Not until the Israelites had completed
the wilderness journey did they enter Canaan
fulfilling the promise God had made to Abraham.
Any conscientious Christian today would immediately recognize the
spiritual and moral teachings in the entire process of the exodus and
wilderness journey. The apostle Paul
pointed out the vital aspects of salvation related to this typologically
significant event which occurred around 1300 B.C.E:
"For I do not want you to be ignorant of
the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they
all passed through the sea. They were
all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food, and
drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that
accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.
Now these things occurred as examples, to keep us from setting our
hearts on evil things as they did, and were written down as warnings for us, on
whom the fulfillment of the ages has come" (I Cor
10:1-4, 6, 11).
To closely follow the spiritual
instructions, let us study the two important stages of the Israelitic
entry into Canaan:
Evil social customs and practices
have a very damaging impact upon the chosen people. The sinful world in which a Christian is
living can never benefit his spiritual growth. He faces a potential challenge:
either he will conquer the world with the faith in Jesus Christ, or he will
succumb to its evil influence and die of sin.
the Israelites had led a life under the pagan culture and evil practices. As a consequence, they often forgot about
God, the covenant, and their own special status. What is worse, they tended to identify
themselves with the unbelieving world.
"God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM” This is what you
are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you"' (Ex 3:14).
It is an apparent irony here that
the Israelites wanted to know the name of God, a name which had been so
familiar to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph.
Had the people of God left behind them the mighty Lord God for too long
and too far away in a strange land?
Another example of the overwhelming pagan influence is seen in Ex
32:1-6. The Israelites were fearful that
their leader Moses would never return to them from the Mount of God. They pleaded to Aaron who yielded to their
request and made them a molten golden calf.
Why should the Israelites immediately forget about the ten plagues, the
mighty deliverance at the edge of the Red Sea,
and more recently, the solemn declaration of the Ten Commandments at
Sinai? They wanted to erect a molten
golden cal': in place of the living God.
This reflects the wickedness of a rebellious people who had been so
accustomed to the evil ways of the pagans.
God wants us to reach the promised
land of Canaan, which is Heaven in the future and the appointed place of
worship under His name (Deut 4:22-27).
Many people have physically departed from Egypt, but unfortunately their
thoughts and deeds are associated with this unbelieving world. They have not eradicated the flesh, worldly
desires and practices. Because they stay
outside the sanctuary of God, there is no faithfulness and obedience in them.
This long journey of 40 years
reveals a tremendous spiritual instruction for the believers today. The passing through the Red
Sea, which symbolizes the baptism into Christ, took place only
momentarily, but the journey in the wilderness lasted an extended period of
time and the process itself was strenuous.
Divine guidance was seen in the form of the pillars of cloud and of fire
on the one hand, and on the other the leadership of God's chosen servants
Moses, Aaron, and 70 elders. But the
people must journey step by step towards the final goal of Canaan. The process itself also included the
providential provision of manna and the water from the rock. As a footnote, manna and water from the rock
symbolize the spiritual food and the Holy Spirit given by our Lord Jesus
Christ, the Bread of life and Giver of the Holy Spirit.
The journey in the wilderness was
difficult. The barren and rugged terrain
seemed endless, the weather and the way threatening. It required endurance and trust in the divine
guidance. Many of the chosen people
perished on the way simply because they grumbled and turned against God. Aside from the apostle
Paul's admonition in I Corinthians 10, the books of Exodus and especially
Numbers have provided ample evidence of this failure. Are we not to be more faithful and more
steadfast in this present pilgrimage to Heaven, lest any of us should perish in
the same way?
In the wilderness the battle
against the Amalekites represents a most significant
aspect of spiritual warfare today. The Amalekites were the descendants of Esau (Gen 36:9, 12) and
the enemies of the Israelites for generations (Ex 17:16). The Amalekites came
to thwart the Israelites from entering the land of Canaan. They used to attack the faint and weary ones
and cut off at the rear all who lagged behind the
marching Israelites (Deut 25:18).
In Exodus 17:8-lS the battle at Rephidim in the wilderness of Sinai is also very
significant to us believers today who are marching in the heavenly pilgrimage. The Amalekites
represent obstructions to our salvation.
The fighting against the Amalekites is
symbolic of the contention between the Holy Spirit and the devil (Gal
5:17). Through the combined prayer of
Moses, Aaron and Hur, the valiant combat commanded by
Joshua and the unity of the army, God handed the Amalekites
to the Israelites. To fight a winning
spiritual battle every believer must first of all strive forward and never lag
behind. He must at all times pray to God
(I Tim 2:8; Eph 6:19), submit to the Holy Spirit and put the flesh to death
(Rom 8:13; Gal 5:18, 25).
In conclusion, the land of Canaan
is a beautiful land flowing with milk and honey (Deut 4:21; 11:9); a place of
hills and valleys, which drinks water by the rain from heaven; a land which the
Lord God cares for; for the eyes of the Lord God are always upon it, from the
beginning of the year to the end of the year (Deut 11:10-12). Let us with the words of God look forward to
this beautiful heavenly country where He has prepared a city awaiting us (Heb
"Lord, I have Loved
the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine
honor dwelleth" (Ps 26:8).
In the Old Testament, you, my God,
dwelt in the HolyTemple at Jerusalem. Now, you are dwelling in us (I Cor 6:19), and among us. We, who form your church must be full of your love and joy, your Holy Spirit
and power. Else, how can we manifest
your glory and honor? If we do not love
one another, how can we show the world that we are your disciples? If we are not holy, how can we return to you,
the Holy and Glorious One? Lord, please
sanctify us with your words. Make us
understand your will which is embraced in the Holy Bible.