THIS SERIES: JOURNEY INTO REST
The Promised Land was to be a land of rest for the new nation of Israel; rest from their enemies, rest from slavery, rest from oppression. This land was to be a land of abundance; it was to flow with milk & honey.
In Egypt, the land was irrigated by hard labour; in their new home, the fields would receive rain from Heaven. The old life had been characterised by the unrelenting lot of slavery; in their new life they would enjoy fruitful labour, followed by days of rest and celebration.
The foundation for this new way of living was trust in their God as Provider; and obedience to His commands. The desert was the testing ground; finally a generation was found which was up to inhabiting this promised inheritance.
When their ancestor Abraham was instructed to go and walk the length & breadth of this very land that would be their inheritance (Genesis 13), he first pitched his tent near the great trees of Mamre, near Hebron. A nomad’s wealth was in his stock, and fat stock – fat with good eating, and fat with young - meant great prosperity; so in the Hebrew mind and language, prosperity and fruitfulness were often expressed as ‘fatness’. Mamre means ‘fatness’.
Abraham had been quite clear, it was the Lord’s provision alone which had made him rich. Before exploring his inheritance, Abraham set up camp in the ‘fat’ place & then he built an altar.
Hundreds of years later, after crossing the Jordan, the Israelite leaders were commanded to take 12 stones from the middle of the river, one for each tribe, and build a memorial pile. These stones were to serve as a reminder to the generations to come of the great things the Lord had done for them.
Like the previous generation of Israelites, so often we allow our faith and expectation to be eaten away by our perception of the things God hasn’t done, the prayers which haven’t been answered, the needs which we think haven't been met. If, like this new generation, we are to find total rest in the Lord as the provider of all that we need, let’s make sure we fix our attention on what He has already done in our lives – in the wonder of our salvation, in his interventions in our families, our personal circumstances and in answers to prayer. Remembering is metaphorically pitching our tents in the ‘fatness’ of His provision – and then building an ‘altar’ of praise and worship.
From that place, and that place only, can we explore and inhabit our Land of Rest.
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[**Photo credits: Colin Rex, with thanks]