Sunday, October 12, 2014

"Taking possession of the Promised Land ..."

Day #289:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - October 13th

Scripture Reading:  Deuteronomy 1 - 3 ...

The gods people believe in today are myths, idols, figments of the imagination of people who are spiritually blind and dead.  They have no power to grant the wishes or to fulfill the dreams of those who worship them because they do not even exist!  All of these supposed deities lead mankind to the same place:  hopeless despair and judgment from the REAL God, our Creator, the One who created the heavens and the earth and everything in them.  Everything that exists today exists because HE made it, it ALL belongs to HIM and He can give it to whomever He chooses.  And He has set a day when He will do exactly that.  While rulers and nations fight for control over this world, it already belongs to God and to those whom He chooses to be His people ... heirs of His kingdom.  The God who created the world and everything in it has determined that there is one condition required to become an heir of the coming new world He will create:  FAITH in His promises ... which means faith in HIM!!

As we begin to read Deuteronomy ("deutero" = "second", "nomos" = "law" ... second giving of the Law), Moses is nearing the end of his life and the Israelites are nearing the end of their forty years of wandering in the wilderness and are thus about to enter the Promised Land, the land God had promised to the descendants of Abraham.  As they approach the border, Moses wants them to remember the history of the past forty years, since their deliverance from slavery in Egypt by the mighty hand of God.  He reminds them that forty years earlier God had said to them, "See, I have given you this land.  Go in and take possession of the land that the LORD swore He would give to your fathers - to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - and to their descendants after them" (1:8).

Moses reminded the people that he had said to them at that time, "See, the LORD your God has given you the land.  Go up and take possession of it as the LORD, the God of your fathers, told you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged" (1:21).  Then the spies were sent into the land and they came back with a report that while the land was "flowing with milk and honey," the people of the land were too powerful to overcome.  Moses continues, "But you were unwilling to go up; you rebelled against the command of the LORD your God.  You grumbled in your tents and said, 'The LORD hates us' ..." (1:26-27).  Was that why He chose them to be His people as a nation?  Was that why He delivered them from Egypt?  Moses and Joshua and Caleb tried to get them to enter the promised land.  Moses had said, "Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them.  The LORD your God, who is going before you will fight for you, as He did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes" (1:29-30).

So what was their problem?!!  Verse 32:  "In spite of this, you did not trust the LORD your God!"  They had no FAITH!  They did not believe God could or would keep His promise.  A whole generation died in the wilderness because of unbelief.  It wasn't that they didn't believe that God existed or that He was with them.  They couldn't argue with the evidence.  But they still didn't TRUST God.  Faith, you see, is more than mere knowledge; it is total and absolute trust.  Now forty years have passed and another promise of God has come true:  that whole generation has died in the wilderness.  Not one of them will enter the promised land of Canaan, just as God had said.  These people had seen God's hand at work in their own lives and in the life of their nation in a way that no other nation had ever witnessed, but their stubborn, rebellious hearts could not, would not trust the very God who had the power to save them, to give them all they needed.

Like those who trusted in God before him, Moses declared, "The LORD your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands.  He has watched over your journey through this vast desert.  These forty years the LORD your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything" (2:7).  God had given them food in the manna, and water to drink (even from a rock!).  The clothes on their backs and the sandals on their feet had not worn out.  God had led them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.  He was their God and they were His people.  Nothing could change that.  Now the time had come for Israel to enter the land that God had sworn to give to them.

When Israel had first come out of Egypt they were not ready to engage in battle, but now, as they began to face opposition from the neighboring kings, even before they entered the Promised Land, God said to them, "Begin to take possession of it and engage him in battle.  This very day I will begin to put the terror and fear of you on all the nations under heaven.  They will hear reports of you and will tremble and be in anguish because of you" (2:24-25).  It was not really THEIR reputation that went ahead of them, but their GOD's reputation!!  God wanted to reveal His power through these people and as they marched toward the Promised Land He helped them to defeat all who came against them.

It was time, now, for Joshua to "take over" for Moses.  Moses had at one time angered the LORD and God had said that he would not be allowed to go into the Promised Land.  God said to Joshua through Moses, "You have seen with your own eyes all that the LORD your God has done to these two kings.  The LORD will do the same to all the kingdoms over there where you are going.  Do not be afraid of them; the LORD your God Himself will fight for you" (3:21-22).  Moses had gone from being a ruler in Egypt, to a slave, to a wanderer, to a deliverer, to a wanderer again and now he asked God if perhaps he could go into the Promised Land after all ... He said,  "O Sovereign LORD, you have begun to show to your servant Your greatness and Your strong hand.  For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do the deeds and mighty works you do?  Let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan" (3:23-25).

But God cannot and does not change His mind.  Instead, God told Moses to go stand on a high mountain and look at the land from a distance, then to commission Joshua to lead the people into the land to take possession of it ... the land God had promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Truthfully, Moses was about to enter an even better Promised Land.  But why so much focus on this land?  What's the big deal about a small strip of land?  Oh, but this is not only about a strip of land that is still being fought over today; this is about the faithfulness of God Himself.  Can God be trusted to keep His promises?  Is it foolish to trust in the LORD, the God who reveals Himself in His Word as our Creator ... AND our Redeemer??

What is at stake for you and me today is even MORE than what was at stake for the people of Israel in Moses' day.  The rest of the people on the earth would perish in their unbelief, but God had revealed Himself to THIS people because He wanted for Himself a remnant, a small number from among Israel, to be His witnesses; to testify to the world, telling them who He is and what He had done for them.  Those who believed would now enter the Promised Land and take possession of it, while the bodies of those who had not believed lay strewn throughout the dessert where they had been wandering for all this time.  Not ONE of them would enter into the land.  So what is at stake today?

There is another Promised Land ... a land beyond our comprehension at this time.  And the requirement to enter this Promised Land is FAITH.  That shouldn't be surprising.  Just as none within Israel deserved to enter the land of Canaan, none today deserve to enter into the future Promised Land ... the new heavens and the new earth.  No one deserves to go to heaven when they die and no one deserves to inherit eternal life.  How would you possibly EARN God's favor?  What would you have to do to "pay" God for an inheritance?  Everything belongs to God already!  He doesn't need what you and I have because it's already His!!!  We are called to bring offerings and to give ourselves because He is worthy!  What will you give to God in exchange for your soul?

This should be, must be the focus of our lives as those who believe in Jesus Christ today.  Knowledge is not enough today any more than it was in the days of Moses.  Faith means trusting God, believing His Word and finding in Jesus the one and only way into the Promised Land.  People from all the religions of the world claim some kind of "afterlife," being led astray by the deception of Satan as he uses the foolish imagination of men to dream up gods of their own making.  But "Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart:  ... God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His son.  He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life" (I John 1:10-12).  Then John goes on to write in verse 13:  "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you HAVE eternal life."  The Promised Land is YOURS!!

Through the work of His Spirit God works faith in the hearts of those who are His chosen people and the evidence of that faith is that you believe God's promise:  "He who has the Son has life!"  "For God so loved the world that He gave His One and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).  You can't just KNOW that verse, you have to DO what it says, you have to believe, you have to trust God at His Word.  You have to know that the Promised Land is yours and you have to enter it by faith, trusting God to do all He has promised to do:  to forgive your sins and to credit the righteousness of Jesus to your account so that you are now holy, perfect in His sight.

The writer of Hebrews testifies that "by one sacrifice He (Jesus) has made perfect forever those who are being made holy" (10:14).  Now the question:  "Do YOU believe?"  Have you placed your TRUST in Jesus, believing that He has and will overcome all your enemies and bring you safely into the land the Father has promised His children?  Will God do it??  I pray that your answer is, "Yes," because only then will you discover the peace and hope and joy that God gives to those who trust in Him.  There are hundreds, even thousands of times in our lives when we are called to trust God because we can't see or understand what He is doing, but this is where faith begins.  If you will trust God with THIS, then you know you can trust Him with everything else, too.  He has said it ... and He will do it!!

"O LORD, MY God, I believe that all Your promises are true and that You will keep Your Word.  I rest in the assurance that Jesus is my Savior and that His blood fully satisfied Your holy wrath against my sins, freeing me from the coming judgment and allowing me entrance into the future Promised Land.  Help me now to live my life as a testimony to the world that You alone are God, there is no other, and You are the faithful God, my Creator.  I give You thanks, Father, for choosing ME and making ME one of Your children by grace through faith!!  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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