The Promised Land (#6 Deuteronomy)

Today I continue to ponder God’s relational presence with the nation Israel as they entered the promised land as recorded in Deuteronomy. Just to recap, God built a beautiful garden in which to dwell with his creation, but sin entered the world. God promises a rescuer in due time and He initiates His redemptive plan. In Genesis, God chooses the family through which He will bless the entire world, that was Abraham’s family. Over and over again we see God speaking personally to the patriarchs illustrating his relational presence. In Exodus, God rescues His people from slavery, and establishes them as a nation. He carefully instructs the people how to build a dwelling place for Him, and His glory fills the tabernacle. The Israelites will be His people and He will be their God dwelling among them. In Leviticus and Numbers, the people learn how they must live as the holy God resides in the midst of an unholy people. He elaborates on laws that emphasize purity. His desire is to plant them in the “new Eden,” the promised land, but the people lack faith to enter when they arrive at Canaan’s border. The people journey through the wilderness for 40 years as punishment, and now in Deuteronomy, we see the nation ready to enter the promised land.

You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of your inheritance— the place, Lord, you made for your dwelling, the sanctuary, Lord, your hands established.

Exodus 15:17

And so he brought them to the border of his holy land,
to the hill country his right hand had taken.
He drove out nations before them and
allotted their lands to them as an inheritance;
he settled the tribes of Israel in their homes.

Psalm 78:54-55

The land plays a significant role in the covenant of God with His chosen people.

  • The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. Gen 12:1-2
  • God said to him, I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.” Gen 17:3-8
  • God also said to Moses, “I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the Lord I did not make myself fully known to them. I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they resided as foreigners.  Ex 6:2-4
  • When the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Hivites and Jebusites—the land he swore to your ancestors to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey—you are to observe this ceremony [the Passover] in this month Ex 13:5
  • The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “When you enter the land of Canaan, which I am giving you as your possession … Lev 14:33-34
  • The Lord said to Moses at Mount Sinai, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the Lord.  Lev 25:1-2
  • Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.  Num 14:30
  • On the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho the Lord said to Moses, … Take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given you the land to possess. Num 33:50-53
  • The Lord our God said to us at Horeb, “You have stayed long enough at this mountain. See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land the Lord swore he would give to your fathers—to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—and to their descendants after them.” Deut 1:6-8
  • These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you. Deut 6:1-3

Indeed, one could summarize Deuteronomy as the terms of the covenant by which Israel, empowered by the presence of God, could conquer the promised land and then live the blessed life with the holy, awesome God in their midst.

J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays. (2019). God’s Relational Presence:
The Cohesive Center of Biblical Theology

Clearly in reading the first chapters of Deuteronomy Moses wants the people of Israel to remember God’s mighty deeds, how His outstretched arm had rescued them, how He had met with them and spoken to them from the fiery mountain, and how He had traveled with them supplying their every need for the past 40 years. Moses wants the people to realize it is God’s presence that makes the difference! It is with His presence that they will settle in the land He has promised. His presence goes before them, and enables them to defeat the enemies that stand in their way.

But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling … because the Lord your God has blessed you.

Deuteronomy 12:5 – 7

Remember with me at the beginning of Moses’ journey with God. He was concerned about God’s name. Who shall I say sent me? And God gave that name … Say I Am who I AM. In Deuteronomy we see God claiming the land, putting his Name there. God owns this land, dwells in this land and He is giving it to His people Israel. In His presence, and under His name, the people will rejoice!

…The land is described as a new paradise, a return to Eden-like bliss; there are numerous references to the creational mandate given to Adam, now passed to Israel; the recurring theme of “life” and the “prolonging of days”; the association of the land with “rest” and the presence of God …

J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays. (2019). God’s Relational Presence:
The Cohesive Center of Biblical Theology

I started this series on theology with a brief look at the difference between God’s transcendence and His immanence. Interesting Moses writes in Deuteronomy 4:39: “Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other.” Hallelujah! Surely the nation of Israel had seen God in their midst! I’ve heard some say how awesome it would have been to see God’s miraculous presence in Scripture. And yes, that would be grand. But let’s not discount the amazing miracle that God Himself by His Spirit resides in each one of us! Definitely a miracle in my life that He would choose to dwell in me. “For I have died, and my life is now hidden with Christ in God!” (Col 3:3).

The story continues … God’s relational presence!

God of all power, and truth, and grace,
which shall from age to age endure,
whose word, when heaven and earth shall pass,
remains and stands for ever sure;

that I your mercy may proclaim,
that all the world your truth may see,
hallow your great and glorious name,
and perfect holiness in me.

Purge me from every evil blot;
my idols all be cast aside:
cleanse me from every sinful thought,
from all the stain of self and pride.

Give me a new, a perfect heart,
from sorrow free, and doubt and fear;
the mind which was in Christ impart,
and let my spirit know you near.

O that I now, from sin released,
your word may to the utmost prove,
enter into the promised rest,
the Canaan of your perfect love!

Charles Wesley
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