The Promised Land always lies on the other side of a wilderness
- Havelock Ellis
I believe God can speak to us in many ways, like through the Bible, a sermon, a person, nature, songs and many other natural, creative, and powerful ways. Lately, two books happened to ‘fall in my lap’, and—surprise, surprise—they were on the same topic! Was God trying to talk to me? I believe He was!
The Pursuit of Freedom by Myles Munroe and One in a Million by Priscilla Shirer were the two books and her stated topic was “My journey to freedom—The Promised Land”.
The book of Exodus reveals that the Egyptians kept God’s people as slaves for 400 or so years before Moses was called by God to deliver them and set them free.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the word ‘slave’ one little bit. Yet many of us are slaves to the ‘Egypt’ of sin because we fall into the same temptations time after time. God has so much in store for us but we have to learn how to break free from the spirit of oppression.
Before we can flee our own spiritual Egypt, we must do some ground work.
Shirer says we can be 100% saved and still spend the majority of our time as slaves to our own Egypt. We need to ‘…break out of our natural patterns and our usual ways of doing things’. This may be certain habits we are accustomed to doing, like watching or listening to something we know deep down we shouldn’t be, being full of fear, or compromising in our thought life, activities or behaviour.
This phase can be tough and requires discipline and self-control, especially if we’ve been slaves to these things for some time. But if we are really wanting to be free and step into all that God has for us, then with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can do it!
Wandering the wilderness
Time and time again, God showed up big time in the deliverance of his people Israel in the Old Testament. This happened through signs and wonders he performed in Egypt and then, of course, in the parting of the Red Sea (Exodus 14). These acts remind me of the following lines in the Bethel song, No longer Slaves;
He split the sea so I could walk right through it, my fears were drowned in perfect love.
I’m no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God…
So, we have escaped our bondage and are now on the journey to the Promised Land! This is an exciting time and I can only imagine how the people of Israel felt after being slaves for so long.
The journey from crossing the Red Sea to The Promised Land should have taken the Israelites 40 days. Instead, it took them 40 YEARS!
So why did it take them so long? Why did nearly all of the first generation die in the wilderness? What was different about Joshua and Caleb that enabled them to be the only two from two million people to enter the Promised Land with the second generation? What can we learn from this?
Lessons learnt while in the wilderness
Munroe says that the wilderness is a place of preparation for your freedom and the wilderness is a place of testing. God needs to be able to trust us and know we will be able to manage our freedom once in Canaan, so there are three main tests we need to pass.
These tests will develop, as Shirer says, “…maturity, character, self-discipline and integrity”. They are the test for appetite (food, drink and sex), test for motive, pride and fame, and the test for greed and power. The first generation didn’t persevere in their faith and failed these tests and hence were not allowed to enter the Promised Land.
When we are close to stepping into our Promised Land, Satan will do everything to stop us, but we can overcome with God’s strength. Jesus was led into the wilderness for 40 days and Satan tested him, but he overcame him and then stepped into his powerful ministry (Matthew chapter four).
All of us will have a wilderness period in our lives and if you’re anything like me, I desperately don’t want to die there! My Bible’s commentary says that in the wilderness the Spirit teaches us complete abandonment of the world and total dependence upon Him. In the wilderness, the Spirit disciplines us to resist temptation and to obey God. I pray for the same spirit as Joshua’s and Caleb’s; one filled with God’s Spirit that will enable me to courageously walk into the Promised Land.
Stepping into the Promised Land
Stepping into the Promised Land will require us to be strong and courageous. It will require going from dependency to responsibility. It won’t be easy and mean going into battle and trusting God completely, just like Joshua had to, to win the battle of Jericho.
While there will be abundant ‘milk and honey’ type living in the Promised Land, we will need to work for it. Munroe says that while there will be honey, we will have to manage the bees and will probably get stung while getting to the honey. But Israel’s story in Exodus shows us it will be worth it, bee stings and all!
Jo Fuller is a primary school teacher with degrees in journalism and education. She lives on the beautiful Sunshine Coast with her husband and young son.
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