One thing we discover in our reading of the New Testament is that the story of Israel coming out of Egypt and entering Canaan foreshadows the Christian life and walk. The story of Israel being delivered from Egyptian bondage by the blood of the Passover lamb, receiving the Law at Sinai, and entering into Canaan the promised inheritance underlies much of what the new-covenant apostles taught. They refer to it either directly or indirectly over and over again.
The inheritance Joshua led the children of Israel into was an earthly heritage, and therefore temporal. It was but a prophetic picture, a shadow, of a heritage yet to be revealed—the Christian’s inheritance in which those (whether Jew or Gentile) who are brought into relationship with God under a new covenant “receive the promise of eternal inheritance” (Heb. 9.15). This eternal inheritance is, in the words of the new-covenant apostle Peter, “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in the heavenlies for you…” (1 Pt. 1.4).
It is an inheritance so vast that we cannot lay it out in any sense of fullness in a short message. Briefly summed up, it is the whole range of truth laid out for us in the New Testament. All this is the Christian’s blood-bought territory, his heritage—that which our Lord Jesus Christ purchased for us with His life at Calvary, and for which He purchased us. It is life in the Spirit totally free from bondage to sin. It is fellowship with God, and in God. It is God Himself. We are “heirs of God, and joint heirs of Christ” (Rom. 8.17).
Some teach that this is so pure and holy a heritage that it is impossible to enjoy while yet in mortal flesh. And certainly, we shall be exploring the riches of this heritage throughout the ages of eternity. But Paul teaches clearly that God has made us fit for this heritage while yet on earth. He, the Father, has “made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light” (Col. 1.12).
Meet—it means fit, competent, able, sufficient. It’s the same word Paul used to describe new-covenant ministers.
Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God
Who also hath made us able ministers of the new covenant… (2 Cor. 3.5,6).
The same God who has done all that is necessary to equip us and enable us to be effective new covenant ministers has also made us fit for this inheritance in the light. What has he done to make us sufficient for this with no lack whatever, entirely capable of possessing this inheritance? A look back into the Old Testament record of how God made Israel fit to enter Canaan will help us to see how God has made us fit to enter and possess our heritage in the Spirit.
First we want to look quickly at the earthly heritage the Israelites were looking forward to. No doubt in the days of Egyptian bondage they would comfort one another after a long and backbreaking day building Pharaoh’s treasure houses. They would apply the balm of hope to their weary souls, reminding themselves of the promise God gave Abraham. Someday they would be no longer slaves; they would have a land of their own. But what about this rumour they’d been hearing? Apparently some man named Moses was saying the time had come! Four hundred years of Egyptian bondage had not caused the promised land to fade away– and neither would forty years of wilderness wandering later on. They’d been told it was “a land that floweth with milk and honey.” Apparently it was not like Egypt, a desert land with very little rainfall where they had to sow their seed and water it “with thy foot,” speaking of the primitive irrigation pumps they had to use to water the land from the canals of the Nile. Rather, Moses told them, “the land whither ye go to possess it is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven: a land which the LORD thy God careth for: the eyes of the LORD thy God are always upon it from the beginning of the year unto the end of the year” (Dt. 11.9-12).
In other words, in this land the labour was primarily God’s and not their own. God watched over this land continually and took care of it Himself.
It was, Moses told them, “a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills, a land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey, a land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig bronze” (Dt. 8.7-9).
Think how wonderful that was. No doubt the people were very excited at the prospect of all this, just as you and I would be, knowing we had been given a tract of land or a beautiful stream-side acreage, and were about to take possession of it. No doubt each Israelite wondered, as would you and I… what will my particular inheritance be like? For, there was a specific portion allotted to each one of them.
Yet even with Moses’ description of the promised inheritance it would still be vague in their minds. The thing is, it wasn’t necessary for them to know in detail what their allotment would be like. What was necessary was to believe God, and continue moving forward in faith and obedience every step of the way. God promised He would bring them in, and when He had done so they would know and experience firsthand what their inheritance was all about.
So with us Christians. We too have a plot of land—one with our own individual name on it, you might say. Ours is a heavenly land, not an earthly land (Heb. 11.16). Like Israel of old it’s somewhat vague to us too, although we do have a little understanding as to what it’s like. It’s a land of Life, and that more abundantly, a land abundant in fruit that grows on a certain Tree on the banks of a River that flows eternally from a Fountain of Life. We realize we see through a glass darkly as to what this is all about. We know “in part.” For now, that’s okay. God will be faithful to reveal our eternal inheritance to us in magnificent fullness—as we continue in faith and obedience, and enter the Land and explore it and walk in it. Only thus do we actually comprehend what this inheritance is all about. However, God does want us to have a measure of understanding as to our inheritance—enough to give us vision and hope, enough to prevent us from settling for less, enough to encourage us to continue moving forward in obedience.
…More next time.