So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.
I was recently listening to an old sermon by Billy Graham. In the sermon, he mentioned his land of milk and honey was Heaven. This interesting statement made me curious about why he would make this bold statement. I thought the land of milk and honey was for the Israelites, given to them by God millenniums earlier. And today’s verse is the first of twenty bible verses spelling out this promise. So I started some research.
God indeed promised this land of Canaan to the Israelites. But interestingly, scholars think it only took eleven days to travel from Egypt to Canaan—a relatively short journey for them to make. But we are also told it took them forty years to get to Canaan. So which is true? It seems both are and let me explain.
The first group of Israelites likely made it to the Jordan River in eleven days. However, when the first group arrived, they refused to cross! Why wouldn’t they cross the Jordan River? It seems soon after they arrived, Moses sent a leader from each of the twelve tribes to investigate the land. Stunningly, even though they did find prosperous signs, ten of the twelve became fearful and gave adverse reports. Thus causing the Israelites to refuse to trust God and not cross over the River Jordan. While two, Joshua and Caleb, gave glowing reports.
Because of their obstinate refusal to trust God, God had the first group of Israelites wander in the desert for forty years. Only a few survived this journey, notably Moses, Joshua, and Caleb. Both Joshua and Caleb were two of the twelve who had initially investigated and given glowing reports about the land survived. Children were born during the forty years of wandering, creating a new generation of Israelites. Most of the original people who had been promised the land of milk and honey died. Leaving a new generation to enter the land of milk and honey. Led by Joshua, they crossed over to the land of milk and honey.
As a side note Moses while he was with the Israelites during the second arrival at the Jordan River, he was told by God he would not enter. So Moses died on top of Mount Nebo, overlooking the land promised by God.
It was Joshua who actually led the Israelites into the promised land of milk and honey. Those who refused to trust God’s promise died in the desert. As a side note, Israel means “One who contends with God.”
The first group didn’t have faith and trust in God. The second group had faith and trust in God.
So this doesn’t wholly explain why Billy Graham made this comment about Heaven being his promised land of milk and honey. However, it is important to explain the origin and history of the phrase.
Now Billy Graham was one of the most prolific and respected preachers of the last sixty years, and I believe he wouldn’t have made such a bold statement without support. So I started researching more about Heaven as the land of milk and honey.
It is definitely not a mainstream concept, but there are articles to support the idea. Knowing this, I asked myself, why would I believe this comment? First, you could reach this conclusion if you look at the Bible as containing metaphorical references.
Here is how. Let’s start with, as Christians; God makes us a promise through our faith in Jesus; we are saved and protected. Then if we assume Egypt metaphorically represents the world, and Jesus provides us with a safe refuge from the world through our faith. Then perhaps we can metaphorically think of the land of milk and honey as Heaven. Especially if we, as Christians, view our journey of faith ends in Heaven.
Now I do not believe that the only reason for declaring ourselves as Christians is to go to Heaven. Indeed, our faith in Jesus as our savior implies this is a result. However, I believe this is a very narrow and opportunistic view. There is far more to following Jesus, like loving God/Jesus and our neighbor. As well as believing Jesus is paramount in our lives and being obedient to the words of Jesus. Plus, things like reading the Bible regularly, attending church, being charitable, and graciously showing our faith.
As the Apostle Paul says, we all fail. But does this failure eliminate our chance to go to Heaven? No more than doing good works help us get to Heaven. Instead, it is our faith in Jesus that steers that course.
On another point, how can we be sure there is a heaven? I have found certainty through my father’s death. I still feel his presence and see oddities in my day. For instance, many times when I hike, I feel my father. Right after his death, as I sat wondering if he was safe, a strange bird came and sat unusually close to me in the early morning, which I took as a sign he was safe. I find coins deep in the woods and feel him near. Strange coincidences keep happening, and I am grateful.
If you talk to hospice workers, they will agree strange things happen just before and after a person’s death. Certainly, we have heard of people seeing Jesus through near-death experiences. Of course, some will say they aren’t true, but when you look at the odds, it is more likely they are true than not.
I also needed to research if others believed the same thing and if it is biblically sound to say Heaven is our place of milk and honey. Or am I being overly hopeful? So I called my brother-in-law, Kenny, a wonderful pastor. But also the most knowledgeable of all the Biblical scholars I know. At first, Kenny was a little concerned that I had stretched my Methodist roots too far because this thought is very Methodist! But, after Kenny’s deeply detailed explanation of the Israelites and their journey to the promised land, he confirmed that Billy Graham was possibly correct. So, while not ready to sign up for this unusual thought, he was not opposed.
So if we are on a journey of faith and Billy Graham made this bold statement, perhaps it is true. Others I have read also have made this same conclusion. So while it isn’t a mainstream thought, there is logic to Graham’s comment.
After doing all this research, I now believe Heaven is our land of milk and honey. Not just because I researched, but I feel it as well. But also, my goal isn’t just Heaven. Instead, it is also to serve Jesus with faith.
While I think Heaven is the end of our journey—a land of our milk and honey. I also feel ours is not to know when the journey ends, but our task is to be the best believers we can be and always to try to be better every day.
So I thank Billy Graham for this unusual statement!