by Lynette Woods
"By faith Abraham, being called, obeyed to go out into the place which he was to receive for an inheritance, and went out, not knowing where he was going." (Hebrews 11:8 NIV)
Many of us are familiar with the Greek word "ekklesia" mistranslated as "church" in the Bible. Ekklesia means those called to an assembly or gathering, and did not ever mean a religious building! It is a composite of two Greek words, "ek" (out of or away from) and "kaleo" (called). We know that we are called out of religion and called out of Self and our ways of trying to please God. However, even if we have heard and obeyed the call to go out or come out, we also need to hear and heed the call to go in... We are not only those who are called out, but also those who are "called into". We are called into:
We are also referred to simply as the "called" (1 Cor. 1:24, Heb. 9:15, Jude 1 & Rev. 17:14) and the "called of Jesus Christ" (Rom. 1:6) and "called according to His Purpose" (Rom. 8:28). Being called INTO can only happen when we have been obedient to the call out. Ekklesia is a compound of two words: "ek" (or ex, from which we get the word "exit") and a derivative of "kaleo" which means called, hence ek-kalesia: out-called. Called into is "eis" (into) or "en-kaleo" - in-called.
We sometimes talk about our "calling" and desire to know and discover what our calling in life is. Abraham had a calling and he, like us, was not only called OUT but also INTO: "By faith Abraham, being called, (kaleo) obeyed to go OUT (ek-erchomai) INTO (eis) the place which he was to receive for an inheritance". Like Abraham, we too are being called to not only go out of the land and leave the "country" we know and are familiar with, but we are also called INTO the Promised Land which is our inheritance and where there are many things that we are unfamiliar with and which seem new and different to us: "he went, although he did not know or trouble his mind about where he was to go" (Amplified Bible).
Called Out of Egypt
The 'land' that we are called out of is presented to us as Egypt in the Old Testament. God told the Israelites: "The land which you go in to possess is not like the land of Egypt, from which you came out, where you sowed your seed and watered it with your foot laboriously as in a garden of vegetables. But the land which you enter to possess is a land of hills and valleys which drinks the water of the rain of the heavens, a land for which the Lord your God cares; the eyes of the Lord your God are always upon it from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. And if you will diligently heed My commandments which I command you this day - to love the Lord your God and to serve Him with all your heart and with your entire being - I will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the latter rain, that you may gather in your grain, your new wine, and your oil." (Deut. 11:10-14).
Just as no physical church, place or ministry on this earth can be said to be "Egypt", so also no physical church, place or ministry can be viewed as the "Promised Land". God is now dealing primarily with the internal, unseen heart issues and not with externally seen places and things. When our hearts and motivations (the internal) are fully surrendered to God, then, and only then, can what comes forth from us (the external) truly be of God.
So what is our "calling" and what is this "place" we are called into? This Place is Christ. HE is our Promised Land, our Inheritance, and our Calling. We are not only called OUT of Egypt's slavery, religion and labour, but we are also called INTO Christ as our Rest, Inheritance and our Promised Land.
We know how much work it can take to make and maintain a garden for producing food, but those verses are saying that this labour is all in the past; that was to do with Egypt. Egypt was all about slavery and bondage and working for and pleasing man - those who rule over us. The Promised Land is the place of Freedom and REST from all of that, it is the Place of God's provision. Christ is the Land of Abundance; He is the Source of all Life. But the process of apprehending and realising the reality of this in our personal experience can take years of transition, represented in the Bible as wandering in the wilderness even after having left Egypt...
Called Out of the Wilderness
The wilderness was not a place devoid of God and His presence for the Israelites, it was a place where He proved Himself and did many miracles for them. So with us, His leading us out of Egypt and into the wilderness is important in order to rid us of the dependencies and securities that we have had in Egypt; now we must rely solely on God and on nothing of man's making or doing. There is nothing in the wilderness except for that which is made by and provided by God alone. And He is always faithful! The wilderness was not a place of barrenness for God's People, instead it was a place of amazing miracles. Where there was no water, God gave water. Where there was no food, God provided food. Where there was naturally no meat, God delivered meat. God proved Himself to the Israelites time and time again, and yet they still grumbled and complained and wanted to go back to Egypt and often we do exactly the same thing. We have to learn that we are called OUT of Egypt, out of our Flesh, and INTO the Spirit.
In being called into Christ we must be called out of our own ways and willingly submit ourselves to HIS Way, Life and Truth and know Him as our Rest and Strength to do and BE all which we cannot and are not: "Faithful is He Who has called you and will also DO it!" That word "do" in the Greek means to construct, produce, bear, make - all the things that in religion we are so used to doing OURSELVES in place of Christ (anti-Christ) which is simply idolatry (anything which is instead of Christ). No "thing" must take the place of Christ, even if it bears His Name. We have one Inheritance, one Treasure, one End - Christ. HE is the only One Who can satisfy our Father, it is HIS fruit which He will bear and produce in us and through us and it is HIS temple which He will make and construct and it is His Life and Body which He maintains and sustains. Anything which is not of Him, and from Him, is worthless and that includes things that WE do for Him. He must be our Source. We must learn to believe Him and trust Him - He IS in control and He DOES know what He is doing with us and why; even if we don't know or understand. Not knowing was all part of the journey for Abraham, but he had firm faith and trust in God regardless.
The Israelites grumbled because of their heart attitude of unbelief and distrust in Who God was, even in spite of all that He had done for them, including the fact that He had called and delivered them from Egypt. In spite of all He had done for them, they still did not KNOW Him. In Hebrews chapters three and four we are very clearly warned to learn from their mistakes so that we don't do the same thing: "Christ as Son is in charge of the house. Now, if we can only keep a firm grip on this bold confidence, we're the house! That's why the Holy Spirit says, Today, please listen; don't turn a deaf ear as in "the bitter uprising," that time of wilderness testing! Even though they watched me at work for forty years, your ancestors refused to let me do it my way; over and over they tried my patience. And I was provoked, oh, so provoked! I said, "They'll never keep their minds on God; they refuse to walk down my road." Exasperated, I vowed, "They'll never get where they're going, never be able to sit down and rest." So watch your step, friends. Make sure there's no evil unbelief lying around that will trip you up and throw you off course, diverting you from the living God... For who were the people who turned a deaf ear? Weren't they the very ones Moses led out of Egypt? And who was God provoked with for forty years? Wasn't it those who turned a deaf ear and ended up corpses in the wilderness? And when he swore that they'd never get where they were going, wasn't he talking to the ones who turned a deaf ear? They never got there because they never listened, never believed." (Hebrews 3:6-12, 16-19 The Message). Often our 'trust' in God can sound like it is a last resort, "I'll just have to trust God..." or "I'll just pray..." because we appear to have no other option: "I can't DO anything more so I'm afraid, my only option now is to trust God". That response can be based on Self and fear rather than being the result of trust in our loving Father.
The wilderness is a place where our listening, believing, and trusting is tested. We have to learn to let go of our ways of doing things and stop trusting ourselves, because God's Way is for us to completely give up on Self so that He can establish His trust in us in His Way Who is Christ. We are called OUT of Self and INTO Christ. What we can find hard is that we CAN'T do this ourselves. I have to give up on myself and just wait and trust God to do this - in HIS time. In Egypt as slaves we were used to doing all the work ourselves; we were slaves of the system, we were organized, WE provided what was needed, we were self-sufficient. And, of course, WE would get the glory and praise for our work. But in the wilderness we learn the exact opposite: we can do nothing; GOD provides, GOD guides, GOD protects, He is in control! It is only when we allow Him to deal with all our trying and doing that He is then able to lead us into His Promised Land of Rest...
Called Into the Promised Land
The Promised Land can only be entered into by going out of Egypt and through the wilderness to the river Jordan. The river Jordan represents death to Self and all of what Egypt stands for: bondage, slavery, work, religion. It was almost entirely a new generation that entered the Promised Land. Why did so many die in the wilderness? Because they could not let go of their old ways of doing things themselves. They could not trust and obey as God desired them to. And things were not immediately all fine and dandy when they entered the Promised Land either. We might think that the Israelites should have just marched right on in and taken the land, since God had said it was theirs, but no. God had them stop and camp out on the enemy's ground (which the enemies KNEW was no longer theirs) and He made His people sore and defenceless by having them all circumcised. Why didn't He require them to do that on the other side of the Jordan in preparation for entering Canaan? Perhaps because He was testing them to see if they were still afraid of the reports of 'giants' in the land and to see whether they were going to listen to what their minds and circumstances were saying: "This is crazy! If we're all sore and recovering from surgery in this new place full of our enemies, then who's going to protect us and our families against them while we recover? We're sitting ducks!". It may have been a test to see if they had learned their lesson and would truly believe and trust God despite their circumstances and in spite of appearances.
Circumcise and circumstance both start the same because "circum" means surrounding or around. Those circumstances which surround us can seem like our enemies - but where is our focus? The circumcision of our hearts results in our looking at Christ instead of looking all around! God uses our circumstances to cut the flesh away from our hearts. Our hearts reproduce what they are full of and they need the flesh cut away from them just as physical circumcision cuts the flesh off of the reproductive organ.
The Israelites knew that there were enemies in this Promised Land, and we too have enemies in our Promised Land. The biggest giant that needs conquering in the land is Me and my flesh. We can be our own worst enemy, but it is very good to know that God is the Conqueror of that enemy and every other! So often our brains work overtime trying to figure things out; a symptom of the fact that I actually have more belief and trust in myself than in God because I'm not trusting HIM to work things out either with OR without me. That is pride and unbelief and is exactly why the Israelites were unable to enter into the Promised Land. Our loving and amazingly patient and gracious Father calls us to repent of trying to do things ourselves and to leave all that "work" behind us because He has a far better Way for us! When we stop trying in our own strength to please God then Christ and His abundant Strength and Ability and Way take the place of my abundant weakness and inability.
When we DO learn to truly trust, then God is released to work in spectacular ways! Too often our "helping" Him actually hinders and limits Him. The only help He wants from us is the kind that is instigated by Him when He asks us to help Him (instead of the other way around). So often our mentality is the opposite; instead of us working with and helping Him, we expect Him to work with and help us which of course assumes that WE know what is best for us and others; it also means WE want to be in control instead of Him. Trusting Him only seems hard because we are so used to trusting ourselves. In one sense trusting Him is actually the easiest thing to do (we rest, He does it all) the hard work is for us to stop trusting in ourselves. If our Father chooses to hide something or not do something then we know that He has good reasons for doing this and we can trust Him to reveal what we need to know and see at the exact right time. HE is our Provider and Organizer! If we try to figure it all out first, then we can totally mess things up for Him. He loves for us to just trust Him.
Another area of this Egyptian 'working' mentality is thinking that because I know that I am not worthy of anything He has provided and given, I must therefore help and work to prove to Him that He made a good choice in selecting me. But that is simply pride and my flesh STILL trying to be worthy (an impossibility from the start!) and if I insist on 'helping' and carry on slaving in this Egyptian mode, then I forfeit my entrance into the Promised Land and cannot experience the depths of the amazing Freedom, Peace and Rest which cost Jesus so much to freely give us... Instead I must go around the mountain yet again. When we are firmly established in Him then trusting Him is the first and only option and fear cannot get a foothold. THAT is certainly Rest AND Victory; for both Him and us!
Called Into Christ
"The land which you go in to possess is not like the land of Egypt, from which you came out, where you sowed your seed and watered it with your foot laboriously as in a garden of vegetables..." I was intrigued by this 'watered it with your foot' statement and I wondered if it meant that they dug irrigation ditches with their feet, but I discovered that in Egypt the fields were irrigated by the Israelite slaves pumping water from the river. There was not enough rain in Egypt and 'watered it with your foot' refers to the large pumping wheels which were worked by foot to draw water from the Nile for the gardens.
Clearly this is symbolic of working in our own strength to get water from the earth (which will always be polluted water!) instead of simply knowing and trusting God as the Source and Supply of His pure Water freely falling from Above. It is totally about control. The big difference between 'watering with your foot' and the rain, is control - the illusion of man being in control versus the reality of God being in control. In Egypt the slaves controlled when and how the crops were watered by their hard work. But in the Promised Land it is not up to man and his work, but totally up to God - a very BIG difference! He is in control and we simply trust and wait to receive the Rain in HIS time and season.
I'm not endorsing laziness at all, but I'm seeing that so much of who we are and what we do and say is so often based on the curse of the garden of Eden: ploughing the dirt, sowing the seed, weeding, watering, harvesting etc. It is based on OUR sweat and tears instead of simply trusting and resting on God's abundant blessing and provision. We can be so bound by the mindsets and habits of being slaves working in Egypt that it can even make us feel guilty if we appreciate and freely partake of the fruit of the Promised Land when we haven't personally helped to produce it. And yet THAT is the whole message of the Good News - nothing WE can do can ever make us worthy or fit for God, only what HE has already done and provided in Christ satisfies God: "The land which you go in to possess is NOT LIKE the land of Egypt, from which you came out..." The Promised Land is just a totally different place to anything we've known before; all the previous ways of knowing and doing things no longer apply, now we have only one Source and Goal - THE Land Himself!
Even though God called me out of Egypt years ago, He has still much work to do in getting Egypt and its bondage and religious ways out of me and the best place to do that is in the wilderness - going in circles around the mountain and dealing with unbelief and learning to let go of my ways and REALLY trust, rest and believe in God as my sole Provider and Controller of all. Of course we still see and know His blessing in the wilderness, He provides the manna, meat, water, guidance and protection, but all that is like nothing compared to what He has planned for us in His Promised Land which is a Place of Rest and Peace where we freely live in Him, for Him and from Him without needing to labour to bring His Life forth - it is now ALL God's work - He provides the Rain and waters His Field!
In our "civilised" countries we tend to forget the importance of the rain; we know that every time we turn on the tap or faucet, drinkable water will flow. WE are in control of it! I grew up in Borneo where we had no water system and rain water was very precious to us, particularly in the dry season. The river water was always there but it was terribly polluted and had to be boiled before it was safe to drink, and even then it had a taste to it and wasn't clear. But the rain water we could drink immediately. During the dry season, whenever it did rain, we'd drop everything and run outside to put out buckets etc... anything to catch the precious water.
Rain is symbolic of the words and presence of God in the Bible (Is. 55:10,11, Deut. 32:2, Ps. 68:8,9). In nature rain is one way in which God produces and sustains life, and Christ reigning in our life produces and sustains true Life. Where there is no water, man intervenes. One way depends on man's invention, the other depends totally on God. One way trusts in man, the other in God. One way receives through man, the other through God.
The first definition of the Greek word translated in the Bible as "evil" is: 'full of labour and toil'. The amazing thing about knowing Christ as our Rest from labour and toil is that there is NOTHING we can do make this Rest happen - it has to be God that does it, it is all Grace! It is a fact that we cannot know rest when we are troubled, anxious and trying to work things out ourselves; may God deliver us from this evil!
So, the wilderness is a very important place. In the wilderness there is no longer the machinery of Egypt or men's inventions for us to use and rely on, there are no longer slave-drivers telling us what to do and giving us our portion of food, and we no longer have even a house to call our own. Everything in the wilderness is ordered and controlled by our loving Father for our own good. The whole purpose of the wilderness is for God to train, test and prove us. Many of our experiences in the wilderness are not positive ones, but negative. God uses both the positive and the negative things in our lives in order to bring much-needed balance. This is the necessary and loving training of our Father: "You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God led you these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and to prove you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. And He humbled you and allowed you to hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you recognize and personally know that man does not live by bread only, but man lives by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord... Know also in your hearts that, as a man disciplines and instructs his son, so the Lord your God disciplines and instructs you." (Deut. 8:2,3,5).
Forty years is a long time. Lessons to be learned in the wilderness are not only trust and obedience, but also patience and waiting for God's time. Most of us don't like waiting because it seems like a waste of time to us! And it IS a waste of time so long as we view the time as OURS! When we see that we own nothing and that all we are and have is God's, including time, then we wait in Rest with patience and expectation, because this is HIS work, being done in His time, and in His way.
In Egypt our identity was linked to what we did or where we went and this defined us. In the wilderness we are stripped of all that so that we let it all go and stop trusting ourselves and begin trusting God. In the Promised Land we find our identity is hidden in Christ and we rest in His finished work. This whole issue is a big one and a mindset which needs to be broken in us so that we can enter into the Promised Land and Rest.
May we receive and appropriate the Grace to give up all our own striving and straining so that we may know and experience Christ as our Inheritance and Promised Land of Abundance and Rest, and that He may receive us as His Inheritance, even as He is ours!
"Faithful is He Who is calling you and utterly trustworthy, and He will also do it." (1 Thess. 5:24).