Trinity Third Sunday Morning Prayer (20 June 2021) Deuteronomy 11:14
The journey of Israelites from Egypt to Canaan is a very familiar one to all of us. We have often heard that the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years to reach the promised land Canaan that was only a forty-day journey away. When they began the journey, Israelites had lived in Egypt for 430 years. They were slaves and were not trained to use war weapons. They were not equipped to fight against other nations and reach Canaan. So God led Israelites through a roundabout way in the wilderness just to keep them safe from wars and battles. God protected them and met all their needs even in the wilderness. Deuteronomy 29:5 says their clothes did not waxen old upon them and their shoes did not waxen old upon their foot. The Israelites witnessed many miracles but they hardened their hearts and tempted God when they were in the wilderness. God the Father was grieved with them “and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways: Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest”.
Today’s meditation is based on our Old Testament Reading. Deuteronomy 11:14 says, “That I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil”. This verse is more relevant to harvest season. But it is relevant to understand our LORD God’s commandment or expectation on us. We receive a reward for obeying the commandment and a blessing when we continue to walk in His ways. This promise verse begins with the word ‘that’ which means there is a conditions to receive the promise.
God had only one commandment or expectation from the Israelites: Obedience.
God’s first expectation was Obedience. We can read this in Deuteronomy 11:1: “thou shalt love the Lord thy God, and keep his charge, and his statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments, always”. In simple terms, God the Father expected obedience from His chosen people. When the Israelites saw there was no way to pass through the Red Sea, they murmured against God and quarrelled with Moses.
Later in their journey, Israelites had the River Jordan and the wall of Jericho in front of them. The river and wall were barriers that prevented the Israelites from proceeding to inherit the promise land Canaan.
- When the Israelites had to cross the River Jordan, it was the time of harvest. Jordan river would overflow at its banks during this season. The Lord said unto Joshua that “as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of Jordan,” “the waters of Jordan shall be cut off … and they shall stand upon an heap.” When they obeyed, “the waters which came down from above stood and rose up upon an heap very far from the city Adam”. The Israelites “passed over right against Jericho” (Joshua 3:16).
- When the Israelites came to Jericho, the city was shut. The Lord asked the priests to blow trumpets and walk around Jericho. The people had to shout with a great shout when they heard the long blast. The people of Jericho would have mocked and laughed at the sight. The Israelites would have looked foolish in their sight. But when the Israelites praised God, the wall of Jericho fell down.
In both these situations, what the Israelites did looks foolish in the sight of the world. But Joshua and the Israelites obeyed the Father Almighty. They reached their promised land.
1 Samuel 15:22 says “to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” When the Israelites met the condition set out by God, He gave them a reward: Canaan.
Canaan was the reward God gave the Israelites for their obedience. God said it is a land that floweth with milk and honey. We read a beautiful description about this reward in Deuteronomy 11:10–12. “For the land, whither thou goest in to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt, from whence ye came out, where thou sowedst thy seed, and wateredst it with thy foot, as a garden of herbs: But the land, whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven: A land which the Lord thy God careth for: the eyes of the Lord thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year”.
God compared Egypt and Canaan. Egypt is one of the richest countries in the world and is famous for Gold. River Nile is one of the reasons for the riches of Egypt. All the work that the Israelites did as slaves developed the Egyptian infrastructure. They built treasure cities for Pharaoh. They did not work for themselves. They lived a bitter life. Their male babies were killed.
But God led them to Canaan where they would be cared by God. There, Israelites would enjoy the fruits of their labour. Today, Israel is one of the smallest countries in Middle East. When Israel got its freedom, it was a desert. Today, they have many innovations in many fields. We use many of their innovations in our day-to-day lives. Because of their innovation in farming and God’s care, Israel is one of the green countries in the world.
Psalm 128:2 says “For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee.” The promise of Almighty Father is fulfilled in Israel because of a blessing from above: Rain.
After giving them their reward, God gave the Israelites another commandment. The Israelites had to hearken diligently unto God’s commandments and love the Lord and serve him with all their heart and soul. When they did this, God promised them the promise in verse 14. “I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil”. Rain refers to a blessing from above and can mean both material blessings and spiritual blessings. God promised them two rains: first rain and latter rain.
Joel 2:23 also speaks about former rain and latter rain. Prophet Joel prophesised when the Israelites walked away from God. God spoke through prophet Joel and cautioned the people to turn back to Him. It was a time when both material and spiritual blessings were destroyed. During that time, God commanded Israelites “rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil”. When they repented and turned back to Him, God promised them many things. One of which is the former rain and latter rain. Another promise is restoration. “I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you” (Joel 2:25).
Jesus came to this world as the former rain. He established the kingdom of God in this earth. He died on the cross as Passover Lamb for the remission of our sins. After His ascension, He sent the latter rain. Peter and other disciples waited upon the LORD God in Jerusalem and the Holy Spirit was poured upon them as the latter rain. The prophecies in Joel 2:23 and 28 were fulfilled.
We are celebrating Father’s Day today. We are the spiritual Israelites who are led by our heavenly Father. We may not understand the way our Father leads us. Like He led the Israelites, He may lead us in a roundabout way. However He leads us, He will take care of us. He will protect us with the pillars of cloud and fire.
Both in front of Jordan river and Jericho wall, what the Israelites did looked foolish in the sight of the world. But because Joshua and the Israelites obeyed the Father Almighty, they reached their promised land. We are journeying to inherit eternal life which is our Canaan. Obedience to our LORD God is the first step to reach our promised land which is New Jerusalem or the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 6:33 says “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you”.
When we obey God, He will fight for us. When God fought for Israelites, the Egyptian first-born male children died. Egyptians gave their gold and asked the Israelites to leave their country. Our Lord will lead us to enjoy the fruits of our labour. He will restore to us all that we have lost. Ecclesiastes 3:13 says “every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.”
More than the worldly blessings, our father wants to shower upon us heavenly blessings. Our Father wants to bless us with His latter rain which is His Holy Spirit. Are we ready to receive His Spirit? Matthew 7:11 says, “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?”
Let us ask ourselves what we are thirsting for. Are we thirsting for material things or heavenly blessings? Psalm 107:9 says “he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.” Our Father is waiting to satisfy us. He wants us to thirst for the latter rain. When we thirst for the latter rain, He will also give us the first rain in due season.
Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you (Hosea 10:12). Amen!