Has anyone ever given you a gift that you refused to open?
Maybe it was in a box with entirely too much tape on it (can you tell we’re in the process of moving – again?). Full of anticipation, you began the process of tearing the tape off piece by piece, trying to figure out which piece was on top and which one to remove first. The excitement wore off when you realized the work ahead of you, and you put it aside for another day.
Perhaps you had an idea of what was in the box, a glimpse of the gift you would receive. While the idea of the gift was enticing, you weren’t sure it was any better than what you already had. And you could see the obstacles that stood in the way of what you were given. They seemed insurmountable.
I’ve been reading through the story of the Israelites’ journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. Having finished up about 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, I’ve reached the point of the story where Moses shares his final admonishments for the people he has been leading for 40 years.
In my reading this morning, I came upon this gem:
“See, the Lord your God has given you the land. Go up and take possession of it” (Deuteronomy 1:21a).
Isn’t this just so like God? Later in the story, when Joshua is staring at the walled city of Jericho, it was so closed up that no one was even coming or going. And yet, what was God’s perspective? God basically tells them,“See I have delivered Jericho into your hands – now go and take it” (a summary of Joshua 6:2-5).
How did God direct the Israelites to enter the Promised Land? How does God ask the same of us?
First, God asks us to see. Not with our own limited perspective, but with His. If He has said He will do it, then He will do it.
During the time referred to in Moses’ recounting, the Israelites sent spies in to scout out the land. All the spies reported that the land God would give them was indeed good land, even bringing back some fruit. They also reported that the people were stronger and taller than them, and the cities large and walled. Rather than focus on what God asked them to see, they fixated on what they saw with their eyes. God wanted the Israelites to first see with His perspective.
Second, God asks us to trust. God had promised a land flowing with milk and honey to the Israelites, a land He promised that He would bring them into. The Israelites simply needed to take God at His Word. God was in essence saying, “I said I would do this. Remember how I drowned Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea? Remember how I provided food and water for you throughout your journey? Remember how I traveled with you by fire and cloud? I am with you, and I will continue to be with you as you choose to trust in me.” When what they saw didn’t make sense, God asked them to fix their sight on His promises and not the fear in their hearts.
Third, God asks us to go and take hold. After deciding to see things through God’s eyes, after choosing to trust in God, God then asks us to take a step of faith, go, and take hold of all that He has for us. The Israelites chose not to do this with disastrous consequences. Only Caleb and Joshua got to walk in the fullness of God’s promises.
As believers in and followers of Jesus Christ, God has given us so much. In fact, He “has given us everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). Peter goes on to talk about God’s “very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature.”
In typical God fashion, though, this too is something we need to go and take hold of. “For this reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness, and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.”
Paul knew this intimately when he wrote the following to the church in Philippi: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already ready been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14
Is there a promise from God that you have not yet received? First, see with His eyes. Second, trust in His promises. Third, go and take hold.
“See, the Lord your God has given you the land. Go up and take possession of it as the Lord, the God of your fathers, told you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 1:21