On The Threshold of Promise
"The LORD now said to Moses, 'Send out men to explore the land of Canaan, the land I am giving to the Israelites. Send one leader from each of the twelve ancestral tribes.' So Moses did as the LORD commanded him. He sent out twelve men, all tribal leaders of Israel, from their camp in the wilderness of Paran."
"Moses gave the men these instructions as he sent them out to explore the land...'See what the land is like, and find out whether the people living there are strong or weak, few or many. See what kind of land they live in. Is it good or bad? Do their towns have walls, or are they unprotected like open camps? Is the soil fertile or poor? Are there many trees? Do your best to bring back samples of the crops you see."
So they went up and explored the land from the wilderness of Zin as far as Rehob, near Lebo-hamath. After exploring the land for forty days, the men returned to Moses, Aaron, and the whole community of Israel at Kadesh in the wilderness of Paran..."We entered the land you sent us to explore, and it is indeed a bountiful country--a land flowing with milk and honey...But the people living there are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak! We can't go up against them! They are stronger than we are!"
Numbers 13:21; 25-28; 31
After four hundred years in Egypt, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had diminished from honored guests to hated slaves. In their misery, they cried out to God for deliverance.
"Then the LORD told him (Moses), 'I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and lead them out of Egypt into their own fertile and spacious land. It is a land flowing with milk and honey--the land where the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites now live."
The direct route from Egypt to the boundary of the Promised Land was a journey of approximately two weeks. However, God deliberately took them on a series of detours while he built up their ability to defend themselves. Four hundred years of oppression may have produced brawlers in their downtime, but now disciplined warriors were needed to protect the nation as they traversed unfamiliar, hostile territory.
Thus, Israel's family came to the stepping over point, the threshold to the land God had promised. Did they joyfully accept the promise and make plans to cross the Jordan? No. They needed to know with their own eyes and minds that God had told them the truth. Before they proceeded they had to know what they were facing. They wanted proof of God's word. Step one in falling short of entering into a trust relationship with God.
As the account unfolded, two of the twelve spies had a more faithful story to tell.
"Two of the men who had explored the land, Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, tore their clothing. They said to all the people of Israel, 'The land we traveled through and explored is a wonderful land! And if the LORD is pleased with us, He will bring us safely into that land and give it to us. It is a rich land flowing with milk and honey. Do not rebel against the LORD, and don't be afraid of the people of the land. They are only helpless prey to us! They have no protection, but the LORD is with us! Don't be afraid of them!"
You probably remember what came next. God was fed up with the people He chose to call His own. He was ready to destroy them. Moses interceded for his brethren. God then decreed the doubters would not be allowed to enter the land He promised.
"But as surely as I live, and as surely as the earth is filled with the LORD's glory, not one of these people will ever enter that land. They have all seen my glorious presence and the miraculous signs I performed both in Egypt and in the wilderness, but again and again they have tested me by refusing to listen to my voice. They will never even see the land I swore to give their ancestors. None of those who have treated me with contempt will ever see it."
Forty years later the nation was once again on the threshold of entering God's promise. With the death of Moses Joshua was commanded to lead the nation across the Jordan River. It was time for the spring harvest and snowmelt from the mountains had turned the tranquil water into a raging torrent. Obedience would not be easy. It would take faith and courage.
Before Joshua would lead them to face this seemingly impossible obstacle, the LORD instructed him three times to be strong and courageous, that God would be with him and never leave or abandon him. (Joshua 1:6-7, 9)
Our whole lives are a journey out of the world (Egypt) and through the wilderness into the promised land of rest. The Word of God entreats the question--Where are we on that path?
Are we still struggling to let go of the world, desiring "leeks and vegetables" instead of the manna of God's provision?
Are we poised on the bank of the Jordan and looking to the promises of God, but fearful to step into the raging obstacle before us--needing proof that God will keep His Word?
Have we embraced the faith necessary to trust God's promise and dip our toes into the violent tide?
God would say to us the same thing He said to Joshua...
"This is my command--be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."
Come on in. The water's fine.
by Marilyn Allison