Can You See the Promised Land?
Editor's Note: With this article, brother Smith changes the heading of his regular feature from "Solid Food" to "Walking Worthy". The title change reflects a desire to broaden the range of topics, and allow for a bit more flexibility in writing. We hope you enjoy this inaugural effort.
The Hebrew writer was commenting on the frailty and ultimate doom of the village of Jerusalem when he encouraged his Hebrew Christian brethren to remain outside the camp of obsolete Judaism. "For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come" (Hebrews 13:14).
Surely they could identify through their history with the lifestyle of a pilgrim. With one Promised Land in the past, they were challenged to press on toward another and better one with the same diligent zeal that carried their forefathers to victory. The spiritual pilgrimage that began in the first century continues today and every Christian is called to join.
Can you see the Promised Land?
In your mind's eye, are the promise, hope and reality of Heaven in focus? Or are they some distant, uncertain, intangible theory, having little effect on your daily life? There are Christians in both camps, so don't take it for granted.
The reality of a heavenly hope makes for a more contented life on Earth. Having Heaven in focus makes the disappointments of life easier to bear and the joys of this Earthly sojourn mere harbingers of the life to come.
Before Jesus returned to Heaven, he assured his disciples that his father's estate contained many mansions and that his resurrection and ascension would pave the way for his redeemed to follow him into Heaven at the Second Coming (John 14:1-6). Decades later, one member of that audience was enabled to peer into Heaven and he described its glory according to the choicest gems known to men. It was as if the streets were paved with gold and the gates were made of single precious pearls. Such symbolism only hints at the spiritual Paradise awaiting the faithful in the next life.
Abraham and Sarah were pilgrims, called by God to leave their homeland and to travel to a new one. "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the Earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them" (Hebrews 11:13-16). For your pilgrimage to succeed, those same qualities must be present. If you can see the Promised Land in your future, they will be. You will have faith that God is able to fulfill his promises. You will embrace those promises like a pearl of great price, worth any sacrifice you need to make. You will eschew every temptation to abandon the Promised Land Path in favor of sinful, short-lived pleasure.
Moses led Israel on the first sojourn toward Canaan, the land of promise to Abraham's children. Over a period of 40 years, he watched as every adult who began the trip, save for two, perished along the way and short of the goal. They failed because they lost faith and grew weary as the trials of daily living overwhelmed them. "Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted" (1 Corinthians 10:6). Rest assured that your pilgrimage will be marked by such days also. Yet in those days, Jesus will be present to make intercession, the Holy Spirit will offer his guidance and the Father will extend his mercy and strength.
Can you see the Promised Land? Moses could, when he arrived at the border and walked up on a high mountain to peer down into its valley. Sadly, that was as close as he would get to Canaan. Moses had taken away God's glory in a fit of hubris and been punished by this tantalizing termination to his journey.
To get close is to fall short. Agrippa was almost persuaded to become a Christian. Paul, on the other hand, pressed forward to the upward call of God in Christ Jesus and then finished the course and won the race. Maturity should render the image of the Promised Land more clearly in our minds as the years drift past, especially since it is growing nearer with each turn of the calendar's page.
Having the Promised Land in sight will affect your moral decisions in a way that nothing else can. "Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable" (1 Peter 2:11-12). The pilgrim replies to the devil, "This world is not my home; I'm just a-passin' through." Keep your baubles and hollow promises; I'm headed for heaven.
Can you see the Promised Land? That hope will only be fulfilled when Jesus returns and the final judgment has occurred. Not everyone who calls Jesus Lord or undertakes some great and charitable deed will cross the River (Matthew 7:21-27). "Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he really find faith on the Earth" (Luke 18:8)? Not pious sounding platitudes or religious looking institutions, but faith! Faith enough to overcome temptation and faith enough to endure the devil's darts and faith enough to see the Promised Land through the fog of life in a polluted world. Will he really find faith in you when the books are opened and the sheep and goats are separated?
Can you see the Promised Land? It is closer now than when you began reading this article. Are you ready to cross the River?