Bound for the Promised Land
Numbers 13, 14, Joshua
The year was 1984.
I was a 20 year old carefree man
Who couldn’t wait to leave home.
I married Hedi after 4 years of courtship
And decided to follow an inner call
To move to Canada to study at the Bible College.
We didn’t know the language.
We didn’t know the people…
Except for a couple of uncles and aunts.
Hedi didn’t have Canadian papers…
And we didn’t know what the future would bring.
And we were “Bound for the Promised Land.”
I perceived the voice of God saying to me,
“Take your family and your possessions…”
(not that I had any possessions…
In fact, my parents gave us the trip as a parting gift…
I’m still trying to figure out
what they were trying to say with that)…
“Take your wife and your possessions,
And go to the land that I will show you.”
The future stood open before us.
As a twenty year old – full of visions of changing the world –
I was “bound for the promised land.”
You see, it was not that I didn’t have it good at home.
I had it really good.
But, there was a longing…
A yearning in my soul for something more…
For purpose and meaning…
For a sense of direction for my life…
Yea, a hunger for fulfillment.
Twenty-some years later
I’m still “bound for the Promised Land!”
There is still a yearning to see the fulfillment
Of all my longings…
The purpose and end for which I am here.
We are a People “Bound for the Promised Land.”
We are a people on a journey…
The “Promised Land” is a symbol or a metaphor
For getting where we want to end up…
It speaks of reaching goals that we strive for…
Achieving something that we desire or long for.
In the Bible the land Canaan was promised by God
as an everlasting possession
to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob:
In the story of Abraham we read
On that day, God made a covenant with Abraham, saying:
"To your descendants I have given this land,
from the river of Egypt
as far as the great river the Euphrates." (Genesis 15:18-21)
In Genesis 26:3 the promise is repeated to Isaac:
"To you and your descendants I give this land."
And in Genesis 28:13 to Jacob:
"The ground upon which you are lying
I give to you and your descendants."
During the Exodus God spoke to Moses:
"I made a pact with them to give them the land of Canaan.” (Exodus 6:4)
And in Deuteronomy 34:1-4 we read,
“Now Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo,
to the top…
And the LORD showed him all the land….
Then the LORD said to him,
“This is the land which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,
saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’;
I have let you see with your eyes,
but you shall not go over there.”
As a consequence for Israel’s disobedience,
an entire generation of grumbling Israelites
were denied entrance into the promised land.
Even Moses himself…
Called by God as a great leader
to free his people from Pharao’s oppression…
Standing firm as God’s spokesperson
Throughout the wilderness experience...
Moses was denied entrance into the promised land.
And here he stands on top of the mountain
Getting a sneak peak.
The promised land was within eyeshot.
He could almost touch the ground…
Almost smell its flowers…
Almost taste the milk and honey flowing through the land…
Oh, the hunger for God to still that longing…
In 1968 an American civil rights activist
By the name of Martin Luther King Jr.
got a glimpse of the promised land…
and he also was denied entrance…
Martin Luther King Jr. was a Baptist minister by training,
And he became a civil rights activist early in his career.
His efforts led to the 1963 March on Washington,
where King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech,
raising national consciousness about the social inequality.
In 1964, King became the youngest person
to receive the Nobel Peace Prize
for his efforts to end segregation and racial discrimination
through civil disobedience and other non-violent means.
Dr. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968,
in Memphis, Tennessee.
Just hours before he was shot
he spoke these words at a public rally,
I got into Memphis.
And some began to say that threats were out [against my life].
What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers?
(He knew that he was a marked man).
Well, I don't know what will happen now.
We've got some difficult days ahead.
But it doesn't matter with me now.
Because I've been to the mountaintop.
And I don't mind.
Like anybody, I would like to live a long life.
Longevity has its place.
But I'm not concerned about that now.
I just want to do God's will.
And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain.
And I've looked over.
And I've seen the promised land.
I may not get there with you.
But I want you to know tonight,
that we, as a people will get to the promised land.
And I'm happy, tonight.
I'm not worried about anything.
I'm not fearing any man.
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
Martin Luther King Jr. did not get to the promised land
with his brothers and sisters.
But he did do God's will.
He was assassinated before he could witness
The unfolding of his dream,
that one day this nation will rise up
and live out the true meaning of its creed:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident,
that all men are created equal."
… a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia,
the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners
will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi,
a state sweltering with the heat of injustice,
sweltering with the heat of oppression,
will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children
will one day live in a nation
where they will not be judged by the color of their skin
but by the content of their character.
Even though we have a long way to go,
And perhaps more generations of the world
Will have to perish in the desert of injustice,
We can see the promised land…
There is a new world coming…
Promised us in the Word of God.
The image of a Promised Land
has inspired people of faith throughout the ages.
It is a picture image for the fulfillment
of all our human desire and longing.
Christians throughout generations have expressed
their divine imagination of the Promised Land.
This has come out in powerful ways in Christian hymnody
and especially in negro spirituals
during the time of slavery.
During the time of slavery in the United States,
African American slaves were often forbidden
To give expression to their faith.
Because they were unable to express their faith freely
they held “bush meetings” – secret worship services
where they expressed their struggle and faith,
forbearance and hope
in what is known as "Negro Spirituals."
These “spirituals” often had a hidden message,
That encouraged the slaves
In their yearning for freedom from bondage
And on their way to freedom
via the undergraund railroad.
At the time of Moses and Joshua and Caleb also, the Promised Land was a real place, a place in which the people looked forward to living in the here and now… in this life. The promised land was a place where the land flowed with milk and honey a place where the people could not only cry "Free At Last - Free at Last", but also - "Home at last." At home where God promised he would lead them, in the place which God promised he would give to them… where God would be among them. The Promised Land is the rich and abundant land God promised to Israel. As Caleb and the others who spied out this land for Moses reported, it was a rich land… a blessed land… a land so real… so good… … and it was also occupied... There were fortified cities and towns, With giant warriors that made the Israelites look like grasshoppers.Only with God’s help Would Israel be able to overcome these obstacles And take possession of the promised land. The promised land was also the kind of place Of which the prophets later wrote, “That the Lion and lamb would graze together… And the little child would play By the nest of the cobra And would not be harmed.”The promised land is a land of abundance for all. Where justice and peace kiss each other.Where strangers are welcomed with open arms, And where the river of God Flows for the healing of all the nations. The peace and joy of the Promised land Replaces the fear of the wilderness in which we wander. Janet Plenert, from MC Canada Witness says that Revelation 21:1-4 invites us to imagine a new world. And, I believe that it takes a lot of divine imagination For us today, To see ourselves as a people that is bound for the Promised Land. Listen to these verses:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; ….
2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem,
coming down out of heaven from God,
prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
"See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
Plenert says, “The new Jerusalem comes OUT OF HEAVEN.
The home of God is HERE among mortals.
God will dwell with mortals, with people,
where God’s people are.”
This is the Promised Land!
We often have images in our mind
of “Going to the promised land”…
or going to heaven…
away from all the pain and brokenness of this world,
when our journey on earth is done…
In faith we claim heaven as a very real place
of eternal rest and reward.
And I don’t want to minimize that at all.
But verse 3 says that
The home of God is among mortals….
God will dwell with them…..
The words ‘home’ and ‘dwell’ come from the same Greek word,
That refers to the mobile home
of a mobile and pilgrim people;
it is like a tent;
it is from the word ‘tabernacle’.
The tabernacle, the tent, of God is among mortals.
He will pitch his tent, with his people.
God is present with His people
Whereever they are.
And where God is,
There is the promised land.
In John 4:23 Jesus says to the Samaritan woman at the well,
“the hour is coming, and is now here,
when the true worshipers will worship the Father
in spirit and truth”.
The words of Jesus are fulfilled in the passage of Revelation.
The place where God dwells… the promised land…
is not on a physical piece of land…
Or in a temple built of mortar and stone,
where God will be worshiped until the end of time.
But rather God becomes flesh and dwells
and camps and moves among and with us.
God lives in our hearts.
The home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them,
wherever they are,
and they will be his people;
and God’s presence will be permanently with them.
God will continue to dwell,
to journey and be a pilgrim with God’s people
that is bound for the promised land.
Where the presence of God is,
there will be healing,
there will be the drying of tears and no more crying.
We haven’t fully experienced that yet,
but there are signs of it all around us.
God does already dwell among us here on earth.
We can already taste the fruits of the promised land
As we reach out to one another
In Christian love and community.
While there is much negative in our world,
we also see the signs of life, of grace,
of mercy, of forgiveness and reconciliation around us…
proof that Jesus is real and at work.
For us the challenge is to imagine the Promised Land
For which we are bound…
To imagine what it looks like
To be a people on a journey to a future where God’s reign
Is visible in every aspect.
What does the Promised Land look like
For which we are bound?
What shadows in the desert of our journeys
Hinder us from imagining God’s power to fight for us?
What mighty rivers of doubt and fear
Stand between us and that beautiful land that we long for?
As a church we are a people bound for the promised land.
As we journey on
Let us imagine a church that is united
In proclaiming Jesus Christ to the world.
Let us imagine a church that lives out the kingdom of God…
And engages the brokeness of the world
With the reconciling gospel of Jesus Christ.
Let us imagine a church where God’s peace and justice
Spring from the hearts of every person...
Where everyone has enough and plenty to share
from our rich abundance of resources and gifts.
Where generosity flows from our hearts
like milk and honey from the land.
Where compassion binds the broken-hearted,
And raises up those whose knees have become week.
Oh, that we would find that passion,
The Promised Land that God has in mind for us individualy, for our church
our society and our world.