The “Promised Land” – then and now

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In this lengthy Bible study/devo today from Deuteronomy, chapters 4-10, we come to the topic of the Promised Land.  For the Israelites, this subject was of great importance. Their identity as a people was closely tied to having a home land.

Back in Genesis 12, as God inaugurated the Jewish nation through one man, Abraham.   God  laid out a vision to him that this new people group would occupy a specific real estate. It would be as the Israelites lived in accordance with God’s ways that He would use this people in this land as a light to the nations.

So, with this backdrop in mind, you can see how the subject of the Promised Land was so important for the Israelites. They saw it as a Divine gift.

In this Christian era, we are no longer under the jurisdiction and covenant  of the Old Testament, although  God still continues in His desire to have a place of dominion in our lives.  He still desires for us to be a light to others; to show them  the blessing it is to be under His leadership.

Going back to the Israelites, the Promised Land was their hope, it was their inheritance. God told Abraham that one day the Israelites would live in this land, but the fulfillment of that promise was years away. First Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would live in it, and then would come a time of approximately 400 years, where God had foretold the Israelites that they  would live in captivity in Egypt.

After Israel’s captivity in Egypt, they would find  deliverance through Moses and then  journey to the hoped for, Promised Land. Unfortunately, the Israelites would be delayed in getting there, as they would spend an additional 40 years in the wilderness because of their disobedience the first time they attempted to go in to the land.

As they looked forward to this second attempt to conquer the land, God gave them a second teaching on His laws, commandments, and statutes (that is where the name “Deuteronomy” comes from -“second communication of the Law”).

God’s desire was that every inch of this land would be conquered by the twelve tribes of Israel. He said that He would deliver all the pagan peoples to the Israelites and they would defeat them. In fact, His words were spoken as though it was a sure thing. All the Israelites had to do was carry out the plan. Surely, it would not be easy, but nonetheless, if they persevered,  trusted and obeyed God, He would bring about their victories.

God’s intention was once they had conquered all the land, they were to live in it by submitting to the Kingship of the King of Kings. Their obedience and His blessing of them was the plan. Unfortunately, because of their disobedience, they began to experience cycles of faith. They would wander from the faith, “doing what was right in their own eyes”, and then God would discipline them by the oppression of a pagan people who they never fully conquered in the first place. Then the Israelites would cry out to God for deliverance from the harsh rule of the pagan nation. Then, God would come through for them and bring them a deliver ( a judge) like Jepthah, or Gideon, and then they would begin to drift away in disobedience and a lack of faith  in God.  They would begin doing their own thing and the cycle  would continue.

The next phase in the history of their decline in the faith was their desire “to be like the nations around them. They desired to have a human king, rather than God, the king of kings. Like Moses said, “you people have been rebellious ever since I have known you”. God’s vision for the Israelites; of enjoying a prosperous land and His favor and being a model of right living to the nations had to be set aside because of their consistent refusal to go along with God’s plans.

The lesson from the Israelites’ story in the Promised Land is so crucial for all of us to grasp. It is this: God loved the Israelites and wanted to have them live by His righteous ways knowing that their lives would be happiest.  As a further benefit of their submitting to His laws and statutes, God would bless them and other peoples would see the wisdom and orderliness of their faith; living by God’s ways made sense for individuals, as well as society and He would be rightly honored in the process. The underlying foundation to the Israelites’ culture would be submitting to the reign of God.

In a similar way today, God still desires to be in charge. Today, we do not seek a literal specific “promised land”, but rather it does exist in each of our hearts.  We still have enemies that we are to remove (by His help); enemies like lust,pride, greed, deceit, etc.    He desires to reign in each of us, so that our lives will be blessed for our own good, and that we will appear as models of right living, or as the Bible says it, we are to be salt and light to others, attracting them to the faith and to our awesome God.

The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is an excellent, concise place in the New Testament where the vision of what the Kingdom of Heaven (God’s reign) looks like when the King (our God) is submitted to.

As Matthew 5:3 says, “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Like a beggar in the streets, totally dependent on others, we are to live in total dependence to our God, and act in obedience to His promptings and direction. It is then we experience the kingdom of Heaven–His ruling in our life, our Promised Land.

Every time we look to our God to lead us in some area of our life (maybe trusting Him with our finances, or some relationship, or a work issue, etc.), we basically submit to His jurisdiction in that area. It is another “piece of land” if you will,  so to speak, God has helped us to conquer.

Just like the Israelites could have great expectation for the benefits of living in the Promised Land, so we too, in New Testament times, should look forward to the expectation of a blessed life as we live under the leadership of His kingship in our lives. Like the experience the Israelites had where God had already promised them the land was theirs to acquire and dwell in (as long as they were obedient), so too, because of what Jesus accomplished by the cross and resurrection, we are free and empowered to live victorious. We just have to persevere in faith and the receiving of His already-accomplished victory in our lives.

For us today, our mighty God has already won the battle. When Jesus died for our sins and then was resurrected, the enemy was defeated We no longer need to be subject to the bondage of sin. We are free. We just have to submit ourselves to that truth, walk in step to the Holy Spirit who has been given us and enjoy His freedom, and continue acquiring the land (areas in our soul needing to come under His leadership).

So, with that lengthy overview in place, go ahead and meditate on this important theme of the Promised Land. Its importance to the Israelites was huge, and the principle of the Kingdom of God (the place of Jesus’ reign in our lives) is also of vital importance.

For you and me, think of our “Promised Land” being a present day experience where God’s ways are carried out in our actions, words, and attitudes. and motives.

Deuteronomy chapters 4-10 (the Promised Land)—the amount of verses in these seven chapters regarding this theme testifies to the importance of this subject:

4:4-go take possession of the land which The Lord your God is giving you (this shows His Sovereignty)
4:5, 14- – you should do thus in the land where you are entering to possess it (what were they supposed to do? (obey the statutes and judgements God gave them)
4:21, 22- The Promised Land is described as “the good land”
4:21- it is also described as the land God is giving as “an inheritance”
4:25-27- God’s desire was that they live long on the land, but in saying that, He knew that after they had remained long in the land, they would forget about God and would act corruptly, make idols, and do that which was evil in the sight of The Lord, so as to provoke Him to anger….and by doing so, they would perish quickly from the land, they won’t continue to live long on it, but will be utterly destroyed. The Lord will then scatter them among the peoples and will be left few in number among the nations where The Lord drives them.
4:34-35- The Lord demonstrated His awesome power by taking for Himself a nation from within a nation and He did so by signs and wonders, and by war and by a mighty hand, and by an outstretched arm and by great terrors”…to the Israelites it was shown that they might know that The Lord, He is God; there is no other besides Him.

4:37- 38 He personally brought them from Egypt by His great power, driving
out nations greater and mightier than you, to bring you in and give the
Israelites their land for an inheritance
4:40 God’s clear desire was that the Israelites obey His statutes and
commandments that it might go well for them and their children, and
grandchildren and that they might live long on the land which The Lord your God is giving you for all time
-4:41-43–God set apart 3 cities in the land as places of refuge for the
manslayer that he might be protected after unintentionally killing someone who he didn’t have any previous problems with
-The Israelites were to honor their parents as The Lord your God commanded them, so that their days may be prolonged in the and that it might go well with them on the land which The Lord your God gives you
5:31-33 Moses was to teach them, commandments, statutes, and judgements that
they might observe them in the land which I give them to possess……and as they obey, that they would live and that it might be well with them, and that they might prolong their days in the land which you will possess
6:1- again, Moses instructed the Israelites with statutes and judgements from God that they might do them in the land where they were to go over and possess …and that through their obedience, their days might be prolonged….and that it might be well with them and that they might multiply greatly, just as The Lord, the God of your fathers has promised you in a land flowing with milk and honey
6:10 -when The Lord your God brings you into the land —-(again His
Sovereignty)
6:10-11 – the land God was giving them was filled with great and splendid
cities which they did not build, houses full of all good things, which they did not fil, hewn cisterns which they did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which they did not plant….and in this land, they would be satisfied
6:18-19 – The Israelites were to obey God’s ways that it might be well with them and that they might go in and possess the good land, which The Lord swore to give to your fathers, by driving out all their enemies from before you
6:23- He brought the Israelites out of Egypt to bring them in to the land
which He had sworn to their fathers
7:1 When The Lord your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it and CLEARS AWAY MANY NATIONS BEFORE YOU…..seven nations greater and stronger than you,,, and when The Lord your God delivers them before you and you defeat them and utterly destroy them, you shall make no covenant with them, nor show them any favor, not intermarry with them (for any kind of relationship with them could influence the Israelites to turn away from Him))….in this land, the Israelites were to completely destroy any evidences of pagan worship
7:12- 16 and when it comes about that when the Israelites obey God’s ways that The Lord will keep with them His covenant and lovingkindness which He swore to their forefathers. He will bless them and multiply them in this new land—-He will bless the fruit of their womb, the fruit of the ground, their grain, and new wine and your oil, the increase of their herds, and the young of the flock, in the land which He swore to your forefathers to give you.. You shall be blessed above all peoples; there will be no male or female barren among you or among your cattle. The Lord will remove from you all sickness and He will not put on you any of the harmful diseases of Egypt which you have known, but He will lay them on all who hate you. You shall consume all the peoples whom The Lord your God will deliver to you; your eye shall not pity
them, nor shall you serve their gods, for that would be a snare to you.
-7:17-26 – if the Israelites were going to worry and wonder how they could
disposess these nations (who were greater than they were), God says, ” you shall not be afraid of them, you should remember what The Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt., the great trials which your eyes saw and the signs and wonders and the mighty hand and the outstretched arm by which The Lord your God brought you out.. so shall The Lord your God do to all the peoples of whom you are afraid. Moreover, the Lord your God will send the hornet against them, until those who are left and hide themselves from you perish. 21 You shall not dread [v]them, for the Lord your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God. 22 The Lord your God will clear away these nations before you little by little; you will not be able to put an end to them quickly, for the [w]wild beasts would grow too numerous for you. 23 But the Lord your God will deliver them before you, and will [x]throw them into great confusion until they are destroyed. 24 He will deliver their kings into your hand so that you will make their name perish from under heaven; no man will be able to stand before you until you have destroyed them. 25 The graven images of their gods you are to burn with fire; you shall not covet the silver or the gold that is on them, nor take it for yourselves, or you will be snared by it, for it is an abomination to the Lord your God. 26 You shall not bring an abomination into your house, and
like it come under the ban; you shall utterly detest it and you shall utterly
abhor it, for it is something banned.
8:1- all that Moses commanded them to do, be careful to do it, that you might live and multiply, and go in and possess the land which The Lord swore to give to your forefathers.
8:7-9 – it is The Lord who is bringing the Israelites in to a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, , flowing forth in valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey., a land where you will eat food without scarcity, in which you will not lack anything, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper.
8:10 – you should be grateful for the good land which He has given you
9:1-4 the Israelites were going to cross the Jordan and dispossess nations
greater and stronger than you with large cities that have walls up to the sky with people who are strong and tall, Anakites (of whom it was said, “who can stand against the Anakites?”. But be assured that The Lord your god is the one who goes across ahead of you like a devouring fire. He will destroy the. He will subdue them before you. And you will drive them out and annihilate them quickly, as The Lord has promised you.. After The Lord your God has driven them out before you…
9:4-6 –the Israelites were to understand that it was not because of their
righteousness or integrity that God was giving them this land, but because of
the wickedness of the nations that were living in the land
10:11- God tells Moses to enter and possess the land He swore to their ancestors to give them

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