Our Fifteenth Word is Land
The simple definition of land – A patch of ground. In the Bible often a reference to the territory promised Abraham.
“Remember what Moses, the servant of the lord, commanded you: ‘The Lord your God is giving you a place of rest. He has given you this land.'” (Joshua 1:13)
If you were to stop and ask people to list the nouns used most often in the Bible, many would guess Lord and God. Few, if any, would ever mention the word “land”.
But, “land” is the twelfth most common noun found in the Bible! It’s found more times than names like Jesus and Jerusalem and words such as heart, soul, love, and law.
Amazing to think that real estate is such a big Bible topic.
The Hebrew word most often translated “land” in the Old Testament comes from a word that means “to be firm.” Sometimes the word is rendered “earth” or “ground” as in plain old dirt. Usually the word refers to a specific patch of land, the much disputed and desired territory known variously as Canaan, the land of Israel, “the land flowing with milk and honey”, the Jewish homeland, Zion, and Palestine.
In multiple places, the Bible discusses the land stretching from “the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates”. This general area is the homeland promised to the Jewish patriarch Abraham: “And I will give the entire land of Canaan, where you now live as a foreigner, to you and your descendants. It will be their possession forever, and I will be their God.”
For people who’d spent centuries in Egyptian bondage and decades more wandering the wilderness regions south of Canaan, God’s promise of a good land was a dream come true. Crossing the Jordan River under the leadership of Joshua, the Israelites were finally in a place where they could put down roots.
God made it clear to them that all real estate everywhere, “the earth…and everything in it”, ultimately belongs to Him. But even when we don’t actually own land, we can appreciate the power of place. We are physical, flesh and blood creatures, who live in space and time. Our spirituality is inevitably linked to geography.
In Margaret Mitchell’s novel Gone With the Wind, Scarlett O’Hara said that land was the only thing in the world worth fighting and dying for, because “it’s the only thing that lasts.”
The Bible however, takes a much different view about the permanence of land. It reveals a coming day when this old earth will actually be gone with the wind, as in, replaced by a “new earth”.
In the end, it’s not particular parcels of real estate that matter most, but instead what God does in our hearts while we are in those places.
Questions to Ponder
- In what places have you had powerful encounters with God?
- What special chunks of land carry your best spiritual memories?
- What does the word land typically mean in the Old Testament?
- Considering your own “spiritual geography,” what places hold your most precious spiritual memories?