Minister Speaks: The Promised Land
By Andy Smith
Pastor, Crossroads Wesleyan Church
I have just spent a week in Israel, touring the Holy Land through the generous invitation of one of my church families. It was an amazing experience. From Jaffa to Haifa, to the Galilee region to the road leading to Jerusalem and down to the Dead Sea and Masada. The Biblical histories have taken on an enhanced understanding and the spiritual moments and lessons learned will be contemplated for a length of time.
One of the moments of understanding came as we traveled south along the Jordan river valley heading for Jerusalem. The area of Galilee was green and filled with trees and growth, but the farther south we traveled the geography began to change drastically to what I would compare to the Badlands of South Dakota or the desert southwest.
I was having trouble understanding because we were traveling through what would have been The Promised Land, The Land flowing with Milk and Honey. We passed the portion east of Jericho where in the days of Joshua the Israelite tribes would have crossed into the land God had prepared for them. I was thinking, “Wow, this doesn’t look like anything promising at all.”
I asked our guides, an American couple who had studied in Jerusalem with Masters Degrees in Biblical studies and Biblical archeology, and a Jewish woman who had trained 10 years to be a guide, “Is this the way the land was in the Biblical history?”
The answers were, “Yes.”
Comparing what I was seeing to the pasture lands in Northeast Kansas left a huge gap in perception. Who would want this or think this was land befitting a gift from God?
It was explained to me that what I was seeing was excellent ground for raising sheep, and we did see shepherds herding sheep and goats along the hills. Milk and honey referred to land that was productive for livestock and agriculture. If this is the picture of the Land of Promise then we live in the Land of Extreme Opulence, which then became the understanding. We live in land blessed beyond measure, and yet are so often discontent and left wanting. We pray for God’s blessing while living in extreme blessing. We have missed something.
It was explained that the Jewish have a different concept of desert then us. I was seeing desert as arid and desolate, but in their thinking, desert meant a place to meet alone with God. The Promise Land was a place where God would be with them, and the abundance would flow from that spiritual experience and daily walk with Him. Jesus promised that he had come to bring us life and it abundantly. We have interpreted that as being blessings on the outside, but what was intended was a rich full inner life, filled with the knowledge and presence of God.
That was the thinking behind the writings of Brother Lawrence, “I cannot imagine how religious persons can live satisfied without the practice of the presence of GOD. For my part I keep myself retired with Him in the depth of the center of my soul as much as I can; and while I am so with Him I fear nothing; but the least turning from Him is insupportable.”
It is there, in the center of our soul, if dwelt by God, we find the true Land of Promise.