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The promised land
- Jacob Ninan
The land that Israel was promised when they left Egypt was a physical land. After leaving Egypt they soon came near the land of promise, and Moses sent 12 men to spy out the land in front of them. Even though all the spies agreed unanimously that the land was just as the Lord had promised them, flowing with milk and honey, ten of them felt that they were like grasshoppers before some giants in the land, and discouraged the people from going forward. But Joshua and Caleb pointed out that God who had promised them the land would make those giants their prey (Nu.14:8,9). The people were swayed by unbelief, and so God took them for a journey of forty long years in the desert during which all the grown up people among them perished except Joshua and Caleb. Joshua was finally able to lead them across the River Jordan into the promised land where they settled down after conquering the Canaanites who were living there.
This Old Testament incident has a significance for us under the new covenant for whom also there is a 'promised land' but of a different nature. What God promises us now is 'eternal life' (1Jn.2:25). There is more to eternal life than living forever with Jesus after we die and rise again, which Jesus referred to as eternal life in the age to come (Mk.10:30). We should remember that those who perish without Jesus will have to endure the eternal fire (Mt.18:8). There is also an eternal life we can enjoy now (Jn.6:47;1Jn.5:13). That is the life of Christ, or the divine nature, that we can partake of (Jn.17:3;2Pe.1:4).
The crossing of the River Jordan to enter into the promised land signifies two things to us now. One is that we shall die physically and enter into the heavenly abode. But the other meaning is that we might die to ourselves, put our fleshly desires to death, and partake of God's character (Ro.8:13). The first part is what God will grant to us when we die because we trust in Jesus as our righteousness, but for the second part, there is something more expected of us. That is to take up our cross daily and to follow Jesus. Many focus much on the first part, and neglect the second.
Just like the people of Israel taking their stance at the borders of the promised land, we can also take the position that the giants in our flesh are too strong for us and accept the position of defeat. We say that, after all, we are but human. But in that we make the same mistake that Israel made that day, of forgetting that God is able to fulfil His promises. Another mistake we can make, just like Israel, is to make compromise with the flesh in some areas instead of wiping it out completely.
Just as Israel had to fight the occupants of the land and overcome them one by one even as the Lord was fighting for them, so it is for us in partaking of the divine nature. As God works inside us to give us a new mind, we must deny the desires of the flesh and do His will (Php.2:12,13). That is how we shall possess the promised land.