God brought Israel through the sea in order to bring them to the land he had promised to Abraham and his descendants. They were to live as God’s special people in this land he had given them. The promises to Abraham were beginning to be fulfilled: there was a nation of descendants who were to receive the Promised Land. On the way there, they found out more about their special relationship with their God.
“So the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with miraculous signs and wonders. 9 He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” (ESV)
God is a gracious God, who gives a spiritual home to his chosen people. God wants his people to be distinctive within the world, and separate from it in some sense.
And he said, “Behold, I am making a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels, such as have not been created in all the earth or in any nation. And all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the Lord, for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you.
11 “Observe what I command you this day. Behold, I will drive out before you the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 12 Take care, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you go, lest it become a snare in your midst. 13 You shall tear down their altars and break their pillars and cut down their Asherim 14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God). (ESV)
God provides an abundant land where his people can live as his distinctive nation.
“And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.” (ESV)
He calls people out of the world to himself.
“You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of your inheritance—the place, O Lord, you made for your dwelling, the sanctuary, O Lord, your hands established. 18 The Lord will reign for ever and ever.” (ESV)
As God predicted (Deut 31:15-21), Israel broke its covenant with him and did not live as God had commanded them in the Promised Land. God’s people would still yearn for a future land of milk and honey and a place of rest. This points forward to Jesus, because those who have responded to him in faith find their spiritual home in Christ and long for the ‘rest’ of the new creation (Heb 4:9-11).
And the Lord appeared in the tent in a pillar of cloud. And the pillar of cloud stood over the entrance of the tent.
16 And the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers. Then this people will rise and whore after the foreign gods among them in the land that they are entering, and they will forsake me and break my covenant that I have made with them. 17 Then my anger will be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them and hide my face from them, and they will be devoured. And many evils and troubles will come upon them, so that they will say in that day, ‘Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?’ 18 And I will surely hide my face in that day because of all the evil that they have done, because they have turned to other gods.
19 “Now therefore write this song and teach it to the people of Israel. Put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the people of Israel. 20 For when I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to give to their fathers, and they have eaten and are full and grown fat, they will turn to other gods and serve them, and despise me and break my covenant. 21 And when many evils and troubles have come upon them, this song shall confront them as a witness (for it will live unforgotten in the mouths of their offspring). For I know what they are inclined to do even today, before I have brought them into the land that I swore to give.” (ESV)
9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.
11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. (ESV)
What kind of ‘rest’ are you looking forward to? What sort of ‘promised land’ are Christians waiting for?
Thank God for the way he keeps his promises—the promises made to Abraham, and those he has made in Christ. Pray for his kingdom to come, on earth as it is in heaven.