THE RELATION BETWEEN STRENGTH AND OBEDIENCE
"Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, …turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest" Jos.1:7
There is always a promised land ahead of all who are enabled to obey. The only thing we have to know right from the beginning is that the Land will never be like Egypt. God gave us a dry land from which to plant and bear fruit – not only bear fruit, but such that carries its own seed within itself, for that’s creation. We read that, “And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself: and God saw that it was good”, Gen.1:12.
But, we may ask “Just how is the earth of the promised land to yield its fruit since it is so dry?” We read in Deut that it is the Lord who rains upon it in seasons He has made. "For the land into which you go to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt from which you came out, where you sowed your seed and watered it with your foot, like a garden of herbs. But the land which you are entering to possess it is a land of hills and valleys, drinking water from the rain of the heavens. It is a land which Jehovah your God cares for. The eyes of Jehovah your God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even to the end of the year", Deut.11:10-12. This is just how we have to plant and bear fruit in the Land God gave us: by waiting and expecting it all from Him, not only within a given time, but even today – we ought to expect from God whatever is today’s meat alone. This land is cared for by God alone and if He is absent, it will dry up and be dreadful.
Jos.1:4: “From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast”. Many believe these were the boundaries of the Garden of Eden – I believe that too. And that Garden of Eden was created because man had not something to eat from before toiling that ground, “for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground” Gen.2:5. So, man was created and there was nothing for him to eat from the earth and therefore God created the Garden, where there was fruit already for him. From there on, man should work to be fruitful. It is this relationship between having the Garden of Eden backing us up for all future toiling and working towards whatever it still must be and us belonging unto God fully.
Now, this beautiful garden has become dry, for God went away from its sinning for He once said and fulfilled that “My spirit shall not always strive with man”, Gen.6:3; that’s how Eden became the desert God promised Abraham. God wanted a people there afresh from which to save, to toil the whole world, just as He wished Adam would carry on God’s own creation by tilling the land from the Garden on.
We know, by Scripture, the Israelites never conquered the whole Promised Land, they never came to conquer that Garden back unto holiness and God. It had turned into a desert, for that peace of Land gets its rain from heaven alone – it is never like Egypt where there was water just everywhere. But, if God would rain upon it, it would yield again. So, God warned them “For the land, whither thou goest in to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt". But God wanted it back free from sinning, so He could live there among people again, and therefore bring hope unto the rest of the world. The sinning people were there and they had to be destroyed and be replaced by Abraham's seed for a while.
Yet, as soon as Israel got out of that slavery of the desert and saw the Jordan, they started doing things as God said they should not: “Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes”, Deut.12:8. They, consequently, never conquered the whole land as they should have. They did not care for God’s things once they came out of that desert anymore.
That’s just how Christians go about their duties towards God: they conquer adultery, maybe lying and some other sinning in that land, for the sake of peaceful sleep and just so they may inherit whatever God has for them. They stop being lazy and go about their duties in the power God said they should never bring along from Egypt with them at all. And that’s just how they never grant God back the full Garden of Eden, their whole dry, lifeless living, their whole heart and soul. They stop lying, yet speak not the truth out as yet. And God said, “If thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him”, Gen.4:7.
Just how are you keeping up with God’s own commands, dear Christian? Do you need a white blanket to come down from heaven too, to go “and teach all nations”? Mat 28:19. Is the Land before you, all the Amalekites, conquered and fully brought into the subjection to holiness and in the hands of God after that, bringing it all out unto the Light of God? Are your sins confessed, fully? Are they forsaken? And the land ahead of you, are you planning to eradicate all enemies from it? And once you have done so, will you grant the throne of it unto God after going so much trouble, or will you wish for a Saul to come and make you as all nations around? To govern it for self so self may come and stay at paradise blessed by God?
We shall think it strange that God said to Joshua “for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land which I swore unto their fathers; Moses (the law), my servant, is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel. Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I swore unto their fathers to give them”, Jos.1: 26. God swore it unto them and it was Joshua that had to conquer it for Him – in His power. God swears, we fulfil for Him! If we, by disobedience do not go back to fully conquer the land behind and ahead because of the memories that desert brings back unto us all, thinking we know all about it and it will never come to bear full fruit in dryness, we may never forget God may rain upon it. The whole Land has to be fully conquered once and for all, but to have God dwell in Eden again. We need to conquer it for God, unto God. After so much trouble, we hand it over unto the Lord. Do soldiers conquer a city for themselves?
Mark these words from God: “You will… for I am with you… for I swore unto your forefathers…”. God swears and we are the ones to fulfil it for Him. This is a commandment, yet fully promised too. It resembles the words to the disciples “Go therefore… and lo, I am with you always”. Mat.28:20. It was a “shadow of good things to come” too, Heb 10:1. But if we inherit the land, there must be a rest of God, not of our own, for we know how adultery and such like sins take away our rest from us. People desire the Land because Egypt gave them hardships and slavery, therefore they desire not God Himself. They desire after God’s reward and not Him, for He is not at all desirable unto them (yet). If and when we have conquered the whole land and that for God, then we may rest and enjoy the fruit of it all. We may never rest before that has fully happened. “There (still) remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God”, Heb.4:9 and may never seek another. We must come to say, as Paul did, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day”, 2Tim.4:7,8. He was strong because he had been obedient unto that commandment of God.
There is something to do once we have come into the Land: we have to go back and destroy the people and sins that were left behind, we have to do away with all enemies of God ahead too, and finally crown our God there. Now, we know all strength comes from God Himself. We know all good will towards it all is never to make us have it, but God. There is such a relationship between obedience and strength we seldom know which comes first. But we know God comes first so He may come last as well. We read from Samuel that, “If ye will fear the LORD, and serve him, and obey his voice, and not rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then shall ye continue following the LORD your God", 1Sam.12:14. If we do not obey, we will never continue to follow, even if we try hard. We read further that the “joy of the Lord is my strength”, that meaning it is not our joy which should be our strength at all. Jesus said, “My joy give I unto you, not as the world giveth”, a joy which “none shall take away from you”, because none can reach unto it to have it destroyed somehow, John 16:22.
So, unless we are in the Lord, we will not continue following and unless we follow, we will not have the Lord at all, ever. Amen.