The Promised Land
God has offered you the Promised Land. Don't get distracted by obstacles.
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation. Church.
Well, what an awesome week!
This Tuesday, we’re going to celebrate Christmas and the birth of Jesus, and I’m really excited for it.
I’m convinced God is going to do some life-changing stuff.
Make sure you’re there at one of our services: 2:30 or 4pm.
Or better yet, bring someone with you.
People are so open this time of year.
If you’re getting together with family anyway for Christmas, have them come with you to a service first!
It’s going to be amazing!
Well, I’m also really excited this morning because we are continuing in our “Echoes” series, which we are actually going to finish on Christmas Eve believe it or not.
We’ve been studying how an important story in the Old Testament (which is everything before Jesus) echoes in the New Testament (everything from Jesus onward) and then again in our own lives today.
Let me take a minute or two and recap that story in case you’ve been gone or maybe this is your first time visiting today!
God’s people, the Israelites, are enslaved in Egypt under an evil Pharaoh.
God sends plagues to try and force the Egyptians to let the Israelites go.
But Pharaoh refuses.
Moses tells Pharaoh a 10th and final plague will soon come.
One will where all the first-born sons will be killed.
And then Moses tells the Israelites, the only way they can avoid this plague is to sacrifice a lamb and put it’s blood on the doorframes of their houses.
Then the Lord’s wrath will pass over them
That’s where we get the famous Passover holiday from today.
And the story of Jesus is an echo of that.
Jesus, the Bible says, is the Lamb of the world.
And it was his death on a cross, on Passover weekend, where his blood saved all of us.
If we believe in faith that he died for us, we too can be saved and forgiven of our sins.
Then, last week we studied what happened after the Israelites left Egypt.
Pharaoh eventually chased them down, but God parted the sea, letting the Israelites walk through.
Then the Egyptians are drowned pursuing them in the sea
You’d think the Israelites would trust God unquestionably at this point…but they continue to doubt him.
They continue to want to return to Egypt.
Even though he leads them with a cloud by day and fire by night.
He rains down bread in the morning and meat at night.
He gives them water from a rock.
And the New Testament tells us that this is our story.
God provides for us over and over and over again…including the most important thing (ETERNAL SALVATION)…and yet we doubt him.
We remember Egypt (or sin) as being greater than it was and God as being less than He is.
But there’s ONE MORE important chapter to the story.
As God is about to lead Israel out of Egypt, he tells them that he will lead them to “The Promised Land”
A phrase we throw out all the time now, but it was indeed a literal place back in the day.
For instance, here’s God telling Moses about it while they are back in Egypt (out of the Burning Bush actually)
(Exodus 3:16-17) – NIV
16 “Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt.17 And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—a land flowing with milk and honey.’
They were to return to Caanan (or now called Israel), which was the land originally given (by God) to their forefather Abraham.
And Abraham, and his son Isaac, and his son Jacob all lived there.
And Jacob was given the name Israel, so God was calling his descendants, the Israelites, back to their homeland…the promised land.
THE 12 SPIES
So, out in the wilderness, God tells Moses it’s time to check out this “Promised Land”
(Numbers 13:1-3) – NIV
The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe, send one of its leaders.” 3 So at the Lord’s command Moses sent them out from the Desert of Paran. All of them were leaders of the Israelites.
The book of Numbers then goes on to list the names of 12 spies.
One from each of the 12 tribes of Israel.
Moses then gives them some instructions.
(Numbers 13:17-20) – NIV
17 When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, “Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. 18 See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. 19 What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified? 20 How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees in it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land.” (It was the season for the first ripe grapes.)
A pretty good scouting assignment from Moses.
If this is indeed the land that they’re all supposed to rightfully inherit, than they oughta find out what it’s like, so they can start planning and preparing to live there.
So the 12 spies go out and scout the land for 40 days.
And as they come back, the people are excited to hear the report.
It reminds me of the days before the internet where a family might be moving across the country…but maybe only the husband could scout out and purchase a new house.
He might come back and hear his kids say: “What are the rooms like? Is my room the biggest? What’s it like there? Do they have Culver’s there?”
So the spies stand in front of the Israelites and begin to give a report:
(Numbers 13:26-28) – NIV
26 They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. 28 But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there.
And some of these people they’ll list, like the descendants of Anak are known to be quite tall. Imagine like a town of NBA players.
You can see their fear, but not everyone is fearful
(Numbers 13:30-33) – NIV
30 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” 31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” 32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. 33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”
And you can read in Numbers 14 as the people begin to weep and grumble: “If only we died in Egypt! Or even in the wilderness! We’re going to be killed when we get there! “Some ‘promised’ land!”
But Moses and 2 of the spies, Joshua & Caleb try and plead with the people
(Numbers 14:6-9) – NIV
6 Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes 7 and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. 8 If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. 9 Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”
But the people don’t care.
They don’t have faith that the Lord can do anything…even though He’s shown them…HE CAN DO ANYTHING.
Scared of the unknown.
People almost always prefer the misery of certainty to the risk of uncertainty
That’s why they’d rather go back to Egypt as slaves.
And for their unbelief, God tells them, they won’t enter the promised land after all
(Numbers 14:32-34) - NIV
32 But as for you, your bodies will fall in this wilderness. 33 Your children will be shepherds here for forty years, suffering for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies lies in the wilderness. 34 For forty years—one year for each of the forty days you explored the land—you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you.’
Out of the adults, only Joshua and Caleb would enter the promised land.
And for 40 years, the Israelites, because of their unbelief, would wander in the wilderness…and die…in the wilderness.
They didn’t believe God’s promises, so only their children would enter the promised land.
And indeed 40 years later, Joshua himself would lead them across the Jordan River and into the promised land.
And you can read that story in the book of Joshua in the Bible.
But once again, we see this story echo in the New Testament.
We see that the promised land is echoed in the what the Bible describes as the TRUE promised land that we all crave: Heaven.
But as we’ve been pointing out theologically all year, we don’t get to the Promised Land through obedience.
Heaven is not a reward. It’s a gift from God.
And we only get there through faith.
And our faith in the promised land works the same as it did for the Israelites.
In fact, the book of Hebrews makes this EXACT connection!
Last week we looked at how Hebrews 3 talks about how the Israelites wandered in the Wilderness and didn’t make the promised land.
Then the writer makes these comments:
(Hebrews 3:19 – 4:2) – NIV
19 So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief. Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. 2 For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed
It’s a fascinating passage in the Bible.
There’s an echo set-up between the Israelites of Exodus and us.
God promised that he would bring them into the promised land
But it wasn’t that they weren’t good enough that was the problem.
If that would have been the case, He would have stopped them much earlier in their journey
The problem was that they didn’t have faith.
They didn’t believe Him.
They didn’t even believe Joshua and Caleb.
They didn’t have faith, and didn’t enter his rest. His promised land.
And for us today, the same opportunity for eternal rest, an eternal promised land, sits before us…but for us too…we enter through faith.
In fact, look at this neat echo.
In the Old Testament…It’s the leadership of Joshua who provided the Israelites with rest.
Yet…it was not a complete rest.
The New Testament speaks of a greater rest to come.
And fascinatingly, in the echo, it will come from….(pause).....Joshua.
Did you know that Jesus’ name in Hebrew is actually Yeshua? Which in English is Joshua?
Jesus is the name we get when we translate from Hebrew to Greek to Latin to English.
It’s all the same name basically: Like Jesus or Hey-zeus.
But, in our echo, this matters.
Because Joshua gave the Israelites temporary rest in the promised land.
But it’ll be the real Joshua (Jesus) who offers an eternal promised land. An eternal rest.
I love the Bible!
WE SHOULD BE LIKE JOSHUA & CALEB
What really stands out to me from this part of the Exodus story is the faith of Joshua and Caleb.
They had faith that God would lead them to the promised land despite what everyone else said.
Despite the obstacles.
The only thing that mattered to them was that God promised…GOD PROMISED…this incredible land to them…so they were determined to go forward seeking THAT…and everything else was secondary.
Their focus was on God’s promise of the promised land. It governed everything they did.
And that should be us
Our focus should be on the afterlife.
If this world is just a blip…and then it’s over…and then we enter billions and kajillions of years in eternity…it’s literally foolish to let this world be our focus
Our focus needs to be the promised land.
But the other ten leaders…the ones who swayed the rest of the Israelites…got distracted. They got dismayed by the things of this world.
They were afraid of worldly things. Big and strong opponents.
But God doesn’t care about what’s in the way of the promised land; He promised you the promised land.
He promised it.
Keep your eyes on the prize. Keep your eyes on the promise.
But how often do we get distracted by the things of this life?
The perspective of God’s promise of heaven is one of the most important things you can govern your life by. Seriously.
But how often do we get distracted and dismayed by the difficulties of this world?
We lose our jobs.
It’s a major bummer. It’s hard.
But our task is to remember, that in the scheme of eternity our most important job is to glorify God.
It’s a job we won’t just do until 65 but for all of eternity.
Keep your eyes on the prize
We lose relationships sometimes
It hurts. Sometimes really bad.
But our relationship with Him…the deepest and greatest we have…will NEVER die.
Keep your eyes on the prize.
And sometimes…we even lose other people. They pass on.
But many of them pass on to our next location.
We will be with them in heaven…FOREVER.
And these few years we will be apart, in the scope of eternity, will feel like a few seconds.
Keep your eyes on the prize
It’s well documented here that I don’t care for Country Music.
However, I make a hypocritical exception for Carrie Underwood.
She has a song called Temporary Home.
It’s about 3 people:
First, A 6-year boy who’s in foster care. And when people ask him how he likes his new place he says, “This is my temporary home. It’s not where I belong. Windows and rooms that I’m passing through. This is just a stop on the way to where I’m going. I’m not afraid because I know…this is my temporary home.
It’s about a young mom on her own…in a half-way house: She too says: It’s okay. “This is my temporary home. It’s not where I belong. Windows and rooms that I’m passing through. This is just a stop on the way to where I’m going. I’m not afraid because I know…this is my temporary home.
And then finally, and old man, in a hospital. With his family around his hospital bed…as he’s about to pass on. He too says, ““This is my temporary home. It’s not where I belong. Windows and rooms that I’m passing through. This is just a stop on the way to where I’m going. I’m not afraid because I know…this was my temporary home.”
And that’s the perspective we need. It’s “eyes on the prize.” It’s the faith of Caleb & Joshua
It’s faith that says, “Yeah, I’m not overly concerned about these temporary obstacles. This is my temporary home. God has PROMISED me the Promised Land…and to the Promised Land…I shall go!
I read this study this week from the University of California in San Diego about spoilers that really surprised me.
This is a funny source of tension in my family.
My parents have a way of giving things away when they talk about movies or shows.
Even though they think they’re not giving anything away
Anybody have anyone like this in your family?
It drives me crazy
My mom will say, “Well, I’m not giving anything away…but I will tell you this…”
I always yell, “Okay, stop right there…because anything you tell me will give something away. You realize that it’s impossible for you to tell me something…and not give something away, right?”
And my mom will say, “I wasn’t going to tell you anything about it…but the ending is um…let’s just say surprising”
“Well, great, you just gave it away. Now I’m going to watch the whole movie thinking, “Well, it can’t turn out this way, cuz the end has to be surprise…so the main character has to die or something”
Just the other day my mom was over visiting the twins and she was telling me about a show and she said, “Well, I won’t give anything away, but…”
And I just went, “AHHHHHHHHH” for about two minutes.
But anyway, back to this study, shockingly (to me), the study says the majority of people actually prefer getting some type of spoiler about the movie, book, show “because it would then help them better process the information and develop a deeper understanding of the story”
Now, I’m definitely not in that majority, but I guess I can see what they’re saying.
For instance, for years now, I’ve heard speakers and writers reference the literary classic “The Strange case of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hide”
So I finally listened to it on an audiobook on my phone last week in the car
And it was interesting… Since I had heard the story referenced a hundred times, I knew the twist. I knew what would happen.
But in the story, the twist doesn’t happen until the last 10 minutes.
And although I craved to be ignorant, and feel the surprise for the first time…
I was able to process and understand so much more of the book because I knew how it would all end.
And the same should be true for us.
We should be able to process our trials, our hurts, our pain, our difficulties, differently from those who don’t know God…because we know how it ends.
We know that a day will come when there will be no more crying, no more mourning, no more pain.
We know the end.
So, in our struggles…when we fall flat on our face…when we feel deserted and alone…
We keep our eyes on the prize. Our eyes on the promise.
This is our temporary home.
We need the faith of Caleb…the faith of Joshua…to say, “No matter what’s happening right now…I will keep walking in God’s will…and trusting in His promise”
“Nothing can deter me…nothing can keep me from trusting in His promises. In His truth. I know where I’m going.”
But it’s hard. They really didn’t have a lot to go on.
God’s just told them that he’s going to take them out of Egypt…through the Wilderness…and then they would go back to the home of their ancestors.
They would be guided to a promised land…on a route they’ve never been on…to a land they’ve never seen.
He’s told them that it’s “a land flowing with milk and honey,” but beyond these few things, they don’t really have a lot to go on.
And it’s not that different for us.
How much do we actually know about heaven?
We know it’ll be incredible. That God will be there. That we’ll do a lot of worshipping. See others who’ve died before us…and after us.
But we don’t honestly know a ton about it.
But we wish we knew more!
I think that’s why you see all of these “near-death-experience” books hit the New York Times bestseller list
“I died…went to heaven…came back…and here’s my story….that’ll make me rich.”
I’m not saying that some of them aren’t maybe true…but we want to know more, don’t we?
But I want to challenge you on this: Don’t make the same mistake as the Israelites.
We have God’s promises in His Word…and that should be enough.
See, the problem for the Israelites was…it wasn’t enough.
He already promised to bring them to the Promised Land…but when they saw obstacles and difficulties and people over 6 feet tall, they doubted.
But GOD promised. Trust him.
When you face obstacles…trust HIS PROMISES!
(Slow down) If you are a believer & follower of Jesus, God has promised that He has forgiven all of your sins, that He is in control, that these trials are just temporary, and that one day you will spend FOREVER with Him…and will know fully know peace…know love.
So trust in Him. Trust in His promise.
And He will take you to the promised land.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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