I don’t know if it’s because we have seen movies and illustrations of Biblical events which are set in the desert, but it’s easy to view Isra’el as a barren place. I have also heard it described as useless and insignificant in Bible Studies. We’re more familiar with the Judean desert than we are with the beautiful areas along the Mediterranean coastline, the snow covered Mount Hermon and the lush areas around Galilee and the Jordan River.
Isra’el hasn’t always been bordered by as much desert as exists now. God promised from the time of Abraham, that He would give His people a land flowing with milk and honey. Even now, with the use of hydroponics and smart water usage, the desert blooms and Isra’el has bountiful produce, as the Lord has always intended for His people. He bought them back to the land, as promised and it’s not completely desolate. In my local grocery store here in Australia, I can buy products such as couscous, which were made in Isra’el. Yet I can guarantee, the next Biblical movie will have a desert set. Why do we think God would ‘bless’ His children with an all but useless pile of sand?
“Milk and honey” obviously denotes a land which can sustain a growing population. Until recently, I didn’t realise just how much blessing the Lord had set up for the young nation of Isra’el once she left Egypt. Milk and honey is just the start. When you look into the commands that the Lord gave to Moses, concerning Isra’el, they are incredibly generous, and exalted God’s people to a status which was the complete opposite to that which they had, had as slaves. This was not a land of stale bread and dirty water.
“For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.” Deuteronomy 8:7-10
Firstly, in Numbers 15:38, the Isra’elites were told to add tassels to their garments which were died a specific blue, which is called tekhelet. This must have been an astonishing command, as these ex-slaves were being ordered by their God to adorn themselves with an incredibly expensive product which was so costly, it was only worn by royalty and the highest ranking noblemen. It comes from a sea creature called the Chillazon, and it takes many of these creatures to produce enough dye to make one thread blue.
This command of the Lord reinforced the value that God’s people had in His eyes. They were to be a royal priesthood, that served and thrived under Him. Instead of living the arduous, miserable life of a slave, they were valued, provided for and adored. [Exodus 19:6 and 1 Peter 2:9]
So why would you give people, who you love, a desert? God didn’t. Isra’el in the time of Moses and then David, was in a fertile crescent which had excellent rainfall. This is why the land was fought over by so many nations: it had sea access, lucrative trade routes and was bountiful. God’s children were given the very best. Land that could sustain cattle (milk), obviously had good grazing and enough room for sheep, goats and all the animals which required good quality pasture.
That rich pasture would also provide the needs of the honey bees, another indulgent luxury which speaks of the good life. As milk provides health to the bones, honey helps feed a joyful spirit, plus it has antibacterial qualities and is brilliant for treating wounds and infections. This speaks of God not only giving His children an indulgent treat, but His meeting their medical needs in a practical manner.
Like the children of Isra’el, we too have been delivered from being slaves to sin. “Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living.” Romans 6:18 Yet, it is too easy to think of our lives in the same way we see Isra’el: as a battle scarred, desolate land which is hard to live in. There is a modern Christian movement which has taken on wearing Old Testament tekhelet tassels as God commanded, and they do this to remind themselves to obey God, but for them, it is also a beautiful reminder that they too are God’s chosen people and have the status of princes and princesses within the Kingdom of the Lord.
It’s not necessary to wear a tassel to know how much you mean to the Lord, but an understanding of the Old Testament and what the nation of Isra’el meant to God helps us enormously to understand just how loved we are. We are all grafted into the same vine, so what applies to the Jewish people, applies to us equally.
“Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” Romans 5:2-5
“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs.” Romans 8:14-17a
So next time you feel miserable and inclined to believe that life is bleak and that God will never come through for you because you’re not important to Him, remember the land of milk and honey. We are all meant to know that we are loved, greatly valued and are going to be provided for. It may take some time for God’s provision to come through, but if you hold fast to Him, He’ll always be there for you.
“Your eternal Word, O LORD,
stands firm in heaven.
Your faithfulness extends to every generation,
as enduring as the earth You created.
Your regulations remain true to this day,
for everything serves Your plans.
If Your instructions hadn’t sustained me with joy,
I would have died in my misery.
I will never forget Your commandments,
for by them You give me life.” Psalm 119:89-93
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