Written for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, on 10/21/01
"You gave them this land you had sworn to give their forefathers, a land flowing with milk and honey" (Jer. 32:22, NIV).
We talked last week about how the Exodus was a metaphor, or a symbol of our spiritual lives. This week, the Lord has impressed upon me that the process by which Joshua led the children of Israel into the Promised Land is likewise a part of our spiritual journey. The descendants of Abraham had been enslaved for 430 years in Egypt (Ex. 12:40-41). Finally, God sent them Moses, the Deliverer (Acts 7:35), to lead them out of bondage and into the land about which He had promised Abraham, "Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you"" (Gen. 13:17, RSV). When they got to the edge of Canaan, Moses sent twelve men, one from each tribe, to spy out the land and report back (Num. 13:1-2). After being gone for 40 days, they brought back the fruit of the land, grapes, pomegranates and figs (Num. 13:23). Here is their report: "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. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large" (Num. 13:27-28, NIV). As you recall, only Joshua and Caleb came back with a good report. "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." But the men who had gone up with him said, "We can't attack those people; they are stronger than we are." 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. We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them." That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud" (Num. 13:30-14:2, NIV).
This pathetic tale goes on to recount how the people planned to replace Moses with a new leader, stone Caleb and Joshua and then march straight back to Egypt (Num. 14:1-4). Moses and Aaron fell face down in front of the howling assembly and Joshua and Caleb tore their clothes and tried to reason with them, saying, "The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. 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. Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them" (Num. 14:7-9, NIV). Until I got to this point, I wasn't sure where the Holy Spirit was leading me with this lesson, but now I see it clearly. Bear with me as we get there together. The Lord was furious with this faithless lot! He threatened to send a plague and wipe them all out, and then make a greater, stronger nation from Moses' descendants (Num. 14:11-12). What follows is the reason I say that next to Jesus, Moses is my all time hero. He basically said to God, "You can't do that! What will the neighbors think?" Here's the passage.
"Moses said to the LORD, "Then the Egyptians will hear about it! By your power you brought these people up from among them. And they will tell the inhabitants of this land about it. They have already heard that you, O LORD, are with these people and that you, O LORD, have been seen face to face, that your cloud stays over them, and that you go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. If you put these people to death all at one time, the nations who have heard this report about you will say, 'The LORD was not able to bring these people into the land he promised them on oath; so he slaughtered them in the desert.' "Now may the Lord's strength be displayed, just as you have declared: 'The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.' In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now." The LORD replied, "I have forgiven them, as you asked" (Num. 14:3-20, NIV).
God listened to Moses and forgave them, but He said, "Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the LORD fills the whole earth, not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times, not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it" (Num. 14:20-23, NIV). He went on to say that only Caleb and Joshua would see the Promised Land. The rest of them, those twenty years of age and older, would die in the desert, where they would all remain, "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.' I, the LORD, have spoken, and I will surely do these things to this whole wicked community, which has banded together against me. They will meet their end in this desert; here they will die" (Num. 14:34-35, NIV). Thus you have the sad saga of men and women who refused to hear the voice of the Lord and live, preferring to go by their own minds rather than what the Spirit of God told them through Moses.
Today, in this country, those walking in their natural minds, without God's Spirit, are afraid because of the threat of an anthrax outbreak. Their fear is whipped up and fed by the constant media reports. People are afraid. The police in Joplin, MO, a small town in rural America, are running themselves ragged investigating reports of mysterious white powder found on this letter or that package. The FBI is close to being overwhelmed. On the evening news, one reporter said, "Anthrax is a highly ineffective weapon of mass destruction, but it is a highly effective way to cause mass hysteria." How true. Finally, one of the local newscasters today said that unless you are in the room when a package is opened which contains anthrax spores, you have a greater chance of being struck by lightning than you do of contracting the disease. It is VERY difficult to get apparently, and readily treated when detected. I read this week that 2/3 of those who actually become ill with the disease will live even if they do not get treatment. To put it in perspective, one person has died of anthrax, but 20,000 die of flu every year!
So why are people so hysterical? For the very same reason the children of Israel were hysterical when ten of the spies told them there were giants in the land. They thought they had to take the land themselves! They forgot God's promise to Abraham, "The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God" (Gen. 17:8, NIV). And they forgot God's covenant with them which Moses delivered while they were still groaning under the lash of Pharaoh: "Therefore, say to the Israelites: 'I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the LORD'" (Ex. 6:6-8, NIV). The subject of all those sentences if I, the Lord, not the Israelites.
America is a great nation, blessed by God, approaching at times even the glory and might of ancient Israel. The reason this is true is because this country was founded by men who desired freedom to worship God as individuals, without the tyranny of state imposed religion. The forefathers of some of us came here to escape religious persecution in Europe; the forefathers of most of the rest of us, came to this country to enjoy the freedom that America holds dear, a freedom that came to us because of Christ. There is no liberty anywhere on earth except in Him. To many this IS the Promised Land. Yet it is not. The land promised to Abraham can only be found in Christ, and since Christ lives in us, WE ARE the promised land. WE ARE the Holy Land. I saw that throughout the whole trip we took to Israel in March 2000. We are the Holy Land because Christ lives in us and we live in Him.
This lesson today is about the fact that there are giants in this land flowing with milk and honey. They are big and scary and cause us a lot of grief if we do not trust in the promise of the Father to carry us to His bosom on Eagle's wings (Ex. 19:4). One of the biggest, scariest giants is FEAR! That sucker is twenty feet high with biceps of steel, and hate in his heart. He's got no neck, like the Gov. of Minnesota, but unlike Jesse Ventura, this guy is mean! He makes Osama bin Laden look like Mary Poppins in terms of his ability to maim, wound, and kill us. Another horrible, frightening giant is called WORRY! This bad guy is a deadly virus that worms its way into our minds, burrowing little holes here and there, weakening the fabric of faith that God has given us. He wakes us up at 3:00 AM and tells us all the disastrous things that are going to happen to us if we are not prepared. He urges us to take so many safety precautions that we cannot even enjoy our lives anymore.
Now, of course, the good news is that both these giants and all the rest of the things that plague us were defeated at the Cross! Jesus said, "It is finished" (John 19:30), and so it was. Would He lie? Of course not. He came to destroy the works of the devil, the Apostle John declared (I John 3:8). That being the case, why are we still plagued and aggravated and irritated by things not going right in our personal promised land? Why are we still afraid? This has been my question of the Lord for at least three decades, and He answers me little by little, line upon line, precept upon precept. I do not have any formula for success like so many do. I won't even tell you all the formulas for success that my friends have given me over the years when I whined to them about my life, because they never worked! All formulas fail because they belong to law. Under grace, there are no formulas, only the person of Christ. What I have come to is this: I will not whine to you at all now, no matter how good a friend you are, because you cannot do anything about my situation; and worse, you might try to fix what's wrong in my life. Please, my friend, go fix up your own life and leave mine to God! (Matt. 7:3-5). He alone can heal me and give me peace.
So, if all the giants are really dead, who is rattling the cages in my mind in the middle of the night? Well, I will tell you what I think. It is NOT the devil, since he was defeated at the cross (Col. 2:13-14); it is NOT God because He loves me and has given me the mind of Christ (I Cor. 2:16). I think it is the sins of the fathers visited upon the children to the third and forth generation which are hanging around in the basements of our minds, awaiting the Holy Spirit's final mop up action. I do not have visions very often; God usually speaks to me in other ways, but one time I did have a powerful vision. He took me to the basement of my soul, and horrors! It was full of bones and tufts of feathers, and there were huge birds of prey lurking around. It smelled like rotting flesh and there was some of that as well. "What did you have for supper?" You may ask. No, it was not indigestion, but the Holy Spirit showing me a mess in Jan that He was going to clean up. The next thing I saw was the hand of God holding a fire hose. He turned on the pressure and water roared out of the hose. He used it to clean out every bone, every feather, every hateful bird, and all the dirt and grime that was on the walls, the ceiling and the floor. When He finished, the place was spotless! One wall opened up and I saw a lush, green meadow with a crystal blue river flowing through it. I knew that this was the River of the water of life (Rev. 21:6; 22:1,17) . It was flowing to the throne, which I could see off in the distance. The Father invited me to jump into the river and participate in His life, which I did. It was wonderful, it was peaceful, it was life giving, and from that time on, I have not been plagued with those particular giants in my land.
He reminded me of this because He wanted me to tell you that He is in the giant extermination business in our lives. He always was. Americans have a whole lot of giants stomping and raging around on the stage of their lives. They cower in fear, worry and wring their hands, call their friends or send e-mails spreading more fear and panic, like a virus which no earthly antibiotic can cure. That is not the overcoming life Jesus promised! (John 16:33). If this description fits you, I suggest that you "Repent! Change your mind about who God is!" Even as Elisha prayed for his servant's eyes to be opened (II Kings 6:17), I pray that all our eyes will be opened to see that we are flanked on every side by angels and fiery chariots, protecting us from the giants. What's the worst thing that can happen? "We could die," you say. Well, when that happens and we are ushered into the glorious Presence of the Lord, we will know WHY we really never had to worry and fret. Until then, we stand on the promises and practice the presence of God (Ex. 33:14). Hallelujah! When He is with me, of whom should I be afraid? (Ps. 27:1).
Even as Joshua brought the children of Israel into the land which God swore to give them (Deut. 31:23, RSV), so Jesus has brought us into the land which God promised Abraham, paying for our inheritance with His very blood. Unlike the children of Israel, we do not have to fight the giants in the land in order to possess it. We only have to open our eyes to see that they are already a defeated foe! I believe God left them there so He can display His might and glory to us when He removes them. Joshua's words to the Israelites give us comfort as well: ""Remember the word which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, saying, 'The LORD your God is providing you a place of rest, and will give you this land'" (Josh. 1:13, RSV). God does not want us to walk in fear; He would have us come to the River of Life and be renewed by the still waters which restore our souls (Ps. 23:2-3). In Him, there is REST and an inexhaustible supply of living water (Jer. 17:13; John 4:10-11;7:38; Rev. 7:17), flowing out of our innermost being to supply a thirsty people, beginning at home and flowing out to the rest of the world. God freely gives His land, flowing with milk and honey to all who seek Him.
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
The Glory Road
We always enjoy hearing from you!
This page was uploaded to the web on 10/19/01
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister
and last edited on 11/04/08.