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Entering The Promised Land

Deuteronomy 8:1-6

Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today,
so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land
that the LORD promised on oath to your forefathers.
Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way
in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you
in order to know what was in your heart,
whether or not you would keep His commands.

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna,
which neither you nor your fathers had known,
to teach you that man does not live on bread alone
but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years.

Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son,
so the LORD your God disciplines you.
Observe the commands of the LORD your God, walking in His ways and revering Him.

Leaving Egypt is one thing but entering the Promised Land is another. Located between them is the wilderness. The Passover delivered Israel out of Egypt, but the wilderness sanctified Israel, removing any remaining Egyptian ways out of their hearts and minds. It was there whereby God began to humble them, and to test them in order to know what were in their hearts, whether or not they would keep His commands.

Salvation is a complete journey from justification to glorification. "And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified. (Romans 8:30)" Between justification and glorification is the sanctification process - the wilderness experience.

To gain full benefit of this wilderness experience, we must understand the nature of our spiritual bondage. In knowing the truth, we will be truly set free. The wilderness forces us to be with God and no one else. We will begin to see Who He is and who we are as He reveals Himself to us.

One of the greatest bondages enslaving us is our human tendency to cling to what is familiar, regardless of how painful and bad they could be, and to resist change regardless of how promising and good they could be. It is this bondage and false security in the familiar that caused Israel to murmur against God in the wilderness. They longed to go back to Egypt when they faced the unfamiliar in the wilderness.

In Egypt, they knew at least what to expect. In the wilderness, everything needs God - from food to drink, from clothes to shoes! The slavery in Egypt had made them very comfortable even in the midst of strict control by the Egyptians. They were at least able to control some of their daily chores - where to sleep, when to wake up, what to eat and drink etc.

It was in this wilderness experience that God revealed Himself to His people. He gave them His laws and commands - not to bind them but to help them to live free in the Promised Land. The Israelites had stayed in Egypt for more than 400 years. Throughout those years, they had been indoctrinated with the Egyptian ways, types of leadership, ideas and ideals. As Egyptian slaves, they were entrapped not just physically but also emotionally and spiritually. They did not know God and His ways!

Through mighty signs and wonders, God delivered them out of the hands of Pharaoh. But they could not enjoy true freedom. Their minds and souls were still trapped in their own thoughts and understanding. Their ways were not God's ways! To live in the Promised Land like the way they lived in Egypt will be disastrous. They had been slaves; they would make slaves out of their own people, and became slave drivers themselves. That was the only way they were acquainted and familiar with. That was the method they saw working successfully in the land of pyramids and sphinx. But this was slavery and not true freedom!

God wanted to completely set them free so that they would be able to live well in the Promised Land. But Egypt remained in their hearts even after they had left Egypt. The signs and wonders came and went, no longer thrilling them. They wanted to go back to slavery when their ways did not work out in the wilderness. God had to discipline them just as a man disciplined his son.

But they rejected His sanctification process. They could not understand the love of God. All they wanted was the fulfillment of the promise of God and the Promised Land. In the wilderness, everything is the exact opposite of the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey. All promises of God from conception to fulfillment require faith and patience such as Abraham having a son, Israel being delivered out of Egypt, the birth of the Messiah etc.

The main purpose of the wilderness is preparation both time and place where their faith can be built upon solid foundations. It was also there and then the Israelites could build a habitation for God so that He could dwell among them. There and then they had to depend on Him for every piece of bread and every cup of drink - total dependence on God so that they could have an intimate and personal relationship with Him.

They kept disobeying the Lord, rejecting His laws and commands. After moving in countless circles for 40 long years, they remained untaught and unchanged. They nearly wore God out to that extent of God wanting to destroy them completely. In Exodus 33:3, God said, "But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way."

The wilderness contains some greatest difficulties, but also some of the most glorious experiences. It is a great blessing and not a curse.

In the New Testament, Apostle Paul faced this form of spiritual slavery in the Corinthian Church. In 2 Cor 11:20, he wrote "For you put up with it if one brings you into bondage, if one devours you, if one takes from you, if one exalts himself, if one strikes you on the face."

Note the type of church leadership in Corinth that Paul rebuked:

  • one brings you into bondage
  • one devours you
  • one takes from you
  • one exalts himself
  • one strikes you on the face.

These characteristics were also evident through history and even today. We are deceived because we have become familiar and comfortable with this style of church leadership, which is also prevailing in the secular world. Carnal people will respond well to carnal authority. Unless we want to come to the realization and acknowledgement of this slavery, we would continue to abide by their laws and methodology.

We can talk about how silly and stubborn the Israelites were in their journey to the Promised Land. Yet how often our fingers are pointing back at ourselves when we commit the same errors over and over again. Church history is continually repeating itself in choosing familiarity of spiritual slavery instead of freedom of spiritual sonship.

Until we will to do His will, we will be moving in circles in our own wilderness. The wilderness experience is necessary. Even our Lord Jesus went through it. But He came out victorious after 40 days (Matthew 4:1-2). He passed the test with flying colors. He was tempted in the same way as the Israelites but in a greater measure. Yet He sinned not! God has never intended us to overstay for 40 years in the wilderness. Maybe 40 days is more than sufficient!

The journey into the Promised Land can be a very pleasant one if we abide by His laws and commands, and do it in the manner He desires us to. We must turn ourselves back to God and be careful to follow every command that He has given to us so that we may live and increase and may enter and possess the land that He has promised us.

We must remember how the LORD our God has led us all the way in our wilderness experience to humble us and to test us in order to know what are in our hearts, whether or not we would keep His commands. He has humbled us, causing us to hunger and then feeding us with His Word, to teach us that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. We will acknowledge the dealings of the Lord that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD our God disciplines us. We will observe the commands of the LORD your God, walking in His ways and revering Him.