Skip to main content
Tuesday, September 28 2021
Is The Holy Land The Fifth Gospel?

For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land — a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills. – Deuteronomy 8:7-9

As a pilgrim to Israel, one of the overwhelming impressions is how the Land itself seems to preach so loudly.   It reflects God's message so clearly, that in fact it could be described as, “The Land is the Fifth Gospel.” Since we would be visiting largely New Testament-related sites, it was helpful to see that the land was nearly as illuminating as the four gospels when it came to understanding the life of Messiah Yeshua/Jesus.

One of the first lessons we learn upon arriving in the Land is about dependence on God's provision. For the people of Israel, the wilderness had been a testing field, causing their dependence on God. As they came to the promised land, God reminded them of its goodness, but he also issued a warning:

Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. – Deuteronomy 8:11-14

Such forgetfulness, which can easily happen when one has all that he/she needs and doesn’t feel the need for God, would bring about dire consequences for Israel. God explains this very pointedly a few chapters later:

Observe therefore all the commands I am giving you today, so that you may have the strength to go in and take over the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, and so that you may live long in the land that the LORD swore to your forefathers to give to them and their descendants, a land flowing with milk and honey. The land you are entering to take over is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you planted your seed and irrigated it by foot as in a vegetable garden. But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. It is a land the LORD your God cares for; the eyes of the LORD your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end.

So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today — to love the LORD your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul — then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and oil. I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.

Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. Then the LORD’s anger will burn against you, and he will shut the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the LORD is giving you. – Deuteronomy 11:8-17

God had brought Israel into a very unique land in the Middle East: a land of milk and honey; that is, a land flowing with both shepherds (milk from goats) and farmers (honey from dates) – very unusual in a region that has either one or the other. But a more crucial uniqueness is that the land is utterly dependent on rain — and the God who brings rain. While the Mesopotamian region has the Tigris & Euphrates rivers, and Egypt the Nile, and their fertility comes from flooding and irrigation — Israel is dependent on rain that comes down from the mountain regions to water the land. And it had to come at just the right times: autumn & spring. No rain, no crops = famine!

The difference between Egypt and Canaan was that in Egypt the crops were irrigated by the labor of hand-watering, while in Canaan the land was entirely watered by rain, geshem-גֶשֶׁם   in Hebrew. In the ancient Middle East, that had profound spiritual implications, because rain was understood to be a gift straight from God, whereas water drawn by hand was seen to be human self-reliance without regard to God. Egypt and Canaan, therefore, were a contrast of security of human effort compared to dependence on God.

This was a spiritual lesson for the Israelites when they left the land of Egypt for the promised land of Canaan — that when God chose a land for his people, he didn’t choose a place where they could have security because of their own efforts, he chose a land where they would be far more dependent on him and would need his presence watching over them to send them the living water of rain, geshem גֶשֶׁם

Many of us have seen God do the same thing in our own lives, when we step out to follow him and he takes us from security in our own efforts and brings us to a point of dependence on him, which doesn’t always include prosperity as the world sees it. God often desires dependence for his people rather than abundance, contrary to what “prosperity gospel” teachers may tell us. While we may not have the material wealth as if we lived in “Egypt,” we know that God’s eyes are on us from the beginning of the year to the end.