The land to come
Have you ever looked forward to a great trip? At the end of next month, we will be taking long service leave. We are on the edge. It is exciting to be planning a trip with the family and we are looking forward to having a great time together. We’ll see some old friends who Megan and I used to live with and haven’t seen for years. We will get to see some of this amazing world God has made.
The Israelites in the book of Numbers were on the edge of the promised land, and not just visiting it, but living there. They were looking forward to a fantastic trip across the Jordan into the land flowing with milk and honey. Their hearts and minds were focussed on the good things God had waiting for them. They counted the people so that they can make sure each tribe gets a fair share of the land (chapter 26). They made sure that no family would miss out (chapters 27 and 36). Moses commissioned Joshua as a successor to give stable leadership (chapter 27). God told them about how to relate to him every day, week, month and year (chapters 28 and 29). God told them his good ways of relating to each other (chapters 30 and 35). God defeated their enemies (chapter 31). God told them the dimensions of the land (chapter 34). And God even gives them more than he promised (chapter 32). We are reminded that God has been with them in the past and will be with them in the future (chapter 33).
As Christians, we are in a similar position—on the edge of the promised land. Our future hope is beyond a holiday or a new home in a land flowing with milk and honey. Our future is unimaginably wonderful, "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Corinthians 2:9). So we make it our goal not to worry about what is temporary, but our lasting future inheritance. As the apostle Peter said, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:13). We aim to make sure that no family member will miss out. We put our faith in God, that he will take us to be with him.
Sometimes Christians feel that wanting their own good is a bad thing. But we must want our own good, as C.S. Lewis once observed:
‘If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope of the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord find our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite you is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.’ (Lewis, ‘The Weight of Glory, Theology, Vol XLIII: November 1941.)
May you live in that greatest joy of knowing God and the land to come.