The promised land is relationship, intimacy, and worship we have with God. It’s our dwelling place in the heart of God which Jesus purchased with His blood.
But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it. (Numbers 14:24)
There is a lot of teaching out there about our ‘promised land’ and how to enter it. The focus is essentially on the ‘good stuff’ and our God-given right, and it’s our spiritual destiny. All this is well and good and, to some degree, is true. But while we’re advised to be bold, have courage, be ‘a Joshua’ and ‘take the land,’ other less exciting truths are often glossed over.
Understanding our promised land.
‘Ownership’ doesn’t simply morph into reality. The promised land has to be taken inch by inch, battle by battle, and with a good dollop of struggle and hardship. It’s not a mythical wonderland of ‘milk and honey.’ The cows have to be milked and the bees sting. The only thing different about our ‘promised land’ is that it’s where God intends that we should be. Whether we get there or get to enjoy all of it depends on how much effort to put in.
‘Here be giants’ was no exaggeration. It wasn’t an overreaction, an embellishment of the truth. The stature and battle experience of the Canaanites was a very real truth. To get to our promised land, we have to get through the giants first – self, the world, and the devil. Even then, the battles not over. We have to hold fast to our ‘territory,’ live in it, work it, and defend it. The only difference is that if we’re where God intends us to be, He’ll be alongside to empower us to do what we cannot.
Our promised land is not a place of physical or material blessings.
This is a truth that the ‘prosperity’ and ‘name it and claim it’ gospels have swept aside. Financial or material blessings may well come. But our promised land is, first and foremost, a spiritual blessing. It is the place where we are able to dwell in the daily presence of God. What flows out from that will depend entirely on God and what we put in. It’s not a legal inheritance we’re entitled to. Nor is it something we deserve or earn. It is the place of grace and of intimacy with the God of the universe.
Perhaps the greatest tragedy in the Church is that new teachings reduce this spiritual blessing to something tangible and measurable. We’re taught to measure our promised land by material and physical blessings rather than by the depth of intimacy we have with God. We get so focused on measuring what we have or don’t have that we miss the truth. God tells us over and over that if we simply put Him first, the ‘good things’ will flow naturally as and when we need them.
Few people enter their promised land.
It’s a harsh and sobering reality that of that first generation freed from Egypt, only two actually entered the promised. They were Joshua and Caleb. Even Moses – the man chosen to lead them, and the man whose face reflected the radiance of God’s glory – didn’t get there. There are two primary reasons for this which today’s verse puts forward very clearly. The first is attitude and the second is obedience. Out of an entire generation – millions of people – only two actually entered in and lived in the place God promised them.
It’s a lesson we need to learn. Whether we enter the promised land or not depends on us, not on God. It is entirely dependent on our response to Him. If we ‘wander’ in the desert for the whole of our Christian lives, that’s on us. The very fact that God has promised it is clear evidence that He intends that we should live there. We also know that those who did enter didn’t do it the easy way. It took total commitment, courage, and willingness to persevere. But we know that God was with them every step of the way.
The requirements for entering the promised land.
We discover these simply by looking at the reasons why they didn’t enter – attitude and obedience. Attitude is, essentially, seeing things as God sees them. This means that we look to the will and power of God rather than at the giants. It’s spiritual discernment and faith rather than denying reality. We look past the problems to God. In other words, we look for God’s will rather than our own comfort. It’s setting aside our own limited expectations and seeing His will. If we look to our expectations of the promised land, we’ll wander forever. The truth is that what we expect is seldom what God has really promised. Our attitude reflects which of these we choose.
Obedience is the second requirement, and it’s one on which even Moses failed. This clashes violently with popular teaching on the promised land which usually infer a ‘God-given right’ of some kind. God makes it very clear that only those who obey Him enter the promised land. It’s not-negotiable. John 14:15 explains why: If you love Me, keep My commandments. This isn’t some ‘recipe’ of works. He isn’t saying that we ‘have to be good’ to get there. What God is saying is that our relationship with Him is reflected in our obedience. It’s the relationship rather than the ‘works’ of obedience that enable us to enter. It’s our willingness to surrender to His will.
The reasons for the promised land.
We need to see these things in real context. The Exodus was a ‘real life’ type of Christ’s work on the cross. The promised land was the ‘real life’ type of what the cross brought us through salvation and restoration. It was symbolic of the life of relationship and intimacy we are able to have with God through Christ. The entire Old Testament points to and provides types for the New Testament, and it all culminates in Christ and in our relationship with God. The promised land was a place ‘set apart’ for God’s people. It was also a place where God’s people would be set apart for Him.
Over and over, we read variations of ‘I will be their God and they will be my people.’ It’s a mutual relationship. God commanded them to destroy all other religions, to remove any trace of anything that would interfere with this relationship. The promised land is a place of intimacy where we worship God and love Him in Spirit and Truth. It’s the place of surrender of self and honest obedience. Our promised land is the place of one-on-one relationship, of growing intimacy and deeper worship than we could ever imagine.
The promised land and God’s blessings.
Most of God’s people have things the wrong way round. We seek the blessings and miss the relationship. We see the promised land as a place where blessings abound, a place tied to the tangible. I cannot deny that blessings are part of what God has promised. I have seen the evidence of it my own life. But discovering the real promised land is a blessing far greater than anything we can see or touch. If we seek God first, all good things are added. If we seek His righteousness, our blessings flow out from that. But if works in reverse to our expectations.
We don’t seek God for the blessings. We seek God. That’s it. No more and no less. God Himself is our promised land. His presence is where He intends us to live. We need only adjust our attitudes and seek what God wants, and obey His call to enter in. It’s a powerful truth. ‘Home’ – our promised land – is where the heart of God is. That is where He desires and intends us to be.
Gracious Lord, forgive us for missing the truth and for looking past what You see to what we expect. Help us to see as You do, to desire You and intimacy with You. Empower an obedience that is worship, not because of what we expect to receive but because You deserve it. Thank You for desiring relationship with us, and for Your infinite patience and grace.