The bride was radiant in her billowing white gown. The wedding guests stood transfixed as her parents escorted her down the aisle. Despite her beauty, I turned my eyes toward the front, not wanting to miss my nephew’s reaction as he awaited his bride. His broad smile and steady gaze in her direction revealed his joy. After a year of planning and anticipating, the day of their wedding had finally come.
The priest welcomed the bride and groom and invited the guests to take their seats. His lilting Irish accent made his words even more striking. He turned to the couple: “Today, your union as husband and wife is a living representation of the sacred covenant God makes with His people. After this ceremony, you will give your guests a glimpse of the Promised Land as we eat, drink and dance to celebrate your marriage. Our sweet time together will be a small taste of the milk and honey God promised His people when they entered the Promised Land.”
I nearly stood up and cheered at his words. Since I was in the middle of studying Priscilla Shirer’s One in a Million: Journey to Your Promised Land, it felt especially significant to me. As I sat listening, I thought of the many parallels between the covenant a bride and groom make during their ceremony and Promised Land living Priscilla Shirer describes in the workbook. A wedding celebrates a couple’s choice to be together for a lifetime. As they take their vows before family, friends and God, they make a public declaration of their commitment to one another. They shift their mindsets from being two individuals to being a family unit; two become one. They make a covenant that is intended to last for a lifetime and that transcends both the good and bad circumstances they will face. Similarly, Promised Land living involves adopting an ongoing mindset. It is a choice to live with eyes wide open to God and His activity. It is the choice to trust Him in spite of our circumstances. It is the daily commitment to live an abundant spiritual life as we open ourselves to the activity of His Spirit.
However, just like marriage is not all about white dresses and wedding cake, Promised Land living isn’t all about milk and honey. “Remember, the Israelites faced enemies as soon as they crossed the Jordan so promised-land living does not mean a life with no problems. It means experiencing God’s power and presence in spite of difficulty.” (One in a Million, p. 160). Promised Land living happens when our eyes remain fixed on God, no matter what. It’s about trusting Him and being committed to His plan, even when we’re not sure what He’s doing—even when the milk and honey don’t seem to be flowing.
Joshua led the Israelites through many battles as God fulfilled His promise to give them the land of Canaan. After leading them for between ten and twenty years, Joshua knew his days on earth were coming to a close. Commentators estimate he was approximately 110 years old when he made his farewell address to the people in Joshua 23 and 24. Observing Israel’s tendency to compromise with their enemies, he admonished them to renew and recommit to their conditional covenant with God. He wanted them to make a clear and intentional choice to step out of complacency:
“The Lord has driven out before you great and powerful nations; to this day no one has been able to withstand you. One of you routs a thousand, because the Lord your God fights for you, just as he promised. So be very careful to love the Lord your God.
“But if you turn away and ally yourselves with the survivors of these nations that remain among you and if you intermarry with them and associate with them, then you may be sure that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations before you. Instead, they will become snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land, which the Lord your God has given you.” (Joshua 23:9-13, NIV)
He also verbalized his choice to follow God’s plan and to remain faithful to His covenant, regardless of what anyone else did:
“But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15, NIV)
Just like a marriage covenant, Promised Land living requires the resolve to stay focused. A bride and groom choose wedding rings as a symbol of their commitment. Similarly, Joshua used tangible reminders for the people. He wrote down the covenant they made with God and set up a large stone to remind them of the promises they made so they would not forget once he was gone.
As we embrace Promised Land living, consider creating your own tangible reminder to stay focused on this new way of thinking. Maybe it’s a bookmark you keep in your Bible with a verse from our study; maybe it’s a smooth stone with “Promised Land 2015” written on it and displayed where it will be a constant reminder, maybe it’s a journal where you record God’s activity in your life. Choose anything that will remind you that no matter where our journeys take us in the days ahead, we can always remain within the borders of the Promised Land.
Make the words of Brian Doerksen’s song “Today (As for Me and My House)” your prayer of commitment as we close our One in a Million workbooks but continue to embrace Promised Land living.
Pfeiffer, Charles F. and Harrison, Everett F.; Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Editors; Moody Press, 1962, 1990.
Shirer, Priscilla; One in a Million: Journey to Your Promised Land; Lifeway Press; 2010, 2014.