Have you ever noticed the vast amount of geography in the Bible? The Bible describes thousands of cities, lands, and geographical features. Are all of these details included merely as background information? I don’t think so. When we focus on the concept of land, a compelling story emerges from the pages of God’s word.
This story is most clearly seen in the first 6 books of the Bible which tell of a beautiful land that was once lost and then finally found. Seeing that narrative will shape the way we read our Bibles, the way we view our world, and the way we live our lives.
A Land of Blessing
The first land of blessing was a beautiful garden called Eden. We often picture Eden as a little flower garden, but in fact it was a massive area of land stretching across the Fertile Crescent (Gen. 2:14). Four large rivers wound through a lush forest that was teeming with life (Gen. 2:9-14). If you journeyed very far you might even discover piles of gold and precious stones (Gen. 2:11-12). Eden was the kind of place where you had everything you needed and then more on top of that. It was a good land.
Leaving the Land of Blessing
But all of those wonderful blessings dried up as sin entered the world. Satan knew that the only way to get humans to sin was to destroy their trust in God. With the simple words, “You shall not die,” Satan led Eve to doubt the goodness of the One who had given her this great land.
“Cursed is the ground because of you,” God said as he drove them away from their beautiful home (Gen. 3:17). Life would now be difficult and painful. The lush, fertile soil was replaced with painful thorns poking out of the dry dirt. Humans would labor in dust until they returned to dust.
If only humans could find their way back to that good land once more. But the way was blocked by a supernatural being armed with a sword. There was no return.
In the next chapter Cain murdered his brother leading to further devastation of the land. As Abel’s blood soaked into the earth God’s words rang out, “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground” (Gen. 4:10). Cain’s sin further polluted the land and brought an even more intense curse. “When you work the land,” God said, “it shall no longer yield to you its strength” (Gen. 4:12).
As sin increased, the land became more devastated until in Genesis 6 man’s sin led to the destruction of all the earth in one massive flood. The lesson is very clear. Man’s sin is so potent that it even destroys the ground on which he walks.
A New Land of Blessing
Finally, as we enter Genesis 12, we see a glimmer of hope. God spoke to a man named Abram and gave him a promise of a new land. It would be a land where God would again give blessings (Gen. 26:1-5). It would be a land of grain, wine, and abundance (Gen. 27:26-28). And it would be a land worth more than all of the riches of Egypt (Gen. 50:24-26).
Failing to Enter
Unfortunately, when we open the book of Exodus the land of promise feels a million miles away. The Hebrews were now enslaved in a foreign land where they endured the pain and sweat of excruciating labor.
God again extended the promise that he would bring them up into a, “good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey” (Ex. 3:8).
Through powerful plagues God soon rescued the Hebrews and brought them right to the doorstep of the beautiful Promised Land. As the 12 spies entered the land they discovered it was just as fabulous as God had told them. It was a land filled with life, abundance, and prosperity. A single cluster of grapes was so enormous that it required two men just to pick it up. This was a land of blessing!
There was only one thing that could keep them from enjoying that land. Once more Satan tried to lure God’s people away with the very same trick that he used thousands of years before. If he could simply get the people to lose their trust in God then he could once more drive them out of God’s land.
Satan’s plan worked flawlessly. The people failed to trust God and were again driven back by the sword of judgment. They were once more banished to a land devoid of all life. And there in the heat and the dust they wandered year after year until their lifeless, sinful bodies fell and returned to the dust of that cursed ground.
Finally Entering the Land
Then finally a new generation arose and God lovingly extended the Promised Land opportunity to them as well.
Can you imagine Joshua’s joy as he finally set foot on that beautiful Promised Land? All history had led towards this one pivotal moment, the time when man would enter the wonderful land of blessing.
Joshua had barely entered the land when he met a foreboding stranger holding a drawn sword (Josh. 5:13-15). Joshua approached the man and tentatively asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” The stranger answered, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord.” What was the significance of this mysterious sword-wielder?
As humanity left the Garden of Eden the last thing they saw was a terrifying supernatural being with a sword. Now in Joshua’s day, the entrance to God’s land was finally reopened and the entry was again marked by a supernatural being wielding a sword. But this time it was not a sword to keep God’s people out. This was a sword that would lead them back into the land. It was no longer the sword of judgment, but the sword of victory! God’s people could finally reenter that wonderful land of blessing.
The Real Promised Land
The Hebrew writer tells us that Joshua’s entrance into the Promised Land was just a shadow of a more ultimate rest that is still to come. “For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on” (Heb. 4:8). And so today, as God’s people, we are looking forward to the ultimate Promised Land.
Paul explains this in Ephesians when he says the Holy Spirit is, “…the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:14). That’s Old Testament language for, “We’re headed for the Promised Land!” We too are on a journey back to that wonderful land of blessing.
We live on an earth that is polluted by sin. We cry tears and we suffer pain as we toil in this sin-torn land. Yet God holds up a beautiful promise of a new land. A land of blessing. A land of abundance that is symbolically pictured with gold, precious stones, rivers, and life (Rev. 21:5-21). Satan will try every ploy to keep us out of that land, but if we choose to trust God and follow him, we will someday enjoy that beautiful land of blessing.
Note from Tim Jennings:
Phillip Williams is currently looking for a local church where he can preach the gospel. I have the privilege of working with Philip at the Spring Creek church of Christ in Plano, TX as a fellow preacher.
Philip has proved himself to be a wonderful Bible student and an excellent communicator. He has a genuine concern for evangelism and a commitment to the strength and unity of the local church.
Philip also has special skills in graphic design, which he uses to make his communication of the gospel more effective. You can see an example of this in a visual guide he created for the book of Hebrews: https://plus.google.com/115551629775579263984/posts/ezB1dYpnYR3
Philip’s wonderful and talented wife is Rebekah. They have three children, Eden (7), Levi (5), and Anna (3). They are all such a blessing to the church that meets at Spring Creek.
If you know of a local church looking for a preacher please contact Philip with the information. His email is: firstname.lastname@example.org. I can’t wait to see the continuing good he will do in God’s kingdom!