Good Life

Clergy Column: Follow God to the Promised Land

For some people, the Promised Land represents a geographical location and for others it is a future place where all problems will be resolved after death. But perhaps we can think of the Promised Land as an idea that results from obedience to God’s commands; one that we can experience whoever we are, here and now. Seeing the Promised Land as approachable now can help us in our everyday lives.

Tradition says that Moses gave the Israelites the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) within a few weeks of their arrival in the wilderness of Sinai, after having escaped from Egypt. Shortly after that, Moses sent 12 spies into the Promised Land to explore it. Ten returned saying that the inhabitants were huge and well-armed. Two, Joshua and Caleb, returned saying that the land was prosperous and, with God’s help, the Israelites could enter this land, “a land which floweth with milk and honey.” (Numbers 14)

The Israelites believed the naysayers and, because of this, the Israelites spent the next 40 years in the wilderness. There is a contrast then between obedience to the Ten Commandments and wandering in the wilderness. When the Israelites were spiritually ready, as they learned to obey the Ten Commandments, they did enter the Promised Land and, under Joshua’s leadership, they did overcome odds and begin to prosper. The Promised Land certainly had its challenges, but over and over, the Israelites were able to triumph when they aligned their actions with God’s commands.

The Ten Commandments articulate a moral and ethical compass to live by. They are not wordy or difficult to understand. They are intended for each of us to understand and obey. We don’t have to spend years in the wilderness because we are unwilling to be obedient.

Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, defined “wilderness” in science and health with key to the Scriptures (p. 597) as “loneliness, doubt, darkness,” but then she also defined it in part as “Spontaneity of thought and idea.” For many years, I went through a wilderness experience that was defined by loneliness, doubt and darkness. Like the self-centered Israelites, I had the Ten Commandments at my disposal, but I was not obeying them, even though, as a Christian Scientist, I knew my happiness had to begin with a moral, ethical basis, as Jesus taught us.

When I began to consciously live the Ten Commandments, all kinds of wonderful things happened. Loneliness was replaced with loving relationships, doubt was replaced with confidence, and darkness was replaced with the light of a clearer understanding of God and myself. I was discovering that obedience to God and his commands would give me a spontaneous joy I could not have otherwise. I was able to enter the Promised Land. There were (and still are) challenges, but God is guiding me, and will guide you, into this spiritual land — a land flowing with milk and honey.