That covenant also contained the particular provision: “I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession” (Gen 17:8). In due time the Lord’s promise was to be fulfilled to the children of Israel when they were delivered from bondage in Egypt, brought through the wilderness and at last taken into their own land. Here, if they had been faithful to God, they could have lived in perfect safety, secure from invasion. Here indeed they had the perfect environment for worshipping God has as He had appointed. In Egypt, it would seem, they could not offer sacrifices freely. So Moses asked Pharaoh: “Shall we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, and will they not stone us?” (Ex 8:26). In the land promised to them in covenant, however, there would be no one to stand in the way of their worshipping God as He commanded them.
Much of Old Testament history is typical of spiritual reality. And the land of Canaan, where the Israelites could worship God freely, points us to heaven, where the people of God will worship Him free from all sin and corruption. As spirits perfectly sanctified, they will worship God with all their heart, with all their soul, with all their mind and with all their strength. There their enemies will not be able to come near them; the temptations of the devil cannot disturb them; and, in a way they were never able to do in this world, they will give to God the glory that is due to Him. Heaven is a land of perfect blessedness.
When the time had come for the Israelites to be delivered from slavery in Egypt, God told Moses, “I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians keep in bondage; and I have remembered my covenant. Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgements: And I will take you to Me for a people, and I will be to you a God” (Ex 6:5-7). Here was an announcement that the covenant promises made to Abraham were now to be fulfilled. God was to work powerfully; He was to redeem them – He was to grant them deliverance.
In the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, we are to see an illustration of the deliverance of sinners from bondage in the kingdom of darkness. Here God indeed works powerfully. But we must not fail to recognise the full meaning of the word redeem: deliverance by payment of a price. That sinners might be delivered from eternal destruction, “God sent forth His Son . . . that He might redeem them” (Gal 4:4). The price that a just God required was death. And only the death of His own Son had sufficient worth. Accordingly believers are told: “Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold . . . but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Pet 1:18,19). By that death He purchased for them the supply of all their needs and, in particular, a right to a place in heaven, the land of perfect blessedness.
They were all given to Christ in the everlasting covenant, and there comes a time when God remembers that covenant. They are regenerated by the Holy Spirit, given grace to believe in Christ, and delivered from the kingdom of Satan. They are thus set free to worship God; they are set on the way to the land where they will for ever be able to worship God perfectly.
God also revealed himself in the covenant He made with David. He declared, “I have made a covenant with My chosen, I have sworn unto David My servant, Thy seed will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne to all generations” (Ps 89:3,4). What a blessing for the people of God to have such a king as David! After coming into their own land, the Israelites were often harassed by their enemies. This of course was the result of their sin. But under a king such as David, they were delivered from their enemies. He, no doubt, did all in his power to foster obedience to the commandments of God. And it was only under such a king as David that the worship of God could prosper in the land.
But as king, David was a type of Christ. And when Christ’s forerunner, John the Baptist, was born, his happy father Zacharias recognised the fulfilment of the type when he said, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for He hath visited and redeemed His people, and hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David . . . to remember His holy covenant; the oath which He sware to our father Abraham, that He would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of our life” (Luke 1:68-75). It was only imperfectly that David could order the affairs of his country so that, safe from their enemies, they could worship God in sincere holiness. Now a greater than David has come to sit on David’s throne. He is altogether free from imperfection. He watches over His people in this world, and in the end He will deliver them from all their enemies.
Christ as Mediator has all authority in this world. The enemies of His people can go no further than is permitted to them. These enemies may tempt; they may harass; but the power of the King is such that all things work together for the good of His subjects. According to the provisions of His covenant, He has undertaken to bring his people to heaven. There, as they submit entirely to His perfect authority, they will be safe from all fear of ever again being assaulted by their enemies. They will therefore be perfectly free to serve the Lord, and to worship Him in holiness and righteousness for ever and ever.
That land where all is perfect is described to believers are as “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith” (1 Pet 1:4,5). Their hope of being delivered from all the enemies of their souls is in Christ alone. Let them then take encouragement from the certainty that they will reach the promised land. The power of their King will ensure it; by His Holy Spirit He will keep faith alive in their souls, and at last He will make that faith perfect – and every other grace. He is the surety of the everlasting covenant, who guarantees their safe arrival in that better land.
Sadly, not all who read these pages can claim to be on the way to that better land. We read of those who “entered not in [to the promised land on earth] because of unbelief”, although they expected to find rest there. And, as the Apostle looks forward to the better rest in the promised land above, he warns, “Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief” (Heb 4:11). May we all, by the grace of God, pay truly serious attention to this warning! And may we submit to the call: “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give” (John 6:27).