Friday, March 23, 2012


"So the Lord gave Israel all the land He had sworn to give their fathers, and they took possession of it and settled there. The Lord gave them rest on every side according to all He had sworn to their fathers. None of their enemies were able to stand against them, for the Lord handed over all their enemies to them. None of the good promises the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed. Everything was fulfilled." (Joshua 21:43-45 HCSB)

Some hymns miss the message. They use the imagery of Canaan to picture heaven. In this symbolism, the Jordan River represents physical death and we cross over into the Promised Land--into glory. Here is such a hymn:

On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand,
And cast a wishful eye
To Canaan’s fair and happy land,
Where my possessions lie.


I am bound for the promised land,
I am bound for the promised land;
Oh who will come and go with me?
I am bound for the promised land.

O the transporting, rapturous scene,
That rises to my sight!
Sweet fields arrayed in living green,
And rivers of delight!


There generous fruits that never fail,
On trees immortal grow;
There rocks and hills, and brooks and vales,
With milk and honey flow.


O’er all those wide extended plains
Shines one eternal day;
There God the Son forever reigns,
And scatters night away.


No chilling winds or poisonous breath
Can reach that healthful shore;
Sickness and sorrow, pain and death,
Are felt and feared no more.


When I shall reach that happy place,
I’ll be forever blest,
For I shall see my Father’s face,
And in His bosom rest.


Filled with delight my raptured soul
Would here no longer stay;
Though Jordan’s waves around me roll,
Fearless I’d launch away.


Now, there is an application that can be made. The hymn is not altogether wrong, but not quite right. It doesn't miss the target, but neither hits the bull's eye. There is a better, more accurate meaning of living on Canaan's side.

Canaan was a place of blessing, but also a place of battles. There was goodness to find, but also giants to face. There was fruitfulness, but there was also failure. There were delights, but also death. That isn't the promise of heaven--heaven will be our final rest--a rest unbroken by struggle and sin and sorrow. We are not there yet. But, there is a possibility of a foretaste of heaven--abundant life here and now. That is what it means to live on Canaan's side.

Jesus gave the promise, "I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance." (John 10:10 HCSB) When we are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, we are out of Egypt--called out of the world, set free from the bondage of sin and death. God's people have new life. But, God brought them out in order to bring them in. Having life, He promises abundant life as well. Like the children of Israel, however, many stop short of the life of bountiful fruitfulness. They never attain the full measure of blessing God has for them. They come to the edge of Jordan and turn back.

Jordan represents death. But, it isn't physical death--we really don't have much of a choice about that one, do we? Rather it is death to self, death to the world and its lusts--it is about applying the cross in daily experience. That commitment is what brings us over on Canaan's side. It is resting in Jesus. Canaan is living by faith. This is the victorious Christian life. We may call it the Spirit-filled life. Some have termed it the deeper life. Whatever we may call it, the experience is God's desire for us. This is ours for the taking. Consider Paul's words in Romans 6:

"Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in a new way of life....For we know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that sin's dominion over the body may be abolished, so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin...So, you too consider yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires. And do not offer any parts of it to sin as weapons for unrighteousness. But as those who are alive from the dead, offer yourselves to God, and all the parts of yourselves to God as weapons for righteousness....But now, since you have been liberated from sin and have become enslaved to God, you have your fruit, which results in sanctification-and the end is eternal life!" (Romans 6:3, 4, 6, 11-13, 22 HCSB)

The victorious life implies warfare. It is something we must seize, according to the power of God. There will be some setbacks, but we don't have to live in defeat--we ought not accept it. God has far more for us. He has abundant life now--ours for the taking! This is living on Canaan's side. There is an old Gospel song which does capture the imagery well. Here it is:


Egypt was once my home, I was a slave,
Helpless in sin, did roam; love life, did play;
But when I looked up to heaven's throne, Christ came to stay,
I'm living in Canaan now.

Living on Canaan's side, Egypt behind,
Crossed over Jordan. Why? Gladness to find;
My soul is satisfied, no longer I am blind,
Living with Jesus up in Canaan right now.

Satan may have you bound with fetters strong,
Look up to higher ground, do not be long;
'Til Christ the Saviour, your soul is found,
You'll sing this song, "I'm living in Canaan now".

Living on Canaan's side, Egypt behind,
Crossed over Jordan. Why? Gladness to find;
My soul is satisfied, no longer I am blind,
Living in Canaan now.

Die to self. Live for Christ. Rest in Him. Conquer by faith. Bear much fruit. Experience abundant life. That is living on Canaan's side--NOW!

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