ALL ENTRIES TAKEN FROM THE AUTHOR'S WORK,
WHAT IF GOD...? Thought-Provoking Reflections About God (Michael Caputo)
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WHAT IF GOD HAD ALLOWED ISRAEL TO GO DIRECTLY INTO THE PROMISED LAND?
When Israel came out of Egypt, the people had no idea that dramatic departure was going to be just the beginning of a very long journey. Rather than marching directly into Canaan, God made the bewildered nation roam around the desert for decades.
But what if God had allowed Israel to go directly into the Promised Land? Would not that have been a more merciful thing to do for a people that had just left slavery and was longing for its own land where to settle?
In Deuteronomy 8 we find several reasons why God decided to postpone the occupation of Canaan.
The first reason is that Israel needed testing. God needed to know if they were truly worthy of the land that flowed with milk and honey, and if they were deserving of being His representatives on earth. “And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not”(Deuteronomy 8: 2).
The second reason is the fact that God wanted Israel to learn the lesson that, in this life, total obedience to God is the most important thing, and that obeying God leads to wonderful benefits: “So He humbled you and allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord” (V.3).
The third lesson Israel needed to learn is that God is a miraculous provider of his people’s needs. Thus, Israel’s clothing did not get old for forty years (V. 4), and their health was protected so that not even their feet swelled in spite of all the walking (V. 4).
The fourth lesson was the fact that God loved His people and that chastening was only for its own benefit: “So you should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the Lord your God chastens you”(V.6). The aim of the chastening was to lead Israel into keeping “the commandments of the Lord… to walk in His ways and to fear Him”(V.6).
Lastly, the final lesson was that if Israel obeyed God He would bless them in the in the end with a land overflowing with abundance where they would “lack nothing”(V. 7-.9).
These lessons were critical for Israel to learn and for Christians as well, since God is the same today as He was then.
When he calls Christians out of this world, He essentially allows them to go through their wilderness and tests their faithfulness. Paul tells us that what happened to Israel was recorded “for our admonition on whom the ends of the ages have come”(I Corinthians 10: 11), and that we should not sin as they did (V. 1-9).
In Matthew 4:4, Christ, in response to Satan’s temptation, reiterated the critical importance of living by every word of God: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” What was true for Israel is true for Christians and all of mankind. A truly abundant and healthy life is contingent upon total submission to God’s will, the author of life.
The New Testament fully supports the third lesson as well where we are told that it is God who provides for the needs of his chosen ones: “My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Jesus Christ”(Philippians 4: 19). God want us to have “sufficiency in all things” so as to abound in “every good work” (II Corinthians 9:8).
Chastening for the good of the chastened is as much a reality for Christians as it was for ancient Israel: “For whom the Lord Loves He chastens and scourges every son whom He receives” (Hebrews 12: 6).
Finally, just as the end result of the prolonged test was a land of plenty for Israel, Christians will be rewarded for their enduring faithfulness with a Kingdom of eternal bliss where they will also lack nothing. But Christians’ reward is greater than Israel’s for they will inherit eternal life (II Corinthians 5:1-2), and they will be with Jesus Christ and the Father forever.
It should be quite evident therefore, that not allowing Israel to enter the promised land immediately was critical in testing and preparing Israel for its reward. The decision also created a reference point for Christians who are now God’s spiritual called-out-ones, the New Israel, bound for its eternal Promised Land.