A land flowing with milk and honey

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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.

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18 Responses to “A land flowing with milk and honey”

  1. Hey Glen, What a brilliant idea–making these familiar phrases come alive alive, esp. in context. I am enjoying this.
    Anita

  2. Mark Carroll says:

    God gave this land by conquest-which involved often times utterly destroying cities by the command of God. “And I have said, I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt unto the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, unto a land flowing with milk and honey. [Ex iii.17.] and “they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword. [Josh vi. 21]

  3. Glen says:

    Hi Anita, I see you’ve also embarked on an ambitious blogging project! All the best with that. I’m loving thinking about the whole sweep of God’s gospel dealings with us. Thanks for the encouragement.

  4. Yes, I’ve discovered that educating myself by blogging through scripture beats listening to any number of sermons and lectures on scripture. It must just be my learning style!

  5. [...] “land” and “earth.”  In particular it has that double meaning of the land (the promised land) and the earth.  When a Hebrew speaker refered to Canaan as the “eretz” they were [...]

  6. [...] Deuteronomy, Moses warned the people, even before they entered the promised land, that they faced exile for disobedience.  And this is how he described it – the people would [...]

  7. [...] now wander in the wilderness.  It’s not an instant translation from the house of bondage to the land of milk and honey.  In between there is hardship and [...]

  8. [...] says that manna tastes of honey.  Now that’s interesting because the place they’re headed is a land flowing with milk and honey.  Their future will gush with honey, and in the meantime the LORD will sustain them with little [...]

  9. [...] travel on from Sinai to the desert of Paran.  They come to the brink of the promised land – the land flowing with milk and honey.  And the LORD tells Moses to send out spies… to spy out the land of Canaan, and Moses said unto [...]

  10. [...] the one whose name is “Jesus” (Joshua) leads the people across the Jordan and into the land of milk and honey.  To tread the verge of Jordan is to enter God’s [...]

  11. [...] Joshua, the one whose name is “Jesus” (Joshua) leads the people across the Jordan and into the land of milk and honey.  In Joshua 3 and 4, this transition is described as both a “passing over” and a “parting of [...]

  12. [...] away” was more literally “uncovered.”  The people felt naked.  This land of milk and honey was a tangible token of their new creation inheritance.  But now, just as Adam and Eve were booted [...]

  13. [...] Deuteronomy, Moses warned the people, even before they entered the promised land, that they faced exile for disobedience.  And this is how he described it – the people would be [...]

  14. [...] for “carried away” was more literally “uncovered.”  The people felt naked.  This land of milk and honey was a tangible token of their new creation inheritance.  But now, just as Adam and Eve were [...]

  15. [...] means both “land” and “earth.”  In particular it has that double meaning of the land (the promised land) and the earth.  When a Hebrew speaker refered to Canaan as the “eretz”, they were viewing [...]

  16. [...] Deuteronomy, Moses warned the people, even before they entered the promised land, that they faced exile for disobedience.  And this is how he described it – the people would [...]

  17. [...] Deuteronomy, Moses warned the people, even before they entered the promised land, that they faced exile for disobedience.  And this is how he described it – the people would [...]

  18. [...] Deuteronomy, Moses warned the people, even before they entered the promised land, that they faced exile for disobedience.  And this is how he described it – the people would [...]