By Gary S. Hatrick
There are many songs and hymns, some beloved, that talk of the Christian's desire to go to the promised land or of that final journey across the Jordan.
Personally, I'm not crazy about those songs because I think they are inaccurate in their imagery.
What is the promised land? It was the land promised to Israel after they were set free from slavery in Egypt. Led by Moses, they had to wander about a bit because of their disobedience, but they were eventually led into the promised land by Joshua.
You see, Moses, who represents the Law, could not lead them into the promised land. The Law is our tutor; it tells us about the promised land; it even leads us to the entrance, but it cannot take us in there.
Only Jesus can lead us into the promised land. Anyone want to guess what Hebrew name is the name, Jesus? If you guessed Joshua, you're right.
One might say, well, Jesus leads us into Heaven right? That is right, but He leads us into the promised land first.
You see, if you are a Christian, you have already become a citizen of Heaven. Your ID card is printed, and you are a child of the King. You are a part of a royal priesthood, a holy nation; you are a people set apart. You have eternal life already. It started the moment you trusted in Jesus.
Are you in Heaven yet? No, you are on earth, and you will experience joy and gladness in Christ, but
while you are here, you will also battle with sin - some giant sins - and there will be pain and suffering, there will be discipline, some for sin and some for perfecting us. Some blessings of God will depend on our obedience, and we will not gain victory unless we trust in Him.
What was the promised land like for the people of Israel? It was indeed a land flowing with milk and honey, but it was also full of enemies that needed to be conquered, some giants. The land would be won if they trusted God, and they would lose battles if they did not trust and obey Him.
You see, the promised land is not a picture of Heaven but a picture of the Christian life. That's why I say I am not bound for the promised land. I am in it. There is a greater promise to come, the realization of my citizenship in Heaven. When I go, as they say, from the realm of darkness to the realm of light, from the realm of faith to the realm of sight, then I will be in Heaven.
Jesus has already taken me by my hand and is currently leading me through the promised land. If He does it again after I die, I am going to be disappointed. I expect Him to come get me and take me to those dwelling places He has been preparing.
OK, so what? If the promised land is the picture of the Christian life, what application can we take from it?
In the wilderness, before they came to the Promised Land, the people of Israel kept moaning about wanting to go back to Egypt, where they claimed to have it better. We don't see those complaints once they are in the promised land.
It seems that the people of Israel did not want to go back to Egypt once they were given their land. Who wants to go back to renting when you own your house?
So what, then was the problem in the promised land? High places.
All through the history of Israel in the promised land, we see statements that say that this or that King was good or bad, and when he was good, it often says something like, but the high places were not torn down or the people still worshipped on the high places.
You see, there was one place that God commanded to be worshipped, and that was wherever the Holy of Holies was located at that time, but the people also had their own "high places" where they either worshipped idols or disobediently "worshipped" God.
They were in the promised land, but they were disobedient to God; they also worshipped idols or sought to worship God in their own convenient way.
In our journey in the "promised land" of the Christian life, we know we should worship Him alone, but we have many idols - many high places. It could be our pleasures; it could be money; it could be our spouses, our children; it could be our job, our power, our position, our pride, our reputation, our church, our lack of forgiveness, our unwillingness to love or our determination to love the wrong people or things. Whatever it is, it keeps us from worshipping as God wants us to worship Him - in spirit and in truth.
To live the victorious Christian life, to win the "land" promised to us, we must destroy the high places. We must conquer those enemies of God, those giants in our lives. Those sins that so easily entangle us. They are our enemy.
Christ has conquered our enemy eternally, but here in time He expects us to battle to win. What Christ won for us was salvation - that is ours forever. What Christ commands us to do is to become sanctified, that is, to conquer sin. We can only do that by trusting Him. We still must rely on Him, and we cannot do it without Him. When we are victorious, it is still to His glory.
I'm afraid, though, like the people of Israel, we will likely never strive against sin to the point of shedding blood as we are commanded to do in Hebrews 12:1. We will never be fully victorious as long as we do not tear down our high places. We may even be taken into captivity for or by our sin, but we need to take courage because God will free us if we only return to Him.
What are your high places? You know you have them. They are dear to you, but you must conquer them. They seem too big, but you must slay them. We are bound for Heaven, but for now, let us fight the good fight of faith for this promised land.