The Promised Land

Daily Reading – Genesis 17:8

In verse 7, God promises to be God to Abraham and his descendents forever. And then he promises Abraham and his “seed” the land of Canaan.

There are two important factors inolved in this promise. The first question to consider is, “What exactly was promised?” and the second is, “To whom was the promise made?”

The promise of land.

The first place man lived and walked freely at peace with God was in the Garden. After the fall, man and creation were cursed by God. But then God gives hope in the form of a promise that one day there will be a place where men will live and relationship will be restored, but not yet.

God tells Abraham that the promise of land is one of future grace.

Genesis 15:1-16

After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” And behold, the word of the Lordcame to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

And he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other. But he did not cut the birds in half. And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”

So God tells Abraham this will be a land where your descendants live and he will be God to them, but not yet. First there must be 400 years of slavery and then deliverance.

God first raised up Moses to lead Israel out of this bondage he predicted. After delivering them from Egypt and crossing the Red Sea, something interesting happens in Deuteronomy 1. Moses, the prophet of God, acknowledges that the Lord became angry with the nation of Israel for their lack of trust. (v.32) Then he makes a fascinating comment. Moses says, “because of you the Lord became angry with me also.” (v. 37 NIV) In the story, God’s anger burns against the people for their lack of trust. Then, unexpectedly, God’s anger also falls on the prophet of God because of the sin of the people. The prophet of God is forbidden to pass freely through the Jordan River, the river of judgment, into the Promised Land. Instead he is sent up on the mountain overlooking the glorious inheritance of his people, to die. His body is hidden away so that it is never found. (Deut. 34) Then the Lord says to Joshua (whose name means “YAHWEH is salvation,” the Hebrew name for Jesus), “Moses my servant is dead, therefore… ARISE!” (Joshua 1:2 NASB, ESV) Joshua commanded the people to prepare themselves, for in THREE DAYS (v.11) they would cross through the Jordan, the river of judgment, into this land promised to Abraham.

Hebrews 3-4 explains that the lives of Moses and Joshua were a lesson teaching God’s people about what to look for in the second Moses/Joshua. In this story, the people could see their prophet (Old Testament Moses/New Testament Jesus) must go up the mountain (OT Nebo, NT Moriah) and die for the sin of the people, though the prophet’s body would never be found. Then, the Lord says to their deliverer (OT Joshua/NT Jesus) “ARISE.” After three days their deliverer leads them safely through the waters of judgment (OT Jordan River/NT Death and Judgment) into their inheritance, the Sabbath rest of God. (OT The Promised Land/NT the final Promised Land) What Moses and Joshua achieved imperfectly and temporarily, Jesus perfected forever.

After crossing the Red Sea, God told his people to look for a prophet like Moses in the future.

Deuteronomy 18:18

I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.

We see Jesus is the one who fulfills that promise.

Hebrews 3:1-5

Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.

As Jesus is the fulfillment of the ministry of Moses, Hebrews 4 reveals that he is also greater than Joshua.

Hebrews 4:8-9

For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God

Joshua’s attempt to give the people rest came in the form of delivering the promised land, the land that Abraham believed God would deliver in the future. The promise of this land is essential and inseperable from the promise to live with God in perfect peace.

As Hebrew 4 says, Joshua was unable to ultimately deliver on the promise and thus fulfill the ideal of the Abrahamic covenant. Therefore the promise of the land and a Sabbath rest for the people of God remains.

So before we define what the true Promised Land is, let’s look at the second factor of the promise in Genesis 17 and the question, “To whom was the promise made?”

Genesis 17:8

And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.

In Hebrew, the term offspring is a lot like the English version. It could be singular or plural.

Look what Paul says through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in regard to this promise.

Galatians 3:16

 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.

According to Paul, the promises of the Abrahamic covenant were made to two people, to Abraham and to Christ.

And in 2 Corinthians 1:20

For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.

As we have seen before, these promises were never fulfilled in the Old Testament. While Moses, Joshua, David, and so many others did things that “looked” like the fulfillment of the promise, they were just painting a picture of the future Messiah’s deliverance and reign.

Not only this, but Paul explains the true borders of the future land of promise are actually much greater than the territory described in Genesis.

Romans 4:13

For the promise to Abraham and his offspring (Christ) that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.

So the promises of the Abrahamic covenant are for God’s people to dwell at peace with God in the whole world. And these promises were made to and fulfilled in Christ. So exactly how will Jesus deliver on the promise of the land, which we now know to be the whole world?

In Genesis 15:16 God says that Abraham will have to wait to see the promises fulfilled because the iniquity and sin of the men living in Canaan is not yet complete. God is patient, not wanting that anyone should perish but all to come to repentance. However, there comes a time when the cup of God’s wrath becomes full and is poured out on the wickedness of mankind.

This happens in major ways several times in Scripture. The first is at the flood. God waited patiently in the days of Noah until the cup of his wrath filled up and poured out. The second event is similar, when God waited for the sin of the Amorites to be complete. (Gen 15:16) Then a flood of judgment rushed on the people of Canaan in the form of Joshua leading the army of the people of God into battle.

Remember, Joshua was serving as a picture of what the future Joshua would do when the promises were finally fulfilled. The coming of the second Joshua is prophesied in Zecheriah 14.

Zechariah 14:3-5

Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward. And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lordmy God will come, and all the holy ones with him.

2 Peter 3:9

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

Right now God is being patient. But a time is coming when the gospel will have gone out into the whole world, the fullness of the Gentiles will be gathered in, and a last remnant of Jewish people will be saved. (Romans 11) Then the end will come like a flood. Jesus will come with all the holy ones with him, take the promised land, and finally fulfill the very great and precious promises of the Abrahamic covenant.

Until the,  Abraham serves as a model of faith. Remember the words from Hebrews 11,

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

Just like Abraham, we are looking forward to a city that is to come, the fulfillment of all the promises given to Abraham and to Christ. For the promises given to Christ also come to us as fellow heirs with Christ.

Romans 8:16-17

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

In the meantime we are to live as strangers and aliens in a land that is not our home.

Philippians 3:20

Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 2:11-12

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

– Horatio Spafford

The Emmaus Trail is a weekly devotional study that explores the theme of God reconciling himself to the world through the redemption of his Son which is found in all of Scripture. 

Luke 24

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. 

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