I’ve been a believer in Jesus Christ for 24 years, and in that time, I’ve noticed two types of Christians. Both of these people I’m about to describe are saved, they’re following Jesus earnestly, they’re seeking to please him, God manifests His power in their life. However, the way their life looks and feels is radically different. God in His grace, allows us to choose which way to live and then blesses us as His children in our choice. However, I believe he’s always calling us to the Promised Land.
The desert Christian: When the people of Israel left Egypt, they wandered in the desert on their way to the Promised Land. During this time, the hand of God was with them, moment by moment in crazy, amazing, supernatural ways. The guidance of God was with them, moment by moment. They followed a pillar of fire by night and cloud by day. When the pillar would move, they would move, when it stopped, they stopped. When they were hungry, God began to give them manna, and it came every day. When they were thirsty they’d complain, and God would bring water from rocks. Their clothes and sandals never wore out. Imagine this life, you know exactly where to go because God leads you each and every moment, all you have to do is follow the cloud. You don’t have to bother making new clothes or sandals because God is taking care of that. You can forget the plow sheer, threshing board, and wine press. God’s got that covered too. Oh ya, and leave the well digging equipment behind, no need for that either. In so many ways, this sounds like the perfect Christian life. I get to spend my time enjoying God and he takes care of all the essentials. What could possibly be better?
Yet God wanted something better for His people then, and he wants something better for them today: The Promised Land. When the people finally chose to enter the Promised Land, immediately the manna stopped. This is also when the Bible mentions that while they were wandering, their clothes and sandals didn’t wear out. Guess what’s happening now, I bet they’re starting to wear out. There’s no more talk of water from rocks. How about the pillar of cloud/fire…you guessed it, that’s gone too. What is all this replaced with…Joshua leading them into battle after battle! The people march into the Promised Land and God tells them, GO TO WAR! Sometimes he gives them very specific miraculous instructions, like with Jericho. Other times he just tells them to attack and maybe provides some strategy. Take for instance, Ai. Set an ambush in the back and the main army in the front, lure the people out of the town, have the ambush set it on fire, and then kill everyone. That’s hard work and dangerous business. Running from soldiers is a good way to get shot or stabbed in the back, literally. Hand to hand combat usually results in people dead…on both sides.
How God is dealing with His people has changed. Instead of the pillar leading the way, Joshua is leading the way in the military wisdom God has given him. God gives him guidance here and there, but mostly tells him to be strong and courageous. He’s already led the wars in the desert, he is skilled and experienced. However, God pours down a shower of blessing and favor ON TOP of Joshua’s skill. In one battle, God hurls hail stones and it says that more enemy fighters were killed by the hailstorms than by the soldiers. In another battle, Joshua asks God and he makes the sun and moon stand still for a day so he can finish off his enemies. Now that the mana is gone, they eat the produce of Canaan. They have to harvest food, till fields, slaughter sheep, press grapes, and thresh barley. Suddenly clothes need to be made and/or plundered from their enemies. Guess it’s time for everyone to get a spinning wheel again. That water that used to just appear when they were thirsty, it still comes from rock, but to get it, you have to dig down dozens of feet through the rock and make a town well. Some were already there from their enemies, but many probably had to be dug. Even when it came time to build a temple, years later in Solomon’s day, God didn’t give him a pattern like he did for the tabernacle, Solomon and his men designed it according to their wisdom and God blessed it.
When we look at this way, the Promised Land actually sounds like the land of a lot of hard, scary, dangerous WORK! We have to actually think for ourselves….use our skills, gifts, talents, and abilities. What if we do something wrong? We have to clean it up and try again. God still blesses, God still gives favor, and sometimes God even gives specific guidance. It’s not like the desert though where each step was literally, physically led and commanded by God. However, God never intended for the Israelites to stay in the desert and he doesn’t intend that for us either. God intends us to enjoy the incredible, amazing bounty of the Promised Land. He wants us to work with him to co-create vineyards with massive grapes, and fields with 100-fold harvests. He wants us to work with him to design and build homes and temples made of gold and cedar. God wants to be in communion with us, but I don’t see Biblically, outside of the desert, that God wants us to have to ask him before making each and every move. He wants to walk with us, design with us, create with us. When we walk in his ways, he promises to bless us. However, we have to be willing to cross over from the desert where God’s hand is evident and always felt, to the Promised Land where we work hard, God blesses our labors, and the opportunities and results are only limited by our imagination.