :2-3). The destruction of Canaan was to be comparable:
Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye are passed over Jordan into the land of Canaan; Then ye shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their pictures, and destroy all their molten images, and quite pluck down all their high places: And ye shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land, and dwell therein: for I have given you the land to possess it. And ye shall divide the land by lot for an inheritance among your families: and to the more ye shall give the more inheritance, and to the fewer ye shall give the less inheritance: every man’s inheritance shall be in the place where his lot falleth; according to the tribes of your fathers ye shall inherit. But it ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you: then it shall come to pass, that those which ye let remain of them shall be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell. Moreover it shall come to pass, that I shall do unto you, as I thought to do unto them (Num. 33:51-56).
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