The land of milk and honey
Jul 29, 2019
When God first appeared to Moses in the land of Midian, He told Moses to go back to Egypt and deliver the Israelites and bring them to “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8). Moses did indeed deliver Israel, but the Israelites did not realize that the road to the Promised Land led through the wilderness.
After they refused to enter that land in Numbers 14, they blamed Moses for failing to fulfill his promise. In Numbers 16:13 Dathan and Abiram even said to him,
13 Is it not enough that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey to have us die in the wilderness, but you would also lord it over us?
It is characteristic of the carnal mind to blame others for their own lack of faith. God had given them opportunity to enter the land, but they did not have sufficient faith to do so. For this reason, God sentenced them to 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, and then they blamed Moses. Worse yet, they referred to Egypt as the Promised Land.
That generation died without receiving the promise. The next generation was given a second covenant (Deuteronomy 29:1, 10-15) by which they would enter the land under Joshua. This teaches us that we cannot enter the land flowing with milk and honey except through the New Covenant and its Mediator, Jesus Christ.
Moses said to them in Deuteronomy 27:3,
3 and write on them [stones] all the words of this law, when you cross over, in order that you may enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, promised you.
Moses words this in a way that shows the importance of “all the words of this law.” In fact, in Deuteronomy 28 we learn that if they continuously broke the law, God would empower a foreign nation to remove them from that land.
So what is the meaning of the metaphor, “a land flowing with milk and honey”? It was obviously a metaphor, because the 12 spies reported in Numbers 13:27,
27 Thus they told him, and said, “We went in to the land where you sent us; and it certainly does flow with milk and honey, and this [grape cluster] is its fruit.”
The spies did not bring back any samples of milk or honey. They brought grapes (Numbers 13:23). “Milk and honey” was understood as a metaphor denoting fruitfulness and prosperity. But God’s definition of prosperity was not the same as the people’s definition. Men seek prosperity in order to avoid labor, whereas God intends for men to seek prosperity in order to have time to get to know Him through prayer, experience, and studying His word.
What is the Milk?
There is a messianic prophecy in Isaiah 7:14, 15, which says,
14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign; Behold a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel. 15 He will eat curds and honey at the time He knows enough to refuse evil and choose good.
Was this merely a prophecy about the Messiah’s diet? No, it is clear that “curds and honey” are connected to His ability “to refuse evil and choose good.” Paul defines milk (or “curds”) in Hebrews 5:11-14,
11 Concerning him [Melchizedek] we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
The author (Paul, I believe) relates milk to “the elementary principles of the oracles of God,” which is the normal diet for baby Christians, but not adults. He goes further, telling us that “solid food” is necessary to train one’s senses “to discern good and evil.” In this way he points back to Isaiah 7:15, where milk (curds) and honey relate to knowing how to discern good and evil.
Paul goes on to define some of the basic doctrines (truths) that baby Christians learn while drinking their milk. Hebrews 6:1, 2 says,
1 Therefore, leaving the elementary teaching [“milk”] about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of instruction about washings [baptismos, “baptisms”], and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead, and eternal [aionian, “age-abiding”] judgment.
There are many churches that spend nearly all of their time feeding their congregations with milk. This keeps them in a state of immaturity, although most do not realize it because this way of life has become normalized in church culture. Evangelists are expected to dispense milk, because they deal with unbelievers or new believers, but the other four ministries in the five-fold ministry (Ephesians 4:11, 12) ought to dispense “solid food” that brings the people to maturity.
Unfortunately, we find that the babes in Christ are often so misinformed that they think repentance is unnecessary for justification. They often base their faith in their own promise to God, which essentially places their faith in their own ability to keep their promise. They know little about the various baptisms that are taught in the laws of purification. Their understanding of the importance of “laying on of hands” is better among evangelicals than among the liberal mainstream denominations, but few understand the resurrection of the dead in terms of the feast days. Even fewer understand the time limits of aionian judgment.
So unfortunately, we find that we must spend much of our time dispensing milk that is not tainted by the wine of Babylon—the traditions of men.
But what is the “solid food” that Paul does not mention in the above verses? His list encompasses most of what the churches attempt to dispense, so what is the solid food that enables believers to discern good and evil?
Solid Food is Honey
What Paul calls “solid food” is what the Israelites knew as “honey.” The land flowing with milk and honey was a land flowing with the revelation of the word. Milk represented the foundational principles listed in Hebrews 6:1, 2; honey represented the meatier principles of the law, which is our wisdom (Deuteronomy 4:6). To discern good and evil, we need this wisdom, because the law defines that which is good and that which is evil, according to the nature of God Himself.
For example, the Eighth Commandment says, “You shall not steal” (Deuteronomy 5:19). But the Commandment itself hardly defines theft. To know what the Commandment means, one must study the various statutes that support it. There we find that usury is theft (Leviticus 25:35, 36) and that excessive taxation is also theft. When a church demands tithes on all wages, even if not derived from nature (i.e., God’s labor), it is both fraud and theft.
Likewise, most Christians are unschooled in the judgments of the law, so they do not know how to judge righteously. The judgment for theft is double restitution—or, in some cases, four or five times the amount stolen (Exodus 22:1-4).
Most Christians do not know these simple principles of the law, and so they support the world’s system of imprisonment for theft. Such believers have hardly tasted biblical honey.
Honey is made naturally by bees. Recall that Deborah means a bee. The root word of this name is dabar, “to speak.” The noun form means “word.” Hence, the land flowing with milk and honey has to do with coming into a place of revelation of the word of God, both foundational principles (milk) as well as the deep things of God (honey).
This is the true Promised Land. If one views the Promised Land only in terms of real estate, such a person has not inherited the promise of God. It is not possible to truly inherit the Promised Land apart from the revelation of the word. If we drink milk only, we remain as babes, and Paul says in Galatians 4:1, 2,
1 Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is the owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father.
Babes are heirs, but they are not yet qualified to receive authority. They must grow into spiritual maturity to inherit that which has been promised to them. Children are impatient, but growth demands time. The time of growth is pictured and taught in the three main feast days. We are justified through Passover, sanctified and brought to maturity through Pentecost, and come to full maturity as sons of God through Tabernacles.
Those who are justified by faith cannot come into maturity apart from Pentecost. Pentecostals who do not have the law written on their hearts are not yet mature but are like most of the Israelites who died in the wilderness without inheriting the Promised Land. These are sobering lessons that Scripture teaches us.
As a practical reality, most Christians will not inherit the Kingdom. No one can inherit apart from being spiritually mature. Yet many think that being justified by faith qualifies them immediately, and so they see no real need for spiritual growth. Even Pentecostals are often given the impression that their initial baptism of the Holy Spirit qualifies them as inheritors. They do not understand that the infilling of the Holy Spirit is only a means to an end, and if such people do not allow the Holy Spirit to write the law in their hearts, they will remain unqualified.
The chief evidence of the law not being written on their heart is when they despise the law and search for a different standard of love which they think is superior to the law (and the nature of God). If anyone thinks that any of the laws of God lack love, he does not understand the law. He ought to get a revelation of the law to see how it manifests the nature of the God of Love, rather than reject the law as being something less than the nature of God.
One of the greatest keys is to know the difference between the two covenants. The Old Covenant puts the responsibility upon each person to write the law on his own heart by self-discipline (works). The New Covenant puts the responsibility upon God to write the law on our hearts. One way or another, the law will be written on our hearts in the end, for that is the promise of God. However, not all men—nor even all believers—have New Covenant faith in the promise of God.
Fortunately, this present lifetime is not the only opportunity for people to grow into spiritual maturity. The few will inherit life (immortality) in the first resurrection, but most will have to do so after the general resurrection when all of the dead are raised and every knee bows before Him.
The plan of God is all-inclusive, “but each in his own order” (1 Corinthians 15:23). Not everyone will come to maturity at the same time, nor will all inherit the promise together. They will come in groups or squadrons (tagma). The first group inherits at the first resurrection (Revelation 20:6); the second inherits life at the general resurrection (John 5:28, 29), and the rest of creation inherits at the Creation Jubilee at the end of time (1 Corinthians 15:27, 28).