Our Ultimate Inheritance.
Numbers 33-34, John 8
So he said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going you cannot come.” – John 8:21 ESV
The Israelites had traveled a long and winding road to get to the land of promise. Chapter 33 of Numbers recounts the circuitous route they took to arrive at the border of the land of Canaan. They had covered a lot of miles and committed their fair share of sins. An entire generation of them had died in the wilderness due to their disobedience and refusal to enter the land the first time they had had the opportunity. And more than 40 years later, as they stood once again on the border looking into the land promised to them by God, He had to remind them, “When you pass over the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you and destroy all their figured stones and destroy all their metal images and demolish all their high places” (Numbers 33:51-52 ESV). And He had to warn them, “But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then those of them whom you let remain shall be as barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall trouble you in the land where you dwell. And I will do to you as I thought to do to them” (Numbers 33:55-56 ESV). The land before them was to be their inheritance. It had been promised to them by God Himself. But without even reading any further, it would be easy to assume that these people were going to have a difficult time keeping God’s commands regarding the land. They had a track record of disobedience and a knack for doing things their own way, rather than God’s. They would eventually make it into the land, but things would not go well for them.
What does this passage reveal about God?
There is a real sense in which all of God’s interactions with the people of Israel were a glimpse into the future. They were a foreshadowing of something yet to come. In a way, the events of the Old Testament were a temporary or partial outpouring of God’s more complete plan to come. God’s promises to them were real. His love for them was complete. But His plan was far more reaching than just their initial entrance into the land. God’s call of Abraham extends far into the future, all the way to the coming of Christ and even into the distant future where He will return and establish His Kingdom on earth. As we are all prone to do, the Israelites focused on the hear and now. They were short-sighted, suffering from limited vision and looking only for the more immediate benefits of their relationship with God. Even by the time Jesus appeared on the scene, the Jews were still looking for a Messiah who would provide them with immediate relief from their subjugation to Rome. They wanted a king who would rule and reign like David of old. They were looking for a political Messiah, not a spiritual one. Even Jesus’ disciples kept wondering when He was going to set up His earthly kingdom. They even argued about which one of them was going to get the privilege of ruling by His side. But God’s plan was far greater than a short-term, earthly reign of yet another human king.
Jesus told the Jews of His day, “I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come” (John 8:21 ESV). His words confused them. They assumed He was threatening to commit suicide. But Jesus clarified His statement by saying, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins” (John 8:23-24 ESV). At that point, Jesus establishes the primary difference between the people of Israel and Himself. While He stood before them as a man, He was not one of them. He was “from above.” Jesus was “not of this world.” He was God. His Kingdom was not of this world. Later on in the book of John, we will read these words spoken from the lips of Jesus: “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world” (John 18:36 ESV).
What does this passage reveal about man?
But the Jews couldn’t see beyond the reality of their present circumstances. There vision was myopic and limited. They were not looking for a future, yet unseen Kingdom, they were wanting an immediate kingdom that was of this earth and ruled by an earthly, human king. They had turned the grand plan of God into a petty, me-centered, now-focused, short-sighted plan that focused solely on their own selfish desires. They had long lost sight of the reality that God’s plan had always been far more encompassing than their own selfish desires. He had allowed an entire generation of their ancestors die in the wilderness and lose out on the blessings of the Promised Land because of their unbelief. He had refused to allow Moses or Aaron to enter into the Promised Land because of their failure to treat Him as holy. The Jews of Jesus’ day claimed that God was their Father, but Jesus said, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me” (John 8:42 ESV). They couldn’t recognize Jesus for who He was because He didn’t fit their expectations. He was a spiritual Savior and they were looking for a political one.
They had lost sight of God’s plan. In fact, Jesus even accused them of being children of Satan, not God. “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is not truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me” (John 8:44-45 ESV). They had learned to listen to the lies of the enemy. And one of His greatest lies is to get us to believe that God’s plan is all about us. He wants us to believe that we are the stars of the show and that God exists for our glory, instead of the other way around.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
Seeing God’s greater plan is difficult when we are constantly surrounded by the more immediate concerns of this temporal world. it is so easy to make it all about the here-and-now. When the Israelites were standing on the edge of the Promise Land, God told them there were going to have to remove all the nations that lived in the land. There was a long-term strategy to God’s command. He was looking at the long-term health of the nation of Israel. But they would suffer from short-sighted convenience and compromise. They would refuse to do things God’s way, and they would suffer the inevitable consequences. But I can do the same thing. By focusing on short-term benefits, I can lose sight of God’s future-based promise. God’s plan for the Israelites wasn’t limited to getting them into the land. He wanted to make of them a great nation. But He also wanted to bring about a future descendant of King David who would rule and reign for eternity. God’s plan for the Israelites went well beyond just the literal descendants of Abraham. He was going to bless ALL the nations of the earth through Abraham through a descendant of Abraham – Jesus Christ. I have to keep a future focus as I live in this present age. This is not all there is. God’s plan does not culminate with or revolve around ME! There is more yet to come. God has more yet to accomplish. Jesus has work yet to complete. Jesus promised all those who would believe in Him eternal life. He said, “if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death” (John 8:51 ESV). That is a future promise. I must focus on that. The apostle Paul put it this way: “I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Philippians 3:14 NLT). I have not yet arrived. God is not yet done. Jesus is not yet finished. My full inheritance has not yet been realized. But I eagerly await God’s future fulfillment of His faithful plan.
Father, give me a future focus. Help me to keep my eyes on the prize. Don’t let me make it all about me. Your plan is far greater than my own selfish desires and petty dreams. What You have planned for mankind is far greater than anything I could ever dream up. Help me to patiently and eagerly wait for the fulfillment of Your plan, instead of concocting my own. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men