23 For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, 24 so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” Joshua 4:23-24 NKJV
The Israelites entered the Promised Land in the same way they left the land of Egypt – walking across a body of water the Lord had parted so that they were able to cross over on dry land. God did this as a demonstration of His power and His presence – when God is for us, there is no power on earth that can stand up to Him against us.
Notice that God gives His reason for doing it this way: that all the peoples on earth may know of His might, and that we may all fear the Lord forever.
When we see the word “fear” used in the context of a loving God who is offering to give us a life “forever” with Him, we are not talking about being afraid of Him. Instead, it refers to an attitude of reverent respect. God is worthy of being a priority in our life, not just an afterthought that we only call upon when our plans run into a snag or we face a challenge.
God does want to help us when we face trials, but He also wants to be worshiped and remembered as we live out each day.
One day, the Promised Land will be the eternal home of God among men, with Jesus Christ reigning as king in the New Jerusalem, which will descend from heaven with the glory of God (Revelation 21).
The first inhabitants that God has brought into the Promised Land are the Israelites, but unfortunately, due to unbelief and gross disobedience, there would be periods of time when the people were expelled from the land. The Lord spoke warnings through many prophets, but those warnings repeatedly fell on deaf ears.
11 “But they refused to heed, shrugged their shoulders, and stopped their ears so that they could not hear. 12 Yes, they made their hearts like flint, refusing to hear the law and the words which the Lord of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets. Thus great wrath came from the Lord of hosts… 14 “But I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations which they had not known. Thus the land became desolate after them, so that no one passed through or returned; for they made the pleasant land desolate.” Zechariah 7:11-12,14 NKJV
In His grace, God would bring future generations back into the land, and by His Spirit give them new hearts to believe in and follow Him.
Today, God brings each of us the opportunity to enter our own “new land” of salvation, joy and peace in God, made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Without exception, we all deserve to be excluded from this good land because of our sin, but God removes our iniquity through faith in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for us.
God promised in advance to do this for all people through prophecy about the coming Messiah:
8” …For behold, I am bringing forth My Servant the BRANCH. 9 …Says the Lord of hosts, ‘And I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.’” Zechariah 3:8-9 NKJV
Jesus is the Branch, the King of an eternal kingdom that started slowly as a tender shoot (Isaiah 53) and grew to cover all nations on the entire earth.
This eternal kingdom was planted by God as a seed, beginning with the call of Abraham, and was watered by the faith of Abraham, who was even willing to sacrifice his own son, Isaac, at God’s command. But God stopped Abraham from doing it, and would instead offer His own Son as a sacrifice on the cross at the same location, on Mount Moriah. Abraham’s faithfulness gave God encouragement to go forward with His costly plan for our salvation, giving up His only Son because of His great love for us (Genesis 22:15-18).
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 NKJV
Wages are what I have earned, but eternal life is a gift of God for all who would receive it. But like any gift, it must be accepted. If God offers the free gift of forgiveness and eternal life gained at the expense of the death and resurrection of His own Son, how are we to reject this gift and hand it back to Him, unopened and unreceived?