"And it shall be, when thou art come in unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, and possessest it, and dwellest therein; that thou shalt take of the first of all the fruit of the earth, which thou shalt bring of the land that the Lord thy God giveth thee,and shalt put it in a basket, and shalt go unto the place which the Lord thy God shall choose to place his name there" (Deuteronomy 26:1-2).
Four points come out in these verses, full of instruction for our souls. The chapter sets forth certain privileges of an Israelite when he should come into the land of promise. He was to bring of the first of all the fruits of the earth in a basket, and present them to the Lord through a priest. But before doing so he must of necessity dwell there, and it is evident that to dwell he must first take possession. But how could he take possession before coming into the land?
This divine order is of the utmost importance. The land typifies the heavenly places and every Christian should have an offering to present to God. But, like the Israelites, he must first come into, possess, and dwell in the land. Then follows the sacrifice of praise to God, acceptable through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:5). Let us seek to gather the spiritual meaning of these things from His Word.
Firstly, what do we learn from "coming into the land"? By nature we are sinners, guilty and lost, in danger of eternal judgment. But the grace of God has brought salvation to us. And in this great salvation there is not only present, complete, and eternal deliverance from all that we had done and were; but we are brought into a new position of privilege, and a new place before God for ever. All believers are saved by the finished work of Christ, and stand in all the favour in which He, as the exalted Man, "the Beloved" (who did that work), is now before God and the Father.
In Romans we learn that we are pardoned, justified, and reconciled to God, etc.; and that having died with Christ in His death, we are now delivered from the mastery of sin, and the curse of a broken law, and are alive from the dead in Christ, with all condemnation now and forever completely gone, etc. (Romans 8:1). In Colossians we learn further that we are risen with Christ, etc. (Colossians 3:1). And in Ephesians we are blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ, and made to sit down together in heavenly places in Him (Ephesians 1:3; 2:6). This is the land; our blessing is in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. This is where the eye of God sees the believer now. Mark well "in him"; not "with him," for that can only be when we are in glory. We are not only delivered out of Egypt (to use the type) but brought into Canaan. He brought us out, like Israel of old, that He might bring us in (Deuteronomy 6:23). We are not only alive from the dead in a risen Christ, but risen with Him, and seated in heavenly places in Him. He is in heaven-in the land-we are there in Him. "In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace" (Ephesians 1:7). "In whom also, after that ye [or, having] believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance," etc. (Ephesians1:13).
The Lord God gave the land to Israel for an inheritance. He has given a heavenly portion to us. Our place is there forever; believers have come into it in Christ, and have life and the Holy Ghost. And not only so, but we are viewed as in heaven in Him. As a well-known hymn puts it: "In spirit there already." Fellow believer, have you accepted this blessed truth? Many, sheltered by the precious blood of Christ, have never even known redemption by power, as typified by the Red Sea. As to crossing the Jordan now, and coming into the land, it has never even dawned upon their minds that such a thing could be until they leave this world. But all this arises, more or less from neglect of the Word of God, and occupation with self and one’s own unworthiness. Now God ministers blessing to us, in the riches of His grace, according to His own estimate of the work and Person of His Son. Hence it is that Christ having gone into heaven, we are there in Him; we have come into the land. It is according to His eternal counsels. Faith takes Him at His word.
Secondly, when Israel should come into the land, they were to possess it. To employ a figure, it is one thing to enter the door of your house, another to take possession of it practically, especially if there are occupants there beforehand who dispute it. So with Israel, it was one thing for Jehovah to bring them into the land of promise, but another for them to possess it practically by dispossessing the seven nations who already dwelt there. "Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses" (Joshua 1:3). And so also it is one thing for a believer to accept the precious truth of God that he is across the Jordan now in Christ, and that his proper portion now and forever is in heaven; but it is quite another thing for him to overcome the wicked spirits (typified by the Canaanites) and to take practical possession of it.
We need faith not only to come into the land, but also to plant our feet upon every portion of it, whilst sustaining the severest of conflicts with the unseen powers of darkness. Satan brings all his power to bear against those who are diligent in soul in laying hold and taking possession of all the heavenly blessings and privileges that are ours in Christ. The sixth chapter of Ephesians brings out the terrible character of the conflict that we are called to sustain, when we are resolved by grace to enter into and enjoy them. We need the whole panoply of God, as there detailed, to withstand, to overcome, and still to stand; for it is a very evil day (Ephesians 6:13). May each believer who reads these lines be satisfied with nothing short of possessing the land, as well as coming into it, of taking practical possession in our own souls, in the power of the Holy Ghost, of the unseen and heavenly blessings which God has given us in Christ.
Thirdly, Israel, having taken possession, was to dwell in the land. Here many of them came short. Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh would not obey (Numbers 32). They were willing to fight the Lord’s battles, and to help their brethren in the conflict in the land, but chose the land of Gilead, where there was abundance of grass for their cattle, to dwell with their families and herds. So now there are many believers who accept the truth of being in the heavenlies in Christ, and who in some measure take possession of the land, and share in the conflicts against the power of Satan, but yet dwell practically-both themselves and their families-on this side of Jordan. Heavenly truths are accepted, more or less, and contested for; but how about heavenly living? Is not the green grass of Gilead-earthly prosperity-like the enchanted ground in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress to many of the dear children of God? On all hands we may see those who dwell on this side Jordan, who fail to enjoy the heavenly place that God has brought us into in Christ. All saints are there in the eye and thoughts of God, and according to His eternal counsel in Christ; but, alas! how many of us fail to overcome the foe, and are overcome, and dwell morally in our own souls and in our associations, in an atmosphere that is manifestly the opposite of heavenly.
It was only as Israel took possession that they could dwell in the land and enjoy it. And, though every blessing is ours, it is only that which we take possession of in power that we can enter into and enjoy. It is noteworthy, too, that it was those very tribes that stopped short of dwelling in the land that were first led captive (1 Chronicles 5:26). And it is the same with souls today. Those who, accepting a heavenly position and heavenly privileges, but instead of dwelling in the enjoyment of them, settle down more or less in fleshly ease, are often among the first to be carried away by the enemy into one of his many snares, when a moment of testing comes. May we, then, not only be found amongst those who in simple faith have come into the land, but daily taking possession increasingly in our souls of our glorious heavenly portion, and dwelling in communion with God, in the power of the Spirit, in full enjoyment of it.
Fourthly, the Israelite who had come into, possessed, and dwelt in the land, was to bring his basket of first fruits before the Lord. And the Christian who has entered into and enjoyed the blessed portion thereby typified, as we have seen, is also privileged to come before God as a worshipper with a sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15). The Israelite was to bring of the first of all the fruit of the land, put it in a basket, and go to the place that the Lord his God should choose to place His name. He was to tell of the Lord’s goodness, etc., and the priest was to take the basket out of his hand, and set it down before the altar of the Lord his God. The Christian, in communion with God, his soul occupied with Christ, is privileged to draw near to God without a humanly set apart priest (being himself one of God’s holy priesthood), to offer up spiritual sacrifices to God, acceptable to Him through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:5). And the chosen place is: "Where two or three are gathered together in my name" (Matthew 18:20). "There," says Jesus, "am I in the midst of them." Each is a worshipper, and one of a company of true worshippers, brought into this wondrous blessing in the pure grace of God, whose heart and lips are led out by the Spirit in worship in spirit and in truth to God, the Father and the Son (John 4: 23-24.)
But if we are stopping short of our privileges, and allowing our hearts to dwell at ease in a forbidden place, instead of abiding in a heavenly sphere in communion with God, how can we have confidence before Him? And although we may still keep up the outward form, of what value is that in the sight of the heart-knowing God? Jesus complained of some, "This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me" (Matthew 15:8). It is only a company of believers whose hearts are happy and free, and who, in communion with God, find their joy in Him and the things which He has given them in Christ, that can render to Him, in the power of that ungrieved Spirit, that worship and praise that are His due.
How deeply important, then, for each reader of these lines to apprehend the order in which God has presented these things in His word, and to see that we have entered into them in our souls in the power of the Holy Ghost, that each may both come into, possess, and dwell in heavenly places, and render to Him the firstfruits of worship, adoration, and praise, whose love it was that gave His Son to bring us into them, and whose joy it is to receive the first fruits of our hearts and lips in return.