Friday, August 24, 2007

Are You in Bondage, the Wilderness or Your Promised Land?

by Marnie Pehrson

In the book of Numbers we read about the children of Israel who had been promised a land flowing with milk and honey, but when it came time to possess it, as a nation they were not ready. Moses sent twelve spies into the land of Canaan (which was to be their inheritance). Ten brought back a report saying the land was overflowing with giants and walled cities. They said there was no way they could overtake the inhabitants. But two of the spies - Joshua and Caleb - brought back a positive report.
Caleb and Joshua spoke to the "company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey" (Numbers 14:7-8).
Caleb and Joshua exhibited faith, not fear. Not only did these two men see the good and trust in the Lord's deliverance, they also weren't guilty of the sins that plagued the rest of the children of Israel. Some of these sins included:
Murmuring (Numbers 14:2) - "Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness!" they said.
Rebellion (Numbers 14:4) - "Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt."
Contention/Violence (Numbers 14:10) - "But all the congregation bade stone them (Moses, Caleb and Joshua) with stones.
Whoredoms (Numbers 14:33)
Lust (Numbers 11)
Besides these sins, the people succumbed to the destructive emotion of fear. Caleb and Joshua warned them, "Only rebel not ye against the LORD, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defense is departed from them, and the LORD is with us: fear them not" (Numbers 14:9).
As a result of their fear and sin, the adult Israelites wandered in the wilderness for forty years until their generation died off. Of that generation, only Joshua and Caleb were allowed to obtain their inheritance in the Promised Land at the end of the forty years. God said, "But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it" (Numbers 14:24).
How can we apply this story to us today? Aren't we each seeking our own personal promised lands? We might be experiencing our own forms of bondage: financial, spiritual, physical, mental. We may be seeking freedom and a glorious promised land where blessings flow, and where the righteous desires of our hearts are met.
If arriving in your own personal promised land seems to be taking too long, if you're wandering in your own wilderness, you might look back over the sins and mistakes of ancient Israel for some guidance.
Each of us might do well to ask ourselves the following questions:
Am I griping, murmuring and complaining? Are my prayers more like whining sessions than prayers of praise and thanksgiving for what I do have?
Am I rebelling against God? Against His word? Pride is the root of rebellion. It is enmity toward God and our fellowmen. And so we might ask, Am I proud and arrogant? Am I so proud that I make up my own interpretations for God's commandments? Am I rationalizing in order to salve my conscience?
Am I prone to contention, anger or even violence? If I closely examine my conversations and interactions with my family, friends and strangers, are they contentious and angry, or are they loving, kind and pure?
Are my thoughts and actions chaste? Do I slip into lustful thoughts or actions? Do I covet what other people have - whether that is their spouse, their house, their money, their talents, or what I perceive as their "cushy lives?"
Not all delays in reaching our goals are sin-related. Things do take time and God does have His seasons for things. But, if we take this little self test (answering these questions in all honesty) and find that we come up short, then we know where to repent and where to seek God's help in changing.
I leave my testimony with you that God wants to bless you. As Jesus said, "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:2). But all the faith and all the positive thinking in the world will not help you enter your personal promised land if you are rebelling against God's laws, if your attitude is contentious, or if your thoughts and actions are immoral. God's laws have consequences. There are blessings for obedience. But blessings are denied to the disobedient.
Of course, none of us is perfect and that's why God sent His Son into the world to pay the price for sin. But there is a difference between honest mistakes and human weakness versus willful rebellion and blatant disobedience. Jesus made it possible for those with a contrite heart and a broken spirit to repent and receive forgiveness (Psalms 34:18). He made it possible for us to be converted (or changed) by His infinite mercy and grace. Through His enabling power, we may abound in good works, and forsake the evil one (2 Corinthians 9:8).

I pray that each of us may have it said of us as was said of Caleb, she or he "followed me fully." Then like Caleb, we will be worthy to enter our own promised land.

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