The Lord had promised to give the land of Canaan to Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 17:8). He renewed this promise to Abraham’s son Isaac (Genesis 26:3) and then in turn to Isaac’s son Jacob (Genesis 35:12), whose name God later changed to Israel (Genesis 35:10). The Lord described the land to Moses as a “good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey”(Exodus 3:8) and ten times in the book of Deuteronomy, Moses described the land they were going to inherit as a “good land” (for example Deuteronomy 3:25, Deuteronomy 4:21, Deuteronomy 4:22, Deuteronomy 8:7). When Moses was teaching the Israelites, preparing them to enter the land, he said the Lord was giving them:
10….a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig,and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant…(Deuteronomy 6:10-11).
Moses continued to explain:
7The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples.8But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 7:7-8)
It was because the Lord loved Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their descendants the Israelites that He redeemed them from slavery and took them into a good and spacious land full of flourishing cities, houses, wells, vineyards and olive groves, none of which they had worked for. This is a wonderful picture of the inheritance we receive in Christ by grace through faith and not by our own efforts (Ephesians 2:8). It is because of His great love for us that God sent His only Son (John 3:16) to redeem us from our slavery to sin (Romans 6:17), and from the power of death, which Satan held over us(Hebrews 2:14) (represented by Pharaoh). He made us His sons and daughters and coheirs with Christ Himself (Romans 8:17). And just like the Israelites before us became citizens of a land they did not work for, so we have become citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven (Philippians 3:20) – a flourishing city whose builder is God (Hebrews 11:16). Jesus has prepared a place for us in His Father’s house (John 14:2) where He provides all kinds of good things for us. The wells in Deuteronomy 6:11 represent the living water Jesus gives us to drink (John 4:14, John 7:38) and the olive groves represent the anointing of the Holy Spirit on our lives (Psalms 23:5, 1 John 2:20, 2 Corinthians 1:21). And finally the vineyards represent Jesus Himself as the Vine, His Father as the Vinedresser John 15:1 and us as the branches, receiving nourishment from Him and bearing His fruit (John 15:5).
But though the Lord had given them this “good land” there were enemies living there that the Israelites needed to expel. God promised to go ahead of them and drive out their enemies but He was not going to drive them out all at once:
29But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. 30Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land. (Exodus 23:29-30)
The Israelites needed to increase in number so that they could fill the land the Lord was giving them. This symbolises our need to grow in spiritual maturity so that we can possess the fullness of life in Jesus.
Jesus said “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10). The Greek word translated “they may have life” and “have it” in John 10:10 is echōsin, which comes from the root word echó (ἔχω) meaning to have, to hold, to possess. It is in the present tense, which means that it is a continuous possessing but it is in the active voice and subjunctive mood which means that whether or not we possess this abundant life is dependent on us – i.e. it is up to us to take hold of this abundant life that Jesus offers, hence why Jesus says “they may (or might)have life”. Similarly the stealing, killing and destroying that the thief comes for are also in the subjunctive mood- they are also possibilities, not certainties. The thief (Satan) will try and steal from us but if we actively possess our inheritance, he cannot succeed! So how do we grow in maturity so that we are able to possess all of the “good land” Jesus wants us to have?
In my post Live In Rest not in Stress! I spoke about 4 keys to possessing our inheritance – believing, abiding, rejoicing and walking in the Spirit. In my post It’s time to Rise Up! I discussed how like Joshua, we need to rise up out of discouragement when we experience failure or encounter trouble. In this article I want to focus on another important characteristic of spiritual maturity – which is a by-product of faith – courage!
You can be a Joshua!
Imagine if every believer had Joshua’s courage to face their enemies and drive them out of their land! You may be thinking that Joshua was a warrior with natural leadership abilities, so of course he had courage! But Joshua’s courage was a fruit of his faith in God and it was his faith that enabled him to be a courageous warrior and leader. Of the twelve men who were sent to spy out the Promised Land it was only Joshua and Caleb, another man of faith, who gave a good report to the Israelite assembly:
“The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. 8If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. 9Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” (Numbers 14:7b-9)
You can be a Deborah!
God does not seek out men of standing or rank to be leaders but instead He strengthens those men and women of faith whose hearts are fully committed to Him. (2 Chronicles 16:9). Having a fully committed heart does not mean you will never waver or make mistakes, but it means you commit to trust in God and not your own strength in the face of adversity (see more about this in Trusting Against The Odds). Deborah was one of those with a fully committed heart. She was the fourth judge to lead Israel after Joshua died. Israel had been suffering at the hands of Jabin king of Canaan for twenty years because he had 900 iron chariots, which he used to cruelly oppress the Israelites. Eventually when they cried out to the Lord for help (Judges 4:3), God raised up a new leader, Deborah as a judge in Israel. She was a prophetess- a woman who heard from God and spoke to the people on His behalf. She held court under the “Palm of Deborah” and the Israelites would go up to her to have their disputes decided (Judges 4:5). One day God told Deborah to give Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali a message:
6…“The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. 7I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.’ ” (Judges 4:6b-7)
Barak agreed to go on condition that Deborah went with him.
9“Certainly I will go with you,” said Deborah. “But because of the course you are taking, the honour will not be yours, for the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.” (Judges 4:9)
So Barak went with ten thousand Israelite fighting men to face Jabin’s commander Sisera, with all his fighting men and his 900 iron chariots. And Deborah went with him. Because the Lord was with Barak, they defeated Sisera’s entire army but Sisera managed to escape on foot and hide in the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, with whom king Jabin had an alliance (Judges 4:17). Jael was a Canaanite woman but her courageous action demonstrated her faith in the God of Israel. Despite her husband’s alliance with Jabin, she knew that harbouring an enemy of the Lord’s people was unwise so when Sisera was asleep in her tent, she hammered a tent peg into his head and killed him. After that the Israelites were encouraged to pursue and totally destroy Jabin, king of Canaan.
Faith leads to courage and courage inspires courage. Under Deborah’s leadership, Barak was encouraged to enlist ten thousand fighting men who willingly followed his command. And Jael, a Canaanite was spurred to fight for the Lord and kill Sisera, the commander of the enemy army.
So who was Deborah? She was a prophetess but she was also a wife (Judges 4:4) and a mother (Judges 5:7) who became a warrior, going with Barak to fight against Sisera. Judges 5 recounts the song that Deborah and Barak sang after Jabin’s defeat and their song has some valuable lessons that we can apply today. Most importantly when godly leaders take the lead, people will willingly follow:
“That the leaders took the lead in Israel, that the people offered themselves willingly, bless the LORD!” (Judges 5:2 ESV).
The Israelites had been oppressed by Jabin and Sisera for 20 years though by the power of God, they could have risen up and defeated them at any time, but when they finally cried out to Him for help, God raised up an Israeli wife and mother whose heart was fully committed to Him. He chose her to lead and inspire courage in Barak, in the Israelite army and even in a Canaanite woman to stand up and fight against the enemies of God. They won despite the fact that they had no shields or spears even though the Canaanites had 900 iron chariots! After that under Deborah’s leadership, the people lived in peace for 40 years.
7Villagers in Israel would not fight; they held back until I, Deborah, arose,
until I arose, a mother in Israel.
8God chose new leaders when war came to the city gates, but not a shield or spear was seen among forty thousand in Israel….
…31“So may all your enemies perish, Lord!
But may all who love you be like the sun when it rises in its strength.”
Then the land had peace forty years. (Judges 5:7-8, 31 NIV)
Beloved whatever you are facing today whether it seems impossibly difficult and whether it is a recent or a long-term situation, don’t despair! Don’t try to fight in your own strength but commit your heart to the Lord and allow Him to strengthen you like the sun when it rises in its strength! You may be someone of high position or you may be simply a wife and mother or a husband and father. But whoever you are, God loves you and wants to raise you up to be a man or woman of courage who can influence others like Joshua and Deborah! So today fix your eyes on Jesus and the Covenant of Love He made at the Cross and allow His love to strengthen you. Then you will be able to rise up in faith and courage and take possession of the good land- the abundant life that is found only in Jesus. And you will influence others so that together we advance the Kingdom of God! Amen!