Better than the Promised Land

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.

While Moses was on the mountain receiving instruction from the Lord, the people grew impatient. Their hearts turned to idolatry and they demanded that Aaron make images of gods for them to worship. God’s anger burned against Israel because of this rebellion, and as part of the punishment, he told the people, “Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people” (Exodus 33:3).

God would keep his promise, he would give them the land he had sworn to give their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; but he was withdrawing his presence from them.

This grieved the people, but most of all it grieved Moses. So much so, that he went before God in prayer and plead on behalf of himself and Israel, saying, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here” (33:15).

The Promised Land was a great gift of God, but Moses knew there was something better, and without it he didn’t want a land flowing with milk and honey. Moses knew the best thing they could have was God himself.

For followers of Jesus, this is what makes eternity so wonderful. God hasn’t simply offered a Promised Land full of good things; rather, he promises his very presence.

In Revelation 21, John sees the vision of the heavenly Jerusalem coming down to rest on the new earth. As he marvels at the sight, a voice echoes from God’s throne: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (21:3-4).

Moses knew that the presence of God made Israel unique. John saw in eternity that God’s presence is the defining aspect of being God’s people. The land itself will be nice, but it’s God’s presence that produces the fullness of joy. This is why King David’s heart sang, “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).

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All scripture quotations taken from the English Standard Version.

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