Friday, February 28, 2014

28 Stories - Study 25: Promised Land

Fundamental: The New Earth

Bible Story 

Joshua and Caleb headed to the rendezvous point at the edge of the Jordan River. They walked at a fast pace, talking as they went.
“I can’t believe we were both selected!” Joshua said.
“I know,” Caleb answered, “all of our hint dropping must have worked!” Both young men laughed.
They had been chosen to represent their tribe on a special mission. The people of Israel were just a stone’s throw away from Canaan and the elders had decided to send a party of fit men to spy out the land. Each of Israel’s 12 tribes provided one man for the mission.
“It’s going to be so much fun!” Caleb continued.
“Yeah,” Joshua replied, “but it will be dangerous, too. We are going to need to be very careful.”
“To be honest,” Caleb’s voice quieted to a whisper as they walked through the rows of tents, “I don’t really understand why this mission is happening.”
Joshua glanced over at his friend to see if he was serious. “Because the elders want to know the strengths and weaknesses of the land before we go in. It’s a smart military move. Know your enemy!” Joshua answered, studying the face of his friend, intrigued. “You don’t want to take our wives and children across the river if there’s a huge army just inside the walls of Jericho, do you?”
“Well,” Caleb chose his words carefully, “God led us here from Egypt. And Moses keeps calling the land across the Jordan “the promised land” because God has promised to give it to us. Why are we questioning what God has promised?”
Joshua stopped walking. Caleb slowed to a stand still and then turned to face his friend. The look on Joshua’s face was a combination of respect and wonder. “You are amazing, Caleb,” Joshua said. “Your faith is unlike anyone I have ever met. And, I think you make a very good point! Do you think we should talk to the elders and ask them to reconsider the mission?”
“No,” Caleb shook his head seriously, “They are God’s chosen leaders and this mission is where their prayers and planning have led them. Let’s go on the mission with the intention of finding every blessing the land has to offer. Let the other 10 worry about the power of the enemy. We’ll focus on the promise and power of God!”
“Genius!” Joshua laughed and playfully punched Caleb in the shoulder. “You’ve got a sanctified devious streak, my friend. That will make the entire mission great fun! God is good!”
“All the time!” Caleb continued the familiar phrase loved by the children and then added, “All the time!”
“God is good!” Joshua finished.

40 years later

Joshua and Caleb stood together on the shore of the Jordan River peering across to Promised Land. The silence deepened as they both remembered the unfortunate result all those years ago.
They had spied out the land. They had brought back a glowing report. They carried back samples of the land’s bounty to win the hearts of the people of Israel. But, the other 10 spies had nothing good to say about Canaan. The Giants were too big. The walls were too strong. The land God had promised was a horrible land, they said.
And God had become enraged. He threatened to destroy every last one of the Israelites. It was only the brave heart and words of Moses that saved them. He reminded God of how much He loved the people he had called out of Egypt. He had set them free not because they were worthy but because He was gracious. God listened to Moses. And forgave the people.
But they didn’t go into the Promised Land. God let them wander throughout the desert on the wrong side of Jordan for 40 more years. He allowed Israel time to recognise their mistake.
God’s promise to give His people the land “flowing with milk and honey” still stood. And now, all these years later, they had returned to the Jordan River, this time fully intending on taking the land promised to them.
They were not the same people they had been 40 years before. As a nation, they were older and wiser. And a new crop of young families now lived among them that did not remember Egypt -— they only knew what they heard in the stories told by parents and grandparents. All, old and young alike, were tired of the desert and ready to accept God’s promise.
“It seems like a lifetime ago,” Joshua said peering across the river.
“Yes,” Caleb replied. “But I’m still excited about it! It really is a glorious land.”
“True,” Joshua said. “Do you realise, of the twelve who spied out the land, we are the only two who will enter it?”
“Oh my,” Caleb said, “Have they all died? All ten of them?”
Joshua nodded his head, “Living with such bitterness and negativity clearly shortens one’s lifespan.”
Caleb gave a little laugh in response. “Indeed. And a complainer’s life is not much of a life, anyway.”
Joshua nodded. “I’m not sorry for them. They were nothing but trouble since that trip into Canaan. But I am sorry for Moses. He would have crossed over with us.”
Caleb placed a comforting hand on his friend’s shoulder, “He is at peace now. No more leadership stresses for him. They are all yours now!”
“Oh thanks,” Joshua said, turning to look at Caleb. “And just like always, you will be my right-hand man!”
“Lead on, fearless leader!” Caleb said with a smile. “Take us into the promised land!”

My Reflection

Imagine the different emotions that would have gone through the minds of people as they re-approached the Jordan River — 40 years after their first visit. Consider what thoughts and emotions would have been going through the mind of:

Moses (standing on a high mountain looking into the promised land, realising this is as close as he will ever get):

Joshua (the new leader after Moses):

Caleb (having stood beside Joshua since they were children):

The people of Israel (knowing they had rejected God’s leading last time they reached this place):
My Story
Consider the response of your heart when you consider this statement: “Jesus is coming soon to take us to Heaven. This earth will be changed. Our lives will never be the same again.”

How would you encourage someone (maybe yourself?) who says, “There is so much I still want to do before Jesus comes”?

It is easy to think, “What was wrong with those Israelites? They were in a barren desert and thought the Promised Land wasn’t worth the effort!” How are we like them in our thoughts about the land God has promised us?

My Assurance

The eternal Kingdom God has planned for his people is similar and yet different to the world in which we now live. How do the following verses give you confidence in God’s plan and purpose?

2 Peter 3:13 ~ But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness.

Revelation 22:4-5 ~ No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him. And they will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. And there will be no night there—no need for lamps or sun—for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever.

Revelation 11:15 ~ Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices shouting in heaven: “The world has now become the Kingdom of our Lord and of Christ, and he will reign forever and ever.”

My Commitment

There are very few verses which tell us what we “must” do once we are in the new Earth. What do you notice in these verses about the actions that we are called to participate in? How would it impact others if we did them now?

Isaiah 65:17-18 ~ “Look! I am creating new heavens and a new earth, and no one will even think about the old ones anymore. Be glad; rejoice forever in my creation! And look! I will create Jerusalem as a place of happiness. Her people will be a source of joy.

Matthew 5:5 ~ God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.

Isaiah 35:4 ~ Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.”

My Outlook

If you could imagine a perfect world, what would it look like? How do the following verses reveal the future existence God has planned for His people?

Revelation 21:1-5 ~ Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!”

Isaiah 35:8-10 ~ And a great road will go through that once deserted land. It will be named the Highway of Holiness. . . . Only the redeemed will walk on it. Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.

My Response

The following statement is the 28th of the 28 fundamental beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Review the doctrine and then write a personal response. What difference does this make to your life?

The New Earth

On the new earth, in which righteousness dwells, God will provide an eternal home for the redeemed and a perfect environment for everlasting life, love, joy, and learning in His presence. For here God Himself will dwell with His people, and suffering and death will have passed away. The great controversy will be ended, and sin will be no more. All things, animate and inanimate, will declare that God is love; and He shall reign forever. Amen.

Bible Story

The Bible story of the 12 spies going into Canaan is in Numbers 13 and 14.

Further Reading

 Isaiah 35, Isaiah 65:17-25, Revelation 21 and 22.

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