We live out our Christian lives in a place between Egypt and the Promised Land. We have been justified but not yet glorified—we have been delivered safely through the Red Sea but have not yet forded the Jordan and arrived on its far bank. We may not physically wander as did the Israelites of old and we may not actually follow pillars of fire and cloud, but we no less make a pilgrimage and we are no less dependent upon the goodness, the grace, and the guidance of our God. We are no less reliant upon his promises to sustain us when the path is uncertain, when our enemies rise up, when the way before us seems to stretch on interminably.
The Israelites were prone to doubt God—to doubt his strength, his power, his intentions. They were prone to doubt that he would prove true to his promises and lead them to the land that flowed with milk and honey, the land that would be their home and their rest.
In so many ways the story of the Pentateuch is the story of God proving his faithfulness over against his people’s faithlessness. It is for good reason that so few who saw God parting the sea between Egypt and the wilderness were permitted to see God parting the river between the wilderness and Promised Land. There were consequences for their doubt and for its many manifestations in grumbling, rebellion, and idolatry.
But then, as promise gives way to fulfillment and winter gives way to spring, the Pentateuch gives way to Joshua. And now we see the mighty warrior at the head of a great army. He leads the people across the Jordan where, fighting in the strength of the Lord, they experience victory after victory. Bit by bit and battle by battle they stretch the boundaries and expand the borders until war at last fades to peace. By chapter 21 we read a stirring summary of their success and, even more so, an inspiring summary of God’s faithfulness. Here is what we find in its many superlatives:
Thus the LORD gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. And the LORD gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the LORD had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass. (Joshua 21:43–45)
God drove out the inhabitants, he protected his people, he gave them a home and a land of their very own. In short, he did all he said he would do. He proved true to his every promise. Not one word was broken, not one was left unfulfilled. He showed himself to be truly, perfectly, sublimely reliable.
As God made many promises to his people, he makes many promises to you and me. Just as he promised to lead his people to the safety of the Promised Land, he has promised to lead us safely to heaven. Just as their clothes did not get full of holes and their shoes did not wear out, so the Spirit will preserve us with joy intact, character intact, godliness intact.
The day will come when the history of our lives will be summarized with just such superlatives. One day it will be said of me that the Lord gave to me all that he had said he would give and that he delivered me to the sweetest and fullest rest. One day it will be said of you that not one of the good promises God made to you in his Word failed, but that each and every one came to pass. One day it will be said of all those who are his that God was faithful to his every word and true to his every promise. And together we will praise the name of the Lord our God.