The Promise Land Fallacy

“Everything will be better when I get this job.”

“When we get this situation turned around then things will be fine.”

“What is most important to me is achieving this goal.”

“I just need my relationships to be restored and then I will be truly blessed.”

“If healing would just come to this family member, that would make all the difference.”

These are all Promise Land situations – events or resolutions that we think are life’s great purposes or antidotes. The truth is that, like Moses, we may never make it to the promise land.

Moses had two great purposes in his life – deliver the Hebrews out of Egypt and lead them to the Promise Land. In what seems like a cruel turn of events, God doesn’t let Moses enter the Promise Land.

God leads Moses to the top of a nearby mountain so that he could see all that was to be promised and envision the full potential of the land and the blessings coming to God’s people. On the side of that mountain, Moses’ dreams are in sight and all of the conflict, all of the times of uncertainty, all of the difficulties are finally worth it because the Promise Land is at hand. But, God tells Moses that, “I have let you see it, but you will not cross over into it.”

Moses, who was never one to shy away from a complaint to God, who liked to plead his case before God, who would call God out if he felt it warranted – doesn’t say a word. Moses doesn’t argue or make a suggestion even though his life’s work has led to this great moment. Half of Moses’ life has led up to this moment. He had dreamed of this chance to walk among this great land and call it his own. Instead, he seems perfectly content on the side of that mountain.

Moses’ contentment at that point in his life came not from an achieved goal, or a positive turn of events, or a restored relationship, or a healing but from a dynamic, interactive relationship with God. Earlier in the Moses story, Moses had asked God to send people to help him, that he couldn’t do this job of being deliverer by himself. God doesn’t send helpers, but he does provide help, “The Lord replied, My presence will go with you and I will give you rest.”

time lapse photography of waterfalls during sunset

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From that moment on, Moses experienced God’s presence and began to see that this was all that he needed and that true rest was found there. He began to see that the actual Promise Land was not the point of his life and was not the maximum fulfillment he thought it would be. True fulfillment was found in God’s friendship, his love, being in his will, growing in knowledge of him. For Moses, the Promise Land wasn’t the point.

I have been guilty of turning situations in my life into a Promise Land. I think that if this one thing will change, then everything else will fall into place and life will be the way it is supposed to be. But that one thing might not be the point or what God wants to do with my life. The point may be for me to Grow Up, to learn to trust, to experience his presence, to find rest in him, to die to self. My Promise Land may be right in front of me in the transforming work of Christ and his redeeming love and mercy. A relationship with the almighty was good enough in the end for Moses, it should be good enough in the end for me.

Let go of your personal and self-generated Promise Land and see how God will go about bringing you true rest, fulfillment, and contentment.

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