Baptist History Homepage

Are You in the Wilderness or Across Jordan?
By Buell H. Kazee
Western Recorder, 1940
      THE OLD song, so dear to many a Baptist, entitled, "I Am Bound for the Promised Land," has a beautiful sentiment, but yet fails in properly focusing the truth. "The Promised Land" is not Heaven. It is the land of victory in the Christian life here on earth. The caption of this article challenges us to find ourselves on the spiritual map.

      Israel began her journey with the Passover. This was Jesus, dying for lost men. Faith in Him guaranteed freedom from bondage and death. The Red Sea is a picture of that death through which we pass when we become a child of God.

      Here is a truth some do not see. Jesus did not die to save us from death; He died to save us by means of death. The children of Israel went through the Red Sea, which is a type of death. But God went through with them, and being conqueror of the power of the sea, delivered them on the other side. Pharaoh's host also went into the Red Sea, but were drowned in it.

      Thus, the same death that delivered Israel destroyed the hosts of Pharaoh. Why? Because God was not with Pharaoh and He was with Israel. Thus, it is Jesus that saves, and He does it by means of death.


      THAT which is sinful cannot be changed. It must die. God does not try to change it; He puts it to death. But the new life, which comes from God in response to our faith, delivers us out of death. So, we find the punishment of sin (Pharaoh's oppression of Israel) cut off by death, and by death we are delivered into another life, a new life, a life in the power and strength of God.

      We must remember, however, that in the deliverance through the Red Sea (which is a figure of baptism), we are delivered legally. It is not finished in its application, though it is final as to the guaranteed outcome. After we have been saved, crossed the Red Sea, after we have submitted by faith to death in Christ, nothing more is left to us as far as reconciliation to God is concerned. If we should die right then we would be saved.

      But God does not want to fill Heaven with babies. H wants to develop our faith. This could not be done without opposition, or without experiences in the new life which necessitate our finding God again and again as our only hope and stay. So here, God takes over and starts developing our faith.

      First you find Him leading us up by Marah, and by Elim, and by Sinai, and other places along the way, where He teaches us lessons we need to know. I cannot detail them here. At last we come to Kadesh-Barnea. The spies are sent out, they bring back their report, and the faith of Israel is challenged. In our spiritual lives God leads us through similar teachings; then He challenges us to faith in victory over sin. This took only a few weeks in the life of Israel. That forty years of wanderings was not God's idea; it was the result of failure on the part of Israel to believe.

      Many a time God has led us to see the possibilities of a life of victory across Jordan, but we halt because we are afraid and cannot believe that God can give it. Thus we begin the wanderings of an unsatisfied life, and never become fruitful.

      We long for the flesh-pots of Egypt. Then a revival comes along and we long for victory over sin. But we do not launch out in faith. Our spiritual ardor cools down and we wander again. We look across Jordan, but we are afraid God will not stay the waters, and we never go over. Many thousands of Christians die in the wilderness of unfruitfulness, never having found victory over sin, and power to become effective.

      Paul's experience in Romans is just another interpretation of this journey from Egypt to Canaan. He is in bondage, with death written across his soul. He turns to faith in a Saviour, and is justified. Note, he is not made sinless, but justified from sin. A justified sinner is in the position of one who never sinned, though he is still sinful.


      PAUL comes up to Jordan. There he tries to do good, but finds evil present with him. He discovers a law: that as long as he is in the wilderness, he fails every time he would succeed. He is legally saved; but he is not delivered from the effects of sin, from the power of sin. He knows that if he dies he will be saved, because that matter has been settled in justification. But if he lives on - what is he going to do? Is there no power to free a man to do good? Is evil always going to defeat him? Why then does God let him stay in a life that cannot find victory? Is he always going to be in bondage to the body of this death?

      So he throws up his hands in helplessness, and cries out for a deliverer. A DELIVERER, I say, not a Saviour. He finds that the Saviour is also a Deliverer. And the power of the Deliverer is to be appropriated by faith just as the power of the Saviour was. Thus Paul plunges into the Jordan, only to find that the waters stand back and make passage for him. His faith appropriates the power of God to be delivered from the hindrance of sin as he tries to be useful to God.

      This is what the saintly Andrew Murray calls "absolute surrender." I do not care what number the blessing is in your life, it is complete surrender. It does not bring the ab-sence of sin; it brings power over sin.

      There are no victories where there are no battles, and there are no battles where there are no enemies. IF GOD TOOK AWAY OUR ENTIRE TENDENCY TO SIN, THERE WOULD BE NO PLACE FOR THE ENEMY TO TRY US, AND THUS NO BATTLE, AND THUS NO VICTORY.


      WHEN we cross Jordan we have quit riding in the baby carriage, and have become soldiers of the Cross. The" first thing we find on the other side of Jordan is just what Joshua found - the Captain of the Lord's host.

      That is a great surprise. "I thought I was going to be the captain. I thought God would give me great power, and I would sway my congregation with great sermons, and I would have a great following, and would become a great leader."

      Yes, that is what many think, except those who have crossed Jordan. But Joshua recognized the Captain by falling down before Him and saying, "What wilt THOU have thy servant to do?" This is the attitude of a surrendered man.

      He wants Jesus to be the Captain, and direct the battle, and get the glory. Victory lies in the Captain and there alone, and it has already been won. Our Captain would transmit it to us.

      The Captain will say: "You are now in the Land of Promise. I told you, just as I did Abraham, that I would give it to those who believe. You have believed, now the land is yours. March around Jericho, just as I tell you, and I will deliver it into your hands."

      "But" you say, "I thought this was to be a land of ease where I was no longer to be troubled with the enemy. I thought the battles were over, and I would rest forever in peace."

      The Captain will reply: "No, this is the land of milk and honey; but it is inhabited by giants. The enemy is strongly entrenched here, and he will attack you with more fierceness than ever. You will have more temptations, more sorrow, more heartache, more trials here than you ever had, but will have VICTORY.

      "The only thing different here, from the land in which you have dwelt, is that this is a choice land, a very desirable land, and the enemy wants to keep it. I have won the victory over the enemy, and you can trust Me to deliver every stronghold into your hands. Simply march on against the enemy with confidence. I will see to it that the cities fall to you. I WILL GIVE THE VICTORY BECAUSE YOU TRUST ME, NOT BECAUSE YOU CAN WIN IT."

      Now HERE is where the Christian's life begins to be useful to God. Sin comes with all its power against us. But God gives us victory over it. Difficulties arise to block our effectiveness, but God gives the victory over them, and we conquer in Jesus's name.

      In this article I have merely outlined the spiritual journey. In other articles later I plan to deal with it in more detail.


[From Western Recorder, December 5, 1940, p.1-2. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

More on Buell Kazee
Baptist History Homepage