It’s unfortunate that some of our gifted Christian poets and songwriters have used Canaan, the Promised Land, as a type or picture of heaven because, while turning people’s eyes toward heaven is essential, heaven is not what the Promised Land stands for in the Christian life.
It’s obvious that we are not going to fight wars and kill people in heaven as Israel did in Canaan, or make mistakes as Joshua did, or deliberately disobey the Lord as Achan did.
The book of Hebrews makes it clear that the Promised Land is a type of the spiritual inheritance believers have by faith today as they walk with God and obey His will. God’s children have a spiritual inheritance today from which they may draw as they live the Christian life and do the Father’s will. Except for Moses, Joshua, and Caleb, the Jews who were delivered from Egypt all died during their journey after the nation refused to enter Canaan in Kadesh Barnea.
Deuteronomy means “second law.” At Sinai, the law had been given to the generation delivered from Egypt, but that generation died off during the nation’s march to Canaan. The new generation would conquer the enemy and take possession of the Promised Land, and they needed to understand God’s law. Moses reviewed the history of the forty years’ march of the nation and announced the law to the new generation before they entered the land (Deut. 1:1–8). After God’s people had entered the land and captured some cities, Joshua led them in renewing their covenant with the Lord (Josh. 8:30–35). Now the nation of pilgrims would become a nation of settlers, but they would not succeed unless they obeyed God’s law. Alas, they did not always honor the Lord and obey His law, and the Lord had to discipline them. Over the centuries, many of their people—including priests and kings—turned to idols and imitated the godless nations around them. . . .
Moses gave God’s truth to the new generation of Israelites as they prepared to enter the Promised Land and claim their inheritance. They would be pilgrims no more but would become settlers, and Moses told them plainly how to behave. He briefly reviewed the history of their pilgrimage from Egypt to Canaan and what the Lord had done for them. He also warned them not to imitate the nations around them, a warning they refused to heed. The Israelites began to imitate the idolatrous nations around them. They asked for a king. They worshipped idols. They neglected their spiritual responsibilities. They forgot how the Lord had blessed them, and they failed to worship Him as the law demanded.
It was important that Israel maintain faith in the Lord and obedience to the Lord, for Israel was to provide the nations of the world with the Word of God and the Savior, Jesus Christ. “Salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22). The devil used idolatry, immorality, and intermarriage with the pagans to defile the nation, but a faithful believing remnant always remained dedicated to the Lord, just as there is today. We must learn from the past if we are to be obedient in the present and prepared for the future. The Lord has a wonderful future planned for His people if they will trust Him and obey Him.
The Scottish preacher Alexander Whyte defined the victorious Christian life as “a series of new beginnings.” We all have our weaknesses and failures, but we can always make a new beginning as we feed on the Word of God, pray, and seek to serve the Lord. Satan reminds us of our defeats because he wants us to be discouraged, but our Father wants to encourage us to repent and return. “Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22–23). No matter how much we may have failed yesterday, we can confess our sins, be forgiven, and start afresh (1 John 1:9). . . .
Four words pretty much summarize Deuteronomy’s message: hear (used twenty-four times), learn, keep, and do. Together they describe obedience (see 11:13–14; 4:40; 12:28; and 29:9). Churches today need to understand the importance of teaching the younger generation what the Christian life and the church are all about. The older saints must challenge the new generations to learn from them and to prepare themselves to take the places of the veterans when God calls them home. Older pastors and teachers must mentor the younger pastors and teachers and encourage them to serve. Each local church is one generation short of extinction, so let’s follow Moses’ example and equip the younger generation for places of leadership (see Ps. 48:12–14; 71:17–18; and 78:1–8).
This post is adapted from Delights & Disciplines of Bible Study: A Guidebook for Studying God’s Word by Warren W. Wiersbe, February’s free book from Faithlife Ebooks.
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The headings and title of this post are the additions of the editor. The author’s views do not necessarily represent those of Faithlife.