<< Exodus 13: The Land Flowing with Milk and Honey >>
And it shall be, when the Lord shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which he sware unto thy fathers to give thee, a land flowing with milk and honey, that thou shalt keep this service in this month.--Exodus xiii. 5.
THE chapters which contain the divine history of the Israelitish attainment of freedom are mainly revelations of the obstinacy of Pharaoh and of his self-willed kingdom. We cannot read the story of their sorrows without feeling how sad it is that there can be such a stiff-necked condition of the human race, that it should need stroke upon stroke to prevent that defeat of the divine purposes, which the self-will of man is disposed to effect. It is only by blow upon blow that liberty is won for a nation, or liberty is won for a soul.
But in the passage before us, and ever and anon in the sacred history, the divine page is illuminated somewhat by presenting to us the glorious end that is to be accomplished; recalling attention to the fact that all these operations of divine mercy are to bring the Lords people, all who will follow His leadership and do His will, into a state of blessing such as was prefigured by the Canaan of the Israelites, a beautiful land flowing with milk and honey. Thus the divine mercy from time to time reminds the Israelites and encourages them, and especially in the chapter before us. It is declared in our text, that when the Lord would bring them into the land of the Canaanites, a land flowing with milk and honey, they should perform a service to the Lord which should be itself a feast. Not only that they should have the delights of the country, but that even the worship of the Lord should be itself a feast of the highest kind. Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread and in the seventh day shall be a feast to the Lord.--v. 6.
It is precisely the same with us in our regeneration. We sometimes lament that we seem to make so little progress in our way towards becoming what we ought to be, so little to realize that truly Christian state of heart in which me love the Lord above all things; that enlightened state of mind in which we approve whatever is true, and good, and holy; and that condition of life in which we have perfect peace.
Our changes are incessant. If we have a state of comfort and blessedness today, it is followed by one of care and sadness tomorrow; and so our life goes on. But when we are in a state in which discouragement and distress are getting too much for the general tone of our character it is well that we should listen to the divine promises, and should comfort ourselves with the assurance that all these things are intended to bring us into the land whither we go to possess its land flowing with the celestial milk of heavenly wisdom, and the celestial honey of heavenly delight.
In considering the application of the text to the Israelites, their Canaan, and their changes, we shall be able to see by analogy its further application to our condition, to our Canaan, and to our changes.
One of the first decided marks of difference between the country the Israelites were then quitting, and the land to which they were going was, that Egypt was flat, tame, and monotonous, while Canaan was a, land beautified by hills, and diversified by lovely valleys. This is very expressively brought before us in many parts of the Sacred Scriptures, but in none more than in the 11th chapter of the hook of Deuteronomy, where it is said, For the land, whither thou goest in to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt, from whence ye came out, where thou sowedst thy seed, and wateredst it with thy foot, as a garden of herbs: But the land, whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven: A land which the Lord thy God careth for; the eyes of the Lord thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year.--v. 10, 11, 12. This delightful description is one that every traveler in these countries realizes. Egypt is remarkably rich, but also remarkably flat and monotonous. It is, in fact, the deposit of the slime of the river Nile, which descending from far off lands under the equator, brings down constantly a rich soil; this becomes an alluvial deposit in the low parts of the country, and has really made Egypt. It is a plain or wide valley, warm, rich, fertile and flat. It has in all ages been considered a kind of granary, at least to the lands bordering on the Mediterranean; but to the eye it soon becomes uninteresting and uninviting, being quite destitute of those elevating tendencies which lofty and grand scenery ever inspires.
Egypt is the symbol of the world.
A soul taken up with worldly pleasures, worldly knowledge, worldly possessions, and not governed by religious thought and love, is a soul in Egypt, flat and low. Such a soul has no high hopes and principles. It is a state mentally watered by the foot.
It is a remarkable and most interesting and suggestive fact, that although men ordinarily care so much for the possession of this worlds wealth, beauty and dignity, yet the symbol which the Sacred Scriptures give for this condition of mind is the FOOT. If thy foot offend thee, the Lord says, cut it off. My feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem. But it is this part of man--the worldly part, which is represented by Egypt. nod, when there is nothing else but the world, we are compelled to say with Hamlet, How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable seem to me all the uses of this world. Such is the land of Egypt, the land watered by the foot.
The land whither we go to possess it, however, that glorious state of things of which Canaan is the symbol--is a land of hills and valleys, which drinketh water of the rain of heaven.
We can have only a faint conception of the delightful feelings such a promise must have awakened in the hearts of the Israelitish people.
Long had they been toiling as slaves in a wearisome land. Ever the same dull country, ever the same dull round of mean employments, ever the same river, the same wide spread fields, the same gardens of herbs, ever the same dull occupation of turning the irrigating wheels with their feet.
But now they were told of a land of hills and valleys. Beyond the desert there awaited them those grand mountains, which, when glowing in the morning sunlight would seem the very gates of Paradise; the mountains of the south, the mountains which are round Jerusalem, as the Lord is around His people; mount Hermon with its sides clothed with fertility, representing all the climates of the earth; mount Carmel looking grandly over the see, and having at its foot the plain of Esdraelon blooming with the roses of Sharon; the terraced hills covered with vines, and clustering with grapes; the valleys teeming with plenty, their sweet nooks lighted up with lilies;--these in their varied beauty and plenty would all be theirs. Well might they start in haste, and go forth exulting. Behind them, weariness, slavery, and death; before them, liberty, grandeur, prosperity, and peace.
And their states resembled ours.
Tired and vexed with the emptiness of earth, if there has been nothing but earth, does not the soul rejoice when the grand visions which lift it to God open upon its view?
It is as mountains soaring to heaven, when the affections of the heart seek communion with the Highest. When we adore and yearn, when our hearts exult and go forth to grand and noble objects, when we feel as angels feel, and think as angels think, then have we some idea of the land whither we go to possess it.
The mountains represent the affections of love to the Lord, the hills those of love to our neighbor. The valleys represent the uses of life, the humbler duties amongst which we walk. The rain of heaven is the descent of refreshing truth into the soul. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.
The combination represents the state of a person who goes up in devotion, love, and reverence to the Lord, and then comes down to practice the virtues which have been opened to him while he has been adoring his Divine Savior. He goes in and out, and finds pasture, as the Lord said, I am the door, by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. His state is a land of hills and valleys, a land of noble sentiments, a land of sublime pleasures, a land of glorious principles, a land in which man feels that he is an immortal being, a God-like image of the Eternal One, and that his true life is to do Gods glorious will. This is the land whither we go to possess it, the state of soul into which we as Christians come when we have burst asunder our Egyptian bonds and overcome our internal enemies.
But at first, and by nature, the interior of the soul is possessed by spiritual enemies which are here represented by the different foes classified under five names:--the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Hivites and the Jebusites. The promise was, that when these had been driven out, then the Israelites should possess and enjoy this glorious country. These five classes of enemies, actually possessed and polluted the land of Canaan.
The Canaanites were a dusky race, the Lowlanders of the country, and dwellers on the sea-side; known to classical historians as Phoenicians. The Amorites were the Highlanders, allied to the old gigantic race, and dwelt chiefly on the mountains of the east. Both these were fierce and warlike. The Hittites were the more peaceful occupants of the plains of the south, fond of trade and commerce with other nations, and it was by their name that in the early ages Palestine was known to foreign countries. They were all worshippers of Baal, Astarte and Moloch; given to cruel debasing and nameless sine of the most revolting character, with this additional enormity, happily almost unknown to later times, that they confirmed themselves in their evils by magic arts, consultations with familiar spirits, and communications with the hells.--See Lev. xviii. 21-30. They had by these crimes fallen into such polluting abomination, such foul, loathsome, and detestable wickedness, that no reformation was possible. Hence they needed to be exterminated for the good of mankind. They were like incurable ulcers in the great body of humanity, and to save the race these must be cut off.
The Israelites were the executioners of Providence. They were inwardly evil and fierce. They went zealously to destroy when they were permitted. They mere restrained at other times. But when the good of the human race required the extirpation of a tribe too vile to be continued, and too corrupt to be reformed, they were permitted to do the work of destruction, and the permission looks like a, command.
The abominable king: who was the chief over the Canaanites at the time when Joshua led the army of the Israelites across the Jordan, was that king Adonibezek, who is said to have held seventy kings his captives, cut off their thumbs and great toes, and caused them to lie under his table to starve upon crumbs.
The Amorites are the lusts of the heart; the Hittites the more smooth and managing enemies of self-derived intelligence, which are not violent, but strengthen the others by false persuasions; the Canaanites are evils in general. These three oppose us in our spiritual journey. The central Canaanitish king, Adonibezek, determined to oppose everything of a religious character, and to insult and domineer, is the open defiance of right. In the last verse of the prophecy of Zechariah you will find where a state of universal love to the Lord is described, it is said, And there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the Lord of Hosts, meaning that there shall be no more spiritual opposers of the Lord, for the literal Canaanite had for centuries been extirpated. These people were as precious as others in the eyes of the King of Heaven, who regards none with dislike, for he is no respecter of persons. But it was because of their evil character, in the first place, and their symbolical character in the second, that they had to be driven out.
He smote great kings; for His mercy endureth for ever. And slew famous kings: for His mercy endureth for ever. Sihon king of the Amorites: for His mercy endureth for ever. And Og the king of Bashan: for His mercy endureth for ever.
The Lord desires the salvation of the whole of the principles of the human soul, yet man cannot be saved unless he expel selfishness, and root out falsehood, unless he cease from doing evil and learn to do well. He must spiritually extirpate the Canaanite, the Hittite, and the Amorite.
The other two, the Hivite and the Jebusite are representative of what also exists in man in the evil state. The Hivites were a very peculiar people They were internally bad, but they were anxious by deceit to make a league with the Israelites. You will remember a very curious history in the 9th chapter of Joshua, where it is said the men of Gibeon united themselves together and said, let us send ambassadors to Israel. They pretended to have come from a very far country, with moldy bread and old wine bottles, and they made it appear to the Israelites that they were a very peaceable and harmless people who wished to live without strife. They made a covenant with the Israelites, and continued for a long time to live amongst them; they were made hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation. They are not true of heart, but they submit.
The Jebusites continued for a longer period. They remained in possession of some important portions of the country and the great fortified place of Jebus to the time of David. You will find an account of these people and of the last transaction in connection with them in the second book of Samuel, where it is said David was insulted and defied by the Jebusites who placed upon their strong walls, blind men and lame men, and dared David to come and take them away.
The Jebusites and the Hivites as we have described them represent in the spiritual sense those habits and dispositions which often exist in such as are really bad, but appear outwardly moral and useful, and outwardly worship the Lord. These are they who come and say we are quite willing to submit; we will conform. But there is no real heart, soul, and purpose with them of becoming regenerate. The spiritual Hivites and Jebusites learn something about religion, talk about it, write about it, and will do anything about it, except really live it. If you can only pass through the walls you will find lame things and blind things, inside. For the blind and lame are the obstinately bad who make no effort to live for heaven, who have all the trouble of trying to appear religious, and even all the appearance of persons who are learned about religion, and who can write about it, and talk about it; but who have not the enjoyment of its true possession or even the enjoyments of vice. These have not the sense to be truly good, any more than the recklessness: to be truly bad.
These lukewarm beings are about the blindest and lamest of any. They are the spiritual Jebusites. They are not true countrymen of Israel, yet they are always there. All persons who have unregenerate hearts have more or less of this character. They endeavor to serve God and mammon.
They try the lukewarm condition of being neither cold nor hot, and cannot make up their minds either to give up heaven or to give up evil. These are they who are represented by the Hivites and the Jebusites. We must truly face all these classes of sin. If we examine ourselves we shall find that we have our Canaanite and Hittite and Amorite the known evils of self-love, false idea, and outward vice, to fight against, and drive out. We have also appearances of goodness,--mere habits and the appearances of truth, all those semblances that have no life or heart in them, all these are to be given up. The prophet says, Moab hath been at ease from his youth, and he hath settled on his lees, and hath not been emptied from vessel to vessel, neither hath he gone into captivity; therefore his taste remained in him, and his scent is not changed. Woe to those who have the appearances of goodness and truth without the noble reality! Blessed are they who fight the good fight! They shall come into the heaven of the Lord, the land flowing with milk and honey; or in other words flowing with truth and goodness. Milk is the symbol in the divine Word of that heavenly truth which feeds the soul, as the apostle Peter so beautifully expresses it, I have fed you with the sincere milk of the Word that ye may grow thereby, and the same sort of milk is meant; by the prophet when he says, He, every one that thirsteth come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat. Yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price. The land, the heavenly state that we acquire, flows with milkflows with all that celestial truth and wisdom, which gives the mind a meat to eat, of which the world knows nothing. Honey means the delight of truth, the sweet pleasure of putting Good thoughts Into practice. Those thoughts are like the honey bees who go about and do their work; and there is such a heavenly satisfaction, such a delightful state of feeling in every act of religion which flows from those heavenly thoughts, that it is the sweet honey of the kingdom of heaven. This idea is very beautifully expressed in Psalm lxxxi. 16, where the Lord speaks of tire delay in becoming regenerate because of our being so half-hearted in our religious career.
Oh, that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways! I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned my hand against their adversaries.... He should have fed them also with the finest of the wheat: and with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee. And is it not so? Do we not when we genuinely endeavor to serve the Lord in the acts of our daily life, when we read the Word thoughtfully, and especially when we endeavor to bring it into practice--do we not find that it is to us so charming in its sweetness, so delightful in the heartfelt joy which it inspires, that we can say as the Psalmist said concerning the statutes of the Lord, More to be desired are than gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.Ps. xix. 10. It is this then that the land of Canaan signifies to us. This state is one of perpetual enjoyment, in proportion as we have faithfully fought against, and never shrunk from the antagonism of our sins. Our daily career is then a daily endeavor to introduce ourselves into a life of loving usefulness to man and devotion to God--thus preparing ourselves, whether we are taken earlier or later from this world, to go to that heaven where love and wisdom, peace and joy fill the land--the eternal Land of Promise.
Author: Jonathan Bayley --- From Egypt to Canaan (1869)