A land flowing with milk and honey
Egypt was not a bad land. In fact it was a very good land. Genesis 13:10 describes it as “like the garden of the LORD”! And under the wise and righteous rule of Joseph it had flourished with the Israelites enjoying “the fat of the land.”
But since Joseph had been forgotten (Exodus 1:8) it was no longer a good land for the Israelites. Instead, for the seed of Abraham it was a “house of bondage” and a “furnace of affliction.” (Exodus 20:2; Deuteronomy 4:20; Isaiah 48:10).
Importantly, the hope for the Israelites was not a coup d’etat in which they seized control of Egypt. Their hope lay beyond Egypt in a land that was promised to them before there was ever a seed of Abraham. (Genesis 12:7)
For Israel in slavery, home was a place they had never been. But the description is held out to them again and again. This promised land “flows with milk and honey.” It’s a word for “gushing forth abundantly” and the verb is used with this phrase 20 times in the Old Testament and only ever to refer to Canaan – the promised land.
Under the curse Adam was told that the ground would produce thorns and thistles for him (Genesis 3:18). But by faith the seed of Abraham awaited a land that would bubble over with luxury goods. There would be no more scrounging for the bare necessities. There would be nothing mean or plain about the land – it would overflow with fatness and sweetness.
Milk and honey are put together in only one other context in the bible – when the bride belongs to the bridegroom (Song of Solomon 4:11; 5:1). That richness of rest and enjoyment is an experience of “milk and honey.”
We all long for this homeland – a future resting place we’ve never yet experienced. But we won’t get this by moving to Jerusalem. Not even Abraham found this rest by dwelling in Canaan. But as the book of Hebrews explains:
By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. (Hebrews 11:9-10)
That small strip of land at the end of the Mediterranean was never the point. It was always a token of a far greater inheritance. We, along with Abraham and his seed, look to “a better country” (Hebrews 11:16). We look to the whole world set to rights when its true Joseph – King Jesus – stands upon it to rule in wisdom and righteousness.
For now we are sojourners in a land not our own. But one day soon this earth will be resurrected and renewed, just as Jesus Himself was. And we will be settled in the land. Thorns and thistles will be replaced by milk and honey.