Possessing the Land
“Go up and possess the land that I have given you” (Deut. 9:23).
The Church is about to come into its inheritance. The 40 years of desert wilderness experience is about over; the older generation is moving on; allowing the younger generation to find its place in the Kingdom. To more fully understand what is taking place in this generation, we need to recount the wilderness experience, and discover some of the lessons the Israelites learned during this time.
Within a few years of leaving Egypt the Israelites came to Kadesh Barnea. This was almost within sight of the Promised Land. It was from this place that Moses sent forth 12 spies to search out the land. This was in fact one of the greatest errors Moses committed in his 40 years in the desert. This resulted in another 37 years of wandering in this hot inhospitable desert, a horrific judgment that further denied them entrance into the Promised Land. They had been so close to its borders, where just a step of faith would have brought them in. They came to a point where their bodies were all wasting away in the desert, and hope was lost in the storms of dust.
When they had come to Kadesh Barnea, the Lord gave them specific directions, a plan they ultimately rejected and rebelled against. Deuteronomy 9:23-24 reads as follows:
“Likewise, when the Lord sent you from Kadesh Barnea, saying: ‘Go up and possess the land which I have given you,’ you rebelled against the commandment of the Lord your God, and did not believe Him nor obey His voice. You have been rebellious against the Lord from the day I knew you.”
They, as we often do today, devised smooth-sounding plans, plans that seemed full of logic and wisdom, when in many instances they are nothing more than outright rebellion against the clear word of God. Yet God will often go along with our plans, such as He did then, while our hearts are not in tune with His perfect will (Numbers 13). His willingness to allow our selfish plans to succeed often result in devastation. Moses prostrated himself before the Lord for forty days and forty nights in order to save the Israelites, otherwise God would have destroyed them (Deut. 9:25-26).
Following their additional 37-year season of wandering, the Israelites once again arrived at a place called as The Wilderness of Zin–otherwise known as the waters of Meriba, (meaning the people contended with the Lord) No water was to be found in this place (Num. 20). Once more, this resulted in a mass revolt by the people against the Lord—something the Lord had never tolerated before without severe judgment on the people. In this case however, judgment came on Moses and Aaron because they did not believe God, nor did Moses demonstrate God’s holiness as He was commanded to do. This cost Him dearly. Moses and Aaron bore the full brunt of God’s judgment for this revolt committed against God by the people. No where do we find God punishing the people for their revolt (Deut. 20:12-13). For Moses however, his unbelief, coupled with his refusal to demonstrate the sanctity and holiness of God before the people was a far greater sin, nullifying his entrance into the land.
What was it that Moses and Aaron did not believe? Was it not that they feared the revolt would extend their wilderness journey? I believe it was. Moses was unable to discern the moment. The time in the wilderness was fulfilled. God chose to be merciful to the people despite their revolt. Was it not also, since God through Moses had brought the Law to the congregation, it had to be Joshua that would bring them into the Promised Land—the land of freedom—something the law alone cannot do. For forty years Joshua was willing to walk in obedience in Moses’ shadow, while also remaining near the anointing Moses carried.
This colorful story brings us to a contemporary parallel with the Amish Nation.
Within the past 40 years, and most pronounced within the late 60’s and early 70’s, there were many offshoots or movements coming out of the Amish Nation. Most of these streams had received a measure of enlightenment which the Amish would not condone nor tolerate. The consequence of this is that many were banned or otherwise excommunicated. This often resulted in many building their churches on a foundation of rejection, wounding and resentment –a very shaky foundation that rarely, if ever, held up under the test of time.
As more and more movements branched out of the Amish churches, new revelation enabled many of these to rise to new levels and bloom—for a season. Few if any however, were able to overcome the deeply ingrained culture of being “right,” while all others were “wrong”. Positioning and power were very often the hidden agendas among these movements. Gaining members from one another through subtle means was often the norm. Some even built their churches on the foundation of the ruins of another. Few if any of us, throughout the past 40 years, have been able to fully overcome our inherent reactionary and self-righteous attitudes. The subtle pride we Amish carry has tragically been carried over and into almost all of these streams.
For many of us, when we came to know the Lord within the extremely dark setting of the Amish church, the contrast of enlightenment was so great that we erroneously thought we possessed everything we needed to know to build our own churches, never fully realizing that what we initially received was but a small flicker of light that needed much fanning in order to become a flame of God’s continual presence in our lives. The lack of nurturing and care therein, caused untold heartaches, disappointments, and shipwrecks. Today the sea shore is littered with them, many deeply wounded, others disoriented, while many gave up and completely lost hope of a new beginning. Others went back into legalism, while some went into lawlessness, and are now worse off than at the beginning. (The proverbial dog going back to his vomit, 2 Peter 2:22)
The many movements among us did not constitute a revival as many believed, but neither were they in vain. A true revival, when built on the solid Rock of Jesus Christ, will stand under the most severe tests and storms it will encounter. But as it was, we had been laden with strife, infighting, quests for control, etc….Yet, despite such, God has enabled many of us to grow deep roots in Him in the midst of all the turmoil.. All that has transpired over many years represents contractions in preparation for the wave that is about to break-loose over the Amish Nation. But as it was at the waters of Meribah, where the young generation contended with the Lord, we now see a generation arising among us—being sick of all the past contentions, strife, and inner struggles—contending for the prize; no longer seeking positions of power, but seeking the Lord Himself. In their desperation, they will enter the Promised Land. They will enter the land of true freedom, being empowered with the anointing of Joshua. They will not be stopped; they have finally learned their lesson; no more contention, strife, positioning or power struggles, but contending for the promise, where the grain, fruits, and the “milk and honey” are waiting for them.
Perhaps what has taken place over the past 40 years among the Amish nation is a foreshadowing of what is unfolding throughout the Mennonites, and the Western church at large. In any event, this is not a time to count our losses, but to rather rise up and out of the ashes of our past mistakes, and set them up as monuments to be avoided, and, while moving forward, may they serve as the dawn of our destiny, represented by a generation described in Hebrews 11:39-40:
“All these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better…”
What is “better,” is that of a revelation of the love of Christ Jesus to such the degree that it causes His enemies to fold and melt under its power—making way for the establishment of the Kingdom Age.
I witness now, a sea of cross-bearers, who represent the fruit of the sacrifices many of us have made through our pilgrimage from the dungeons of legalism—through trial and error—through crushing disappointments— yet holding on, not letting go of the promise. Heb,10:35-36. May we corporately pray grace over this emerging wave of “dread champions,” and spurn them on to conquest—conquest which results in full possession of the land of their inheritance—an inheritance which entails boldly “treading upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, that nothing by any means should harm them” (Luke 10:19). The spiritual landscape before us radiates the glory of God. And as we keep your eyes on the prize of the destiny of a redeemed Amish Nation, know that in the twinkling of an eye God can so invade the past 40 years of wilderness and disappointments with such a mighty shout of victory, that it will be heard throughout land—a universal chorus of “Glory, glory, glory to God the most high!”