The Land of Promise

A Call to Step Out of the Boat and Walk on Water

By: Dr. Jürgen Bühler, President


As you read this, the world has entered its third year of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the onset of this health crisis in early 2020, we all hoped for a quick end. But today, I am reminded of insight from Pastor Peter Tsukahira, speaking from his church on Mount Carmel during the Feast of Tabernacles 2021: “Maybe this virus will be with us for another year or two, like the three-and-a-half-year drought in Elijah’s time.” No matter how long it lasts, we are definitely living in turbulent times. But in Elijah’s day, the drought ended with God sending fire and then rains from heaven.   

A New Way

A Bible passage that has directed and inspired us from the very beginning of the pandemic is from the book of Joshua 3:4, which simply says, “You have not passed this way before!” We have since found out that God spoke through that same passage to others around the world. Our friend Steve Carpenter was inspired by Joshua 3:4 to write a new song: “Keep your eyes on the ark.” The well-known author and recent Feast speaker, R. T. Kendall, released a book last year entitled: We Have Never Been This Way Before. This passage also came up repeatedly at the global prayer gatherings over the past two years. And at Empowered21’s global leadership summit in Dubai, various Christian leaders referred to this passage as offering guidance for our times. God seems to be speaking not just to us. There seems to be one voice speaking to others around the world that this pandemic represents a new and unprecedented season, and we are being invited—yes, even compelled—to go forward in new ways. It is a new season that requires new wineskins.

I remember how we opened the Feast of Tabernacles in 2021—the first virtual Feast—under a cloud of coronavirus. We started the Feast down in the valley of the Jordan River near Jericho, overlooking the east bank of the Jordan. Already in the months before, I had felt that God was taking the ICEJ over the River Jordan into a new season but with little understanding of what to expect on the other side. 

Crossing the Jordan

The context of Joshua 3:4 is exactly that: not far from where we were, God had led the people of Israel after 40 years of desert wanderings into the Land of Promise. It was a shift that could not have been more dramatic. Not only did the waters of the Jordan River stop flowing at that moment, but even more so, the whole way Israel had operated for decades suddenly changed. For the first time, an entire generation was circumcised in one day. Possibly even more challenging, the daily miraculous supply of manna stopped the instant Israel entered the promised land. Israel needed a new economy and new strategies. God’s people needed to learn the principle of seed and harvest and transition from a defensive mode into an attack mode to conquer the land.

After 400 years of waiting and 40 years of wandering, Israel finally entered its destiny to possess the Land of Promise. It was a land that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob could only settle in as strangers and pilgrims. But now, as foretold to Abraham (Genesis 15:13–16), after 400 years, Israel was to take possession of the land. The sins of the nations currently living in the land had reached an intolerable threshold for God.

A Good Land

The land they entered was a “good land” (Deuteronomy 8:7ff), a land of brooks, fountains, and springs; a land of wheat and barley, vines, fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of olives and honey. The rocks would contain iron and copper, the necessary hi-tech materials of ancient times. The land they came into was also not an empty land, but they would inherit “good cities they did not build, houses full of good things they did not fill, cisterns they did not dig, vineyards and olive trees they did not plant” (Deuteronomy 6:10–11).

The land was so good that for many generations, the “land of Canaan” became figurative speech for a heavenly place, and crossing the Jordan symbolized moving past death into eternity. Yet while the land of Canaan was indeed a blessed and very good land, it was not heaven. It was a land of obstacles and opposition. Repeatedly, Moses warned Israel: “Hear, O Israel: You are to cross over the Jordan today, and go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than yourself, cities great and fortified up to heaven, a people great and tall, the descendants of the Anakim, whom you know, and of whom you heard it said, ‘Who can stand before the descendants of Anak?’” (Deuteronomy 9:1–2; see also Deuteronomy 7:1ff, 11:23).

A Land of Giants

Moses declared that a great land flowing with milk and honey was waiting for Israel on the other side, but it would be humanly impossible to enter it. The challenges were many fold: Israel was totally outnumbered by its enemies, the cities had impenetrable defense systems, their armies had better weapons, and worst of all, they had unnatural superheroes on their side—the sons of Anak, the legendary giants. They were the remnants of the Nephilim mentioned in Genesis 6:4, demonoid creatures that caused everyone to fear and tremble (Numbers 13:33). “Who can stand before the sons of Anak?” was a common refrain in the land of Canaan.

And it was exactly this reality of human impossibility that decades earlier had caused Israel to shrink back from the call to conquer the Land of Promise. Looking at the challenge, they felt like grasshoppers. And as for the land, they said it would eat them up for breakfast (Numbers 13:32). Israel refused to follow Moses into the land but rather listened to the seemingly “realistic” report of 10 of the 12 spies—at the cost of a whole generation perishing in the desert (see Numbers 13:25–14:12; Deuteronomy 1:19–40). Sadly, an entire generation failed to reach the intended destiny for their lives.

Today, in hindsight, we too easily brush this generation aside for its unbelief and complacency. But their assessment would have been shared by every risk manager and consultant in our world today. God asked Israel to expose themselves by walking right into a humanly impossible situation. He was asking them to leave the boat and walk on water. However, they forgot (or ignored) that God was on their side—the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth. The God for whom nothing is impossible. God so often promised them that if they stepped out in faith, He would fight for them Himself, even against the greatest giants.

A Call to Step Out of the Boat

Yet this challenge exists for every generation. Entering the promised land means entering God’s full potential for our individual lives and as a community of believers. It means embracing the calling and the works that God has prepared for us from before the foundation of this world (see Deuteronomy 12:8–10: Ephesians 2:10).

God is not just inviting us to embrace new technologies we have not used before in this current challenging season. He is also inviting us to discover a new depth and level in our walk with the Lord that we did not have before. It is an invitation of God to embrace His full purposes and tackle those giants and strongholds we may have avoided in the past. It is time to cross over the Jordan to the new things God has for us. It is a call to step out of the boat and walk on water.

The Land of Promise meant for Israel—both then and today—is that very land that God so often promised in His Word to the Jewish people as an eternal possession. It is an inheritance God affirmed through a covenant (Genesis 15), an oath (Genesis 22), and many other promises throughout the Bible.

For us as followers of Jesus, this means to enter the fullness of His promises to His children.  Israel had experienced miracles, victories, and divine provision even in the desert before Joshua’s time. But only when they conquered the land did they enter into the fullness of their destiny. Possessing the good land thus means for us to enter the fullness of what God has for us.

Here are just some ideas of what the “good land” entails.

The Fullness of Christ

There was a tribe in Israel that did not receive any portion or territory of the Land of Israel, but God said: “I will be their portion.” It was the priestly tribe of Levi (Deuteronomy 10:8ff). God Himself was their inheritance and reality. Even for King David, who came from the tribe of Judah and thus could claim a special piece of land on earth—the very city of Bethlehem—his personal relationship and knowledge of God became a far more significant inheritance in his life (Psalm 16:5–6). To be on this “territory” of God’s presence meant immeasurable joy for David. Just one day in His presence outshone a thousand days elsewhere, including his own beautiful royal palace in Jerusalem.

The very person of Jesus is not just the center of our hope, but in Him, we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). Crossing the Jordan thus means becoming God-chasers, seeking and loving Him with all our hearts. This implies we must develop habits that become a natural part of our being: fixed daily times in prayer, worship, and studying the Word of God, in fellowship with the saints, who are His body on earth. Much can be said about this Christ, and knowing Him needs to become the center, essence, and purpose of our lives.

Nations as an Inheritance

Before his death, Moses commissioned Joshua to lead the people of Israel into entering their inheritance—the land of Canaan. Jesus widened this calling. Before His departure from earth, He commanded His disciples that starting from Jerusalem, they were to “make disciples of every nation” (Matthew 28:19) and not to stop until the ends of the earth are reached (Acts 1:8). Like John Wesley so famously announced, “the whole world is our parish.”

Every follower of Christ is not just invited to enjoy their own salvation but needs to enlist in God’s global deliverance plan for the world. God challenges us in Psalm 2 to “ask of Me and I will give you nations as an inheritance.” This was the call of men like John Knox, who pleaded with God, saying: “Lord, give me Scotland or I die!” Or more recently, the ministry of Reinhard Bonnke, who was driven by a vision of the African continent covered with the redeeming blood of Jesus. You might not be a John Knox or John Wesley, but you can start praying for people around you as your inheritance.

It was an elderly lady who prayed during the 1930s that God would save her neighbor Rosa Bühler, my grandmother. God not only answered her prayers, but He invaded our entire family with the gospel. Declare today that your own entire family is your inheritance from the Lord, just like Joshua did when he proclaimed in faith: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!” Step over the Jordan, and start praying for those around you—and be ready to share the good news of Jesus!

The Call to Battle

In Joshua’s time, giants dominated the Land of Promise. That was only a shadow of the reality around us today. The world is oppressed and ruled by spiritual, demonic giants. We might not be aware of them, but these demonic forces often define the atmosphere in families, cities, and even nations. Paul said: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:11–12).

The arrival of Jesus meant that God established a heavenly and indestructible bridgehead to this world to rescue a lost humanity from the evil one. His mission on earth was to destroy the works of the enemy and to deliver men out of the kingdom of darkness and move them into the kingdom of God (Colossians 1:13).

In calling us to cross over the Jordan, God is calling us to put on our spiritual armor and be ready to address the spiritual strongholds in our world. Undoubtedly, our biblical family values and biblical gender identity are under attack like never before. Unfortunately, some in the body of Christ are keen to align themselves with the new worldly realities. Like in the time of Deborah, the battle has come to the gates of our society, and it is time for the Lord’s people to arise and push back against the waves of lawlessness that are flooding over our nations.

There also are powerful, demonic principalities that oppose God’s purposes with Israel. Antisemitism is just one face of it. This evil dragon even tries to deceive the elect, if possible. The centuries-old doctrine of Replacement Theology in its various shades is just another manifestation of that ancient battle described in Revelation 12. God calls us to renew our stand in this battle. And remember—it is not a battle against flesh and blood, but one that is mainly won on our knees!

Finally, amid this COVID season, do not allow yourself to be bogged down by the dark realities around us. Do not allow the giants to intimidate you and cause you even to withdraw, as Israel did at Kadesh Barnea. Look up to the Lord, who sits on the throne, and declare this season to be your time of breakthrough into the good land God has for you. Joshua and Caleb declared that these giants had become their bread (Numbers 14:7–9), as if they just trusted God and stepped out of the boat.

Times of crisis are the best catalysts for change. Do not just desire to return to the old normal but consider it an opportunity for a new season of victory. The greatest breakthroughs in the Bible were birthed out of difficult and often hopeless situations. This can be the time of your breakthrough and of your personal miracle! Decide today not to be intimidated anymore by the giants you might face, but ask the Lord to take you over the Jordan to start possessing the gates of the enemy, who are destined to be your bread! Ask God to allow you to possess a new territory and pursue new callings He has for you. And most importantly, become someone who chases God by knowing Christ better than ever before.

As we do this together, 2022 can become a year of breakthrough and miracles for all of us. It can become a year where God sends His fire and rains of revival from heaven!