Matins Devotion: October 9, 2023
“When you take possession of the land I’ve promised you, don’t forget that the land itself is not the prize. Salvation is the prize. The land is merely a sign.”
That’s essentially what God is saying to the Israelites in our reading from Deuteronomy chapter 8, in this long speech where the Lord prepares His people to inherit the land He swore to their father Abraham he’d give them. Why did God feed them with nothing but manna? Because He wanted them to know that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Why did He humble them? So they would know that, even when they’ve received the land of freedom, there was a greater freedom they needed. Why did God make His people suffer en route to the promised land? Because He wanted them to see the promise behind the land, the promise of the Messiah who would cleanse them of their sin and welcome them into His eternal land.
So the land was never really the thing, it was always a promise of the thing, a reminder of the Lord’s kingdom. But over time, His people did exactly what the Lord warned against. They concluded that it was by their power and might that the land yielded its harvest. By their own hands they built a comfortable life where they could worship themselves, their desires, their curiosity of their neighbor’s gods. And in all of this, God’s people brought destruction upon their land throughout their history, a destruction that would be made permanent with their rejection of His Son. In 70 AD, the temple and nation were destroyed. And God would take the faithful remnant of believing Israelites, graft in the believing gentiles, and build His church into a glorious mustard tree that arose from the rubble of wrath.
So let us hear God’s warning. Don’t mistake the sign for the prize. When God surrounds you with earthly prosperity as a reminder of His love for you in Christ, don’t love this prosperity more than Christ. When He surrounds you with the love of your family to reflect His love for you, rejoice in it. But don’t turn your comfort into an idol. Don’t retreat from confessing the name of Jesus, don’t deny the words of the Lord that give you life in order to keep breaking bread with people who hate the name of Christ. Cling to the name of Jesus, even if your mothers and fathers, sons and daughters despise you for it. Let the signs come and go. Let them rise and fall. But keep your eyes on the prize of Jesus Christ and His salvation, and you will dwell with your father Abraham in the land of salvation forever.