Promised Land

Promised Land

Psalm 105 praises God’s faithfulness to His covenant with Abraham, which he reaffirmed to his son Isaac and grandson Jacob and thus to his descendants – the people of Israel.  This covenant is summarised in verse 11: “To you I will give the land of Canaan as your portion for an inheritance.”

So does the land of Israel belong exclusively to Jewish people?  Where are its borders?  What about other peoples who live there?

Firstly, the Arab Palestinians are as much the biological descendants of Abraham as the Jewish returnees. But Galatians 3 tells us repeatedly that Abraham’s seed really isn’t about biology at all: “And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.” So the promise is not constrained to a ‘literal’ interpretation of the land of Canaan.

Secondly, Hebrews 11 reminds us that even Abraham did not really know what God was promising him and his descendants: “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called … And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” 

Thirdly, Hebrews 11 continues that even Abraham himself was not looking for a geographical territory for his extended family through the generations; rather, “he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” Revelation presents us with a vision of that city, named Jerusalem because it is at the heart of the “land” that was first promised to Abraham. But it is not restricted to a small parcel of terra firma on the East Coast of the Mediterranean. It fills the whole earth and welcomes all of humanity.

In fact, Galatians 3 tells us that even then that what is really promised is not a “place” at all (like heaven) but rather God himself: “… the blessing of Abraham … the promised Spirit.”