Do you ever find yourself wistfully longing for life to be less stressful?
Less complicated? Less demanding? Less exhausting? Are you hungry and thirsty for something more?
Sometimes we can clearly define that ‘something more’ we yearn for; other times, that ‘something more’ is inexplicable, but its absence is felt.
I imagine each Israelite that was a part of the 40 extra years of wilderness wanderings (Numbers, Chapters 13-25), had moments where they gazed up at the sky or peered into the distant horizon, lost in reverie, and dreamily reflected, “When I get out of this wilderness, I’m going to…”, or “One day, when we’re out of this mess, I’ll…” Do you find yourself doing the same…envisioning your life in a less harsh, more peaceful environment?
Often, though, it seems that when one challenge is overcome, its not long before another challenge surfaces. Once again, we feel as if we’re back in the ‘wilderness’…physically, mentally, and emotionally trudging through unforgiving terrain.
Realistically, much of life in this sin-cursed world is a ‘wilderness’…a dearth of refreshment…apart from God’s grace. Our ‘promised land’ still awaits us. In John 14:2-3, Christ informs us,
“…I go to prepare a place for you…I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”
Hebrews 11:8-10, 13-14, 16 depict Abraham dwelling in a land that wasn’t ‘home’ in the truest sense of the word,
“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. But now they desire a better, that is a heavenly country. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.”
Paul expressed his yearning in Romans 8:18-19, 21,
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which will be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation [us] eagerly awaits for the revealing of the sons of God…because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God…We also who have the…Spirit, even we…groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.”
Can you envision Abraham and Paul, gazing up into the sky or peering into the horizon, dreamily reflecting, “When I get to heaven, I’m going to…” or “When I’m at home in my new body, I’ll…” Just as the Israelites weren’t at home in the wilderness, we are not at home here. Just as the wilderness was not God’s intended home for His people, this sin-cursed world is not God’s intended home for us. In both cases, sin delayed entry into God’s promised land.
Though sin delayed entry into God’s promised land for both the Israelites (See “Wanderer or Wonderer” and “What’s Wrong With This Picture?”) and us (Romans 5:12), all was…and is…not futile. There was…and is…grace to be had in the wilderness:
Grace for defeating our enemy.
Israelites: Numbers 21:1-3,21-24,33-35; 22:9-12; 23:7-8,19-20, 23-24; 24:17-24
Us: Romans 8:31-37; I Peter 5:8-11; I John 5:3-4
Grace for provision in time of need.
Israelites: Numbers 20:7-11; 21:16;
Us: Matthew 6:25-34; Philippians 4:6, 11-13
Grace for our failures.
Israelites: Numbers 14:19-20; 15:27-28; 21:7-9; 25:11
Us: Psalm 103:8-14, Hebrews 12:6-13
Grace of His abiding presence.
Israelites: Numbers 14:14, 21; 20:6
Us: Psalms 32:8; 139:7-10; John 14:15-21
Numbers, Chapter 26, introduces a new era for God’s people. The first generation of Israelites, whose disbelief in God, resulted in the forty years of wandering in the wilderness, had died off. A new generation was preparing for conquest and eventual entry into the promised land that God had in store for them.
What’s the hold-up? When will we get to exit survival-mode in this sin-cursed world and enter thrive-mode within our promised land? God’s grace is the hold-up. There is still grace to be had in this fallen earth. II Peter 3:8-13 assures us,
“…Do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons should you be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for [gazing up at the sky or peering into the distant horizon] and hastening the coming of the day of God…? We, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”
Hebrews 10:35-39 encourages us,
“Do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise. For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come…Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who draw back…but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.”
Let’s join John…gaze up at the sky…peer into the distant horizon…dreamily visualize Revelation 21:1-7,
“…a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away [No more survival-mode.]. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God…I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they will be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there will be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There will be no more pain, for the former things have passed away’ [Finally! Thrive-mode!]. Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new’. And He said to me [John], ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful’. And he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes will inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son [or daughter]’.”
Your promised land is coming! Even so come, Lord Jesus!